House of Commons Hansard #225 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was s-6.

Topics

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill S-6, An Act to amend the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act and the Nunavut Waters and Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal Act, be read the third time and passed, and of the amendment.

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

There are 10 minutes for questions and comments for the member for Churchill.

The hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster.

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, my question is very simply this. The member for Churchill always speaks very eloquently about consultation, discussion, talking with the public, and consulting with indigenous peoples and all Canadians on issues of the day. In her opinion, how has the government consulted on this particular bill?

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12:15 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague, our House leader, for that important question, because it really gets to the crux of what we are talking about here today.

Bill S-6 has been a complete failure from the beginning. The fact is, first nation positions were not respected in the deliberations that led up to Bill S-6. There were some discussions, but they do not qualify as appropriate consultation. Certainly when the amendments were made, including the four amendments that are deemed totally unacceptable by Yukon first nations, who said that they are not what they said in their meetings, the government failed to go back to the drawing board and work with first nations to find a solution.

What is clear is that the government fails when it comes to its duty to consult. It fails when it comes to working in the spirit of reconciliation we have been talking about so much over the last few weeks. Fundamentally, it is a failure when it comes to working in partnership with first nations in this country to do nothing more than create certainty and protections that could help support economic development that would benefit first nations, all Yukoners, and all Canadians. This is what is shameful about what we are seeing from the Conservative government on Bill S-6.

As I pointed out in my speech, we have already heard that Yukon first nations, as a result of this failure to consult, are ready to go to court. They are ready to take this to the courts. It did not have to be this way. Unfortunately, this is where the current Conservative government has brought Yukon first nations.

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12:15 p.m.

Scarborough Centre Ontario

Conservative

Roxanne James ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, what I think is shameful is that this member from the NDP voted against giving women living on reserves the same matrimonial property rights that everyone else has across this country, including every single woman in this chamber.

I would like to ask that member how she could vote against a bill that actually put in place equality for women living on reserves.

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June 5th, 2015 / 12:15 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very disappointed that government members, instead of actually owning up to their failure when it comes to Bill S-6, their failure to stand up for Yukoners, and their failure to stand up for Yukon first nations, try to change the channel.

Since the Conservatives have raised this issue of matrimonial property rights, speaking of consultation, they also failed to consult when it came to developing that legislation they put forward a few years ago.

I spent the morning in this House, and I find it passing strange that the Conservatives choose to talk about matrimonial property rights when we raise the issue of the $1.1 billion they left unspent on aboriginal issues, when we raise Bill S-6, when we raise missing and murdered indigenous women, fire safety in communities, and boil-water advisories. It is a long list.

It is time for the Conservatives to realize that, frankly, the vast majority of indigenous people, certainly the ones I have heard from, cannot wait to get them out of government. They are an obstruction to indigenous people in our country moving ahead, and Bill S-6 is a perfect example of that.

Yukoners and Yukon first nations have come up with a solution that works for them and works for their territory, and Ottawa is once again waging its patriarchal, paternalistic force to impose its approach, an approach that does not work, that will only lead to further litigation, and that will stall economic development in this territory.

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12:15 p.m.

NDP

Tyrone Benskin NDP Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, my esteemed colleague took the words right out of my mouth. I was going to ask her to comment on the blatant paternalistic attitude of the Conservative government in terms of its dealings with our first nation brothers and sisters, especially in light of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's report about coming together.

I would ask the member if she would comment further on how Bill S-6 flies in the face of the spirit and meaning of the Truth and Reconciliation report.

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12:20 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for that important question and for bringing it back to a sentiment that has inspired many of us this week, certainly on our side of the House. It is the idea that now Canada is ready to embark on a journey of reconciliation. However, what is clear is that the partner that is certainly not there and not willing to embark on that journey is the government.

Bill S-6 is a perfect example of how the government is willing to impose legislation that will only lead to it being taken to court by Yukon first nations. It is essentially forcing first nations in the Yukon to spend money they surely could be using on other important priorities to litigate the government, along with the other maybe 95 first nations that are in court right now with the government.

We have heard from members of the government on Bill S-6 that there are only four recommendations first nations take issue with, that basically the government knows best, and that this is about moving forward and supporting resource development. These are the kinds of mistakes of the past made by this government and previous Liberal governments. It is the Ottawa knows best approach. It is the federal government imposing its will on first nations rather than consulting and working in partnership and collaboration where necessary.

At the end of the day, it is Yukon first nations and Yukoners who are going to pay the price. Hopefully, it will not be for too long, because soon there will be a new government in Canada, one that stands with first nations and respects first nations rights and that can truly build a brighter future for all of us in this country.

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12:20 p.m.

Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon B.C.

Conservative

Mark Strahl ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I want to talk about one of the four contentious amendments, and it is on the issue of policy direction.

As the member will know, there are four examples of policy direction having been used in the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board under the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act in the Northwest Territories. In each case, policy direction was used to clearly communicate expectations, based on interim measures, with first nations. It was not this government or a previous government. The minister of aboriginal affairs gave policy direction to protect and advance the rights of first nations. When we brought this up at committee when we were in Whitehorse, the member for Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing said that for a minister to advance the rights of first nation people was actually paternalistic. Those were her words in the committee hearing.

I am wondering if the member could clarify. She is the lead critic for the NDP. Does she believe that the minister protecting the rights of first nations groups through policy direction is paternalistic, as her colleague does?

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12:20 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, while I am in the House I want to end off by saying that what is paternalistic is what we are seeing in the House today, which is a government that is focused on bringing forward a bill, Bill S-6, that we know is opposed by Yukon first nations, many Yukoners, members of the environmental community, industry partners, and people who know what is best in their community. These are people who have been part of building YESSA, a made-in-Yukon solution. Yet Ottawa, with the support of the member for Yukon, swoops in to basically stifle all of that progress and place barriers that are about to set Yukon first nations and Yukoners back.

I am proud to stand here with my NDP colleagues in opposition to Bill S-6. I stand along with first nations in the Yukon and with Yukoners as well in saying that Bill S-6 has to go.

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12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have a number of thoughts that I would like to share with the House this afternoon in regard to Bill S-6.

I will start off by reflecting a little bit about the process that we again find ourselves in. Over the last number of years, ever since the government achieved a majority, we have seen a different attitude in the manner in which legislation is passed through the House of Commons. We have had numerous time allocations. I believe it is somewhere around 95, 96, 97 times the government has seen fit to invoke time allocation in order to pass its legislative agenda. Typically, when we invoke time allocation, we limit the number of individuals who would be able to contribute to the debate on a bill. Quite often we will see a very limited amount of time even afforded to members to address important pieces of legislation.

Bill S-6 is an important piece of legislation. We now have the government using that tool to get it through the House of Commons, which I find is most unfortunate. If we look at the manner in which Bill S-6 came into existence to where it is today at third reading, we have seen the government adopt an attitude of “our way or the highway”.

There is no sense that the government has tried to get consensus. Whether it is inside the House of Commons or in Yukon itself, in the committee meetings that have taken place, in the different types of discussions, the government has demonstrated its inability to build a consensus that would ultimately see the type of support that we would argue is necessary when we are passing legislation such as we are in regard to Yukon territory and the impact of the legislation.

I challenge the government. The Conservatives will say they have consulted. When we posed the question to the minister responsible for the legislation, he said that they had the full support of the Yukon legislature. We know that was not the case. I had the opportunity to be in a provincial legislature when something is decided here in Ottawa. If the government has done its homework, quite often there will be unanimous support from a provincial or territorial entity. However, the government was not able to get that unanimous support from the Yukon legislature, which is one thing in itself.

We talk about first nations. The first nations of Canada are of great importance. We in the Liberal Party have argued for that for many years. The way in which governments should be approaching first nations in Canada is one of government to government, of respect. We should look at ways we can better enable the leadership at all different levels to try to achieve the compromises and build on a consensus that would have a far more positive outcome.

Earlier this week we had the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report. It has been a long time coming. Let us apply Bill S-6 and what the government is attempting to do to that particular report. How would Mr. Sinclair have responded to the treatment of first nations by the manner which Bill S-6 has been brought forward? I would suggest that the government has once again failed the first nations community.

We could talk about the stakeholders, environmental groups and individuals who live in Yukon who are very disappointed with some of the actions within the legislation brought forward by the government.

The minister talks about wanting to promote growth and jobs, wanting to improve the standard of living. These are words that he has used, and I suspect that the principle of promoting growth and jobs is something that all of us want to see. We all want to see an improvement in the standard of living. Just yesterday, I stood in my place talking about the northern food program and how it was of critical importance that the government get it right, not only putting money into an envelope but getting that money delivered or getting the fresh produce into the hands of the people who need it.

We saw that the Auditor General of Canada was pointing out deficiencies, yet the government tended to close its eyes or put its head in the sand and ignore some of those recommendations, or at the very least deny them in debate yesterday when we had the opportunity to focus attention on that program. There is so much more that government can do.

The Conservatives talk about improving the standard of living in northern Canada. We can do more and we should be looking at how we can work with the many different stakeholders from the north in terms of implementing good, solid programs, ensuring that we have good federal legislation, that we are respectful of treaties and so forth. That is something that should be a far higher priority of the current government, and we should not be settling.

I had the opportunity to do a bit of reading on this issue, and I came across a comment over the Internet. It was by Kirk Cameron, and I would like to share, in his words, some of the thoughts he has in regard to Bill S-6. This is a post from December 5, 2014. In reading this, I believe that Mr. Cameron has encapsulated a great deal of the concern that is there in regard to Bill S-6. I appreciate Mr. Cameron's taking the time to post this article. I like the headline, “When is a Government not a Government?”

He said:

Yukon First Nation Chiefs met with the federal Minister of Aboriginal Affairs this week in Ottawa. They discussed with the Minister their concerns with Bill S-6, legislation that will change a number of critical sections of the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act (YESAA).

YESAA is the acronym. We have heard a lot of reference to YESAA, not only here in third reading but also in second reading. If we get a really good appreciation of what YESAA is all about, we get a better sense of why so many people feel that the government has let them down in regard to Bill S-6. However, I will get back to the posting:

This Act is one of the comprehensive pieces of federal legislation necessary to implement chapters of the Treaties agreed to in the 1990s between the majority of Yukon First Nation governments and the two public governments, Canada and Yukon.

These Treaties are a big deal; they are recognized and protected as an expression of Aboriginal rights through s. 35 of the Constitution of Canada, the supreme law of our land. YESAA gives presence and authority to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board, one of the co-management bodies that were agreed to in the Treaties. The Board conducts assessments on all lands in Yukon, First Nation, Crown and even lands within municipalities.

I will pause there for a moment and just reflect on how important it is that we recognize the role that YESAA has played in the past. We want to recognize the manner in which it was able to carry itself, building on consensus, contrary to what we have witnessed over the last number of years here in Ottawa.

It goes on to say that:

....the changes in Bill S-6 were never discussed with the Yukon first nations despite the status of YESAA as a legal instrument required to implement the tri-party treaties. The first nations view, as I understand it, is that they’re partners to a Treaty that is supposed to build relationships among all three levels of government (federal, territorial and First Nation), and part of that relationship is an understanding that we are equal partners in the co-management of the territory’s resources.

When we think of resources, it is important to recognize how the mining industry plays such a strong role in terms of the development of Yukon, and also the development of Canada. We can think of gold, zinc and lead as commodities that are mined in Yukon. I am not 100% sure, but I believe it is somewhere in the area of 35% in terms of the overall economy affected by those three products.

What comes with this co-management relationship is full discussion and agreement to any measure that changes the legislative foundation to these Treaty bodies.

Imagine how you would feel as a Chief of a self-governing First Nation to be told that you do not represent a “real government”. Just such a comment was made by a federal Minister. As such, Canada does not have to treat you as an equal participant in the process to amend legislation required to implement your Treaties.

And, this is not just any federal Minister. It is the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, Canada’s representative with the lead responsibility to look after the “Honor of the Crown” where First Nations interests are concerned (oh and let’s not forget, one of the parties to the tripartite Treaty with Yukon First Nations). You have been elected Chief to represent the interests of one of those First Nations whose government is now in place to honor that Treaty relationship and work for the betterment of your Citizens within a partnership of governments, and you hear this shocking declaration from one of your supposed “partners” in Treaty.

I think the author of this posting really encapsulates one of the biggest concerns in regard to Bill S-6. I have had the opportunity to talk to very strong advocates in Yukon, one of them being my former colleague, Larry Bagnell, who has done a phenomenal job in making sure the Liberal caucus is aware of what is taking place in Yukon so that members will be in a better position to hold the government to account for their actions or lack thereof.

This is a fairly long story and I am not going to read it all, but I do want to comment on the last paragraph of the posting. It says:

Often in the past Yukoners have complained of a distant and uncaring Ottawa interfering in our lives. It is unfortunate that we have this recent experience to reconfirm this suspicion!

This is a genuine concern that has been expressed.

I have had the opportunity today and at second reading to pose a number of questions of the government regarding Bill S-6. The government genuinely believes that it has done its homework on the issue; I do not believe that it has. When we hear the minister say that they have worked on consensus and done the proper consultation and then we hear first nations and other stakeholders say that the government has not done what it says it has, we see there is good reason that the government has not been able to achieve the support that one would like to have when passing legislation of this nature.

As I indicated at the beginning of my comments, the government says that it wants to promote growth and jobs in the north. It says it wants to improve the standard of living. If the government is sincere about that, why has it not garnered the support that it could have been able to acquire prior to the introduction of Bill S-6?

If the government had not used a closure motion to prevent members of the House from debating Bill S-6, this bill would be far from passing. The government might not even have had the support necessary to get it passed before we break. The government has intentionally chosen to use time allocation in order to force this bill through in what could be the dying days of this regime.

I know that many Canadians in all regions of our country are hoping for change. I suspect that change is on the horizon, but the government's determination to pass Bill S-6 in this fashion is most unfortunate.

Whether it is through education in our public school system, through nature programs, or from talking with individuals who are very keen on travelling throughout Canada, Yukon comes to the minds of many Canadians as a great place to visit. For a good percentage of the population, it would be a great place to live as well. Yukon as a territory is vast in size. It has the highest mountain, Mount Logan, and there are beautiful rivers and all sorts of wilderness. The tourism industry has great potential, and when we look at the high demand for commodities throughout the world, we see that Yukon's mining industry could play a critical role in meeting some of those demands.

Whether it is in relation to tourism, mining, or industries that are evolving and developing, we should be creating and encouraging growth and improving the standard of living for the people of Yukon by allowing true consultation to take place. We should strive to get consensus and respect the treaties that have been signed off on. It is an issue of respect.

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12:45 p.m.

Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon B.C.

Conservative

Mark Strahl ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I find it a bit humourous that this member, who speaks more than any member in the House, is complaining about time allocation. Certainly his right to speak is never curtailed.

However, I want to talk about something he did not talk a whole lot about, which is the bill before us today, Bill S-6. The amendments that really are the crux of the opposition to this bill involve policy direction, delegation of authority, and a significant change in timelines. Every single one of those amendments, all of which were requested by the Yukon government, are envisioned in the Umbrella Final Agreement. The member referred to treaties as kind of an abstract thing, but there is actually a document, the Umbrella Final Agreement, and each one of those amendments complies fully with the Umbrella Final Agreement.

The minister has asked those who oppose the bill to please show him where these amendments contravene the Umbrella Final Agreement. To date, no one has been able to do so. Perhaps the member, in his consultations, has finally discovered the answer to where these four amendments contravene the UFA. Up until now, I have not seen any evidence that they do.

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12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that the parliamentary secretary has been here for virtually all of the debate, and that is admirable.

I want to make reference again to the article that was published. When amendments are brought forward at the committee stage, there is a bit of apprehension among different stakeholders, in particular among the chiefs, councils, and local governments. The parliamentary secretary stated that the Yukon territorial government was in support of the amendments, but the issue, as I really tried to emphasize in my remarks, is whether there was any sort of co-operation or consultation with the other partners. On the surface, it appears as if there was none.

I again quote from Mr. Cameron's article, which said:

Ironic that a day after Justice Ron Veale of the Supreme Court of Yukon brought down a ruling on the Peel Watershed calling on the public government to read the Treaties generously as long-term vehicles to bring about reconciliation with First Nations, the federal Minister treats Yukon First Nations so disgracefully!

When the member makes reference to the amendments and even if he believes he has good support for the amendments, how were those amendments worked into what has been suggested in the quote I just shared? How were our first nations consulted? What were their thoughts? Does the government actually feel any obligation to work with first nations, in this case with regard to Bill S-6?

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12:45 p.m.

NDP

Ruth Ellen Brosseau NDP Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for his speech in the House on Bill S-6. He spoke at length about real consultation.

In committee, the people of Yukon asked for meetings, hearings and more consultation. Obviously, senators failed to listen and did not ask the committee to go to the Yukon to hold real consultations.

According to my Liberal colleague, why did senators not hold more consultations with the people of Yukon?

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12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am a bit disappointed that the member would pose a question of that nature in the sense that in the House I have argued, as have other members, particularly from the Conservative side, that there was a need for the aboriginal affairs standing committee to go to remote communities. It was the New Democrats, because they had a bit of a tiff on some issue that was relatively minor, who prevented the standing committee from travelling and doing a lot of the consultation, so they are not all that pure on the issue of leaving Ottawa to conduct consultations. One would want to be consistent.

She emphasized the Senate repeatedly. My understanding of the NDP position is that whether Canadians want it or not, the NDP is committed to abolishing it, even though it is unconstitutional to do that. There would have to be constitutional hearings in order to convince a number of provinces to give in to the NDP's demands, who knows at what cost. Given the current leader's flip-flop on different issues, I do not know if that is in Canada's best interest.

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12:50 p.m.

Nunavut Nunavut

Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq ConservativeMinister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the member on Bill S-6, the Yukon and Nunavut regulatory improvement act.

As the member well knows, Nunavut was created on April 1, 1999. For many years Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated was frustrated with the lack of implementation of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement under the Liberal government. The result of that was a lawsuit against the federal government for the lack of implementation of the land claims agreement in Nunavut.

Recently our government has worked very hard under the leadership of Minister Valcourt to settle that land claim agreement so that the Nunavummiut can move forward—

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

Order. The minister should be aware that she is not to use the first or last name of another minister or member of Parliament.

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12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq Conservative Nunavut, NU

Thank you for the reminder, Mr. Speaker.

Could the member from the Liberal Party explain whether or not Liberals see this regulatory improvement act as a further step in the implementation of our Nunavut Land Claims Agreement?

Second, our government has worked, as I said, to settle the land claims agreement, to move forward in the devolution agreement for Nunavut and put the necessary legislation in place so that Nunavummiut can move forward in making decisions on projects in Nunavut, such as whether they will proceed and under what terms and conditions. We have worked very hard.

In our view, this legislation is very supportive to the devolution agreement that we are now negotiating with the Nunavut government. Nunavummiut want the tools to make decisions for their own future, and I personally see Bill S-6 as another means for empowering northerners to make those decisions.

Do the Liberals not agree that Nunavummiut should have the tools to make decisions on projects of importance to them? Do the Liberals not recognize that this bill is in support of implementing the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement that Inuit, for over 30 years, fought so hard to get with the Government of Canada?

We are doing our part in settling the land claims agreement, which the Liberals failed to implement. We are moving on devolution. We are restoring the cuts that the Liberal government made to the territorial governments. This is another piece of legislation that would empower northerners to make decisions for their projects and set the terms and conditions for them.

Do the Liberals not support that?

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12:50 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

The hon. member for Winnipeg North has a little better than a minute.

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, given the question, it could be a very difficult challenge to keep the answer to under a minute.

Maybe I will demonstrate the type of support that the Liberal Party has traditionally provided. Has it been perfect? No, it has not. We have not been absolutely perfect. That said, I reflect back to when Paul Martin was prime minister and the phenomenal amount of effort that he put in. In a relatively short time frame, he was able to accomplish a great deal in terms of first nations and aboriginal communities by looking at a framework for future decades to deal with issues ranging from education to financing to issues of land claim settlements.

There are different levels of government and different political entities. It is important that we recognize the priority of settling land claims and looking at ways to make a more positive contribution. I suggest the minister might want to reflect on the accord that Paul Martin had—

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12:55 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

Order, please. I gave the member a few extra seconds there, but time has expired.

Resuming debate, the hon. Minister of the Environment.

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12:55 p.m.

Nunavut Nunavut

Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq ConservativeMinister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.

I am thankful for the opportunity to speak to this bill today. As the member of Parliament representing Nunavut and the Nunavummiut, and as the Minister of the Environment and Minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, I am especially proud to defend Bill S-6 this afternoon.

The legislation, the Yukon and Nunavut regulatory improvement act, would drive economic growth and development across the north. In the process, it would improve the quality of life for all living in Nunavut. It would also improve the quality of life for each and every one of my constituents.

Beyond what it would do to attract investment, and create jobs, growth and long-term prosperity, this initiative has two symbolic roles. It is both the latest in a series of developments that would enable Nunavummiut to benefit more fully from all that the territory has to offer, and it is a precursor to the territory of Nunavut inheriting more political and economic independence than ever before.

On October 3, 2014, my colleague, the hon. Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, came to Nunavut, and together we announced the appointment of a chief federal negotiator, Brian Dominique, to represent Canada in negotiations toward the signing of a devolution agreement in principle.

Devolution in Nunavut will give control over land, water and resources in the territory to those best placed to make decisions about their future, the Nunavummiut. This is similar to the devolution agreement that exists in Yukon, as well as the one that our government recently signed in the Northwest Territories. The benefits of devolution are significant, and I look forward to the day when Nunavut can access these benefits, thanks to our Conservative government.

In broad terms, Bill S-6 would help Nunavut reach this goal of devolution by creating conditions within the regulatory system to allow residents of Nunavut, from Cambridge Bay to Rankin Inlet to Iqaluit, to unlock the great economic potential of their territory. Bill S-6 plays a crucial role in paving the way for devolution. It would ensure that the water management regime that would eventually be transferred from the federal government to the Government of Nunavut would encourage investment and allow the territory to fully benefit from increased resource development. Given our territory's world-class mines and massive natural resource revenues, it is clear that the economic potential of Nunavut is tremendous.

It is our duty as Parliamentarians to unlock opportunities in this region. This will be achieved by building a streamlined and predictable regulatory regime that entices investors and developers to look to the north while at the same time safeguarding our unique environment.

Along with our government's investments in roads, bridges and education, regulatory improvements will stimulate future exploration and development to the benefit of Nunavummiut and all Canadians. The Nunavut government agrees with us. My counterpart, the Nunavut minister of the environment, the Hon. Johnny Mike, has been on record saying, “the Government of Nunavut believes that this bill would make a number of improvements to the regulatory regime in Nunavut”.

I will speak more specifically to what the minister is referring.

Bill S-6 would ensure more timely and predictable water licence review processes. One of our government's objectives in the north is speeding up regulatory approvals to keep pace with the needs of business. This would allow the territories to maximize the potential of their abundant natural resources, and create conditions for jobs, growth and long-term prosperity north of 60. We were determined to improve the regulatory regimes for land and water management in all three of Canada's northern territories. We wanted to ensure modern and efficient systems for northerners, understanding the demands of a highly-competitive, global marketplace. With Bill S-6, we have the final legislative step to realize this goal and to ensure that the required work is in place for the north to flourish.

Changes to the Nunavut Waters and Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal Act would make the regulatory process stronger, more effective and more predictable. Even former Liberal Senator Graham Mitchell agrees us, who said:

It's designed specifically to enhance regulatory processes, reduce the complexity of these processes, reduce regulatory overlap and, in doing so, reduce uncertainty in the economic development process in these territories.

This would help stimulate jobs, resource development and economic prosperity throughout our great territory. Bill S-6 would provide, from beginning to end, time limits for water licence review and would give the Nunavut Water Board the ability, at its discretion, to issue water licences for the anticipated duration of the project.

These changes would make the licensing process more predictable for proponents, allowing companies to engage in better long-term planning. It would also reduce the duplication and uncertainty of unnecessary reviews. Not only would this provision streamline the regulatory process, but it would do so without undermining environmental protection.

Minister Mike indicated that he is especially pleased that increased fines would be a deterrent to unlicensed water use and applauded the introduction of administrative monetary penalties, as they would provide additional tools to ensure compliance with water licences. He added that the Government of Nunavut believed life-of-project water licences were better tailored to water use and that the timelines for board review would bring certainty and predictability to both Nunavummiut and industry.

Representatives of the Nunavut Water Board told the standing Senate committee that they were generally supportive of the legislation. For example, Thomas Kabloona, Chair of the Nunavut Water Board said, “A number of the specific issues raised by the board through its participation were considered and have been to some extent reflected in Bill S-6, so we are supportive of the amendments in general”.

Moreover, the bill would increase fines for proponents who violated the conditions of water licences and would introduce administrative monetary penalties, another measure designed to hold industry accountable to regulatory standards.

In throwing his support behind Bill S-6, Minister Mike from the Nunavut government said, “This bill will give the board and regulators important new powers that will ensure that water use in Nunavut is sustainable and environmentally safe”.

This is an example of how our government is protecting Nunavut's environmental heritage without resorting to a costly carbon tax, like the Liberals and NDP would introduce. This tax hike would make life across the north more expensive, increase the cost of everything in the north, increase the cost of food in our communities, and would result in job loss for Nunavut residents.

The success of these efforts is evident in support for Bill S-6 in the north.

Minister Mike, who have I quoted before, said that Bill S-6 would provide more flexibility and enforcement powers to regulators, more predictable timelines for assessments, and would integrate with other environmental processes in the North.

Bill S-6 is supported by Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, too. Its president, Cathy Towtongie, stated in her correspondence to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development that the organization was comfortable with the changes proposed in the bill.

The wide support that this initiative is receiving in Nunavut does not surprise me. Bill S-6 is an economic and environmental building block for my territory, and is indicative of a broader truth: that no government in Canadian history has done more for northerners than this one.

I urge all parties to join me in supporting and encouraging economic and social development in my riding of Nunavut by ensuring the swift passage of this important bill.

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1:05 p.m.

NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, the minister's intervention focused appropriately on Nunavut. However, the other part of the bill before us is the amendments proposed to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act.

The minister's colleague, the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, said that this measure was “fully supported” by the Yukon legislature. Notwithstanding, there is enormous opposition to that in the Yukon, particularly among first nations. Apparently five law firms are lined up to challenge this as soon as the Conservative government rams the bill through with another time allocation motion.

Does the minister stand by the statement that there is full support of the Yukon legislature and first nations, as the minister, her colleague, suggested earlier today?

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1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq Conservative Nunavut, NU

Mr. Speaker, as a person born and raised in Canada's Arctic, I know how important this legislation is to northerners. Northerners want to advance projects in their regions. We want to advance projects under our terms and conditions. If projects are to proceed, the terms and conditions will be set by northerners on the ground in the Arctic. They are the ones who have the tools to make decisions on whether projects will proceed or not.

I am in full support of this legislation because northerners will then have one more tool to make determinations on what they want for their future, what they want for their communities and under what terms and conditions projects will proceed.