Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak in support of Bill .
As the minister mentioned, the bill would facilitate provincial management of the Donkin mine and provide a clear regulatory regime to government its development.
Bill presents real opportunities, not only for the people of Cape Breton but also for Canada. The passage of the bill has the real potential to usher in a new era for mining in Cape Breton and to continue the region's long history with this traditional industry.
Our government is standing up for workers and communities that rely on traditional industries. We recognize the vital role that the mining sector plays to ensure Canadian prosperity.
There is a strong mining presence in Canada from coast to coast and as far north as one can see. Canada is one of the largest mining nations in the world, producing over 60 minerals and metals. We are a world leader in the production of mining products, such as potash, uranium, aluminum and nickel. Canada ranks third in global production of diamonds in terms of value. Mining and mineral processing contributed some $40 billion to Canada's gross domestic product in 2006.
Twenty-five coal mines were in operation in Canada at the end of 2006. Most large scale coal mines are located in western Canada, in New Brunswick and in Nova Scotia.
Of all our fossil fuels, we know that coal produces the greatest amount of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that contributes heavily to global warming. As a result, we are more conscious than ever that we need to develop clean alternatives and clean up fossil fuels.
In the area of renewable energy, we are investing $1.5 billion in wind, small hydro, tidal power, solar, biomass and geothermal energy.
As for coal, the energy source that Bill is related to, clean coal technologies are being developed in order to significantly lower the emissions from coal burning power plants and to reduce the environmental side effects of the coal industry as a whole.
The rapid growth of clean coal technologies is of the greatest interest to the Government of Canada. To that end, we have launched the ecoenergy technology initiative, a $230 million investment in the research, development and demonstration of clean energy technologies. A major component of this initiative is the development of the science and technology that will make our conventional energy sources cleaner.
The very first investment this government made under this initiative was in clean technology. Earlier this month, my colleague, the , announced an $11 million investment in federal funding for a project that will make Canada a world leader in clean coal technology. This project will be a joint undertaking by the Government of Canada and industry. It will support research in developing a coal gasification power plant that will turn sub-bituminous coal into synthetic gas and hydrogen.
It is a significant process with important implications. By converting coal into synthetic gas and by capturing and sequestering the resulting carbon dioxide, we can create electricity that is cleaner than that produced by the best natural gas facility operating today.
Through Natural Resources Canada's CANMET Energy Technology Centre, the government has been investing in the development of viable technology for near zero emission clean fossil fuel such as oxyfuel combustion. This centre has also developed a clean coal technology road map which outlines a vision for the development and implementation of clean coal technologies.
This technology will thus not only help us to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, but also reduce air pollution. It will reduce greenhouse emissions to almost zero. Consequently, this clean coal technology will help Canada and countries around the globe educe greenhouse gases and pollution.
We must recognize that coal will continue to play an important role in our future and in the world's future. At the world level, coal accounts for about 25% of energy consumption and is used to produce 40% of the world's electricity supply. It will continue to be an important component of the energy mix in the foreseeable future. Therefore, we must do everything we can to clean up this resource and ensure it is used in a way that minimizes greenhouse gas emissions and pollution.
The history of coal mining in Cape Breton is well-known to members of this House and to all Canadians. Most of this mining was done under the sea, with the greatest subsea extension out from shore being almost four miles. It is very similar to some of the mining that I know took place in Nanaimo and on Vancouver Island which was also underneath the seabed.
The Donkin block is part of what is known as the Sydney coalfield, a resource that has made an enormous contribution to the Canadian economy. Total coal production for Nova Scotia between 1863 and the year 2000 was some 455 million tonnes, of which 72% was produced from the Sydney coalfield. This coalfield contains the largest coal resource in eastern Canada with 12 major seams. Donkin represents the most eastern extension of the Sydney coalfield that is accessible from the north coast of Cape Breton. It is the last primary block of unmined coal that can be mined from the coast.
The developer of the Donkin mine, as selected by the Nova Scotia government, is the Xstrata Donkin Mine Development Alliance. It expects to complete a feasibility study next year and production could start shortly thereafter. The coal that will be produced by the Donkin coal block development is a most valuable resource and one that will contribute to the economic well-being of Cape Bretoners and Canadians as a whole.
For the Cape Breton region, the Donkin mine will mean an additional 275 jobs directly, and indirectly, the project could generate another 700 jobs. Nationally, about 370,000 Canadians are employed in the mining and mineral processing industry. Canada's 1,200-plus exploration and mining companies operate in over 100 countries globally and hold over 8,700 mineral projects around the world, of which almost 50% are located outside of Canada.
A major challenge the mining sector faces in Canada is that our current regulatory regime is not keeping pace. Companies have expressed, time and time again, a complete frustration with our regulatory system, how it is too slow, too unpredictable and designed without efficiency.
Our government has recognized that we need to improve our system to adequately respond to our environmental priorities, which is why we have invested $150 million in increasing capacity in federal departments and in establishing a major projects management office. This new office will ensure that regulatory reviews are carried out with greater efficiency, transparency and coordination across departments.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to split my time with the member for , if that is so amenable to you.
The benefits of mining in Canada are clear: $40 billion to our gross domestic product and 370,000 Canadian employed. Clear, too, is the benefit of facilitating a return of the mining industry to Cape Breton, a community that wants this development and a province that wants to move ahead.
Therefore, I call upon all my colleagues, both on this side of the House and on the opposite side, to support Bill and to move this project forward.
Mr. Speaker, we appreciate the spirit of cooperation that exists in the House. I am sure that is due to you being in the chair.
I am pleased today to introduce Bill . This bill demonstrates once again that our government is committed to building a stronger, safer and better Canada.
We are committed to encouraging economic development in all regions of this country and to create job opportunities for all Canadians, regardless of where they live. For the people of Cape Breton, Bill would help to create that opportunity for economic development.
I will begin by explaining the resource, the Donkin coal block, that the legislation deals with. The Donkin coal block is a large, economically promising coal vein located off Cape Breton Island. In fact, it is the last major undeveloped subsea coal resource in the Cape Breton region.
It has been described as the largest undeveloped coal resource in all of eastern Canada. Both the province and the federal government have obligations regulating the development of the Donkin coal resource block, including labour, health and safety matters.
The immediate objectives of the bill are to facilitate the provincial management of the mine by Nova Scotia and to provide a clear regulatory regime to govern its development. This legislation would also allow both levels of government to retain their current positions with respect to regulatory jurisdiction.
Beyond these immediate objectives, however, a larger purpose is being served. The legislation would provide Cape Breton with an opportunity to advance its own economic development. It does so by facilitating a return to Cape Breton's time honoured industrial tradition of mining coal.
Some very clear benefits will follow the development of the Donkin mine. To begin with, mining will once again bring good jobs to this traditional mining region of Canada. The development of the Donkin mine is forecast to create 275 direct and up to 700 indirect jobs.
Development of the mine could also mean hundreds of millions of dollars to the provincial economy in salaries, equipment and goods and services. Three hundred million dollars is expected to be spent in start-up investments alone and coal royalties will be in the range of up to $5 million annually.
Finally, the development of the Donkin will help stabilize the tax base of this community for many years. If it gets to the development stage, we expect to see at least 10 years of operations.
Coal was first mined in Cape Breton 322 years ago. The island was settled because of coal and coal mining was its livelihood for hundreds of years. Most of this mining was done under the bottom of the sea with the greatest subsea extension out from shore being almost four miles.
In the mid-1980s, the Cape Breton Development Corporation, DEVCO, spent $80 million to dig two exploratory tunnels from the shore out to the face of the Donkin block. However, the mine was never brought into production. The tunnels were sealed and flooded to avoid pumping costs. DEVCO closed its last Cape Breton mine in 2001.
Since the closure of the last mine on Cape Breton, energy prices, including coal prices, have dramatically increased. This and newer technology, such as clean coal technology and carbon capture and storage, have renewed interest in coal as an energy source and renewed interest in the Donkin project.
There are numerous advantages to the Donkin site. For example, the Donkin block is located in a proven mining district with a long history of safe and successful extraction. The block appears to have sufficient size, potential and access to domestic and international markets for industry to stand on its own financially. The passage of Bill will help to determine whether this is so. Nearby there is a local workforce with extensive underground coal mining experience, a workforce that welcomes the return of coal mining jobs.
The block is near a railway connection and two deepwater ports equipped to export coal to an international market.
Finally, the Donkin site has a valuable asset in the two exploratory tunnels which are already driven to the face.
Nova Scotia announced a call for proposals to develop the Donkin coal block in 2004. A year later, a company by the name of Xstrata was announced as the winning bidder. The Xstrata Donkin Coal Mine Development Alliance began to evaluate the potential of bringing the Donkin mine back into production. It was at this point at which a considerable challenge arose. It was clear that if Xstrata or any company decided to proceed with development there would be confusion and uncertainty over regulatory jurisdiction because both the Governments of Canada and Nova Scotia have ownership claims to the offshore.
It was also clear that Xstrata Donkin Coal Development Alliance would soon face major decisions on whether to proceed with development or not. Because regulatory matters affect cost and planning, Xstrata was in need of certainty over the applicable regulatory regime before its decision could be properly made.
Both the governments of Canada and Nova Scotia shared an interest, as they do today, in seeing further economic opportunity in Cape Breton. Therefore, both governments sat down together to find a solution that would provide Xstrata with a clear regulatory regime that would permit development to proceed, if that decision was made, and to do all this without jeopardizing either government's claim to jurisdiction.
The bill before us today is that solution. Essentially the bill permits existing provincial laws regarding matters such as labour standards, labour relations, resource development and occupational health and safety to be incorporated into federal law. The administration of these laws is then delegated to the province of Nova Scotia. This will permit a clear and single regulatory system to be established for Donkin Coal Development. It will also permit both levels of government to retain their current positions with respect to regulatory jurisdiction while facilitating the economic development of Cape Breton Island. This is a solution that works for everyone.
The bill also provides that all Donkin coal and coal bed methane royalties will be collected by Nova Scotia and remitted to the Receiver General for Canada. A remittance in that same amount will then be turned back over to the province. In other words, the province will receive the benefit of all royalties if the mine goes ahead.
The components of this bill may appear complex, but their intent is quite simple. The bill provides Cape Breton, and Nova Scotia, with greater opportunity for economic development. It permits the development of the Donkin mine to proceed under an appropriately designed regulatory regime and it facilitates provincial management of the endeavour.
It is important to emphasize that Bill does not guarantee the development of the Donkin mine. It guarantees that the decision to proceed or not to proceed will be free from any uncertainty regarding regulatory matters.
I would emphasize that Bill is an outstanding example of cooperation. It is an example of cooperation between governments to fulfill a common interest in seeing the development of the Donkin mine.
By introducing this legislation, the government is demonstrating its commitment to the economic development of the Cape Breton community and to Nova Scotia as a whole.
Bill applies directly to the development of the Donkin mine, but our government has also taken national initiatives to support the mining sector. Since coming to office 21 months ago, our government has taken consistent action to reduce the tax burden on Canadian businesses, including those in the mining sector.
Our mining sector presents extraordinary opportunities across Canada and our government will help seize those opportunities by providing a single window for major projects approval. The major projects management office provides a single point of entry into the federal government for the approval of proposed projects. This is going to improve our ability to apply our world class environmental standards while increasing regulatory efficiency.
Before I finish, I would like to acknowledge the hard work of my colleagues, the hon. member for and the hon. member for and the support they have given in moving this file forward.
I would now ask all hon. members to support the opportunity that the legislation represents.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleagues across the way from and for their comments on this legislation.
It is good to see this legislation finally come forward. Negotiations between the province and the federal government have been ongoing for a number of years. I think back to the last election and my Conservative opponent at the time said that the foot dragging on the part of the then Liberal government was going to negate a great opportunity to develop the Donkin mine site. He also said that when his party was elected as government, this issue would immediately come forward. Two years later, it is finally coming forward.
It is necessary that this take place. It is certainly what we were working toward back then. There were long, arduous and protracted negotiations between the two levels of government, but the legislation is here today, and it is a positive thing for the people of Cape Breton, for the people of Nova Scotia, and for the people of Canada as a whole.
As my colleagues have indicated through their comments, the history of coal mining in Cape Breton dates back over 300 years. Coal was discovered in Cow Bay, which is now Port Morien. That coal was shipped to Louisbourg and provided heat for the Fortress of Louisbourg during the years of development.
Coal has been mined in Cape Breton for numerous years. It fired up the engines of our navy's boats in both world wars. It has contributed to industry in central and western Canada. Cape Breton coal has powered much of what Canada is as a country. We have a proud and rich tradition of coal mining in Cape Breton.
What we support in Cape Breton is submarine mining and underground mining. There is a great deal of opposition and concern around surface mining. We cannot confuse the two. We want to make that clear. The legislation before us today is about underground mining.
Work started on the Donkin project back in 1970. I will share quickly a story with my colleagues across the way. As a young university student during a summer in the late 1970s, I and three friends took up a contract to help clear the land on the Donkin site. We were paid a certain amount for every acre that we cleared and the pulp that we felled and the brush that we burned. It was during that summer that I realized I was not going to make my living as a woodsman in the woods of Cape Breton. However, it was a great opportunity.
Shortly thereafter, because of the situation with OPEC, Devco pursued the Donkin opportunity. It drilled two tunnels three and a half miles out in the ocean and about 200 metres down. Things changed and the price of coal altered quite a bit on the world market, and the project was shelved and the mines were flooded. Currently, the world price for coal is at an all-time high. It is now about $95 a tonne.
We on this side of the House are very committed to long term, sustainable energy opportunities. Cape Breton is seeing an increase in sustainable energy initiatives, such as Cape Breton Power's incorporating windmills in many places where coal mines used to exist. They are making a contribution to the overall energy package for the people of Nova Scotia, but there still remains a high demand for energy. As has been indicated, 40% of the world's energy still comes from fossil fuels. We cannot be intimidated by that and dismiss coal as a source of energy.
In some of the investments that have been made, it is important that we as the nation of Canada get out in front on some of this clean coal technology. We have certainly done that to date and continue to do it. I had the great opportunity to see the NRCan facility in Bells Corners and some of the work it has undertaken with clean coal technology. It is truly impressive.
We have seen the demand outside our borders, such as in China, and that is only going to increase.
It should be Canadian technology that leads the way in solving the CO2 problems. We have seen the investment that has been made at the CANMET site in CO2 sequestration by capturing and sequestering the CO2 in the ground. The technology has come so far so fast. As a nation we have to continue to invest in that type of technology so that we can continue to decrease our carbon footprint.
In essence, the province of Nova Scotia through this legislation will be the regulator. There will be federal regulations for the site, but they will be applied by the province of Nova Scotia. That will look at resource development, labour standards, occupational health and labour issues. All of those things will be administered by the province of Nova Scotia under this legislation.
As had been mentioned by the previous speaker, Xstrata is currently developing the Donkin site. Xstrata is an international player in the minerals exploitation community. It has the fiscal and technical capabilities of taking on a project of this size. It is a very large, complex mining project under sea considering the dangers of undersea mining. It is the world's largest producer and exporter of thermal coal. It is one of the top five producers of coking and metallurgical coal.
Xstrata has 43,000 employees worldwide. It has operations in Australia, Germany, Norway and South Africa. It is a tremendous player in the coal market. It has an excellent record on health and safety and environmental issues. It is very excited about this Donkin project.
I had the opportunity to speak with Darren Nicholls, the project manager. He shared with me the fact that he could not see this project going any better. The company is very pleased with the way it has gone to date. The company is very supportive of this piece of legislation. It may want to tweak things a bit, which can be done within the regulations, but the company is supportive of this legislation.
It has done a good job since it has come to Cape Breton in getting involved in the community. I was very impressed with that. This past year I had the opportunity to go to Donkin. The Donkin development association just finished a project. It opened a passive park area adjacent to a school, Veterans Memorial Park. Xstrata played a fairly significant role. It worked with the councillor, Kevin Saccary, and a community group of volunteers and developed a park, very much supported by the community. Xstrata stood shoulder to shoulder with community members and helped deliver on this. That is an indication the company cares about the community and is willing to invest in it.
As I had said, the federal position was that federal laws were applicable in this situation and there was an obligation to enforce them. However, it is very pleased that the province of Nova Scotia, wanting to exploit this resource, is entering into a agreement that would address labour relations, labour standards and occupational health concerns.
As well, it has been indicated before that pieces of infrastructure are there now. Rail spurs are there now as well as a deepwater port. However, that comes to another part of what will be necessary with the opening of Donkin mine.
We have a very active port in Sydney, with a coal mixing area. Provincial Energy currently mixes coal at the Sydney harbour site. However, there is a dredging problem. We hope the government will see the merit and the importance, through the Atlantic gateway initiative it is putting forward, of dredging the Sydney harbour.
Currently there is about 45 feet of clearance. Right now it is shipping partial loads with some of its coal transfer. In order to take full boats, we hope the government will be able to invest in Sydney harbour, look at the dredging project put forward by the community and the harbour authority and assist with that. It is more of a bump in the midst of Sydney harbour, but it would go a great way in unlocking the full potential of that harbour.
This initiative would have tremendous benefits for the people of Cape Breton, in Glace Bay and broader areas. We have a rich coal mining tradition. A good friend of mine, Billy Delaney, said that Glace Bay was a child of industry and without it we would be an orphan.
We have come a long way, too. In the late 1990s our unemployment rate was on either side of 25%. Now we are currently down around 12% or 13%. There is still a fair amount of seasonal employment. A lot of guys working out west who are coming home and the money is coming back home. That is not the ideal situation. We still need that anchor industry. Our community understands fully that this is a tremendous opportunity, and we look forward to it. There will be 275 jobs. We know that jobs within the mining sector usually pay 3:1 or 4:1 in other job developments. Therefore, we think that will be a shot in the arm.
I know that some of those guys who are working out west now are looking forward to coming back and resuming mining careers. We have young people who are very interested in getting started in the mining industry. I know the industry will get 275 guys who will make that mine hum and it will be nothing but successful.
We anticipate in the order of $300 million in startup costs for an initiative of this size. As well, the coal royalties will be paid to the federal government and then they will be fully remitted back to the province. We anticipate approximately $5 million annually in coal royalties that will stem from the Donkin project.
Darren Nicholls and the Xstrata people are extremely excited about the legislation coming forward and this opportunity.
I had the opportunity to speak with District 26 United Mine Workers president, Bobby Burchell, just recently. The union is pleased with this as well. It was consulted earlier on this project, back in April and May. No major concerns have been expressed, but the union believes it can address whatever the concerns might be, through the regulations.
Again, it is an important day for the people of . It is an important day for this broader community. We have been through a lot as a community. We are seeing our economy transition. Things are okay.
During the briefing, the comment was made that it would bring much needed jobs to an economically depressed area of the country, which was kind of interesting. We are past that now. I think the members of the House, who have been to Cape Breton, can see that. I have a colleague from Nova Scotia who can see that. We are not Mississauga or Kelowna yet, but things are going okay. However, this will be a tremendous shot in the arm as we continue. While this is a retooling of the economy, it is the old game coming back that will make a contribution.
Some of the estimates put forward today in the speeches have probably been somewhat conservative, that the mine might operate for 10 years. There is probably potential for even greater operation past 10 years, and some of them have been up to 25 years. They may be ambitious, but nonetheless, with the legislation there is very little we can find that would prove to be any problem whatsoever.
My colleague was asked a question about the Westray incident. I believe the province of Nova Scotia has learned a great deal through the Westray experience. Through consultations, the federal government has clearly outlined its expectations. The province of Nova Scotia will be required to and will administer those regulations to the best of its ability.
It is without reservation that I will work with my party to support the legislation to ensure it goes forward. We hope it will provide a tremendous opportunity for the people of Cape Breton.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill .
I would like to begin by telling the House that the Bloc Québécois supports Bill in principle. My colleague from Nova Scotia can count on the Bloc's support. Members of the Standing Committee on Natural Resources will study this bill seriously and thoroughly.
The Bloc Québécois believes that the federal government should do more for regional economic development. It should stop undermining the efforts that provincial governments—particularly the Government of Quebec, since I am a member from Quebec—want to make by respecting the priorities set by the provinces.
For members of the Bloc Québécois, creating and maintaining jobs in the regions, as well as providing assistance to workers in difficulty, such as those in the forestry or fishing sectors, is just as important in Quebec as it is elsewhere. In our view, this Conservative government is washing its hands of the whole issue, by refusing to propose any support programs for older workers—we mean real income support for older workers—or change the employment insurance criteria, and by renouncing its earlier ideas concerning the creation of an independent employment insurance fund.
In short, all too often, the federal government listens to reason and develops legislation and policies to promote this regional development. Fortunately for Nova Scotia, that is what it is doing with the Donkin coal mine project.
Furthermore, the efforts of the elected representatives of that riding cannot be overlooked. According to my colleague, they fought to convince the government that enough time had been wasted and it was time to act. Thus, it has been a happy ending for Nova Scotia and it appears that everyone is finally happy with the agreement.
The Bloc Québécois' position is that, since Bill is the result of an agreement between the federal government and the Government of Nova Scotia and has to do with a specific case, that is, the Donkin coal mine, and since there are no direct repercussions for Quebec, the Bloc Québécois does not intend to oppose it. We will work hard in committee, as I was saying, to push the bill through as quickly as possible.
A word of caution, however: being in favour of the principle of the bill does not mean that we have absolutely no problem with the spirit of the bill. I alluded to this a little earlier when I asked my question. We deplore the fact that the federal government is prepared to incorporate provincial legislation by reference when it comes to creating 275 jobs, but that it is not willing to do so, far from it, when it is a question of the language of work, for instance. I will come back to this.
Lastly, with its trademark rigour and hard work, the Bloc Québécois will examine the provisions of Bill that raise questions. This is the case, for instance, when it comes to the sharing of royalties and the exclusion of royalties on coal-bed methane from the Canada-Nova Scotia offshore petroleum resources accord.
In the matter of offshore revenues, this Conservative government is acting against the interests of Quebec because the equalization formula does not take into account all revenue from natural resources and therefore penalizes Quebeckers.
For the time being, I would prefer to focus on the main objective of Bill . I would like to point out, and it is truly important to say so, that this bill is the result of an agreement between the federal government and the Government of Nova Scotia, which seeks primarily to settle a jurisdictional matter. These two governments both claim to have jurisdiction over the Donkin coal block. Many discussions have taken place to establish who has jurisdiction over the management and exploitation of the Donkin coal block.
To settle this issue, Nova Scotia and the federal government arrived at an agreement: establish a single set of regulations governing resource development and labour issues, including industrial relations, occupational health and safety and labour standards
The regime proposed by this bill may be divided into three parts.
It provides a legal regime to facilitate the exploitation of the Donkin coal block. It gives the Governor in Council the authority to incorporate Nova Scotia laws into federal law by regulation, and gives Nova Scotia the power to enforce those laws.
Bill further governs the royalties from the exploitation of the Donkin coal block, through a system similar to the existing one for petroleum royalties.
It also amends the Canada—Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act to exclude coal bed methane associated with a coal mine.
I would like to point out to this House that coal bed methane is the natural gas found in most coal seams. It is considered to be the cleanest burning fossil fuel and one of the purest forms of natural gas, often so pure that it only requires slight processing and can be delivered directly by pipelines.
The first of these three items, the legal reference regime, is dealt with in clauses 13 and 15, which are the core of Bill .
Clause 13 states that the Governor in Council may make regulations excluding from the application of the Canada Labour Code any employment in connection with the operation of the Donkin coal block.
Furthermore, it allows the Governor in Council to make regulations to incorporate by reference any act of the Province of Nova Scotia to make it applicable to the Donkin mine workers.
Clause 15 states that an authority designated by the province, and not federal institutions, is responsible for applying the regulations incorporated by reference.
Bill allows the federal government to exempt workers of the Donkin mine from its own legislation in favour of Nova Scotia's legislation.
For the second point, clauses 9 to 12 of Bill address the issue of royalties specifically. They establish a system similar to the one that already exists for oil royalties, namely that the royalties on coal and coal bed methane are to be collected by the Receiver General of Canada and a portion will be remitted to the province in accordance with the terms of an agreement to be reached between them.
Third, the purpose of clause 16 is to amend the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act in order to exclude coal bed methane associated with the development or operation of a coal mine from the definition of natural gas and therefore exclude it from the accord.
Let us now come back to the offshore revenues I was talking about earlier. Budget 2007 announced an equalization reform that unduly favoured the provinces receiving revenues from natural resources and blatantly ignored some of Quebec's basic requests.
What is more, on October 10, 2007, the of Canada and the Premier of Nova Scotia announced an agreement between that province and the federal government on equalization reform.
The federal government announced it would relax the application standards of the equalization formula. Budget 2007 allowed Nova Scotia to choose between two equalization formulas. It could either use the old formula and continue to receive 100% compensation for offshore development, or it could choose the new equalization formula whereby basic equalization payments increase but compensation for offshore development decreases. Nova Scotia could choose to stick with the old calculation method, but once it used the new equalization calculation it could no longer go back to the old formula.
The announcement on October 10 changed all that. Nova Scotia can now choose the formula that is most advantageous to it at the beginning of each fiscal year, until the expiry of the Atlantic accords in 2020.
In order to enjoy the benefits of future offshore projects, Nova Scotia had chosen to retain the old equalization formula. If it had adopted the new formula, it would have received additional equalization payments estimated by the provincial government at $289 million for 2008-09. The new formula will therefore let Nova Scotia keep additional amounts calculated under the new formula and it can return to the old formula if the development of new offshore platforms makes the old formula more advantageous.
The reason that this is to Nova Scotia’s benefit is that, in our opinion, it is still being done at Quebec’s expense: the equalization formula still does not take all natural resource revenues into account.
So that formula does not reflect what Quebec is calling for. It contains loopholes that favour the fossil fuel producing provinces by allowing them to exempt natural resource revenues from the equalization formula.
Quebec is calling for the equalization formula to be reformed to reflect a 10-province standard, 100% of natural resource revenues and the real value of property taxes. That is the only formula that will result in equalization achieving its objective, which is to provide the receiving provinces with a per capita fiscal capacity equivalent to the Canadian average. It seems that the Conservative government is not worried about that, though.
Let us come back to the language of work. It must be noted that when it comes to creating 275 jobs, something we applaud, the federal government is prepared to incorporate the laws of Nova Scotia by reference. But the government does not want to consider incorporating compliance with the language of work provisions of Quebec’s Bill 101 by reference.
And yet this is the government that boasts about recognizing that Quebeckers form a nation. To date, that recognition has not been supported by any actions or consequences, although what it means is that the House of Commons recognizes the attributes of the Quebec nation, and in particular its language and culture, by definition.
In fact, when the House of Commons recognized the Quebec nation last fall, the Bloc Québécois emphatically pointed out that that recognition had to have consequences, that there could not simply be purely symbolic recognition.
The official language of Quebec is French, everywhere in Quebec, except in matters relating to the federal government, for which there are two official languages.
That is the first concrete action that must be taken: to recognize that in fact Quebeckers form a francophone nation in America. If the Canadian parties are consistent in that recognition, they will have to understand that the Quebec nation and the French language are inseparably connected. Recognizing one means recognizing the other.
The Quebec nation has developed a tool for ensuring that French is the common public language: the Charter of the French Language or Bill 101. We often forget, though, that insofar as Ottawa is concerned, Bill 101 does not exist. As a result, areas under federal jurisdiction are exempted, including within Quebec. For example, banks, telecommunication firms, interprovincial transportation companies such as CN and CP, ports and airports are exempt from Bill 101.
The Bloc Québécois wants the federal government, therefore, to recognize and abide by the Charter of the French Language in Quebec in the Official Languages Act and comply with the spirit of the Charter in regard to the language of signage and of work in related legislation.
Contrary to what the Conservatives have suggested, the Bloc Québécois is obviously not asking the federal government to interfere in linguistic issues in Quebec. All we want is for the federal government to comply with the Charter of the French Language. The Official Languages Act and the Canada Labour Code are both federal.
The Canada Labour Code already requires the federal government to adjust to provincial legislation when setting minimum wages. In Bill , the Conservative government agrees to exempt workers from its legislation in deference to the laws of Nova Scotia. If it is possible to adjust the federal legislation in both these cases, how can they justify refusing to adjust the federal legislation on language?
Federal or federally regulated companies are not affected by the Charter of the French Language, particularly insofar as the language of work is concerned. Some of these companies choose to abide by it, but it is all entirely voluntary.
The Bloc Québécois wants the Canada Labour Code to contain a provision, therefore, that “any federal work, undertaking or business carrying on activities in Quebec is subject to the requirements of the Charter of the French Language”. This would comply with the request voiced in 2001 in the Larose report.
This amendment would eliminate the legal void that enables federal companies to flout the Charter of the French Language when it comes to the language of work. It is important, though, to note that many federal companies decide on their own to abide by the francization programs of the Office de la langue française.
Nevertheless, some federal companies fail to comply with Bill 101 and do so with impunity. Since 2000, some 147 files have been closed at the Office de la langue française because it could not do anything in view of the fact that the companies were under federal jurisdiction. These figures refer only to files that were opened in response to complaints. If no one complains, no file is opened. We can conclude, therefore, that the number of delinquent firms was probably higher.
This was a long aside to explain why we are happy that Nova Scotia and the federal government have managed to reach an agreement by negotiating an accord to abide by the provincial legislation and that the federal government demonstrated a real openness in this case. We are asking for much the same thing.
In conclusion, I would like to reiterate the position of the Bloc Québécois: since Bill is the result of an agreement between the federal government and Nova Scotia, and it deals with a particular situation, the Bloc will not oppose it and will agree in principle.
However, I will not forget this precedent. And I will make sure that I remind the Canadian government about this type of legislative adjustment it offers to some provinces but not others. I pledge to remind the government of this precedent when we debate this issue in the House of Commons.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise and speak on Bill , the . This is an act that is extremely important to the province of Nova Scotia and certainly to the island of Cape Breton.
Before I begin my remarks, I have a brief comment on the comments by my Bloc colleague. I think this act is an example of how the federal government and provincial governments, in this case the province of Nova Scotia, can work cooperatively for the better good of both. This act is not trying to drive divisions between areas.
The member for the Bloc is a member of the natural resources committee. She would be well aware that Nova Scotia's mining regulations, in particular the underground regulatory regime for coal mines and underground mines, are some of the best in the world because of the disaster that occurred at the Westray mine during the explosion there and the loss of those miners, which is still certainly in the minds of all Nova Scotians today. The laws have been improved because of that disaster and the regulatory regime that exists there has some of the best regulations in Canada.
To be clear, what is going to happen here is a single regulator in terms of resource development and labour matters. That regulator will be the Province of Nova Scotia. It will be facilitated by incorporating the provincial legislation into federal law and delegating to the province responsibility to administer these new federal laws. I want to be clear on how that will happen.
As I have mentioned, this legislation is about cooperation. It is not about driving wedges. It is not about causing a schematic shift across the country to pit one province against another province or one part of the country or one region of the country against another. This is a good, practical solution to an ongoing jurisdictional discussion between the Province of Nova Scotia and the Government of Canada.
Bill is an excellent example of what can be accomplished when we sit down and are committed to finding solutions. We are not committed to trying to find a way to pick a fight and cause an ongoing schism in the federation. We are committed to actually finding a solution.
The Government of Canada and the Government of Nova Scotia have worked cooperatively to ensure that Cape Breton benefits from this economic opportunity. As the has mentioned, Donkin is the last major undeveloped or underdeveloped coal resource off Cape Breton Island. This resource is not underground on Cape Breton Island. This resource is underground offshore Cape Breton Island. We need to be very clear about where this resource lies.
This legislation presents an excellent opportunity not only for the people of Cape Breton and Nova Scotians, but we expect that when the Donkin mine is open and in full operation it could create up to 275 jobs. This is extremely important to the province of Nova Scotia and the island of Cape Breton in particular. Indirectly, the project could generate 700 jobs. This is very good news for an area which in the past few decades has seen the decline of its coal and steel industries. The salaries, the equipment purchases and the sales of goods and services associated with Donkin could provide hundreds of millions of dollars to the economies of Cape Breton and Nova Scotia.
I will give members a bit of history on the development of the Donkin mine and coal in Cape Breton. Certainly, the region was settled because of coal, and coal mining has been the main livelihood for more than the past 100 years. On an historical note, it is interesting that when Nicholas Denys settled on Cape Breton Island in the late 1600s and had his trading post set up somewhere in the Sydney River area, it is thought now, he wrote in his diary of open seams of coal in the Sydney area on Cape Breton Island.
Certainly when Louisbourg was settled by the French, one of the reasons was the proximity of coal in the Cape Breton area. That was surface coal. The Donkin mine, of course, is under the ocean and offshore of the coal producing area.
The significance of coal is still evident today in the communities and the culture of Cape Breton. Miners who worked in the subsea mines have a long history. Many Cape Bretoners today can trace miners in their families going back more than 100 years. Cape Bretoners are proud of this mining heritage and they have never forgotten it.
In the early years, the work sustained many families, but it certainly was not an easy life. It was extremely dangerous and extremely hard work. Today, mining is still dangerous and hard work, but it is a very different profession compared to what existed 100 years ago. Mining provides good jobs and builds strong communities.
In the case of Donkin, it is important to note that this development is not starting from square one. A lot of the work at Donkin has already been done.
Exploration of Donkin began in 1977 with the original wells being drilled by ship. Eleven holes were drilled during a three year period and several seams of coal were detected. The Cape Breton Development Corporation of those days spent $80 million on two exploratory tunnels in the mid-1980s. At the time, the coal was deemed too expensive to extract, the tunnels were sealed and flooded, and the development did not proceed, but the coal is still there and the tunnels still exist.
As we can see, Cape Bretoners have lived both with the anticipation and with the disappointment of not seeing Donkin developed. Today I am happy to say that the pendulum has swung back to that feeling of optimism on Cape Breton Island.
As we all know, today's energy situation is very different from the recent past. Energy prices, including coal prices, have risen dramatically and new clean technologies are being developed, resulting in a new interest in coal as an energy source. Another factor favouring Donkin today is that the coal deposit may be of sufficient size and potential to be a source for international markets. We know that there is a very hot market for coal.
Nearby on Cape Breton Island, and certainly in Nova Scotia, there is a local workforce with extensive underground coal mining experience. These are some of the best workers in the world when it comes to mining and extracting coal. It is a workforce that welcomes the return of coal mining jobs. Local businesses certainly would welcome this development too.
Cape Breton also has two local coal-fired power stations capable of using Donkin coal. The rail infrastructure is in place to ship coal by train to two more power plants elsewhere in Nova Scotia.
Let us not forget the potential of Sydney Harbour, which sits ready to ship coal to international markets. The member for mentioned that in his speech. Some preliminary work may need to be done to assist the Sydney Harbour authority to move some of the larger ships in and out of the harbour, but that is all part of the infrastructure requirements that would be needed to fully develop the Donkin coal mine.
These are just some of the positive factors supporting this initiative. As we have heard, this is the last major coal deposit off Cape Breton Island. If it gets to the development stage, and I certainly believe it will, we expect to see at least 10 years of operations in the Donkin mine. In addition to providing much needed jobs, the development of Donkin would help stabilize the tax base of this community for many years.
This agreement signals a small revival of coal in Nova Scotia. It is not a return to the old days when coal was king in Cape Breton, but Donkin has the potential to provide a viable industry to Nova Scotia and help the province meet its energy needs.
The people of Cape Breton are anxious to see this development proceed. Certainly the Province of Nova Scotia is anxious to see it proceed and the Government of Canada is anxious to see it proceed. Coal mining will once again bring good jobs to this important region.
It should be clear from my comments that there the benefits of the initiatives I have outlined are manyfold. There are jobs and opportunities available. There are infrastructure jobs and there are dollars that will be helpful to the local community.
Clearly, there is broad support out there for this piece of legislation and for the Donkin mine and the Donkin coal seams to be developed. In fact, the federal government went so far as to carry out consultations with all interested stakeholders last spring, and I can report that there is very strong support indeed.
The community of Cape Breton is excited about this opportunity. The labour unions and groups representing the rights of workers, including the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour, have expressed support, and the employer and the offshore board have expressed support.
The Governments of Canada and the Province of Nova Scotia have a shared interest in seeing this further economic opportunity for Cape Breton. That is why they have worked closely together on this issue. I believe both levels of government deserve credit for their efforts to reach an agreement that will allow development of the Donkin coal seams. This bill provides a clear regulatory regime to permit the Donkin development if Xstrata decides to proceed with production.
There has been a fair amount of discussion here about existing provincial and federal laws, but existing provincial laws regarding matters such as labour standards, labour relationships, resource development and occupational health and safety will be incorporated into federal law as part of the agreement between the Government of Canada and the Government of Nova Scotia.
Again, this can happen when organizations work in a cooperative manner for the better good of both the Province of Nova Scotia and the Government of Canada. Nova Scotia will administer these laws so that a single and clear regulatory system can be established for the Donkin project.
In conclusion, let me say that this legislation allows both levels of government to retain their current positions, with nothing changing, with respect to ownership and regulatory jurisdiction, while facilitating the economic development of Cape Breton and certainly Nova Scotia.
By introducing this legislation, the Government of Canada is demonstrating its commitment to the economic development of the Cape Breton community and to Nova Scotia as a whole. This bill, I believe, is an outstanding example of cooperation between governments to facilitate a common interest in seeing the Donkin mine project proceed.
I would like to recognize the work of the , his parliamentary secretary and my colleagues on this side of the House, as well as the work done by my colleagues on the other side of the House.
I think there is pretty well unanimous support for this piece of legislation. There is some discussion and that is why we are in this place. We are here to look at the various areas of bills that we feel are projecting the common good and also to recognize what we see as flaws. I am happy to say, from what I have heard from members on the other side, that they recognize this as a cooperative and very positive piece of legislation for the province of Nova Scotia that will certainly benefit the regional economy of Cape Breton Island.
Before closing, I would like to say that coal was king in Cape Breton Island for many years, but it was also important to the entire province of Nova Scotia, certainly in the New Glasgow area. Earlier I mentioned the Westray explosion and the unfortunate circumstances that surrounded it. Coal was mined throughout Nova Scotia, in Springhill as well, and not just in Cape Breton. As well, there is still a very skilled workforce capable of underground mining, one that any employer would be lucky to hire.
I wish Xstrata, the company that will be primarily involved in Donkin, the best of luck. If the Province of Nova Scotia and the federal government can continue to work in a cooperative manner, I think this can be an example for other provinces.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be sharing my time this afternoon with the hon. member for to speak to Bill C-15, the Donkin coal block development opportunity act.
I note that my colleagues across the way have decided to introduce a new element to this particular debate, that of the Atlantic accord and the offshore developments. It is their choice. It would not be mine if I were them because of course that is not a stellar success story on behalf of the Conservative government right now at this point in time and that they would be wanting to talk about that.
I will say this. There is an incredible success story to be told and that is through the persistence of colleagues of mine, the member for as well as his colleague, the member for , both from Cape Breton representing the needs and the aspirations of the people of Cape Breton and Nova Scotia for quite some time.
I want to congratulate him and the members for Cape Breton--Canso and Sydney--Victoria for keeping the pressure on this, and for bringing the views of the people of Cape Breton forward.
This is going to result in over 275 jobs for the people and miners of Cape Breton. It will mean that men and women who are currently working in other parts of the country and other parts of the world will be working at home now. It also means incredible new economic opportunities.
Cape Breton Island is really the Celtic tiger in so many ways. It has diversified its economy. It has gotten into the high tech sector. It has become involved in communications, manufacturing, software development, and has made huge strides in the development of its tourism sector. It deserves our congratulations and our support.
It is members like the Liberal member for as well as his colleague, the member for, that really I salute here today because they took the voice of the people who they represent and they translated it here on the floor of the House of Commons.
Bill , to develop the Donkin resources, is simply a matter that the member for Cape Breton--Canso really kept the pressure up. He kept an eye on making sure that the legislation was drafted to meet the needs of the people whom he represented and brought those jobs home.
However, the members opposite on the Conservative side are actually wanting to raise the whole spectrum of the Atlantic accord. Just this morning, for the fourth consecutive time, there was to be a briefing by the Department of Finance for those interested in the amendments that were forced upon the people of Nova Scotia in their Atlantic accord agreement.
That is not what they asked for in these amendments. It is not what they were promised. Everyone in the House and everyone in the province of Nova Scotia, in Atlantic Canada and throughout this entire country knows that the promise that was given to the people of Atlantic Canada was 100% exclusion of all non-renewable natural resources for the equalization formula with no caps.
That however was not what was translated and provided by the Conservative government once it took office. That commitment was given on January 3 in an open letter to the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, followed by an open letter to the Council of the Federation under then Premier Ralph Klein, as chairman of all 10 provinces and 3 territories, that there would be 100% exclusion of all non-renewable natural resources for the equalization formula with no caps. The statement was also given, “no excuses”.
We seem to be surrounded now by excuses, by fine print and by a cap. That quite frankly I think causes the people of Nova Scotia still some great concern, especially when there was to be a briefing just this morning.
For the fourth consecutive time a briefing was scheduled for all interested parliamentarians from both sides of the House. That briefing was offered by the federal Department of Finance back in October of this year, so that we could actually learn firsthand the nature of the side, side, side deal between the and the Premier of Nova Scotia.
It was cancelled once, it was cancelled twice, it was cancelled a third time, and this morning, 14 minutes before the meeting was scheduled to occur, it was cancelled for the fourth time, even to the point where a member of the Department of Finance was actually showing up for the meeting. Because there was no BlackBerry in the--
Mr. Speaker, I would encourage all hon. members to get to understand and know the bill that they are discussing. Bill specifically provides an exclusion to the Canada--Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act. If I am speaking about the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act, it is because it is included in this particular bill. When I do that, I am speaking about the substance of the bill. So I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for reminding members of the government that when they introduce a bill, they should get to understand the bill that they are introducing before raising points of order or objections.
That is very important. There is a matter of trust that has to be brought forward to the people of Nova Scotia. Exactly what will the bill result in for them? How will this translate, because a side deal of which nobody understands the content, as in the original Atlantic accord and the changes to the equalization act, does not do anything to instill confidence in the people of Nova Scotia. But what does is when members stand up and represent their constituents, like the member from Cape Breton and the member for . They are keeping their eyes on this sort of stuff. They are making sure that their constituents and the people of Nova Scotia, and indeed all of Atlantic Canada, are fully aware of the consequences of this. This bill is going to be supported by the Liberal Party of Canada and this caucus because of the hard work that came forward by members of our caucus to make sure that the work got done.
There will be 275 new jobs as a result, should the private company, Xstrata, decide to go full force and develop the mine, which we are all extremely confident that it will. There will be significant resource revenues that come into the province of Nova Scotia. I note that one element of this bill requires that all royalty payments should go to the Receive General for Canada first and then flow to the government of Nova Scotia second. That, quite frankly, causes me some concern, because we know the track record of this particular government. It could decide to block that particular flow of royalty revenues if the government happens to have a future disagreement with the province of Nova Scotia.
However, I have confidence that this mine will proceed because of the hard work of all interested members of Parliament, those who actually got to know the bill and the context of it, who supported it and are adding to this. But one thing has to be clear. There is a matter of confidence and trust that if people say that they will do something, they should do it. There was an absolute guarantee given to all 10 premiers and 3 territorial leaders of this country. It was broadcast to the entire country in the middle of the election campaign back in 2006 that there would be 100% exclusion of non-renewable resource revenues from the equalization formula with absolutely no caps involved.
What do we have? We do not know for a fact because we cannot actually get a copy of the briefing materials from the or the Department of Finance as to exactly how he intends to amend the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act because of course they have scheduled four separate briefings and on four separate occasions they have cancelled those briefings. But one day, we will have that particular piece of legislation, I am confident, tabled in the House and we will be able to see with the rest of Canadians what exactly is entailed in this.
What we do know is that a letter was put forward by the current , then the leader of the opposition, stating there would be 100% exclusion of non-renewable natural resources from the equalization formula and no caps. We now know from the , the and others who clearly stated in the House that that is not the intention of the current Conservative government, that it intends to impose a cap and that it is requiring an either take it or leave it position by the provinces that are so affected. They accept certain elements and abandon others because they cannot have both.
Quite frankly, it would have been very helpful to the electorate in Atlantic Canada in the last election campaign if they had known that little detail.
I thank the member from Cape Breton and the member for for keeping their eyes on this file and making sure it happens for the people of Cape Breton and Nova Scotia.
Mr. Speaker, like the previous member, I am very pleased to rise in the House to speak to Bill , the Donkin coal block development opportunity act.
This basically involves a jurisdictional issue involving a provincial mine. It is good legislation. I certainly will be supporting it when it comes to a vote.
I would classify the mine as a provincial mine. It is a mine that is not being developed fresh. A lot of the infrastructure is there, although when the infrastructure was established, it was determined at the time that it was too expensive to take the coal out of the mine, the coal which is a proven resource.
The mine is located six or seven miles subsea. As such, it would be under the jurisdiction of the Government of Canada. However, the entry to the mine and all other aspects of the mine would be provincial issues. We can see the chaos and confusion that would result, because at certain points in time workers would be doing activities in certain locations that would be under the jurisdiction of the Province of Nova Scotia and then if they moved on into the mine pit, they would be under the jurisdiction of the Government of Canada. There would be uncertainty, confusion and chaos. It is incumbent upon the Government of Canada and the Government of Nova Scotia to clarify that so that the private sector developer, along with the Government of Nova Scotia and the people who live in Cape Breton, can move forward on this particular development.
I am pleased with the legislation. I am pleased with the level of cooperation that exists between the Government of Nova Scotia and the Government of Canada on this particular issue. I am not going to get into the other issue that was discussed in the last 15 minutes.
The legislation transfers most of the jurisdictional aspects in connection with the operation of the mine to the Government of Nova Scotia. For example, occupational safety, workers compensation, labour, prosecution of offences, et cetera, will be under the ambit and at the expense of the Government of Nova Scotia. There is a detailed platform for dealing with all jurisdictional issues that has been agreed to by the Government of Canada and the Government of Nova Scotia. Basically, it is a delegation of responsibilities.
Like other speakers in this House, I want to congratulate the member for and the member for for their hard work, their dedication and their perseverance in bringing this matter forward. They are to be congratulated. Certainly the people in Cape Breton can go to bed tonight knowing full well that they are well served in this institution.
I come from the province of Prince Edward Island. We have actually had a similar experience there which worked well. That was when the fixed link was constructed, the bridge that connects the province of New Brunswick with the province of Prince Edward Island.
Again, that involved legislation and an agreement. In that case, as members can see, a lot of the site works were done either in the province of New Brunswick or in the province of Prince Edward Island and so there were jurisdictional issues involving the Government of Canada. All parties came together in a cooperative agreement and it really did not result in any issues.
Of course sales tax is one of the other issues that has to be worked out in these agreements.
As I alluded to briefly in my opening comments, this is not a new mine. It has been around for quite some time. A lot of the exploratory work has been done. The tunnels actually were done quite some years ago. After the analysis and a lot of the work was done, it was determined at that point in time that it was not economically feasible to mine the coal that was there. It was just too far out.
Again, things have changed over the last number of years. As everyone is aware, the price of coal and energy in all its elements has increased dramatically. Technology has improved substantially, not only technology involving the clean coal issues but also the extraction of the coal. Those issues have all combined together to make this particular initiative now economically feasible, as I understand, and I hope it will be moving ahead. This will be an excellent development for the island of Cape Breton.
We are dealing with legislation that deals with a particular mine. I know the mine is important for the Island of Cape Breton and for the province of Nova Scotia but I suspect that this situation will be repeated over and over.
Many activities are occurring in the Arctic. There are other issues. It is my recommendation that the government ought to consider some type of overarching legislation that would deal with incidents such as this where we deal with a mine or a bridge or some other installation that would have cross-jurisdictional issues involved so that the overarching framework can be dealt with through agreement.
The agreement would need to come to Parliament and a parliamentary committee but I am not sure we would need to deal with it through legislation in each and every instance. We might be dealing with a mine or a project that is not as big as the Donkin coal mine and it would be a shame if the expense and the delay would have to be involved in getting legislation through both the provincial legislature, the Parliament of Canada and, of course, the Senate of Canada. That is just a suggestion I would make as we go forward.
In researching this particular issue, it is clear to me that the major stakeholders on this particular project are very much behind this legislation and this initiative. The Province of Nova Scotia and the people who live in Cape Breton, the municipality of Cape Breton, the trade unions, including the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour, all seem to be very supportive of this particular legislation. That is one of the reasons why I support the legislation 100%.
There has been some discussion about environmental concerns and that needs to be dealt with. I hope and I believe it will be dealt with by the Province of Nova Scotia and that all the legislation that it has on its books will be vigorously enforced as this project goes forward.
Another issue that has been raised in the debate is that this is a wedge issue between different provinces and different regions of the country. I do not see it that way at all. I see it as a positive development where one province or one jurisdiction has made an agreement with another jurisdiction and, in each case, it required legislation. This is the legislation that has to deal with the Government of Canada. I do not see it, in any way at all, as different jurisdictions. It is a cooperative initiative.
I consider this legislation to be positive. I congratulate the people who were involved in bringing it forward to the House. I want to tell the House that I will be supporting the bill when it comes to a vote.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure today to address this bill for a couple of reasons.
First, what a lot of people who may watching or later reading in Hansard do not know is that today is a day with special emphasis on mining issues on the Hill. It is partially coincidental, though not totally, that today we are dealing with the Donkin coal block development opportunity act, a piece of legislation that is specifically meant to assist in the growth of a particular project in Cape Breton, just off the coast of Nova Scotia. It is very important for that specific reason.
While we are talking about the overall general theme of mining today on the Hill, with people from the industry, workers, et cetera, we also have the privilege of dealing specifically with a bill that would help build this industry in a particular location for a specific town.
The second reason I am particularly pleased to speak to this bill is because of my personal professional background. Prior to being elected to the House of Commons in June 2004, I had previously worked as a mining and exploration geophysicist, having obtained my geophysics degree and graduating previously from the University of Saskatchewan.
I had the privilege of working in all three of Canada's northern territories, the wonderful territories of Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut. I also spent some time working in the provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba. My final project before I was elected was in a place called Salluit in the most northern town of the province of Quebec where I worked on a nickel sulfide project.
It is a great pleasure for me to speak to a piece of legislation that is in some way related to my previous profession. People need to understand that mining is important for Canada. It is important for Canada historically and in the present.
While the fur trade was probably the first industry that really flourished in Canada from coast to coast and pushed inland the exploration, mining was not far behind. Some who have read their history books may remember that some of the explorers who came to Canada came specifically to look for mineral deposits, gold, diamonds and copper.
In fact, one of the more amusing stories in Canadian history is how some of the early explorers from France became very excited when they thought they had discovered massive diamond deposits in Quebec. They filled up many barrels of these diamonds and returned home. However, after a little investigation, they were not quite sophisticated enough to tell the difference between quartz and diamonds.
Historically, mining has been very important to Canada. We export somewhere in the neighbourhood of 77 different products. We are internationally known for our uranium deposits, potash, nickel and coal. We have seen the rising price of coal impact on our dollar. This is an industry which impacts every region of the country, be it oil and gas, hard rock mining or whatever.
We have particular expertise in this country for the development of our laws, geological infrastructure, the Geological Survey of Canada, the well done mapping programs and the organization and stability of our programs. That is one of the reasons why, not only in Canada but around the world, Canadian mine engineers, geoscientists and all others are recognized as experts in this field. That is just an introduction.
Today we are dealing with a particular piece of legislation that deals with a specific situation off the coast of Nova Scotia, which makes it an important bill for Cape Breton and, indeed, for all of Nova Scotia. This legislation deals directly with the prosperity and jobs in the region of Cape Breton. I am pleased to stand and support this bill.
The development of the Donkin undersea coal resource located off Cape Breton Island has the potential to bring significant economic benefits to the Cape Breton region and to all of Nova Scotia.
Both the province of Nova Scotia and the Government of Canada contend that they have legal obligations regarding matters such as regulating resource development, labour matters, occupation, health, safety, et cetera. In December 2005, Nova Scotia announced Xstrata Donkin Mine Development Alliance was successful in its bid to explore and develop the Donkin coal block resource. After more than one year of exploration, Xstrata will make its final decision on the development, in August 2008.
Neither the federal government nor the provincial government wish to see issues of jurisdiction hamper the prospects of this project. We do not want red tape to kill jobs with people of Cape Breton. However, for the commercial operation of the mine to proceed, an effective regulatory regime is needed. The bill is about that. What we need is a clear understanding among all parties affected, proponents and possible employees and the community at large as to what the rules of operation are going to be on this project.
The federal government sees it as necessary to find a way around this impasse. I believe it is important to understand the process that brought us to this point of view. In my view the legislation is an example of good will and commitment by both levels of government, provincial and federal. Consequently both levels of government have put the question of jurisdiction aside to collaborate on a mechanism permitting the development of a safe and efficient mine.
Representatives of the federal government and the Nova Scotia government worked together for a year to develop the proposed legislation. Starting in March, federal and provincial officials agreed on an approach to develop an appropriate regulatory regime to develop the Donkin coal block. The agreement involves the incorporation of provincial statutes by reference into federal law of laws related to coal and coal bed methane resource management, labour relations, labour standards and occupational health and safety.
Prior to this, Nova Scotia agreed to amend its occupational health and safety laws to ensure that subsea coal miners would have the same level of protection that they have under federal legislation.
Also under the agreement, administration of the new federal laws will be delegated to a provincial government official or authority. This helps us to move forward to clear the path, to move forward for the development of the Donkin site if the private sector decides if the mine is a viable, profitable operation. Again, to be clear for everyone who is listening, the legislation only enables and takes away the red tape so that the private sector can have its own initiative to grow and develop these necessary jobs.
Public meetings were held this past April to discuss the regulatory framework. These sessions resulted in assurances that labour, community and industry groups understood and supported the proposed regulatory regime. The outcome is this bill, the Donkin coal block development opportunity act, introduced in this Parliament by the hon. .
Dealing with the issues of health and safety, we know there are dangers faced by coal miners and we know safety is paramount for them. Throughout history worldwide, I think of some particularly tragic incidences in Canadian history. We do not want any dangers or loss of life to happen again to our miners. Bill would clarify the occupational health and safety regulations that would apply to the Donkin resource. By eliminating confusion over who would protect these workers, we hope to protect each and every worker better.
The proposed legislation will permit the incorporation into federal laws of existing provincial laws regarding such matters as labour standards, labour relations, occupational health and safety and coal and coal gas resource management. The administration and enforcement of these laws would then be delegated back to the province of Nova Scotia. This provides a clear and stable regulatory system, the Donkin coal development. It also permits both levels of government to retain their positions with respect to ownership and regulatory jurisdiction.
As well, the bill would ensure that coal and coal bed methane royalties associated with exploitation of the offshore portion of Donkin could be collected by Nova Scotia and then remitted to the Government of Canada. In turn, a remittance of an equal amount would then be made by Canada to the province of Nova Scotia. It is my understanding that is being done to be in compliance with other previous acts and legislation even though to the untrained ear it sounds somewhat cumbersome.
As all members can see, the immediate objectives of the bill are to facilitate provincial management of the Donkin coal block and provide a clear regulatory regime to govern its development
Moving on from health and safety issues, we need to talk about the economic advantage. We know not all areas of the country are equally advantaged with various economic assets and so forth. Cape Breton is one of those areas that, in spite of the ingenuity its people, has had on few more challenges, so these jobs and this growth is very important for this area.
The legislation provides Cape Breton with an opportunity to advance its own economic development to let the people of Cape Breton continue to be masters of their own house. Nowadays, clean coal burning technology exists and we have an opportunity to employ hundreds of experienced people from the coal mining industry.
By facilitating a return to Cape Breton's time honoured tradition of mining coal and by creating up to 275 direct jobs and 700 indirect jobs, the Donkin enterprise will give us another chance to revive the coal mining industry in Cape Breton.
The legislation for the Donkin mine would ensure that local people, who know the resource, would be there to inspect these mines and inspect them in a timely manner. As well, the project could generate hundreds of millions of dollars for the provincial economy in salaries, equipment purchases and so on, all very good things for the economy of Nova Scotia and Cape Breton.
Finally, as far as the specifics of the bill, the Donkin coal block development opportunity act is an outstanding example of federal-provincial cooperation. We are pleased to see that similar legislation already passed in the Nova Scotia legislature. It is now up to us, as federal members of Parliament, to do the same thing.
While that sums up the specifics about the bill, let me also add a few other things.
As I said when I started out talking about the broader issues of mining, mining is a part of Canada's heritage. We see this very clearly in Cape Breton. I am not all together perfectly acquainted with Cape Breton, being a prairie boy who has worked across it. However, the image I have of it has to do with coal mining. When we think of the interior of British Columbia, we think about the mining and the resources. We go to places in Canadian geography, names we know of but many us have not been to, places like Flin Flon, Trail, B.C. and areas farther north. We see the new diamond mines in the north. Mining is a part of who we are as Canadians.
We are very proud of our high tech and knowledge based economy, but we also need to understand that this high tech knowledge based economy interacts with our natural resources economy and our mining economy. Canadians are world-class leaders when it comes to geological sciences to geophysics.
We look at the work of the University of Toronto in developing things, projects that were started in the second world war for military applications for mining and mining for the military. These things have developed because of the mining infrastructure and the knowledge that we have in Canada.
It is important that we continue to develop and build this industry. It provides jobs from coast to coast. It will continue to provide economic development. It is one of those core elements that we need. We need agriculture and food to live. We need elements to provide shelter. For our industrial and manufacturing production, we ultimately need minerals.
That is how I would like the people of Canada and those listening today to view the bill, not specific legislation on its own, standing for one area, but as a symbol, something to speak to the whole broader issue to develop our act.
I am very glad the members for Cape Breton have supported it. I am not quite sure I credit—