Mr. Speaker, I, too, am pleased to rise in the House to support Bill C-24, An Act to amend the First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development Act and another Act in consequence thereof.
The identical bill was first tabled in the fall and all parties received representation from the Squamish Nation at that time encouraging us to pass the legislation. Unfortunately, due to prorogation, the bill was delayed for some months and reintroduced this spring.
I take this opportunity to thank my colleague, the member for Yukon, who visited with the Squamish people and the leadership of the Squamish Nation and had an opportunity to be personally taken around the reserve, the traditional territory of the Squamish people, to get a briefing in detail on what they intended to do with the tools that the bill would provide.
Therefore, I thank the member for the work he has done and in encouraging the minister to move forward with this bill. The member for Yukon is a wonderful member and we thank him for his work and advocacy on behalf of first nations across the country. As well, I join with him in the fine work that he has undertaken.
The main purpose of the bill is to create a more level playing field off and on reserve to foster sustainable economic development opportunities. As I said earlier, it is an amendment to the First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development Act, which was first passed in 2005.
Since that time people have realized that there was a need to fill some of the gaps that exist. First nations that were planning large scale and/or complex development projects were hindered by a lack of adequate regulations for commercial and industrial development. This caused jurisdiction uncertainty for both first nations and industry proponents.
This legislation was developed to address the regulatory gap that existed between lands on reserve and off reserve. The legislation would enable the federal government to replicate the necessary provincial acts and regulations to allow first nations to move ahead with large scale complex commercial and industrial development projects on reserve.
The key component of the bill is the legislation is optional. It is triggered only at the request of a first nation. Regulations developed under the act apply only to a specific project and parcel of reserve land where there are gaps between federal and provincial regulations.
In a brief that was provided to me and in conversation with the Squamish leadership members, they outlined what they felt were some of the benefits for first nations. I will refer to those comments for the record.
They said that it would provide a regulatory tool to more effectively balance economic development and protection of reserve lands and resources for future generations. They indicated it would enable communities to compete for investment opportunities and develop their economies, increase economic self-sufficiency and enhance their quality of life. They went on to say that it would generate revenue that could fund land acquisition and infrastructure for member housing, employment and business opportunities.
As well, they articulated a number of benefits to the federal government in that it would help the federal government to meet its commitments to first nations regarding economic development and continued stewardship for reserve land. It would increase employment, wages, revenue tax base, infrastructure and overall economic output, which is essential to linking domestic markets to world markets, and that it would be a model for other first nations.
As well, they articulated benefits to provinces one of which would be increased economic activity in the region, direct and indirect employment and increased provincial tax revenues from businesses and individuals and benefits to industry. There would be the establishment of regulatory regimes that would be certain, transparent, familiar and well understood to the marketplace.
In short, although there is ongoing debate among first nations about land tenure, the nature of land, the title of land, the one security that this legislation provides is it is optional. They have the ability to opt in if they so choose, depending on the particular circumstances of the reserve.
Having said that, one would hope that in the future legislation will come to us with more time to debate it in a more fulsome manner, as well as with an opportunity to take it before committee.
Given the compressed timeframe, the fact that we had a prorogation which has shortened this particular sitting of the House and the amount of business we could get done, and given that first nations themselves have requested this type of legislation, we are happy to stand in the House and pass it with that particular caveat.