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House of Commons Hansard #153 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was seniors.

Topics

First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

London West Ontario

Liberal

Sue Barnes LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, I know my colleague has been looking at economic issues in the country over many years. I know he appreciates the necessity of this, not only off reserve but on reserve. The partnering first nations have been advocating this initiative passionately and eloquently, both with the Government of Canada and other first nations. They have sent information packages regarding the proposed legislation to all first nations and first nations organizations.

Support material was provided, including a bulletin for first nations, a document on the functional principles of the proposed bill as well as a technical working paper.

First nations were also informed about the 1-800 toll free number, the website address www.fncida.ca for information in either French or English, and the e-mail address info@fncida.ca for additional information.

Following introduction, the bill kits were distributed to all first nations as well. The bill kits also included a cover letter, a numbered copy of Bill C-71, a backgrounder, a bulletin, a press release and frequently asked questions.

Once again, first nations were invited to use the toll free number or the website address or the e-mail address for comments and additional information.

Partnering first nations have conducted presentations, addressing the proposed legislation with officials from the Indian Resource Council and the Canadian Council of Aboriginal Business. Similar presentations also were conducted at several national first nations meetings, including the first nations summit in September and the Alberta chiefs summit in October. Information packages were provided at the Assembly of First Nations economic first nations summit in November.

Ultimately, we can always have a first nation that has not read some of the material or has not felt that they have been engaged enough. What we have is legislation that will be an economic business tool for the development, a sectoral self-government.

I know the member has been very much engaged in productivity discussions over the years. How does the member feel about economic productivity and how that allows first nations and their communities to work on the social and cultural activities, that engagement of services within those first nations?

First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Maurizio Bevilacqua Liberal Vaughan, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member and I have had the opportunity to work together on a number of committees, particularly committees that have dealt with the issue of productivity.

I am often told to stop talking about the issue of productivity because many people across the country really do not relate to it. However, I know for a fact that they relate to the benefits of productivity.

Productivity essentially means that if we increase it, we end up with better jobs and higher paying jobs. We generate greater wealth for our country, which essentially means that for all those programs we care about, whether it is health care, education or ensuring we have the infrastructure in place to enhance productivity, those funds are available.

How do we connect that to this bill? To shape a society that is productivity and innovation based, we need to liberate the market forces as well. We need to maximize the human resources potential at hand. That is what gives the impetus to the economy to grow, and the bill does that.

When we have the first nations groups that pushed to obtain the bill, those individuals have recognized that to provide future generations with greater hope and opportunity, they have to generate the type of wealth required to bring about that change.

I know the hon. member across the way would want me to continue in this vein. I know he agrees with most of the things I am saying. He understands full well that, not only with this bill but with other issues, whether it is investing in human resources development, as we do on this side of the House, or in youth programs, or in areas like research and development, where we have seen an actual brain gain occurring in this country, all these things add up to a productivity enhancement innovation based society.

That is why we lower taxes because there is a net benefit in the productivity formula. Why is that? Because people understand that they want the government to send a signal that means--

First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

An hon. member

Do they understand?

First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Maurizio Bevilacqua Liberal Vaughan, ON

I think they do, and they will understand in the coming weeks, I am sure, when they recognize that our standard of living and quality of life has improved since 1993.

First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Ken Epp Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to represent the constituents of Edmonton—Sherwood Park in the debate on Bill C-71. It is an important bill. I think probably most people here will regret the fact that it is being given a rush job. It is very important in these instances to get things right. In general I concur with and support the intent of the bill.

Before I talk about the regulation of commercial and industrial undertakings on reserve lands, I would like to make a brief comment about the process we are undertaking. I know probably most Canadians who are watching this on CPAC are not aware of the fact that we are doing this under a slightly different procedure from the norm. That is, whereas usually a bill is introduced by the government and then receives second reading, which is called the debate on agreement in principle, in this instance we are debating the bill prior to it coming to second reading. We are debating a motion that the bill will be sent to committee before second reading.

The intent of that is, or at least it is advertised to be, the parliamentary committee will have greater and more flexible input into the wording of the bill. It sounds wonderful in its concept. However, in the 12 years I have been in the House I have observed that more often than not the government has used this to stifle debate. I hate to say that, but that is what has happened.

One of the things that occurs is that we get this debate where we have 10 minute speeches, and it is not really possible to get into the depth of it. Then it goes off to committee and the committee deals with the bill in hopefully a more flexible fashion because it has not yet received second reading in the House.

Unfortunately, in previous occurrences of this process being used, there have been instances where the government has used it to limit debate and the power of the committee to change the different clauses in the bill is not as great as it should be under these circumstances.

On numerous occasions I have been very frustrated in committee. Even though opposition members have tried to make meaningful, reasoned and defensible amendments to bills, they have been shot down by the majority government. Sometimes members on the committee have not fully understood what is being debated and the ones who have given the orders from on high have not been in committee to hear the arguments. That is a potential problem. It is less of a problem when we have a minority government, but it still is a difficulty with which we need to continue to grapple.

With respect to this bill, it is long overdue. I am not sure that it is a perfect bill. In fact, I have a couple of questions about it myself, just in a cursory reading of it. It is a situation that we have in Canada which is unique and it needs to be addressed.

We like to say that we are a nation of equality, that we treat all our members in our society equally. Yet over the last 135 plus years we have had two different sets of rules for different segments of our population. When settlers first came to the country from Europe and other parts of the world, the natives were here already. For some reason, the powers that be at the time during Confederation set up quite a different way of allowing them to run their society from the way the rest of us could, those of us who immigrated to Canada more recently.

I always say that Canada is made up of all immigrants. Any person who has studied the history of our continent will say that even the natives came here from elsewhere, albeit a number of centuries earlier than the rest of us. However we are all immigrants on this continent and those who arrived here first, for some reason, have over the years suffered from a set of rules governing their activities that were substantially different and to their detriment. I for one would like to see this corrected.

I have had a number of really good relationships with different first nation individuals. Way back, when I was teaching at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, I taught a number of first nation students. They were very fine people. If I can generalize, they have a gentle nature. I found them to be very cooperative most of the time, certainly on par with my other students.

It is unfortunate that these individuals had a completely different set of rules and one of them with respect to ownership of their land. There are different rules, such as ownership of mineral rights on lands that are usually separate from surface rights. However the natives on reserves have not had the ability to capitalize on the potential that some of their resources had. If they did, they were under separate rules and this gave, in some instances, an advantage and, in some instances, a disadvantage. In any case, I think it would help to promote the well-being of our country if we treated natives and non-natives alike when it came to the use of the resources they have on the land on which they live.

One of the things not in the bill that has distressed me over the years is that natives generally are not permitted to own their own land. They are on reserves and the land is held in a commune style way. None of us who are used to living the other way would tolerate for a minute not being able to own our own house or the land it sits on, or that the money designated to us by the government would go to other people who then could use it to control our life and determine whether we can fix a broken window in our house.

Unfortunately, over the years we have had too many instances where what I call the grassroots natives have asked for help. They tell us what has happened and they say that they have absolutely no power to influence the outcome. It could be the electrical system in their house that is not right or the plumbing system that is not working but they cannot get the money to fix those things. We hear a lot these days about water and sewage systems. Those things need to be corrected.

This bill in particular deals with the development of natural resources and is rather specifically directed toward oil sands development on reserve land in Alberta and elsewhere. I am somewhat familiar with this. Before the Electoral Boundaries Commission made such a terrible job of re-drawing the boundaries in my riding, my previous riding of Elk Island included, among other things, the Shell upgrader plant just outside of Fort Saskatchewan in the province of Alberta. I know the issues being dealt with here are very important because of the fact that they will allow not only the natives on the reserves but also Albertans and, indeed, all of Canada to benefit from the development of these resources in an orderly way.

I have some serious questions which I hope the committee addresses, especially, as my colleague from the NDP mentioned, questions with respect to regulations that are really wide open. We speak of self-government for our native people and yet these regulations are totally under the control of the minister.

If we had a good, benevolent minister and a good, honest government I know these things could work for the benefit of the natives but there needs to be a system of checks and balances. Even when we form government and we have a Conservative minister of Indian affairs we should have a system whereby there is a great deal more accountability than this particular bill provides.

Unfortunately, my time is up. I had a good introduction, and this is what I am talking about. These 10 minute speeches do not really allow us to develop the thoughts that we want to. I hope the committee will do some good work in analyzing and correcting the few flaws that are in the bill.

First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that my colleague from Edmonton--Sherwood Park pointed out the shortcomings of the Liberal government in how it has dealt with first nations.

While the Liberals talk about how the Liberal Party has been and is a friend to first nations people in this country, I think my colleague would agree that it is important to point out some of the Liberals' high points over the last 12 years.

First, violence against women on reserves has not diminished over the last 12 years under the Liberal government because it has not taken any steps to diminish it.

Second, we have had two incidents come up in the House within the last weeks about corruption in a band at the council level because the Liberal government has not dealt with the issue.

Third is the issue of poisonous water conditions at the Kasatchewan reserve and now we hear about another reserve. This is because the Liberal government has not dealt with unhealthy living conditions in the last 12 years.

Drug and alcohol problems on reserves have increased under the Liberal government over the last 12 years because it has not dealt with these issues either.

The quality of life in our first nations communities in the last 12 years has not improved under this so-called friends of first nations people Liberal government because it has not been willing to address the issues.

I have one last thing to mention which is near and dear to me. The Liberals talk about commercial-industrial development. The Liberal government has stood by for 12 years watching the pine beetle in British Columbia devastate the forestry industry, an industry that provides economic value for every first nation in the province, and withheld any aid to the province of British Columbia to fight the devastating pine beetle infestation, taking away a very valuable and important means of economic development for first nations in British Columbia.

That is the record of the Liberal government over the last 12 years. Friends of first nations they certainly are not and first nations will tell us that.

I would like to ask my colleague from Edmonton--Sherwood Park if he would agree with some of my comments.

First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Ken Epp Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague has reiterated a number of the concerns we have in the province and in the country about the way in which the Liberal government mismanages pretty well everything that it touches. It has what we call the inverse golden touch: everything turns to lead when the Liberals touch it.

I remember, probably three Parliaments past, when we were debating issues in the Criminal Code, that the Liberals had the gall at that time to introduce sentencing regulations that differentiated between natives and non-natives, where they said that the judge in passing sentence must take into account whether the individual was a native.

What was wrong with that and what the Liberals just could not get into their head at the time was the fact that most native women happened to be abused and assaulted by people from within their own group. However they refused to listen and, because they had a majority, they rammed the legislation through without amendment.

A number of those women contacted us and asked us why, if another woman who is not a native gets attacked, her attacker gets a more stringent sentence than the one who attacks a native woman. The Liberals did not twig on that at all. They just missed it.

I go back to the basic principle that is so important. We have a set of rules which applies to Canadians, whether they are in this province or that, regardless of their cultural or ethnic background, the rules should be consistent so people are treated equally and have equal respect.

It is a known fact that over the years Liberal governments have dominated the government of our country, unfortunately. If we were to go back to when Jean Chrétien was the minister of Indian affairs, we would see that they were totally insensitive to the needs of the natives then and they still are. The fact is that in 12 years of Liberal government, 11 of them in majority, the Liberals have taken so few and so tepid steps and the things that they have done, in most instances, have been totally misdirected and going in the wrong direction. It is either inaction or going in the wrong direction.

I certainly concur with my colleague in the fact that in so many areas the Liberals have just failed to act or have acted incorrectly and, unfortunately, it is the natives and, indeed, all of our citizens who have had to bear the brunt of it.

First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Ken Boshcoff Liberal Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak today in support of this legislation. This initiative represents a true partnership between the Government of Canada and first nations.

This first nations-led initiative has been actively and aggressively promoted by five first nations, including Fort William First Nation, which is located adjacent to the city of Thunder Bay in the great riding of Thunder Bay--Rainy River. All of these communities have significant proposals for economic development on reserve and all of these first nations have passed band council resolutions in support of this initiative.

Fort William First Nation has several projects ready to roll once this legislation is passed. Large scale commercial and industrial development projects now being contemplated on reserve, like the Fort William energy project, require transparent, consistent and effective regulatory regimes. Addressing regulatory gaps on reserve will offer the stability and transparency necessary for those considering these major projects.

In the case of Fort McKay in Alberta, the community is pursuing a multi-billion dollar oil sands mine to be developed by Shell Canada Limited. This legislation is critical in allowing this project to move forward, create jobs and build prosperity on the reserve. As we know, the oil sands in general represent an enormous economic opportunity for all Canadians, including first nations like Fort McKay.

Billions of dollars of investment will be flowing into the oil sands in the next few years. For places like Fort McKay, and similarly for Fort William, this investment will create unprecedented job and revenue growth, along with vast improvements in the quality of life and social development on reserve.

These partnering first nations, including Fort William, are working with Indian and Northern Affairs Canada to develop a comprehensive outreach and implementation strategy for this legislation.

In addition to the advocacy by first nations themselves, the Government of Canada has had discussions with provincial governments. This engagement process with provinces is important, because the Government of Canada will seek, in most cases, agreements under which provinces will administer and enforce these regulations.

Representatives of the oil and gas industry in particular have indicated support for eliminating the regulatory gap that acts as a significant barrier to economic development and investment on reserve.

Consideration of regulations under FNCIDA for a specific project would be triggered when a first nation like Fort William passes a band council resolution requesting regulations regulated to a specific on reserve development project.

Next, the Government of Canada would conduct an analysis prior to making a final decision on whether to proceed with the development of a regulation for the project. If the regulations are to proceed for the project, the Government of Canada would, in most cases, seek an agreement regarding the administration and enforcement of the regulation with the province and the first nation. That makes sense.

The regulations created for specific projects would be part of federal law and the provinces would be acting on behalf of the Government of Canada in administering and enforcing them, eliminating any questions of jurisdiction.

An essential requirement for economic development in any context is transparent, consistent and effective regulation. While it is true that over-regulating activity can discourage investment, it is also true that under-regulating or uncertainty about regulations can have the same effect.

We all know how many people have been discouraged because of this apparent quagmire. A regulatory gap creates uncertainty about process, time and costs associated with a project and can divert potential investors from reserves to other jurisdictions where an established regulatory framework exists.

FNCIDA will allow the Government of Canada to replicate provincial laws and regulations to apply to these projects on reserve. This will ensure that as first nations and companies move ahead with these major projects they are regulated in a fashion similar to similar projects off reserve. It gives the added benefit of stability for investors and developers as they deal with regulations that they already know and understand.

It is only through a true partnership that we can succeed. The people of Fort William and indeed all aboriginal people are looking forward to the successful passage of the bill.

First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, as my colleague from Edmonton—Sherwood Park pointed out, this bill does have some points that we are very supportive of. It is lacking in many areas, but I believe that we are going to be supporting it anyway.

I want to get back to some earlier comments, if I may. I would like to ask this member to see if he can rationalize or justify some of these absolute facts about the quality of life on some of these first nations reserves, on so many of them, so many more than is imaginable in this country. If he could make some notes and then respond, I would appreciate it.

First, the fact is that the violence against women on first nations reserves has not decreased in the last 12 years under this very caring Liberal government, as the Liberals say they are. It is even at the point that the issue of violence against aboriginal women is not on the agenda of the first nations summit next week in Kelowna. A question during question period about why it has not been included was not answered.

Second, there have been all too many incidents of corruption at the band and council level and in regard to the mismanagement of money. Every year the Auditor General brings to the attention of the House the fact that the accountability factor is not there. In the last 12 years this issue has not gone away. It is still present under the Liberal government.

Third is the quality of life, the living conditions and the health conditions in first nations communities, including the Kashechewan issue with the poisonous water and the mould in the houses in the communities. That has not been addressed by the Liberal government over the last 12 years.

I hope the member is making notes and will be responding to all of these points.

Fourth, the fact is that the drug and the alcohol problems on first nations reserves, under this very caring and concerned Liberal government over the last 12 years, has in fact not decreased but increased under the Liberal watch.

Last, the sad fact is that the Liberal government has unfortunately been in power for most of the last 35 years and there have been billions of dollars put into first nations programs in this country, yet today the sad answer to the question on the quality of life is that it indeed is perhaps not as good now on the first nations reserves as it was 30 years ago, prior to all the billions of dollars having been put in.

As well, the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development has developed into a huge conglomeration of bureaucrats who apparently do not seem to want these problems to ever get solved. There have been a lot of suggestions. Why would they simply want to work themselves out of a job by solving these problems?

This is the legacy of this so-called caring Liberal government, which puts itself out as a friend to first nations. Yet it has the saddest possible legacy over the last 12 years of its reign that one could ever imagine as far as the issues and the concerns of first nations people being addressed by the government is concerned. It has shirked its responsibility to first nations people in this country.

First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Liberal

Ken Boshcoff Liberal Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for a question that is 80% longer than the allowable time limit for an answer.

First, right off the bat I want to thank the member for his support in passing this bill as quickly as possible. It only confirms that we are on the right track.

Second, when we talk about the 11 first nations of Thunder Bay--Rainy River or the 640 first nations throughout the community, or whether it is the Métis or other groups, there is no government that has done more than the federal Liberal government over the past number of years. That has been recognized everywhere I go. First nations groups that I work with work in a spirit of cooperation and in a positive way, especially first nations women's associations that I have been involved with in my previous life as mayor and now as MP, understand that the guideline for this government is compassion and understanding and we have delivered on the financial component.

I do not know how much time is left. I know that the other speaker ran out the clock for me. I do have much more qualitative and detailed responses that I would be able to present, but I do know one thing in regard to passing this bill: the people of Fort William First Nation look forward to it as quickly as possible.

First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will keep my comments brief, because I know there is interest in this place in getting the bill before the committee for some proper review.

To comment on some of the remarks that have been made by the government in terms of the NDP's intentions around election timing and other things, let me say that the New Democratic Party stands second to no one in this country when it comes to our history of supporting first nations rights and title in this country.

We can go back through all the history of our party and find our champions, such as the current member for Ottawa Centre, enforcing, pushing, coddling and imploring the government of the day to include the whole notion of rights and title in subsection 35(1) of the 1982 Constitution Act, thus ensuring that first nations have a voice.

I think back to Frank Howard, an MP from my riding at the time, who filibustered this place for three years on Fridays to ensure that first nations had the right to vote when they were living on reserve, a fundamental right that all Canadians enjoy. That was pushed by the New Democratic Party. There were Frank Calder and Jim Fulton and the list goes on. The New Democrats have stood with first nations through the ages, through time, and in debate after debate. And we stand with them today in strong support.

The idea of playing politics with important first nations issues is something that I find personally offensive. I find the tone being used by some of the government members toward the Kelowna meetings, this bill and other acts offensive, as do many of our first nations allies. The New Democrats' sole intention is to improve, once and for all, the quality of life of first nations in our country

With respect to that, I have often mentioned in this place the strong cultural history of first nations in my riding. Thirty per cent plus of the people I represent are of first nations origin. We have incredibly strong first nations that every day present their culture, their history and their hopes for the future. Too many times, these hopes have been ignored by the government over the last 12 years.

I have implored the government to change its basic understanding of how it deals with first nations by no longer using the number of announcements made and the number of dollars promised and rarely spent as the indicators for whether it is dealing with first nations problems or not.

We all know the horrendous state of affairs when it comes to the quality of life of first nations in this country, right across this country and in my riding in particular. We know that the rates of suicide, type 2 diabetes and poverty are absolutely deplorable. These are the indicators that the government would use, if it actually had any courage, when dealing with first nations and first nations issues.

One of those issues is teen suicide rates. The Lax Kw'alaams Band is a small band village in my riding. I have attempted to visit there three times in the last six months. All three times we had to cancel trips because of teen suicides, successful, if one can use that term, teen suicides. There were three. These villages, these communities, are being eroded in the most important way possible, through their young people, their young people who are not feeling any sense of hope whatsoever toward their future. They feel no sense of hope toward prosperity.

The reason New Democrats are looking forward to having this bill pass is that in some small measure we have come forward with another small step in trying to improve the quality of life of first nations across this country. We simply cannot play politics with this.

I also implore the government to stop playing politics with our Kelowna meeting. The member for Toronto--Danforth has proven time and time again that first nations are front and centre in our minds. When we renegotiated the federal budget last spring, many Canadians noticed that in each of the four main areas of the renegotiated budget, first nations were front and centre. Whether we were talking about the environment, affordable housing or education, whatever it may be, we ensured that in each of those areas first nations held a place of importance, thereby demonstrating yet again the New Democrats' passion and commitment to improving the quality of life for first nations in our country.

Highway 16 runs through my riding. For a number of years women, particularly first nations women, have gone missing year after year. This incredibly tragic issue has been absolutely ignored by both the Liberal provincial government and the federal government. It is awful and truly devastating. Due to economic poverty, people are forced to hitchhike and use other methods to get back and forth across the vast territory which is my riding. Year after year the missing persons posters go up for young first nations women who have gone missing. There is no public cry in this place or in the legislature of the province of British Columbia that resounds properly to the tragedy that we are watching unfold before us.

When it comes to the need to consult and accommodate, there is one finding that has come out of the courts time and again. I mean this in all sincerity, but I do not believe that the government has caught up to the court cases that have been presented in front of it, whether it was the Haida case or the Taku River Tlingit case, in truly understanding what it is to properly accommodate and consult. I could go through case after case that we are seeing in my riding where the government has come in and has allowed either industrial projects to go ahead or has initiated its own without that first step of proper consultation and accommodation of the first nations. I see it time and again. At some point the culture within government must change to finally come to terms with what the courts have told us for a number of years, that particularly in places where no treaty has been signed, there is a need to properly accommodate and consult.

For the country to truly prosper in the true sense of prosperity, we will need our first nations people on board. We will need them to prosper with us. No longer will it be acceptable to have all of the key indicators of quality of life improve for Canadians in general, but continually slide for first nations. The Liberals have some accounting for this. For the last decade or so on the key indicators, the ones to which we pay the most attention, first nations continue to fall further and further behind what all Canadians should come to expect, which is a high quality of life living in the greatest country on earth.

First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask my colleague simply to react to the following. Just before he spoke, we heard comments from the hon. member from Prince George, a member with whom I usually agree on many things, except today he spent a good part of his discourse criticizing the civil servants who work in the Indian affairs department, the many hard-working people who work very hard for the people of this country. Does he share the view of the member, or does he agree with me that those comments were unfortunate, uncalled for and undeserved by our loyal civil servants?

First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am not about to intercede in the debate between the two members, only to say that when we have looked at the treaty tables that exist within my riding, the incredible thing is when I ask those first nations facilitators and mediators what is the hold-up when it comes to treaty talks, they suggest that even though Gordon Campbell started off his mandate in the absolute opposite direction in terms of first nations' interests, it is the province that is actually allowing many of these things to go ahead and it is the federal government that has not come to the table with a clear mandate. I find this stunning and confusing.

At some point we need to settle the land question and have certainty for both the people and the industry there. I implore the government to send those hard-working Indian affairs bureaucrats to those tables in such a way that they actually have a mandate to negotiate, a mandate to settle these things so that industry can prosper and the communities can prosper. That seems to be the block in holding us up from future prosperity.

First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, in response to the member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, I am sure he would have liked to have heard my comments the way he thought he heard them. However, my comments were to the effect that it is first nations people themselves who are sitting in their communities wondering where the so-called help from the federal government is coming from, wondering where the so-called assistance from the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development is coming. They are suggesting to me, considering the plight of our communities, that it appears to the first nations people themselves that the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development is more concerned with building its bureaucracy than with actually doing something to help first nations communities. That is what they are telling me. The hon. member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell knows that is what I said, notwithstanding the fact he would have liked to have interpreted it the way he spoke.

First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure there was a question in that comment. I will allow the two hon. members to work out their dispute, perhaps outside this place. I know we have some need for haste in terms of ending this particular discussion.

First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Loyola Hearn Conservative St. John's South, NL

Mr. Speaker, in answering a question, the hon. member mentioned that we should get people involved, the bureaucrats who do good work. All our bureaucrats do. It is the direction they are more concerned about. He mentioned we should get them at the table to really get the job done. I totally agree with him.

We talk about all these big conferences, and we heard the Prime Minister talk about how important this conference is. I remember when we had another crisis, when we talked about foreign overfishing, the Prime Minister convened a big conference. He goes around the world and wherever there is an issue, the Prime Minister invites people to come to Canada for a big conference. The conference occurs, he gets coverage and nothing ever happens.

I am with the hon. member. It is not the Prime Minister I want to see at the table, it is the people who can get the job done. I am just wondering if he feels the same way.

First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, in a brief reply, the Auditor General, through the commissioner of the environment, has noted a number of times the government's addiction to announcements. However, it is gone, in her words, before the confetti has hit the floor. It is almost like a child with attention deficit disorder who cannot seem to focus long enough on an issue to see it through to the end of the day and to its proper conclusion.

I suggest the first nations issues as well as the environment and many others are very similar to this.

First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, I ask the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, considering he has pine beetle damage to quite an extent in his riding, is he and his party aware of the devastation that the Liberal government has allowed to go on and just how much of a threat it is to the economic prosperity of first nations bands in his area of the province?

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1:15 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Yes, Mr. Speaker.

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1:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Is the House ready for the question?

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1:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

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1:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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Some hon. members

Agreed.

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1:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

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1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I believe if you seek it you will find unanimous consent of the House to see the clock as 1:30 p.m.