Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-17. Bill C-17 is a justice bill, believe it or not. I say this because I believe that, fundamentally, the government is responsible for justice.
How does justice come into Bill C-17? Governments are about making decisions. With every decision to be made, the interests of each group that are impacted by it must be balanced and taken into consideration.
Previously we passed a bill that brought into place the YESAA agreement. The agreement was the process by which decisions would be made on how the resources in the Yukon would be developed. The YESAA was a great piece of legislation, bringing stability and immense development into the region. By all accounts, most people were very happy with it.
Since then, there have been some political decisions made to change YESAA. What is frustrating about this is that there do not seem to be any principles underlying these changes. It would seem that decisions made on one particular project would have underlying principles that would be the same on another project. Those principles would be consistent, fair, and equitable, which all sound like justice issues.
There are four major changes to YESAA that are impacted by Bill C-17. With two of these changes, in particular, I will try to explain the logical inconsistencies that come with this bill.
The first one I am going to talk about is the time limits. When YESAA was developed, a time limit for decisions was put in place. I believe it was 18 months. When an applicant brought forward a project, he or she was guaranteed within 18 months to have a decision. This brought stability and a timeline to the decision. When someone launches an application, until they receive the decision, there is often a lot of activity that goes on. There are a lot of documents and witnesses to be found, all costing money. If there is a decision that has to be made within a specific time frame, that speeds the entire process up and produces a definitive answer in the end.
It was said that time limits were unnecessary because most of the decisions were made in 52 days. The average decision was made in 52 days, making the 18-month time limit irrelevant. The logic was that the time limit was not needed, because the decisions were being made in very short order.
However, the fact that there was a time limit may have been the reason why decisions were made in 52 days. It does not mean that we do not need a time limit. Currently, the time limit is the fundamental reason decisions are being made in a short amount of time. Whether the decision-making was drawn out or sped up, it was beneficial to have a decision made earlier rather than later. At some point the decision was going to have to be made.
If there is no end date, there is no reason why anyone would come to a quicker decision. There would be many incentives to ensure that, if someone did not like the decision that was going to come out, he or she could throw sticks in the wheels. All kinds of things can slow things down. We have seen this over and over again with other projects that have come along. Energy east is a prime example of changing goalposts.
The irony of all this, in saying that the time limits were unnecessary because most decisions were being made in 52 days, is that the opposite logic was being used on the delegation of powers. It was said that we have never needed the time limits, so we should not need to have time limits. As I understand it, the delegation of powers has not necessarily been used ever. It was just there for security purposes, agreeing with the ability for the minister to issue a binding policy directive. That had never been used as well, but it was there to offer security, to offer a definite reason for people to negotiate, because the minister had that backup, that power. If the parties could not come to a decision, if all the interests coming to the table could not come to a decision, the minister could step in. However, it had never been used. On the one side, we had the time limits and on the other side was the minister's directive.
In one instance it was the same people arguing that they had a hammer hanging over their head and in the other instance they said they do not need it because it has never been used. It seems to me that, if we are going to use the logic, we need to have a principle in place for when we make these decisions. From my perspective, the principle would be what we could do to bring stability, predictability, and a reasonable time to decision- making. That is the underlying principle when we put in place these policies like time limits, like the ability of the minister to issue directives, like the minister's ability to delegate authority. That is the underlying principle. We need to come to timely and efficient decisions so that we can encourage development in the north.
I have been to the north a number of times. I have not make it to Yukon, but I made it to Nunavut and to the Northwest Territories. I have been to northern B.C. and I understand that the landscape in northern B.C. is very similar to the Yukon, so I can definitely imagine what Yukon is like. I enjoy spending time in northern Canada. I consider myself to be from northern Canada, although I do still live in the boreal forest in northern Alberta, so I do not have the rugged landscapes like there are in the north.
I know that bringing development to northern Canada is essential for all the Canadians who live in northern Canada. Why? It is because this is what puts food on the table. When we are discussing these policy points—time limits, renewal or amendment projects, or policy directions, or delegation of power—they are fairly abstract things, but the reason we are discussing them is that we want to ensure that people who live in northern Canada can put food on the table. That is what we have to remember when we are discussing this.
In order for that to happen, we need to have resources coming into the communities, and how does that happen? It happens in the free exchange of products, the free exchange of ideas to the free market, and that happens when one party has something to offer to another party. What does northern Canada have to offer to the world? It has natural resources, diamonds, gold, forestry products, oil. All these things make our lives significantly better.
Looking at the surfaces in the House, I would say 30% to 40% of them are made out of wood. That wood started out in the forest, perhaps in northern Canada. We paid someone to cut down the trees. We paid someone to cut the trees into lumber. We paid someone to carve the beautiful carvings that we see all around us. All of that put food on the table for some families in Canada. All of that put a roof over the head of some people in Canada. That is what we are discussing when we are discussing the YESAA bill.
We want to ensure that the people of Yukon can get the beautiful resources they have in northern Canada, the forestry products, gold, and oil, to the world where it is needed, and thereby put food on the table for their families.
I have several constituents who regularly travel to Yukon. They are involved in gold mining. I have talked to several of them, and I am not sure if they make a lot of money gold mining but it looks like they have a lot of fun. The very fact they can go up there to make that money or mine that gold—as I said, I do not think they make a lot of money, because spending a lot of money to find a lot of money is essentially what it involves—spurs activity. It ensures that hotels are full, that restaurants are busy, that the heavy-duty equipment dealer is selling mining equipment, that the mechanic has a job, and that the gas stations are busy. Why is that? It is because people are searching for resources and helping other fellow human beings enjoy their lives.
How do they do that? They do it by obtaining the natural resources we can use to build houses, heat our homes, build automobiles and cellphones, all of the things that make our lives here in southern Canada much better. Each of us carries a cellphone in our pocket, and many of us could not survive without it. At least, we think we cannot. Every piece of that cellphone started in the ground somewhere.