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.