Mr. Speaker, on October 22, I asked a question of the Deputy Prime Minister in relation to the Mackenzie Valley pipeline. I queried at that time why the Liberal government had failed in its duty to streamline the northern regulatory process. The question was addressed by the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, who declined to answer. Today's question represents a follow-up to that exchange.
In mid-October of this year the Senate and the Congress of the United States of America enacted legislation to streamline the American regulatory process which governs the American stretch of the Alaska natural gas pipeline. The comparison between the Canadian and the American regulatory environment is germane, because there are two competing pipelines at issue. The early approval and construction of either will have a direct bearing upon the economics, the timing and perhaps even the feasibility of the other. This interrelationship has been styled by some as the great pipeline race.
Most respected commentators agree that Canada has more to lose in this particular contest. The proven Canadian gas reserves are smaller than those in Alaska and some fear that the delays in the approval of Canada's Mackenzie Valley gas pipeline could imperil the very feasibility of the Canadian pipeline itself. If that happens, all Canadians will lose the benefits of this project, but the northern community, especially the aboriginal consortium which owns one-third of the proposed Canadian pipeline, will lose an opportunity of immense proportions.
By contrast to the Americans, the Canadian government has created a regulatory framework in northern Canada which has proven so complex, so unwieldy, so fraught with uncertainty and delay that it actually imperils the Mackenzie Valley pipeline project.
The authority for that statement is the government's own external advisory committee on smart regulation which released its report in September 2004. That report criticizes the northern regulatory framework. It describes it as a complex and unpredictable cobweb of regulations involving multiple federal government departments and territorial and aboriginal authorities.
The report highlights the fact that what the government has done in the north has been to create complexity rather than remove complexity. By comparison, the Americans search for an environment of uncertainty. Our government offers confusion, delay, opacity and bureaucracy, all of which jeopardize both the economic and the environmental objectives of northern Canadians.
The report leaves little to the imagination. It puts forward four very specific recommendations. It calls upon the government to create a regulatory framework which is timely, transparent, predictable, clear and certain; to create a single window approach to coordinated regulation with mandatory response timelines; to appoint a federal coordinator with clear decision making authority to get the process moving; and to provide training to build capacity among the 13 regulatory organizations with overlapping jurisdiction.
I therefore ask the minister to respond today and tell Canadians what the government is doing to implement the recommendations of the external advisory committee in relation to the northern pipeline. What is the government doing to clear up the regulatory confusion which imperils the economic future of the north?