Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my hon. colleague from Esquimalt--Juan de Fuca.
It is a special honour for me to rise today and encourage my hon. colleagues to support Bill C-14, the Tlicho land claims and self-government act. The act would make possible boundless improvements in the lives of the Tlicho people. It would serve throughout Canada and around the world as an example of visionary advancement of the principles of ethical fairness, social encouragement, and legislative support for aboriginal communities. Moreover, it would most assuredly have a positive and sustained effect on Canada's economy as a whole.
In the modern age, the keys to the long term business success of a corporation and the keys to economic prosperity of a whole society are in many ways similar. The requisites are creativity, honesty, hard work, persistence, and now above all else, effective partnerships.
Buyers need sellers, retailers need wholesalers, distributors need manufacturers, and producers need suppliers of raw materials. In the development of social economic structures the pattern of interdependence is the same. Communities need support, individuals need encouragement, leaders need wise counsel and organizations need allies.
Before any of this can happen local communities need the full understanding and support of provincial and territorial authorities. All levels of government need the clarity of well considered legislation from which they can seek, build and sustain the partnerships that will lead to prosperity.
In my opinion, Bill C-14 would provide the Tlicho people with the tools they need to establish new and effective partnerships. The Tlicho have already demonstrated a remarkable ability to negotiate mutually beneficial agreements with private companies. Consider for example the resourceful approach the Tlicho took to two of the diamond mining projects now underway in the Northwest Territories. Before the projects went ahead impact benefit agreements were completed that guaranteed valuable benefits for Tlicho communities. These agreements made with Diavik and BHP Billiton respectively have generated jobs for the Tlicho people, service contracts for Tlicho owned companies, and post-secondary scholarships for Tlicho youth.
The Tlicho have recognized that most mines are productive only for a finite period and that once this time elapses many of the well negotiated jobs and contracts will then dry up. To maximize the potential long term benefits associated with diamond mines on their traditional territory, the Tlicho people sought the help of a business partner. Several years ago the Tlicho began an association with ATCO Frontec, a logistics firm that follows a unique and successful business model based on collaboration with aboriginal groups.
Beginning in the late 1980s, ATCO established a series of partnerships with aboriginal groups across the north. As an example, the Uqsuq Corporation, which stores and distributes fuel, is jointly owned with the Inuit Development Corporation of Nunavut.
The Inuit of Labrador are partners with ATCO in Torngait, a company that provides support services to a range of industries. In B.C., the Northwest Territories and Yukon, Northwest Tel operates and maintains microwave towers thanks to agreements ATCO has made with several aboriginal development corporations.
Each one of these partnerships with ATCO is based on a similar business model, one that stresses the building of capacity within aboriginal communities. While contacts may come and go, industrial and business capacity has an enduring market value that can be adapted to suit new opportunities.
This capacity based business model appealed to the Dogrib Treaty 11 Council which then partnered with ATCO Frontec to create Tli Cho Logistics. The business model is pretty simple. The Tlicho own 51% of Tli Cho Logistics and ATCO Frontec controls 49%. The company provides a range of services to the Diavik diamond mine and to the remediation project underway at the Colomac gold mine. Today more than 130 people work for Tli Cho Logistics, 50 of whom are members of the Dogrib Rae band.
When the company was founded five years ago ATCO handled nearly all the company's administrative and managerial work while the unskilled jobs went to the Tlicho people. During the past few years however ATCO has helped the Tlicho acquire the skills needed to manage and to administer that company.
This incremental transfer of technical skills is why the Tlicho were and continue to be keen to partner with companies like ATCO Frontec. Tlicho leaders recognize that management skills acquired on mining projects can be readily applied to other ventures as well. In other words, the Tlicho will be better able to initiate, to manage and to operate other projects as a result of experience gained from these diamond mines. This, my hon. colleagues, represents community capacity building in its purest form, and all Canadians stand to benefit from it and should be proud of it.
When Canadians want to do business they must make and seek investment. These days attracting investment is tricky. Investors everywhere have been burned. They look for security, for solidity and for mitigated risk. In short, they look now more for a secure return on investment rather than a large or perhaps uncertain quick return on investment. Managing risk is often now the act of avoiding it altogether.
Now look at the challenges facing the first nations, the Inuit, the Métis and northern communities attempting to attract the financing necessary to move a business ahead in their communities. These communities are often frozen in their progress by factors such as limited access to venture capital, a shortage of private sector partners and a lack of infrastructure. In this environment, what security can they offer investors? What factors must be addressed? What conditions must be changed to show investors that those who are in charge are ready, willing and able to make the kind of business decisions that generate results? This, I believe, is where Bill C-14 shines through.
Today land claims and self-government agreements are opening up the business environment by finally clarifying the ownership of resources. In the north, one of the world's greatest storehouses of natural resources, first nations, Inuit, Métis and northerners play a major role in growing the local and Canadian economies.
With such certainty affirmed by law, aboriginal groups, such as the Tlicho, can move resolutely, creating businesses. Instead of going cap in hand to investors, they can say, “Something big is about to happen, are you in or are you out?”.
I believe many Canadians have not yet appreciated the tremendous impact that first nations, Inuit, Métis and northerners will have on our national economy in the decades to come. Theirs is a community of communities where the population is rapidly growing, a sure sign of economic potential. The Conference Board of Canada has been warning Canadian corporations to “ignore the economic potential of aboriginal people at their own risk”.
With Bill C-14 we can give one group the certainty it needs to push ahead and to make its mark. This is a positive step in improving our nation's health. Our legislation must give people the tools they need to press ahead. The ability, the drive and the opportunity are there. With Bill C-14 and others like it, we can at last make sure that the certainty is there.
We have before us an opportunity to send a clear and powerful message to first nations, Inuit, Métis and northerners across our country, that the Government of Canada is ready to remove the remaining barriers to economic development in aboriginal communities. I urge my hon. colleagues to support Bill C-14.