Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to rise on behalf of the people of Timmins—James Bay to speak to this important bill, Bill C-15, on the issues of devolution and the further development of the far north.
Through representing a far north region in Ontario, I really appreciate and understand the importance of the devolution of power to the communities and regions that are very different from the rest of Canada, and that they be allowed and given the tools they need to advance.
Unfortunately, the government has failed on so many levels in dealing with issues of the far north. In my own region we see complete failure of infrastructure in community after community in the far north. The Conservatives' only attitude is very colonial. They want the resources, and they want them out as fast as they can get them. They treat the people who live there like they are a subject population.
I see also how they bungle these projects, because their idea of fast is to try to get things as quickly as possible without thinking about the need to develop the economy in any sustainable, long-term or cohesive manner. I point to the bungling of the Ring of Fire.
The Ring of Fire is in my region of Timmins—James Bay. It may be one of the largest mining discoveries in the last half century, $3.3 billion of value at this point. There is an important need to get it right because we have seen how often things have been done wrong.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Joliette.
In my own region where I live in Cobalt, I see the poisoned lakes. I see all the wealth that was taken out of communities such as Cobalt. Not a single paved road was left in any of Coleman Township, which at one time was the richest municipality in all of Canada. I have seen the cave-ins from the mines that were left. I see that all across northern Ontario and northern Quebec, wherever I travel.
The idea was that we would take the resources out and leave the communities behind with whatever they could get by on. I look at the issue of devolution in terms of the revenue agreement. In the far north of Ontario, all our resources go to Queen's Park. We have one of the richest diamond mines in the world right near the impoverished little community of Attawapiskat. All the royalties from that mine go to Queen's Park, yet the people of Attawapiskat are basically living in shacks on top of each other. They do not even have the room to build a proper townsite. We would have to get that permission from the province. If we asked the Province of Ontario about Attawapiskat, we would be told it is not Ontario's responsibility, because those are federal people. Of course, the feds have shown a complete disinterest in Attawapiskat.
It is amazing, nobody else lives up there except the Mushkego Cree. They do not even have access to their own land. As one women in Kashechewan told me, it is like being raised in a prisoner of war camp in her community. There are little postage stamp communities, while the vast resources around them are controlled by the province, which takes the resources out and they are sent to southern Ontario, paving the roads down there. The issue of devolution and the development of communities is something we really understand.
Going back to the Ring of Fire, the minister from Muskoka was to be our great leader on this. He was to be the man who got it all done, just like he got everything else done around here, and Cliffs has walked away from the project. They said they are tired of the lack of action, the lack of planning. The first nation communities are still sitting at the table saying they need the environmental issues dealt with. What happened to the big leadership of the member for Parry Sound—Muskoka? He shrugs and says it was a provincial responsibility.
That was not what the Conservatives were saying a few months ago when it looked like they would try to get some of the glory of the Ring of Fire. We notice that the issue of the Ring of Fire is vital for the development of northern Ontario, sustainable, planned, ensuring that the rivers and the lakes are not polluted, putting a proper road and transportation system in, working with the provincial Ontario Northland Railway to get a railway in there, to build sustainability. The feds walked. They blew it.
We have a motion at committee to look at the Ring of Fire, to find out what happened. However, the Conservatives go in camera and kill the study of the Ring of Fire, the same men and women who stand up and say they are the defenders of resource development and they understand the economy. They only understand their excuses when they blow it.
I am very interested in the issue of devolution, but there are some issues that have been raised that are very concerning. One is the amendment on the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act, which would create the environmental screening process for the Northwest Territories. The amendment will replace the current structure of regional land and water boards, which were created through land claims final agreements with the Northwest Territory aboriginal governments, with a single board.
Here is the kicker. The amendments also reserve to the federal minister the approval of all land and water usage in the Northwest Territories, which could easily circumvent the powers that were transferred to the first nation communities through devolution. Would any Canadian trust any minister on that side to do the right thing when it comes to water management or land management?
Let us just look at what the Conservatives did in their last omnibus bill. They stripped the environmental protections for 99.997% of all lakes and rivers in this country. Why is that? It was so they could push pipelines through faster, so they do not have to worry about the shut-off valves and can just go through any of the waterways.
It is funny. There are only 97 waterways that are still protected in this country. The rest of it is open season for these guys. If someone wants to dump tailings or run a pipeline through, this is their baby. Out of the 97 lakes and rivers that are protected, 12 of them are in the riding of the Muskoka minister. Lake Rosseau where Goldie Hawn gets her feet wet in the summertime, that property is protected. Twelve lakes in his riding are protected.
Do members know how many waterways in Quebec are protected? Four. In the massive region of Quebec, four are protected. The member for Parry Sound—Muskoka squirrels away 12 so that he can be happy with all his rich friends down at the cottage, and maybe they will invite him over to the barbecue and he will get Jeff Bridges' autograph. Twelve, that is the same as what the Conservatives have reserved for the entire province of British Columbia.
This is about a government that has turned environmental protection and planning into an absolute mockery, which is why Canada is seen more and more as an international outlier. While the Liberals and Conservatives go down to Washington to try to promote the Keystone XL pipeline and outdo each other, our reputation is that this is a government and a third party that no one wants to deal with. The government has systematically undermined and trashed environmental standards so that its friends with the big oil agenda can get things as fast as they want, as quick as they want, and it is too bad about the planet.
We want to move towards devolution but we do not want to see anyone on that side able to put their fingers into the development of waterways and the environment in the far north. We know that the Conservatives' only attitude is to get it as quickly as possible, and too bad about the next generation.
I want to go back to the lakes and rivers, and the importance of it. Our friend, the Muskoka minister, who blew the ring of fire, was the man who allowed Vale and Xstrata to take control of the two greatest mining companies that Canada has produced, the international giants, Inco and Falconbridge. They were pretty much run into the ground under his watch.
The man who has grabbed 12 out of the 100 lakes to protect for his rich friends, is he not the same guy who took $50 million of border infrastructure money that should have been used to stop gangs and guns from coming across the border? What did he do? He was building fake lighthouses in Muskoka with it. Of course there was no paper trail.
Normally people who take money like that and spend it in such an egregious fashion get the bounce. In the government, if someone is that bad, they get promoted. He is now the President of the Treasury Board, the man who is supposed to ensure that everyone else accounts for their dollars. We see him kicking the crap out of the poor civil service, blaming them, going after them and going after their pensions.
Here is the man who took $50 million and does not have a piece of paper that he can show for it. Then, of course, we did find there was a lot of paper in his office, he just pretended there was not. We managed to find that through access to information.
These are not the kind of people we want to allow anywhere near environmental planning. We want to keep them away. We have to have some sort of ring fencing to keep them away and to keep their hands off it.
We think devolution is really important, but devolution has to be based on the principle that it is the people on the ground, the people in the far north, who should always have the final decision-making about what happens in their region.