House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was north.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Northwest Territories (Northwest Territories)

Lost his last election, in 2015, with 31% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement Act May 25th, 2015


Motion No. 1

That Bill S-6 be amended by deleting the long title.

Motion No. 4

That Bill S-6 be amended by deleting Clause 14.

Motion No. 5

That Bill S-6 be amended by deleting Clause 16.

Motion No. 6

That Bill S-6 be amended by deleting Clause 17.

Motion No. 7

That Bill S-6 be amended by deleting Clause 21.

Motion No. 10

That Bill S-6 be amended by deleting Clause 34.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to put forward these amendments to Bill S-6, a bill that has the ability to amend the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act and the Nunavut Waters and Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal Act. It contains many clauses that cannot be amended. Why? They came out of a five-year review of the Yukon Environmental Assessment Act and were agreed to. Many changes to the Environmental Assessment Act were worked out through a process of collaboration, understanding and collaboration between the government and the people of Yukon.

After that process, four very controversial items were added to this bill and then arbitrarily put to the people of Yukon.

The first would provide the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development the authority to provide binding policy direction to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board, to which Yukoners are opposed. They had no chance to work with anyone to mitigate that.

The second would legislate time limits for assessments in the face of the fact that the assessment process was working just fine in Yukon, and that people had learned how to deal with very complex issues in an orderly fashion.

The third would allow the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development to delegate any or all responsibilities to the Yukon government without consultation with and approval from the first nations who were party to the whole deal that was set up in the first place.

The fourth would create broad exemptions with respect to the Yukon environmental assessment process for renewals, amendments and permits authorizations, which were in the hands of the boards already.

We can see that the devolution process in the northern territories, which in Yukon started 10 years ago, has been curtailed by this legislation. It has been rolled back in a very significant and deliberate fashion by the government. That is not appropriate.

The other amendments proposed to the act dealt with things that people could see and agree to. They were designed to help move the act forward in a proper fashion so the environmental assessment process could be well-respected and understood.

We have had the same problem in the Northwest Territories. The government agreed to a devolution process and then forced changes to our environmental assessment process. That has now gone to court and there have been injunctions put in place by the court over the actions taken by the government in the Northwest Territories.

We are likely to see the same thing in Yukon, where the first nations will once again have to take the government to court to deal with issues that should have been dealt with in a proper fashion.

Therefore, we have identified four issues and are asking that they be removed from the act through these amendments. It is a request that goes back to the people of Yukon, who have asked for this.

We took the committee to Yukon and had a one-day hearing, which went from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. The room was filled with hundreds of people who attended the committee hearing from 8:30 a.m. until it finished in the evening. They were not pleased with the bill.

The support for the bill was almost nil. People were speaking out on it. The Government of Yukon, which will face its own electors over this very shortly, will find out how those people feel about the bill. This will also be the case for the Conservative government very soon.

After the election, which is likely to be in October unless the government decides to try to delay it even more, the new NDP government will be ready to put forward amendments to deal with these contentious issues for the people of the north.

There is no reason at all for this to have happened in the fashion it did. The government has created uncertainty in the environmental assessment process for the companies, people and the first nations of Yukon. It has messed it up.

Let me quote Ms. Allison Rippin Armstrong, vice president Lands and Environment, Kaminak Gold Corporation, which has just invested substantial sums of money in the Yukon. She said:

Kaminak is concerned that the process through which YESAA is being amended is creating increased distrust between governments and uncertainty in the assessment and regulatory process for current and future projects in Yukon.

These are the people who are investing in the Yukon.

This is what Ruth Massie, Grand Chief, Council of Yukon First Nations, has to say:

CYFN and all 11 self-governing first nations are unanimously opposed to four provisions that are part of Bill S-6.

Here we have it. On the one hand, we have industry saying that it will not work for them, that it does not need it and do not even understand why it is being done. On the other hand, first nations are saying that things are being done against all their agreements and that are really throwing the process, which they worked so hard to set up, off the back of the cart. They want to know why the government has done it and what the purpose is of this kind of action by the government. They want to know if it is simply because the party of one over in the Langevin Block has decided that this is the way it will go, that no one can interfere with that kind of decision making, that no one from the grassroots up can make a difference.

The government is making rules for territories that actually need devolution. They need to control their own affairs. The government has actually thrown that particular process off the back of the cart. It is heading off in a different direction. People in the territories, my territory, Yukon, who have been influenced by these bills, now face the prospect of suing the government, of going forward with litigation in order to get rid of some of these contentious clauses, which nobody really wants, which do not make any sense and which are not part of any reduction of colonialism or changing the way these territories can govern themselves.

We have put forward a number of amendments which deal with the four contentious issues. We would hope that the government, in the end, would come to its senses and would actually listen to the people of Yukon, industry and those who are involved in the actual work of Yukon, rather than sitting over on Langevin Block, and come to an understanding that these need to be removed to make this bill work. Then we could go ahead and all support it.

Business of Supply May 13th, 2015

Mr. Chair, recently regulatory boards in Nunavut got a budget increase after years of asking. However, the government has refused to support the Nunavut planning board's funding request for the final round of technical and public hearings to develop the Nunavut land use plan. Without a land use plan, we will not see the kind of development the government wants to go ahead with in Nunavut. Why has the minister turned down this request?

Business of Supply May 13th, 2015

Mr. Chair, for the minister with respect, the minister's department funds CanNor. He is responsible for it as well and the government is responsible for what it is does in these projects.

Business of Supply May 13th, 2015

Mr. Chair, this is another question coming from Nunavut. Six years after they were purchased, the materials for Gjoa Haven 29 metre bridge to span the Swan River sit gathering rust. The materials were bought with federal funding in 2009 through the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency's community adjustment fund, but no funding was provided to actually construct the bridge.

How could this project have been approved without including construction costs, and will the minister ensure that Gjoa Haven has the funds needed to actually build the bridge?

Business of Supply May 13th, 2015

Mr. Chair, this week the Nunavut Impact Review Board recommended that Resources Canada's proposed uranium mine near Baker Lake should not proceed. Will the minister accept this recommendation from the board or will he ignore the interests of the people in Nunavut and reject the board's recommendation?

Business of Supply May 13th, 2015

Mr. Chair, last summer the Nunavut Marine Council sent a letter to the minister demanding a full scale strategic environmental assessment of Baffin Bay and Davis Strait before any seismic testing was allowed. Without such a strategic investment, local communities would not support future oil and gas development the letter said.

Why did the minister refuse this request?

Business of Supply May 13th, 2015

Mr. Chair, what part of “annual reviews” does the minister not understand? They would allow these very important changes to be made to these programs and these communities could be allowed to get some subsidy for their food. Why is the minister talking about reviews that are going to be done in the future, when the program has been in place for four years?

Business of Supply May 13th, 2015

Mr. Chair, the minister knows full well that the Auditor General showed that the department had committed to reviewing the community eligibility status for these communities on an annual basis, but it has not completed annual reviews. These communities remain unsatisfied.

Why has the minister's government not completed these reviews?

Business of Supply May 13th, 2015

Mr. Chair, of course the answers should follow the general delivery of the questions. That is the procedure we have in this committee.

Why do communities like Fort Good Hope, Northwest Territories; Fort Chipewyan, Alberta; Tadoule Lake, Manitoba; and Deer Lake, Ontario get no subsidy when they are isolated, remote northern communities where people require the food subsidy?

Business of Supply May 13th, 2015

Mr. Chair, I will move on to nutrition north.

The first question I have for the minister is this: how did the department determine which communities were eligible for the new nutrition north program? What factors were considered?