Mr. Speaker, I rise today to express my support for Bill C-71, the First Nations commercial and industrial development act. I sincerely hope that members on both sides of the House will support the bill because it is a logical and sensible step forward from a business perspective. Also, essentially many of the issues that we debate in the House really come down to two essential elements: to improve the quality of life of people and their standard of living. There is no question that the bill will also improve the quality of life on reserve and better equip first nations communities with skills and resources to invest in their future.
This chamber is indeed about that. This chamber is about providing and expanding opportunities for individual Canadians to provide them with greater hope for the future, to give them a sense that they can fulfill what I define as the Canadian dream, that tomorrow can indeed be better than today. We collectively in this chamber have a responsibility to make it so. People in Canada need to be given these opportunities.
This bill, the FNCIDA, is a progressive piece of legislation. It will remove significant barriers that are currently denying first nations communities access to major commercial and industrial projects on reserve land.
When we think of public policy, when we think of ways to improve our society, it is very important to remove barriers. That is a very positive step that we as legislators should endorse, to remove barriers for great economic growth, to remove barriers to maximize one's own potential, whether as individuals or as communities.
A significant barrier to this access is inadequate legislation that was put in place under an entirely different economic reality. It is now time to recognize the economic potential for commerce and industry on reserve land and to consider the invaluable benefits to the quality of life that the FNCIDA will help to facilitate.
With existing barriers removed, projects governed by the FNCIDA would mean more active participation by first nations in the economy. The bill would be a gateway to increased revenues that could be reinvested to stimulate further growth and help propel prosperity in first nations communities.
The best example of a project that will benefit from the bill is the multi-billion dollar oil sands mine being pursued by Fort McKay First Nation in northern Alberta. Over the life of the project, direct and indirect economic benefits for Fort McKay First Nation are expected to be $1 billion to $2 billion.
It is easy to see how increased revenue and economic growth are tangible and positive outcomes of this legislation. It is easy to see how really liberating the economic potential of an area can bring about the type of prosperity, the type of renewal of all the energies that exist within a community to improve the quality of life and standard of living.
The projects the bill would enable would do more than bring in just more money. They would improve the quality of life through ensuring industry-wide standards in environmental protection and public health safety, creating more jobs on the reserve and offering opportunities for capacity building for the future.
With new jobs come more education, training and skills development. It is the way to enlarge the pool of opportunity. It is the way to give people the types of incentives that increase the opportunities that exist. With the new jobs there are short term outcomes. Employment and earned income translate in the long term into improved quality of life, a better future and access to other opportunities that would otherwise be out of reach.
Essentially the bill provides opportunities that are not present. It is clear to see that the bill improves the situation on these particular reserves. Why is that important? That is what we do here. It is what this chamber does. It is what members of Parliament and individuals try to do in building a better society. It is the raison d'être of parliamentarians.
What is really important about this piece of legislation is that in many ways it is a result of great input from people who will eventually benefit from the bill. The fact that in a democratic process we have people from all over Canada saying that these measures would help them improve their quality of life and standard of living and to move forward with change speaks to the fact that people are engaged. The bill is an example of such action, of what can be achieved when people pool their resources, share in a common vision and bring about positive change to their lives.
For first nations communities like Fort McKay, more active participation in the Canadian economy facilitated by the FNCIDA will mean a significant improvement in the quality of life on reserve in other ways as well. Revenues generated through large scale commerce and industry can be directed toward upgrading road, water and sewer infrastructure, and building playgrounds, schools and medical centres.
The benefits of the bill are self-evident. We have expanded opportunities, generation of revenue that will be directed toward education, which will provide people with skills. We are also building infrastructure necessary for future generation of wealth which in turn will also improve the standard of living, quality of life in many ways, in health and education which I think are elements of our society that people really care about. What about the great improvement we will see when children have access to greater educational opportunities, when we see young people who will look to the future with a sense of optimism because there are jobs available? What do we see when we see playgrounds springing up on reserves where children can play and have a great childhood experience? What does that mean in real terms? To view the bill in isolation would be a mistake.
There are five partnering first nations who have been actively involved in the development of the FNCIDA: Fort McKay; Fort William First Nation in Ontario; Squamish Nation in British Columbia; Carry the Kettle First Nation in Saskatchewan; and Tsuu T'ina Nation in Alberta. They are a perfect example of what can be achieved when we as individuals want to build a society where positive change takes place. For that reason I congratulate the first nations.