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House of Commons Hansard #218 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was amendments.

Topics

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

3 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-François Fortin Bloc Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Mr. Speaker, on the weekend, the Minister of Industry accused local leaders of spreading misinformation about the EI reform. He has no shame.

This is the same minister who suggested that the system was not viable, while the government was helping itself to billions of dollars from the surplus. He is also the one who claims that the reform is meant to target fraudsters. If we want to target school dropouts, we do not get rid of schools. Employment insurance is no different.

Instead of making wild accusations, will the minister simply tell the truth: that this reform is shoddy and will penalize the unemployed, families and the economy of the regions?

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley ConservativeMinister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, employment insurance is there to provide financial support to people who have lost their job while they are looking for a new one.

If there is no position is available in their region and in their area of expertise, employment insurance will be there for Canadians, as always.

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I understand there have been consultations among House leaders, and I would invite hon. members to rise and observe a moment of silence for the officer slain in Kuujjuaq.

[A moment of silence observed]

Agriculture and Agri-FoodCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

Merv Tweed Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food.

In accordance with its order of reference of Monday, February 25, 2013, the committee has considered votes 1c, 5c, 20c and 25c under Agriculture and Agri-Food in the supplementary estimates (C) for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2013, and reports the same.

Again I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 8th report of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food. In accordance with its order of reference of Monday, February 25, 2013, the committee has considered votes 1, 5, 10, 15, 20, 25 and 30 under Agriculture and Agri-Food in the main estimates for the fiscal year 2013-14, and reports the same.

Sex SelectionPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to present a number of petitions from the people of Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon stating that the House condemn discrimination against females occurring through sex-selective pregnancy termination.

Head InjuriesPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Ted Hsu Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, helmets can prevent serious injuries and save lives. If consumers do not know that helmets actually do not provide the protection they think they are providing, that can be harmful to the consumer.

I have a petition today handed to me by a constituent that asks for the Government of Canada to amend the Hazardous Products Act so that all recreational sports helmets must meet the Canadian Standards Association standard CSA-Z263.1.

Sex SelectionPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

Earl Dreeshen Conservative Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today to present a petition on behalf of my constituents of Red Deer and surrounding area expressing their strong support for Motion No. 408.

Employment InsurancePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour today to present two petitions signed by residents of the province of New Brunswick from my constituency and from a number of others. The petitions express serious concerns about the government's changes to employment insurance. These changes would be very negative for those who work in seasonal industries, and they are calling on the government to change these regressive measures immediately.

Experimental Lakes AreaPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present five petitions to save the world-renowned and unique Experimental Lakes Area. Since its founding, the ELA has been a global leader in conducting whole-ecosystem experiments that have been critical to understanding harmful acid rain, algae blooms and methyl mercury and critical to shaping public policy. The ELA is needed to continue to find solutions to the problems that affect safe drinking water, lakes and fish populations.

The petitioners call on the government to reverse the decision to close the ELA research station and to continue to staff and provide financial resources at the current or a higher level of commitment.

Lyme DiseasePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

March 4th, 2013 / 3:10 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to rise today to present two petitions.

The first pertains to Lyme disease. I had the great honour of introducing Bill C-442 about this disease. The petitioners are asking all parties in the House of Commons to support this bill.

Shark FinningPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, my second petition deals with the global problem of extinction threatening many different species of sharks, particularly through one dish: shark fin soup. These petitioners from the Victoria area ask the House to take action and pass the private member's bill that would restrict access to shark fins throughout Canada.

Experimental Lakes AreaPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure I provide a petition today from residents of Manitoba who have signed a petition in regard to concerns with lakes such as Lake Winnipeg, Shoal Lake and others. The petitioners are calling for the government to reverse its decision to close the ELA research station. They recognize Canada's Experimental Lakes Area is a unique world-renowned facility for freshwater research and education, and the petitioners would like to see the decision to close it reversed.

PensionsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe NDP Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to present a petition signed by residents of Abitibi regarding the Conservatives' decision to increase the age of eligibility for old age security from 65 to 67. The petitioners are calling on the government to keep the age of eligibility for these benefits at 65 and to make the necessary investments in the guaranteed income supplement program in order to help lift the seniors of this country out of poverty.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Northern Jobs and Growth ActGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

NDP

John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to continue my comments in this debate. Just before question period, in the first part of my discussion, I was talking about one part of the bill that actually works quite well and would certainly be particularly good for Nunavut. However, let me take a few moments to speak about the Northwest Territories surface rights board act. There are some difficulties there.

I would like to reiterate that Canadians expect us to work together in this place. When amendments come forward, Canadians expect them all to be considered, regardless of where they come from, whether from the government or the opposition. Unfortunately, right across all the Conservative-dominated committees, without exception, they have all been rejected outright. That is sad for democracy, because here we have a bill that has been 15 years in the making and we have a real opportunity to make it not just a good bill but a perfect bill.

One of the big concerns I have is with the preamble, which says the Inuvialuit final agreement provides for a surface rights board, but it is not clear anywhere in the bill where that actually exists. It says it in the preamble, but not in the bill. That could be problematic going forward.

Additionally, there is no provision for a surface rights board in the Salt River First Nation treaty settlement agreement. Further complicating the issue is the unsettled land claims of the Dehcho and Akaitcho First Nations. What will happen is that all the lawyers will be in court some time soon after the act is implemented because there will be some confusion.

It is most unfortunate that we could have a perfect bill if the government had considered even some of our amendments. However, it would not do it. It would make mining more responsible in Northern Ontario if some of our amendments had been accepted.

The other part of the bill that has me concerned is the whole concept of sustainable training. Education and skills development are critical in all of these large projects. I refer to northern Ontario and some of the issues that we have had in the Ring of Fire and some of the other mining developments that are struggling to go forward. Chiefs have been very clear to me that they do not want one-year or year-and-a-half construction jobs for people from their first nations, and then nothing and they are out in the cold. What they want is real training with real, long-term sustainable results for their people. That means things like people being trained as tradesmen and journeymen electricians, carpenters and plumbers.

They are concerned about what happens when the projects end, and almost all of these mining projects do end, whether in five years, 10 years or 20 years. They want to ensure that the people in their communities have the ability to be mobile, that they have skills they can use any place across Canada and can still, in essence, support their communities and come back and visit and perhaps live there full time some day.

As we heard in question period, we are talking about $8 billion of potential investment and some 4,500 new jobs. It is important that there be something in the bill concerning sustainable skills and skills development that really spells out what the responsibilities are.

The member for Western Arctic, in his comments, was very concerned that the NWT surface rights board act may have been rushed and that perhaps not enough time was taken to talk about it.

We put forward the amendments from witnesses to try to clear this whole thing up, and none of them were accepted, so while this bill would be a step forward, it could have been better. I keep on mentioning that because I would like to see us moving forward in the next couple of years, particularly when government bills come forward, to have the opportunity to bring forward amendments and have them considered in the light in which they are brought forward.

Northern Jobs and Growth ActGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, my friend from northern Ontario has raised two fundamental concerns that apply not just to this one piece of legislation but across the current government's broad policy, particularly when dealing with rural, remote and northern areas and the implications around first nations consultation and accommodation.

There are two concerns. One is that we have seen, not just with bills that deal with first nations but across the board, that at every committee from transport to first nations to the environment, when we as the official opposition bring some amendments that are garnered out of the testimony from people who would be impacted by the bill and who are experts in that field, on every single occasion the government members vote down those amendments.

At some point we have to wonder if they believe the legislation they introduce is perfect and drawn up without a mistake, without a comma or a period out of place. Of course members of no government—this one, or any other—could be possibly be so arrogant as to think that when they draw up sometimes complex pieces of legislation, they got it exactly right the first time. The whole process that we go through and the reason this place exists is to hold government to account and ensure we get legislation right.

That is the first point: that yet again on this bill the member for Western Arctic and others took the testimony, actually listened and tried to modify the bill.

My question is on the second piece. When dealing with first nations, a big question is around certainty, whether it is the Ring of Fire, in northern B.C. or here in the western Arctic that we are talking about. Having good agreements based on consultation and accommodation is what allows industry and those communities the certainty they need to build that progressive and brighter future.

Can my friend comment on his experiences in northern Ontario as they relate to this bill and the Conservatives' lack of understanding or capacity to listen and consult and at the end of the day to finally accommodate?

Northern Jobs and Growth ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

NDP

John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, as everyone knows in this place, and certainly in northern Ontario, the government has put the member for Parry Sound—Muskoka forward to try to move the Ring of Fire along. He will know, as will people in northern Ontario, that perhaps the main reason it is not moving along is there has not been the consultation that first nations people expect and deserve, and I know that the member for Parry Sound—Muskoka will do his best to ensure that happens.

In reference to this bill, it has been in the works for 15 years, approaching a couple of decades. This refers to the first part of the comment from the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley. There really is an opportunity to put forward perfect or near-perfect legislation. After that period, one would think that the Conservatives would be interested in what the witnesses have to say when they go to committee. One would think that they would take everything that they have to say under proper advisement to ensure that they put forward the absolute best bill that they possibly can.

It is almost as if they go for 15 years, building up and building up, and then in the final hour they just say, “Oh well, let's go with what we got”, instead of going that extra little mile and saying, “Maybe there are some good amendments here; maybe we should look at these; maybe we can make this a better bill”.

Quite frankly, that is what Canadians expect from us.

Northern Jobs and Growth ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, my comment for the hon. member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River is in absolute support of what he has just said.

I had the pleasure, and it was a pleasure, of working for the then Minister of the Environment from 1986 to 1988 and putting legislation forward as part of a majority government, putting forward legislation to committees where we welcomed changes. As an example, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act was put forward without a priority substances list. The idea of a priority substances list came from an opposition member of Parliament on a parliamentary committee for environment. My boss, the Minister of the Environment, Tom McMillan, saw that it would be a benefit and would improve the act. This was a normal occurrence.

Parliamentary committees studying legislation used to be essentially non-politicized zones. We went in there, set our partisanship at the door and worked to make a better bill. I mourn that this is lost now. The comments that the member is making on this specific bill apply to every piece of legislation we have seen go through this House. Every piece of legislation in this place is treated as though accepting a single amendment to any government bill is a political defeat that the administration today will not tolerate. That is an offence to democracy, and I appreciate the member's mentioning it.

Northern Jobs and Growth ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

NDP

John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's comments. She is absolutely right. That is the feeling that we in the opposition get in committee. We know that these are worthwhile amendments and we wonder why the Conservatives consider that it would be some sort of defeat if they were to accept any of them. Perhaps the Ottawa bubble syndrome causes them to think that for some reason they would lose votes.

I do not know what they are thinking, but the thinking should be that we go through all of the controls to make sure that we come forward with the best legislation possible.

Northern Jobs and Growth ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Manon Perreault NDP Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, today, we are debating Bill C-47, An Act to enact the Nunavut Planning and Project Assessment Act and the Northwest Territories Surface Rights Board Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts. This bill seeks to create a framework for determining how environmental assessments and project approval will be done in Nunavut given the new land use plans.

Through these amendments, the bill also seeks to improve the process and make it more efficient in order to support economic growth in northern Canada.

The bill involves two acts, and we are of the opinion that these two acts should have been examined separately. Including different implementation provisions in a single bill was clearly not the best thing to do. Unfortunately, the government decided otherwise, despite the fact that we proposed that the bill be divided in two.

The NDP supports consultation and consensus-based decision-making that respects the autonomy of the Government of Nunavut and the Government of the Northwest Territories.

However, we think that there should have been more consultation about the Northwest Territories surface rights board act. We will certainly continue to fight for the rights and interests of northern residents, and we will promote the sustainable development of northern communities.

I will now turn to some highlights of the two parts of the bill.

The first part of the bill, the Nunavut planning and project assessment act, creates a framework for planning and project assessment in the territory. This part of the bill requires the Government of Canada and the Inuit to create a joint system to supervise resource management in Nunavut. It sets out an apparently simple and effective impact assessment process, particularly for small projects. The goal is to make investment in Nunavut more attractive and profitable in the future.

The bill calls for a regulatory framework that will be more effective and regular, with timelines for territorial planning and environmental assessment processes.

The bill also makes it possible for transboundary and trans-regional projects to be assessed by joint committees, and the environmental assessment criteria have been harmonized.

The bill includes provisions for new and better tools to ensure that investors respect the conditions set out by the Nunavut Impact Review Board. It sets out general and specific monitoring programs, which will authorize both governments to monitor the environmental, social and economic impacts of projects.

The bill also defines how, and by whom, land use plans will be prepared, amended, reviewed and implemented in Nunavut. This will improve the regulatory regime to give the people of Nunavut the power to decide how quickly and to what extent territorial lands and resources will be developed.

The second part of the bill pertains to the Northwest Territories surface rights board act, which will give the board the power to make orders regarding terms and conditions of access and compensation to be paid in respect of that access when the parties are unable to negotiate an agreement.

As such, it affects the entire Northwest Territories and implements provisions of land claim agreements. Only some of the land claim agreements in the territory contain a provision for a surface rights board.

There is no provision in the Salt River First Nation Treaty Settlement Agreement for the creation of a surface rights board. Furthermore, this issue also includes unresolved land claims.

Lastly, the bill would also make changes to the Yukon Surface Rights Board Act, the purpose of which is to fulfill the federal government's obligation under the Yukon umbrella final agreement to establish a dispute settlement process for parties that have land and surface interests.

This has a lot to do with disputes related to access to and use of first nations land in Yukon.

That said, this bill could stimulate the development of responsible mining projects in Nunavut, where one already exists. This is a good sign for Nunavut, which currently has some exciting mining potential. We are talking about $8 billion in investments, which could help create nearly 4,500 jobs. Nunavut's GDP has increased by 12% since 2010.

The bill sets out a framework for determining how environmental assessments will be carried out and how permits will be issued in Nunavut. This new regulatory regime will help maintain economic competitiveness through new mining investments and will also be there to ensure that projects go through a rigorous assessment process.

By promoting new investments in Nunavut, this bill will help ease the uncertainty in the industry. Furthermore, it will now officially be necessary to obtain environmental assessment approval before starting development work.

This bill could clarify the rules on land use and environmental assessments, particularly when the designated Inuit organization is given the power to authorize new land use plans. This is a crucial aspect to take into account when debating this bill. We must absolutely ensure that development in the north benefits residents in the north.

Some important questions remain. The bill includes regions where land claims are still in dispute, which could result in legal proceedings.

Furthermore, the creation of a surface rights board has raised some concerns in many cases. This was the case with the Gwich'in Tribal Council, whose chief has indicated that the Gwich'in were not able to participate in creating a surface rights board in any meaningful way, since they had to deal with changes in the region.

We presented 50 amendments to this bill at committee stage. Unfortunately, they were all rejected or deemed out of order. Quite simply, the Conservatives were not interested in the amendments we wanted made to the bill. The amendments were perfectly legitimate and based on requests from witnesses from the Nunavut Impact Review Board, Nunavut Tuungavik Inc., the NWT Association of communities, the Government of the Northwest Territories, the Nunavut Chamber of Mines, and Alternatives North.

With those amendments, we tried to modify the provisions of the bill that enable the commission to prohibit access and that give it authority over lands subject to outstanding land claims.

Therefore, we support the Nunavut Planning and Project Assessment Act, which will apply part of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement. However, we do not want to interfere in an agreement that the Government of Nunavut negotiated.

We also fear that the Northwest Territories Surface Rights Board Act was drafted in haste. To compensate, we proposed numerous amendments to properly represent the witnesses' concerns. It was all to no avail because the Conservatives rejected every last one. I find it hard to believe that, out of 50 amendments, none of them had anything special to contribute to this bill.

So I would like to reiterate the fact that we support the consultations and consensus-based decision-making that respect the independence of the governments of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. Having said that, we think more consultations on the Northwest Territories Surface Rights Board Act should have been held in the context of this bill.

Northern Jobs and Growth ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau NDP Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member on her excellent speech.

I would like to ask her why, yet again, the 50 amendment put forward in committee were rejected and sometimes even declared inadmissible. Those amendments were based on excellent testimony from people concerned about the two bills that were merged into one.

Why is the government still rejecting reasoned amendments that are supported by witnesses who are actually living this reality?

Northern Jobs and Growth ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Manon Perreault NDP Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would simply say that the bill is more than 150 pages long.

How is it possible that not a single one of the 50 amendments we proposed could improve the bill? They should have at least been studied further.

Naturally, the Conservatives decided to do as they saw fit and did not accept any of the amendments. That is really too bad because the amendments were based on testimony and were meant to help northerners.