Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to be here today to debate Bill C-5 at third reading.
The Liberal Party has supported this particular bill and made efforts to improve it where it saw a need for improvement. Not all of them have been accepted either by the committee or the House, with the ruling by the Speaker that a particular motion relating to the fiduciary duty of the minister and the government was not accepted.
Bill C-5 has been a long time coming, as many in the House have already said. The bill was officially introduced in 1974 and has remained substantially unchanged and unamended since that particular time. Efforts have been made in the past. There have been many discussions and consultations, and certainly many hours, days and weeks of work have taken place to get us where we are today.
In fact, this is the third time the bill has been introduced in as many sessions of Parliament and only now have we reached the third reading stage. Of course, there was a prorogation of the House, which everybody is aware of, last fall.
We all have to ask ourselves a question when it comes to pieces of legislation. Has there been adequate consultation? That is not a question that I can answer. It is only a question that can be answered by the first nations people, who are directly affected. In many regards, they have satisfied the committee that in fact extensive consultations have taken place.
There are, obviously, some organizations and first nations communities which have expressed some difficulty at committee around the specifics of this particular bill. In particular, the Stoney Nakoda First Nations out of Alberta has expressed a number of concerns with the bill around the fiduciary duty of the federal government, as to whether it would be changed or altered. It has also expressed certain concerns about the lack of control and jurisdiction of first nations over their own lands and the management of them.
That being said, it is important we understand that those concerns were noted prior to the development of the bill. Some have questioned whether these types of issues should have been raised in committee because the Stoney Nakoda, for instance, was already part of the consultations that took place with the Indian Resource Council of Canada, but that is the way our legislative process works. First nations have the ability to take advantage of whatever stage of the legislation to make their views known and I acknowledge that.
The bill came to the House as a result of the consultations between the Indian Resource Council of Canada, which represents 130 oil and gas producing first nations or those who have the potential to produce oil and gas, and the Government of Canada, primarily through Indian Oil and Gas Canada.
There is a need, of course, for this particular bill. It fills a regulatory gap and modernizes the Indian Oil and Gas Act. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development has already outlined some of those substantive changes.
I would like to review in broad terms some of the aspects of the clauses of this bill that deal with royalties and regulation making. There is an increase in the powers of the minister, but there is also a specific duty on the minister to consult with first nations in carrying out his powers and responsibilities. There are improvements to the inspection, audit and examination powers of the minister and Indian Oil and Gas Canada representing the minister. There are changes regarding search and seizure, delegation authorities, offences and punishment, as well as administrative monetary penalties.
One of the major discussions that took place in committee concerned the incorporation of provincial regulations. Basically, they would become federal regulations for the purposes of managing first nations lands that have oil and gas or the potential of oil and gas.
Some have argued that the government has to ensure that the rights and interests of first nations are not infringed upon by the incorporation of those provincial laws. People want to ensure that by incorporating these particular laws the fiduciary obligation is not diminished. Also raised was the issue that because this particular bill allows the government to incorporate provincial regulations and because it is a regulation-making bill, how do we really know what is going on. There was an amendment made to this bill at committee that would require the government to report to Parliament. Proposed section 28.1 reads:
At least every two years after the coming into force of the present section, the Minister shall prepare a report on the administration of this Act during the two preceding years and shall table a copy of the report in each House of Parliament within the first fifteen days that it is sitting after the completion of the report, which shall include a summary addressing the following matters:
(a) the progress of the consultations mentioned in paragraph 6(1.1)(a) and a list of concerns raised during such consultations;
(b) any proposed regulation to be made under subsection 6(1.1); and
(c) any regulations made under this Act and describe any variations in the regulations from province to province.
It is quite an in-depth report on responsibility that was not originally in Bill C-5 that is there now as it has been reprinted.
It is important from our perspective that this bill pass in Parliament. It would provide some balance, some consistency between what will happen off reserve and what will happen on reserve as first nations develop their own lands where there is oil and gas or the potential for oil and gas. Some will argue that there will not be consistency right across the country because it will vary province to province.
My party is in favour of this piece of legislation. We have done our best to see it through its various legislative stages in a timely fashion.
Our party has supported in the past, it supports today and it will support in the future the right of first nations, aboriginal peoples generally, to develop their own lands and their own resources. We will support the inherent right of first nations to make decisions for themselves and for their people.
While this bill does not go all the way, it certainly goes part of the way to fulfilling those goals and aspirations.