Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today to speak in support of this bill, the first nations commercial and industrial development act, a logical, sensible and progressive piece of legislation with a wide range of benefits for first nations and for Canada.
I would like to discuss the benefits of the bill in some detail. The bill is intended to remove the impediments that stand in the way of major commercial and industrial projects on reserve for first nations.
The existing barriers to development on reserve come in the form of inadequate federal legislation adopted under a different set of economic circumstances. Today, as first nations pursue complex large-scale commercial and industrial development projects with enormous potential to improve their quality of life and economic prosperity, it is up to us as legislators to facilitate that development.
It is instructive to look at a concrete example of a major industrial development project which is likely to be realized under this legislation. Fort McKay First Nation in northern Alberta is developing a multi-billion dollar oil sands project in partnership with Shell Canada, but the dollars themselves generated through projects like this are not the only benefit to first nations such as Fort McKay. Increased revenue and economic growth lead to other tangible, measurable and positive outcomes.
The projects would, for example, improve the quality of life through ensuring industry-wide standards in environmental protection, public health and safety. They would also create more jobs on reserve. At the same time, such projects offer first nations unprecedented opportunity to build capacity for the future. The new jobs that are created bring along with them education, training and skills development.
All of the short term benefits that first nations citizens will enjoy from new jobs, such as higher incomes and better skills, for example, over the longer term will result in access to other opportunities that would previously have been out of reach.
For first nation communities as a whole over the longer term, revenues generated from large-scale commercial and industrial development projects can be directed to upgrading road, water and sewer infrastructure as well as building playgrounds, schools and medical centres.
It is because first nations themselves see the significant benefits that are possible under this legislation that five partnering first nations have been front and centre in developing and advocating it. They are Fort McKay First Nation and Tsuu T`ina Nation in Alberta, Fort William First Nation in Ontario, Squamish Nation in British Columbia, and Carry the Kettle First Nation in Saskatchewan.
These partnering first nations, all of whom are considering proposals for major commercial and/or industrial development projects, have designed this initiative as an important tool to help them access engines of economic development on their reserve lands. They have all shown their support for this initiative through band council resolutions and they have been engaging other first nations and first nations organizations across the country to build further support. In fact, the flexibility of this legislation will allow first nations in all parts of Canada to enjoy its benefits.
Closing the gap in socio-economic conditions between first nations and other Canadians is the principle objective of this legislation. I call upon all members of the House to support this legislation, which fills the regulatory gap that has to this point hindered first nations economic development for far too long.