House of Commons Hansard #70 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was crime.


The House resumed from April 27 consideration of the motion.

Private Members' Business

11 a.m.


The Speaker Peter Milliken

When this matter was last before the House, the hon. member for Newmarket--Aurora had the floor and there were four minutes remaining in the time allotted for her remarks. I therefore call upon the hon. member for Newmarket--Aurora.

Private Members' Business

11 a.m.


Lois Brown Newmarket—Aurora, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the House for the opportunity to speak to the motion brought forward by the member for Labrador regarding the importance of investing in core public infrastructure in Canada's north.

During previous debates on this motion, my colleagues highlighted significant investments this government has made and continues to make in Canada's northern communities.

Along with our northern strategy, our government, under the leadership of the Prime Minister, is delivering an economic action plan that will stimulate economic growth in economies from coast to coast to coast by creating jobs and supporting Canadian families.

This government has doubled the gas revenue transfer from $1 billion to $2 billion per year, and moved up the first payment from July 1st to April 1st. This money is in bank accounts of municipalities right now so local government can put it to work right away.

Our government continues to work constructively with our counterparts in the provinces and the territories to get shovels in the ground as soon as possible. We are getting the job done for all of our provinces and for the territories. This money is in the hands of our municipalities because we believe that putting the money in their hands is going to create jobs in these places immediately.

We are really glad that we can say that we are getting the job done.

Private Members' Business

11 a.m.


Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise on behalf of the Bloc Québécois to address Motion M-298 put forward by the hon. member for Labrador. I will take a moment to read it because it is important. It states:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should work co-operatively with the governments of the territories and of the seven provinces which constitute the Provincial North, and with Aboriginal and local governments in these regions, to develop a strategy to improve transportation and other vital public infrastructure.

I will say right off that, immediately following my remarks, I will be moving an amendment to Motion M-298, which I will explain. I realize, of course, that this amendment will require the consent of the mover of the motion, the hon. member for Labrador. I am moving this amendment simply because one has to be very careful in drafting a text and introducing it as a motion.

The text before us states “the government should work co-operatively with the governments of the territories and of the seven provinces which constitute the Provincial North, and with Aboriginal and local governments in these regions”. The problem is with the phrase “with local government in these regions”. Where aboriginal people are concerned, the federal government acts as their trustee, and it would automatically be responsible for whatever share is owed by aboriginal communities, should these communities encounter financial difficulties. However, the wording of the motion is suggesting that local governments would be expected to participate financially, since it talks about developing a strategy cooperatively with local governments. These are municipalities and cities. As a former president of the Union des municipalités du Québec, I cannot support a position that might require local governments to participate financially once all is said and done. I would be much more comfortable if the words “and local governments in these regions” were taken out of the motion. This would prevent local and municipal governments from being put in front of a de facto situation and having to participate financially.

We must not forget that, according the Constitution, municipalities fall under the jurisdiction of provincial governments. In any discussions that might take place, since we are talking about cooperation among the governments of the territories and the seven provinces, the Government of Quebec would inevitably be called upon. So, the province itself will undertake discussions with the local municipalities. They could very well be opposed to participating financially, and could tell the Quebec government that since it was the one that held talks with the federal government and since it was the one that spoke about a transportation system in the north, the province should be the one to pay, for the benefit of everyone.

It is difficult to be against the principle of a strategy to improve transportation and vital public infrastructure in the north. That is why I will table an amendment, if the member for Labrador will agree. I am well aware that the sponsor of a motion must consent to an amendment so that it can be debated or be put to vote. I hope that the member is listening, that he hears me, and that he will agree with this solution. I will obviously try to convince him of the relevance of this amendment.

I will come back to this point. When we say that the government should work cooperatively with the governments of the territories and of the seven provinces to develop a strategy with aboriginal and local governments in these regions, this development could inevitably requirement financial participation.

As I was saying, the fact that the aboriginal peoples would be involved does not create a problem, since the federal government has a fiduciary responsibility for aboriginal people and their land. If there were financial needs it would automatically be the federal government that would see to meeting them. This is not up to local governments in Quebec, which have their own taxation system. If there were participation, the local governments could be called on to help improve transportation and vital public infrastructure. I believe that this network should be national and should be funded in part by the federal government and the provinces involved in such talks.

Many of the northern territories are resource rich. They also have tourism because they are beautiful and people can go there. I encourage everyone to do so. That being said, they are rich in natural resources that are important for development. Quebec has hydroelectric dams and mining. I think that a public infrastructure and transportation network is critical for the north, but this motion presented in the House of Commons should not indirectly oblige local governments to participate financially.

We may agree with the principle underlying the motion, but we cannot leave the words “with local governments in these regions” in the text.

That bears repeating. Too often, we try to fix problems by presenting motions like this one. Every word in it is important. The way this motion is written suggests that financial participation will be required because it says “with local governments in these regions”. That points to shared costs.

I can tell you that local governments in Quebec are not prepared to talk about financial participation. I want to be perfectly clear about that because, according to the Constitution, municipalities fall under the jurisdiction of provinces and territories. If there were any needs, the fact that the provinces would be at the table to talk, to cooperate, to figure out strategies and funding would automatically enable them to have a conversation with the cities if they wanted to share costs. They will have their debate.

In Quebec, a provincial-municipal round table exists to discuss problems between the Government of Quebec and the municipalities, since the municipalities fall under provincial jurisdiction. Accordingly, I believe that that organization should be the one to decide how the municipalities will participate in any strategy to improve critical public infrastructure, and not a federal round table, which, in any case, could force the provinces, territories and aboriginal communities to contribute financially.

As I said, the federal government has a fiduciary responsibility for aboriginal communities. Accordingly, if it ever had to ask for money, it would surely find a way to give money to the communities so they could contribute financially. Since the federal government has no legitimate authority over local governments, it is not up to the government to determine any action, especially since the municipalities come under Quebec's jurisdiction.

Once my amendment is accepted by the hon. member for Labrador, I will be pleased to discuss it and support it if our amendment is supported by the majority in this House. At that point, we could then support Motion M-298.

I would like to present my amendment with the time I have left.

I move, seconded by the hon. member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, that the motion be amended by deleting all the words “and local governments in these regions”.

Private Members' Business

11:10 a.m.


The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

It is my duty to inform hon. members that, pursuant to Standing Order 93(3), no amendment may be proposed to a private members' motion or to the motion for second reading of a private members' bill unless the sponsor of the item indicates his or her consent.

Therefore, I ask the hon. member for Labrador if he consents to the amendment being moved?

Private Members' Business

11:10 a.m.


Todd Russell Labrador, NL

With respect, no, Mr. Speaker.

Private Members' Business

11:10 a.m.


The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

There is no consent. Therefore, pursuant to Standing Order 93(3) the amendment cannot be moved at this time.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Edmonton—Strathcona.

Private Members' Business

11:10 a.m.


Linda Duncan Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am rising to speak to the motion tabled by the member for Labrador. It is a motion of great interest to me due to my long history of work with first nations and other communities in northern Alberta. The motion perhaps raises more questions than answers, and I think it raises a good point for discussion in the House.

What is the north of Canada? What about the communities that are squeezed between the more highly populated developed areas along the southern edge of Canada and our far north, which is getting a lot of attention of late? I think the motion raises a lot of good issues, particularly about the failure of successive federal governments to give enough attention to the infrastructure needs of our northern communities, including those on the northern edge of Nunavut and other first nations communities within Yukon and the Northwest Territories.

There are two issues here. I think the hon. member from the Bloc raised a very good point. What is meant by “cooperatively”? If it means joint funding, that perhaps raises a serious issue. I know that certainly in northern Alberta the municipalities are already extremely stretched financially in trying to deliver their infrastructure needs, particularly the community of Fort McMurray. Certainly the first nations and Métis communities of northern Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec are stressed with trying to deliver education, health care, road construction, housing, wastewater treatment and water treatment. We need to be giving more attention to those issues.

That raises the issue of whether there is synchronicity between the budget, which talks about allocation of infrastructure dollars, and other legislative initiatives going on in the House. One legislative matter of particular significance is the announced federal initiative for new safe drinking water legislation for aboriginal communities. By coincidence, I have been researching a book on the legal aspects of providing safe drinking water to Métis and first nations peoples. There are a lot of unanswered questions and a lot of big issues about whether or not we are adequately delivering on the constitutional and Supreme Court approved decision that there is a duty to better consult, consider and accommodate the interests and needs of first nations peoples.

I have had the opportunity over the last several years to have discussions with the mayor for the town of Fort McMurray, Melissa Blake. On a recent trip there by the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development, we had discussions on the potential impacts of the oil sands on water. The mayor clarified in the meeting that she still has serious concerns about meeting the infrastructure needs of her community. She welcomes the infusion of federal dollars to build the highways for the safety of the workers who go to and from the tar sands operations, but she is still waiting for money to provide the basic services of education, health and so forth.

The motion addresses the issue that we have certain communities that are under particular stress. With regard to the first nations communities and the Métis settlements, the Alberta government, to its credit, has constitutionally recognized the Métis, established settlements in northern Alberta and transferred certain money. However, as the laws improve and we have higher standards for providing safe drinking water and wastewater treatment, those settlements are stressed with meeting these regulatory standards and coming up with the resources to deliver that.

I know that the president of the Métis Settlements General Council was here last week, meeting with the ministers and seeking additional support to have better wastewater treatment in the community. It is noteworthy that constitutionally the federal government does have responsibility for both the Métis as well as the first nations peoples. However, thus far the federal government seems to be balking at that.

I think those matters need to be revisited. I think it would be worthwhile to have a good, thorough all-party discussion about whether or not the needs of those “northern communities”, particularly the first nations government communities and the Métis settlements in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, where they do not yet have designated settlements, are also getting equal attention and priority.

I commend the member for bringing forward the motion. It raises a lot of very critical issues. We need clarity on whether the suggestion is that these very communities would actually have to cost share. In most cases, these communities' finances are already stretched and that probably would be impossible, unless of course they could get matched funding from the provinces.

It is a very important point. I do not think we should in any way underplay the needs of our far northern communities that are starting to develop and merit a lot of support to build their infrastructure.

I will close by adding one additional point. The House will have noticed last week with the swine flu situation in some of the first nation communities, particularly in the northern provinces, the problem that overcrowding of housing is having with the spreading of the swine flu.

As these issues collide, it becomes all the more important that we recognize that some communities in Canada merit even further attention from us and they should be given careful consideration.

Private Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Rob Oliphant Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for her support of this private member's motion. I, too, speak in favour of it.

I will begin by talking about my experience in northern Canada, having lived in Yukon for six years and experiencing the challenges one has while living in the north with respect to both public infrastructure and social infrastructure and simply servicing smaller communities as well as the larger cities.

This private member's motion opens up that discussion and allows us to begin to have a comprehensive strategy that involves the stakeholders. This motion is about conversation, about dialogue, and it is about including those people most strongly affected by the lack of infrastructure in the actual debate and discussion about their futures.

The hon. member for Edmonton East and I were recently travelling in the far north on a trip to Greenland. It was exciting to actually see the way a different country has developed some infrastructure and to take time to compare the infrastructure in Greenland with the infrastructure in our Canadian far north.

There is a marked difference between what Denmark has done in Greenland and what Canada has managed to accomplish in the far north. We are sadly lacking in public housing, in the various ways that people are housed and cared for, and the transportation links that keep Greenland together.

They are looking forward, on June 21, to additional self-rule, which will essentially be the autonomy of a province. It will be very similar to what we have in Canada, a little more than our territories have, but probably not as much as our provinces have. This motion begins to look at the way we involve other jurisdictions in the discussion about providing for transportation, housing and medical needs and the social infrastructure that complements that.

I would want to challenge my friends in the Bloc Québécois to open up their understanding of this motion. I do not think there is any challenge to provincial jurisdiction by allowing local economies, local communities and local governments to be involved in the discussion. This is exactly what they would be advocating for to ensure that all participants have a fair voice in what is going on in the way public money is spent and the aspirations for individuals and communities.

I want to challenge them to support this motion, to actually engage in our conversations. This improves the jurisdiction of Quebec in discussions around its north and brings us into a partnership discussion with the federal government to ensure that resource dollars are being spent adequately and fairly so that Canadians all across this country are not discriminated against because of geography.

It is important to note that this motion does not define what we mean by north. I think that the previous speaker could also be challenged to say that this motion is actually inclusive and open. It understands the possibility that the north is more about attitude than it is about latitude. It is the way that people live. Each of our provincial jurisdictions can define that in understanding their own provincial north, to understand that dispersed, rural and isolated communities that have a northern atmosphere, a northern understanding and a northern inclination are included in this discussion.

That may change in different parts. It is not simply north of 60. It is about involving people who share a common way of life. It brings our aboriginal communities, our first nations communities, our Inuit communities into this discussion in a fair and equal way, with eye-level discussions to talk about their needs, their aspirations, their hopes and their dreams. This motion commends to the government an open dialogue to say that all people in Canada are of equal importance.

This motion also stretches our imagination as to what the far north is about. We need to understand that Canada's north is not about sovereignty alone. It is about people, not infrastructure. It is about people who live there, who have a traditional way of life or a new way of life and who are learning to cope together with the changes that are happening due to climate change.

We need to be ready and aware and understand what is going on with respect to the changing boundaries of our country because of climate change. Our people need to be ready. We need to understand the economic opportunities as well as the cultural benefits of being in the north.

Right now, no gateways are working to help transportation and the flow of goods through Canada's north. European goods could be transferred to the Far East much faster if we developed trade routes across Canada's north.

If we had deep sea port facilities, and if we had the necessary infrastructure around those facilities, long-term jobs could be created, not simply seasonal jobs, which would complement the traditional way of life.

We can do this in an environmentally sensitive way so that we do not change the way people live unless they choose to make that change, and unless that change is sensitive to the cultural importance and the cultural determinants in the discussion. This would lead to improved education, improved health and improved economic opportunities for the people of Canada's north.

If we can improve the life of the people of the north, then we can improve our sovereignty stake in the north. We are at risk of losing our sense of who we are in the north as other partners in the global community try to claim it.

Canada's north is not like the Antarctic which has many penguins. The north is filled with people who have made the north their destiny. They seek to live and raise their families in the north because of the economic opportunity and to improve their cultural situation. So far, the government has failed to come up with a comprehensive strategy on an infrastructure program to facilitate that.

I am pleased to support this private member's motion because it does not command the involvement of any province. It invites the provinces to participate in the discussion. It invites the involvement of local communities, first nations governments and Inuit governments in the discussion to further the good for all Canadians.

All of Canada will be better if our far north is better. All Canadians will be better if Inuit Canadians and first nations Canadians are included in determining where they want infrastructure money to be spent.

Infrastructure is about improving the quality of life. Dollars spent on improving our environment will save dollars later in health care. Dollars spent on infrastructure improvement for education will save lives, jobs and money later on in lost employment and loss of understanding of human worth. Money spent on alcohol and drug treatment centres will help to improve the quality of life for people later on.

We must open up Canada's north, protect its culture, protect its people, and involve them in the discussion about the strategy.

I am pleased the member has brought forward this motion. It will take some imagination on the part of the government to support it. I am looking forward to the government's support as well as the support of all opposition members.

Private Members' Business

11:25 a.m.

Fort McMurray—Athabasca


Brian Jean Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to speak to the motion put forward by my colleague from Labrador.

I come from a riding in far northern Alberta. My riding has many people from Newfoundland and Labrador. The estimate is as many as 30,000.

Our government is committed to supporting Canada's northern communities and people.

I took my first trip up to Yellowknife from Fort McMurray by canoe when I was five years old. I had the opportunity at that time see part of the north and to fall in love with it. It is an amazing area with many rivers and lakes, and people who are really proud. Quite frankly, it is a place that needs our concentration on infrastructure.

This government's sovereignty agenda has shown from the very start how important the north is to Canada and to our government.

We have worked closely with our counterparts in other governments, including the provinces and territories, to match and multiply our stimulus for the economy, to get people to work and to establish the north as a very strong area of Canada. That in itself speaks to the sovereignty of our nation and sends a clear message to other countries.

We are committed to these partnerships with the provinces and territories. We believe that the key to bolstering our economy and minimizing the effect of the global recession is partly in the north. Certainly the north is where the future of Canada is located.

In fact, today, I would like to announce that Canada's transport and infrastructure minister is meeting with representatives from communities, big and small, at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities annual general meeting in British Columbia. He is providing them with an update on our actions and is listening to their feedback, which is so important. We work with our partners. We know that working with our partners is the only way to get the agenda that Canadians want through. The minister is listening to them and he is providing information about our government's unprecedented action to stimulate economic growth, to create jobs and to invest in Canada's core public infrastructure.

We are working 10 times faster than any government in modern history to get things going on infrastructure from coast to coast. Budget 2009 is a clear example of this. Canada's economic action plan provides close to $12 billion in stimulus through spending on infrastructure. This includes $4 billion for the infrastructure stimulus fund. This will provide funding to provinces, territories, municipalities and communities for construction-ready infrastructure projects in the short term to provide economic growth.

I am happy to say that fund is up and running from coast to coast to coast. The money is getting out to communities. Included in that is $2 billion for infrastructure development at universities and colleges across this country. Canada's industry minister announced a number of these important projects across the country over the last few weeks. My riding has received some of this money. The people in the universities and colleges in my riding in northern Alberta are ecstatic about this. We are seeing real investment in the future of Canada which, again, is the north and the students, our youth.

There is $1 billion for the green infrastructure fund to support environmentally sound infrastructure projects in every region of this country. I am very excited about that. The environment is very important to me. It is very important to the Prime Minister and this government.

There is $500 million to top up the existing communities component of the building Canada fund. This will provide support to communities of under 100,000 people, which are very important to me. Many of us come from communities of under 100,000 people. Previous governments sometimes ignored those communities. This government is simply not doing that. We are investing in communities big and small across this country.

There is also $500 million for to provide financial assistance to communities to repair and create recreational facilities.

Speaking of the green infrastructure fund, I recently had an opportunity to travel to Whitehorse to meet with officials from Yukon Territory, including the premier, to announce the launch of the green infrastructure fund. I was very proud to announce the first project which was $71 million to upgrade the Mayo B hydro generating facilities and the completion of the Carmacks-Stewart transmission line.

I was advised by officials that that particular project is going to save tens of thousands of GHG emissions per year. It is a very good project for Canada. It is a very good initiative for the health of all Canadians. This project will also help to provide economic opportunities for local residents, employment opportunities and support environmentally sound infrastructure. This is the first of many initiatives nationwide that this fund will support. The green infrastructure fund is very important to me. It is a great example of how this government is working with the provinces, territories and municipalities all across this great nation.

We are delivering on our promises to Canadians as outlined in January's economic action plan. We are getting the job done by working with other governments across the country. That is what is needed. We need other parties in the House to work cooperatively together to get things done and to work with the provinces, the territories and municipalities, not argue and continue to debate things in a negative fashion.

We need support with our budget, as the Liberals did and the NDP and the Bloc should have done, to move aggressively forward with funding and initiatives such as this one for the people of the north. Together we are helping to ensure that Canada emerges from the current global recession sooner than any other country and stronger than ever before.

This Conservative government is getting that job done.

Private Members' Business

11:35 a.m.


Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak to this motion from the member for Labrador on the need for the federal government to work co-operatively with the governments of the territories and the provinces that constitute the provincial north, and with the aboriginal and local governments of these regions to develop a strategy to improve transportation and other vital public infrastructure.

This issue is front and centre in my region of Timmins—James Bay in terms of the need for development and for dealing with the horrific levels of poverty and lack of opportunities along the vast regions of the James Bay coast.

As lifelong northerners, we always say that sometimes north is a state of mind. It is a state of mind up to a certain point, and then we get down to the realities of what it means to live in a community with no road access, 400 or 500 kilometres from the nearest community that connects us with the urban south.

In the James Bay-Mushkegowuk region, I have numerous communities that are suffering from terrible and unforgiveable levels of underfunding in terms of basic infrastructure. Two of my communities have no schools for their children: Attawapiskat and Kashechewan. These are the result of years of underfunding by the federal government, but also an attitude of negligence, that these communities are simply out of sight and out of mind.

We are seeing is a loss of phenomenal opportunity, not just for the children who grow up in these communities but for Canada as a whole.

We compare the community of Attawapiskat that has fought for 30 years to have a schoolyard cleaned up from massive amounts of contamination, and 30 years later we see the government with no commitment whatsoever to these children, even though these children are clearly at risk. Yet just down the road we have probably one of the richest diamond mines in the western world, Victor diamond mine, opened by De Beers. In the space of four or five years all the regulatory approvals were found, all the engineering studies were done, and now we have this massive diamond mine that is right beside a community that is living in dire levels of poverty.

It is not a question of pitting development against first nations. It is a question of political will to find a way to move forward with development. In representing one of the largest mining regions in the western world, I can say that we are really seeing how industry is sitting at the table when the federal government is not at the table.

When I worked with the Algonquin Nation in Quebec, we were calling it “treaties on the ground”. We were able to sit down with diamond companies and forestry companies and we were working out agreements when the federal government was missing in action.

What is needed in terms of furthering development in the far north? Number one, in a region like James Bay, we need to have a plan for something as simple as a road. If we have a road that connects from Cochrane to Moosonee, up to Fort Albany, Kashechewan and Attawapiskat, then we will see the massive levels of unemployment start to drop. Then we will see that it is possible to start doing long-term infrastructure development. Then we will see communities that are not dependent on diesel generators that put people into poverty, but sustainable energy.

One of the drivers for this could be the development of the mining industry, because we see with De Beers the need to move thousands of trucks up the road to supply this mine, and a narrow window on the winter road. It may be two months where suddenly the ice roads of James Bay look like Highway 401 traffic. It is crazy to do industrial development based on such erratic standards.

What we could see, however, is industry working with first nations, working with the provincial and federal governments to say, if there is to be development, number one, we want resource revenue sharing. Number two, we want a commitment to ongoing development, so that if we are to develop infrastructure such as mines, we have to get roads in and we have to get hydro, and we will connect the communities that are dependent on us, so that at the end of the day, long after the mines are gone, we will actually have some basic infrastructure.

I have met with De Beers many times. I have met with the communities. The idea of a long-term road is something that everyone recognizes is in their best interests.

What we are seeing here, however, at both the provincial and the federal level, is a continual dropping of the ball on this. The provincial government, for example, is rewriting the Mining Act right now, and it seems to be more willing to give Muskoka cottagers rights that it will not give to first nation communities who live north of 50°. The only people who live on the territory are first nations.

We have to look at this in terms of Canada taking responsibility to be a 21st century country.

We have heard a lot of talk about protecting the sovereignty in the far north, but running around with pith helmets and flags will not make sovereignty. Sovereignty will come from making a commitment to the children of this generation so that the children growing up in the far north have opportunities of education, have opportunities to participate and direct the development of their territories. That is the way we are going to establish sovereignty. It is not an either/or situation. It is a matter of political vision.

I truly believe, with the leadership in the first nation communities and talking with the various players that I am dealing with on a daily basis and the junior mining companies that have recognized now that they need to start working in a co-operative manner, we are seeing a movement forward in a way that seemed impossible 10 years ago. Yet the federal government is still dragging its feet, lagging behind the provincial governments, especially in Ontario, and continues to miss the mark. It is a tragedy, because when we look at the riches that are coming out of Victor diamond mine, a phenomenal wealth that is driving the economic renewal in northern Ontario, it has to be said that the diamonds that come out of that mine are nothing compared to the wealth of the children on the James Bay coast who are being left in substandard education facilities and overcrowded houses. The potential of these children to transform the northern economy is something that we as a federal government should recognize as the real way that we are going to move Canada, in the far north, into the 21st century, into something that we can be proud of, not something that we have to explain away at the United Nations for failure after failure in terms of the most basic fiduciary obligations.

On behalf of my colleagues in the New Democratic Party, I am very proud to rise and speak on this. I recognize that across the far north there needs to be a plan to ensure proper development. The only way we are going to get that plan is to work co-operatively, to work with our first nations, to work with our provincial counterparts, to work with the municipalities that are the jump-off points of contact for so much of the development in the far north, to recognize that there can be development of resources and that there should be development of resources, that it is not simply shutting off vast areas and saying nobody can explore here, nobody can develop here, but saying that if there is going to be development of forestry, if there is going to be development of mining, if there is going to be development of hydro, that it is to benefit the people who live in that territory and to have their consent and their participation so that when this development does occur we can actually start to employ young people and start to offer hope in communities where there has been no hope. I can tell members that from seeing communities that have been able to participate as partners at the table, the transformation in these communities can be a very positive sign for the development of first nation land.

However, we need a recognition from the federal government that fundamentally it has to move away from erratic, haphazard, press-release-driven announcements and move towards a holistic plan to ensure the sustainable green development that would allow our isolated first nations in the far north of Canada to move out of the horrific levels of poverty and move into something so that they can develop their cultures and that we, as Canadians, whether we live in urban Canada or in far north lands, north of 50 and 60, can be proud that we said we are going to set goals and we are going to finally meet some of those goals.

Private Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


Todd Russell Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank all members of the House who have spoken to this motion and who I believe support at its core what the motion stands for.

The heart of this motion is about people. It is about their needs, their wants and their aspirations. It is about bringing northern peoples, whether they be Inuit, Métis or first nations, fully into this Canadian federation.

We have heard comments from some members trying to parse out what the particular motion means or whether it impinges upon particular jurisdictions, but I have to say that this motion is about co-operation. It is about co-operation from all levels of government: aboriginal, municipal or local, provincial, territorial and federal, but it does call on the federal government to raise itself up, to raise its game up and to offer some leadership.

In no way, shape or form is it an imposition on any level of government. It is about inclusion and it is about respect for all levels of government.

There should be no conversation where local governments are left out when we are talking about their infrastructure, where aboriginal governments are left out when we are talking about their communities, or the provinces and territories are left out when we are talking about areas of their jurisdiction.

It is not about imposition or about jurisdiction. It is about co-operation, and at its heart, it is about people. It is about what they need. It is about roads, where communities need to be connected in the 21st century.

I talk about Labrador where we have thousands of kilometres of gravel road, hardly any type of hard surfacing or pavement. It is about connecting those communities that want to be connected in the 21st century. It is about having modern airports and airport infrastructure.

I want to illustrate something very sad this morning about the type of challenges we have in the north. Just yesterday we had a fatal accident in Labrador where a small twin-engine plane went down trying to get into a small community. The pilot was killed. He was on a medevac, trying to land on a 25,000-foot gravel runway to get a sick person out to take to a hospital.

That is the type of challenge we have in the north. That is the type of infrastructure that we have in the north that speaks for something better. It speaks for something greater. My heart and my prayers go out to the Hudson family in Labrador for their loss. It is sad. It is tragic.

It is about having good wharves and good docks. It is about good water systems so that every child, every family and every community has safe drinking water and proper sewage treatment. It is about housing, schools, recreational facilities, search and rescue, Arctic and northern sovereignty and the social infrastructure that is required.

If we do not have these things, we will not fully, in my view, be part of the Canadian federation in the 21st century. We will not have the basics that are required for proper development, proper economic and social improvement. If we do not have these things, how can northerners say with any confidence that we are equal to other Canadians who live further south, who enjoy many of these things?

The north has long been neglected. It only seems to be important when somebody from somewhere else wants the resources of the people in the north. Whether it is diamonds, nickel or gas, only when somebody from somewhere else wants something that the north has do northerners start to feel that somehow now the conversation is about them, that they are somehow going to be included. That is not good enough.

We have to be more proactive. We have to do it with respect for all the people who live in the north. It is about the quality of life enjoyed by all Canadians and it is about rural Canada.

I want to commend the Leader of the Opposition, our Liberal leader, in his speech in Whistler, B.C., for saying that we cannot have a united Canada until we include all of Canada: east and west, north and south, aboriginal and non-aboriginal, rural and urban, rich and poor. We have to look at policies through our rural lens and we have to have policies that unite, not divide, this country.

This is what this motion does. It holds up the north and includes all people in this great federation.

Private Members' Business

11:45 a.m.


The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Is the House ready for the question?

Private Members' Business

11:45 a.m.

Some hon. members


Private Members' Business

11:45 a.m.


The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

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