Mr. Speaker, it is great to rise today to talk about Bill . I apologize if I am a little groggy. I have not been to sleep since Saturday night. It has taken me since 4:30 p.m. yesterday to get here, with my three plane flights. However, we will go ahead.
It is seldom that we have a bill before Parliament with respect to only one riding. Therefore, I appreciate having Bill on the agenda. I appreciate that many members in the House, maybe all of them except the minister and parliamentary secretary, may know very little about this bill because it relates to just one riding. That is totally understandable. Therefore, I will try to explain it to make it clear to members what they will be voting on.
The bill removes four issues that were put into place through Bill in a totally inappropriate process. The four issues are timelines, reassessment of ongoing projects, ministerial policy direction, and a delegation to the Yukon government of that authority. Although first nations negotiated all of the other changes, they were not offered the opportunity to negotiate these four matters. Therefore, for the other 336 members who do not live in Yukon, I will try to put this bill into context.
On February 14, 1973, the chiefs of Yukon went to Ottawa and presented Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau with a paper entitled “Together Today for our Children Tomorrow”, which started the land claim and self-government process in Yukon. Negotiations went on for 20 years, until the modern treaty, the Umbrella Final Agreement, was signed on May 29, 1993 by the three orders of government: federal, territorial, and first nations. The UFA is constitutionally protected, so not even we, as legislators, can change it. It is truly a collaborative, negotiated effort, which is now sometimes used across Canada and around the world. However, we must remember that it took 20 years.
Part of that treaty prescribed the development of YESAA, the Yukon Environmental Socio-economic Assessment Act, again a unique Yukon creation and model, our own assessment act. Unlike most of the rest of the country, we do not fall under CEAA. However, it deals with assessments on the lands of all the governments: the first nations governments, the Yukon government, and the federal government. Creating YESAA was a negotiation exercise by the three partner governments. It took 10 years. YESAA was passed in 2003, and so far so good.
YESAA had a built-in five-year review. That review took five years, from 2008 to 2012. A five-year review is not supposed to take five years. It not only happened after five years, but it also took five years. However, there was a lot of hard work that took place in those five years. There were 72 recommendations agreed to by the three levels of government after all of that work. These were implemented either in Bill , or administratively. Once again, so far so good.
However, at the eleventh hour, near the end of the five years of negotiation, the federal government said it was adding four new major clauses to Bill , and it was not negotiating them. After 20 years of the three partners working together on the UFA, and 10 years working together on the YESAA legislation, would members not be outraged if one of their partners said they were adding four new major clauses and that they could not negotiate them? It is probably not in the letter of the law, and certainly not in the spirit of the law. If we have an illegal law, or a law created in contravention of the treaty, then it does not matter what is in it, it has to go.
We are now in a whole new era of partnerships and collaboration with indigenous people and first nations governments. Often, industry has led the way in making partnerships with first nations people. Therefore, I want to go on to talk about some of the elements that people have raised in the debate so far.
One of the elements was that it is very important for mining. The Conservatives made a good point about how important mining is to the economy of Yukon. It has been the biggest producer of our GDP since the gold rush. That is a very important point. That is exactly what this bill is supposed to do, help that along and add the certainty needed to go ahead.
I am going to quote a couple of speeches and letters. Paul West-Sells, the president of Casino Mining Corporation, one of the biggest in the world and a world-class mine, said:
On behalf of Casino Mining Corporation (Casino), I am putting forward our company's concerns regarding the fragility of intergovernmental relations in the Yukon surrounding Bill S-6 and the negative impact this is having on the territory's mineral industry.
He went on to say:
Casino believes that if YESAA has the full support of all levels of government, it will provide greater certainty for the mineral industry.
This is exactly what the Conservatives were saying, so it is great that they are supporting this.
To this end, we encourage Canada, Yukon, and Yukon First Nation governments to engage, work collaboratively and find a solution to address the outstanding issues within Bill S-6.
That is exactly what Bill does.
Another speech was made at committee by Ms. Allison Rippin Armstrong, vice-president, lands and environment of Kaminak Gold Corporation, which has a good chance of being the next mine to open in Yukon. She said:
Kaminak is concerned that the process through which YESAA is being amended is creating increased distrust between governments and uncertainty in the assessment of regulatory process for current and future projects in Yukon.
As the Conservatives have so rightly said, it is exactly that uncertainty that this mining vice-president is talking about that we want to fix. She went on to say:
Our Coffee gold project is yet to enter the YESAA process. If Bill S-6 is passed and challenged in court, the Coffee gold project and our presence in the Yukon is uncertain. Kaminak urges the federal government to resume discussions with the first nations to work collectively toward reaching consensus on the proposed amendments to YESAA and avoid a court challenge.
Again, that is exactly what the bill does. It is what everyone is asking for.
I want to go on quote from a letter, once again in light of the Conservatives' emphasis on mining letter. All these documents I am quoting from are much longer and emphasize the situation, but we would not have time to go through them all.
This letter is signed by Sandy Silver, the Premier of Yukon. As the Conservatives and the NDP have said, it is important that decisions are made by Yukoners. This is signed by the Premier of Yukon; Peter Johnston, grand chief; and Mike Burke, president of Yukon Chamber of Mines. Once again, it is important for mining to get that certainty back. It says:
Repeal of these amendments and addressing industry concerns through collaborative framework is critical to re-establishing confidence in the development assessment process in Yukon and to honouring the intent of Final and Self-Government Agreements.
We were pleased to see Bill C-17, which removes these contentious clauses, introduced in the House of Commons on June 8, 2016.
[...] The Government of Yukon, self-governing Yukon First Nations, Council of Yukon First Nations and Yukon Chamber of Mines look forward to seeing Bill C-17 passed, without change, as soon as possible.
Before I go on to some of the other points that have been made in this debate, I want to mention that the honour of the crown is incumbent not only on the federal government, but also on the territorial governments.
As recently as March 22, and this is mostly to make sure that the lawyers in the various government departments and the House of Commons are aware of this, during the Supreme Court appeal hearing, Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella discussed the responsibilities of Yukon government in relation to first nation states, particularly the Yukon government, to whom the honour of the crown attaches.
It was 18 years earlier, in 1999, Justice Vertes' ruling in 1999, Supreme Court of the Northwest Territories, in the case of Donald Morin v. Anne Crawford, reflected on the constitutional status of the territories which had direct relevance to their function as the crown.
I do not expect anyone in the House to understand this complex legislation, because it only applies to Yukon, and it was a treaty between three governments there. That is why I am trying to explain some of the facets of this.
First of all, there was the comment that the people of Yukon should decide. That is exactly what this bill would do. What happened is that Bill came forward with the four clauses being thrown in at the end. As I said, it was great in the sense that 72 things got approved, either administratively or in Bill , 72 things that the three governments negotiated and agreed on. However, the four things thrown in at the end really aggravated the people of Yukon. They did not like them being imposed, without being able to negotiate. Two large town hall meetings, with around 100 people each, spontaneously occurred. People were enraged about this imposition by the federal government, and rightly so.
Let us remember the 20 years of negotiation for the constitutionally protected treaty, the 10 years of negotiation for the YESAA legislation, and the five years of the five-year review. Obviously people were outraged when, all of a sudden, four items were added to their environmental legislation, by Ottawa, without allowing them to negotiate, as they had with everything else.
Another item that was raised, and it was a very good point, by the Conservatives is about northern strategy. As I responded to that, it is being developed right at the moment and, once again, by Yukoners from the bottom up. The chiefs, the premiers, and the people who live in Yukon will put their input into this northern Arctic policy framework. We really look forward to seeing this, in these days and times.
I can say that my view of the strategy for the north is that it first has to start with the people of the north. There will be great sovereignty and great success in the north if we focus on the people.
Another item I want to talk about that was raised is the reassessments. When a project needs to change, expand, or do something else, in the old days there was a reassessment that had to occur at the exact time that the next permit came due. Permits are what trigger assessments in this particular act, permits by various orders of government. Some people were concerned about that. It was mentioned in debate.
As I outlined, this system has been changed, through the recent amendments that have been made, and as I said, of the 72 some were policy and some were legislative. Now the assessments that YESAA can do are not limited to the next trigger, let us say the five years when the next water licence or mining permit is due. The assessment is not limited to that time frame. The assessment can be for as long as the assessment board and the proponent think is reasonable, a time that fits with the project. Therefore, reassessments would not be due in those particular time frames, as was talked about earlier.
The other aspect is this. Let us say that a project has gone on for 10 or 20 years, and the permits are expired; water permits, assessments, everything has expired. That does not mean things are going to be exactly the same. There is a number of things that have changed: the climate, patterns of wildlife, the amount of wildlife affected by the road, and the air and water affected by the tailings. Even though nothing is new in the particular production, there could easily be things that have to be changed.
The present system where that can be decided between the board and the deciding bodies makes a lot of sense, and that those assessments are only done when required.
We talked about barriers to mining, barriers to investments, disincentives to investment, and as I said earlier, that is a very important point raised by the Conservatives because that is exactly what this bill would do. It would remove those barriers, the ones that have been holding assessments in limbo. I will explain a little later about how that happens through this bill, and how this would clear it up. The minister talked about some of that in her speech.
I want to talk about the barriers that would leave it in limbo. Unique in the country is this partnership of the three governments that signed the treaty. The three governments all have particular roles to play in the assessment. If we were to change it and totally aggravate one of the parties, these changes are likely illegal but are certainly not in the spirit of the treaty. There would be huge uncertainty in the assessment process.
We first have to realize who will be on the board. The board is made up of the three parties. If one of the parties to the board makes these decisions, obviously there will be a problem. As the NDP also said, there are section 35 constitutional rights, which is, once again, why we have to have the first nations onside. They each have settlement land, over which they have total control and make decisions in light of what YESAA recommends. The way the UFA works, the entire Yukon is divided into all 14 first nations' traditional land. They have certain influence and say about their traditional land as part of the treaty, which included the huge quantities of land they gave up.
With these three huge types of influence in the process, if we make them furious by circumventing them and not acting in the honour of the crown or in good faith in the negotiations, obviously there is going to be huge uncertainty in getting environmental assessments done. That is why we have the letters from mining and from the Chamber of Mines, because they want to negotiate things correctly in the future and have a partnership. As I said earlier, there are some great partnerships between first nations and mines in the Yukon, and they are leading the way.
The last item I want to talk about is the timelines. Once again, it would be hard for people who do not come from the riding to understand how this works. It looks as if we are getting rid of all timelines, and that is not true. The timelines are set out in the regulations as a matter of policy and, as we know, there is a process regulations have to go through. If it were the riding of other members, would they not want something sent by the economic experts, environmental experts, first nation experts, and Yukon government experts, as opposed to it being imposed by Ottawa? That is exactly how it works. It is the same as the executive board decisions being made by the rules of the YESAB. Therefore, the timelines are there.
Finally, as was said a couple of times, even without timelines, the YESAB has a great record and was making decisions in less than the timelines, almost all of the time, anyway. In a way, it was a solution to something that was not a problem.
Let us have a new beginning. Let us have negotiations, which may be tough, but will include the three legal signatories to the treaty, with the federal government, the first nations government, the Yukon government, and industry now all onside working collaboratively. Hopefully all of us, as parliamentarians, will join this partnership, put this quickly behind us, and get on with building a fair and prosperous country for us all.
Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill . The background leading to Bill is as follows. The federal government's role in the management of lands and resources in Yukon was devolved to the Government of Yukon in 2003. The Government of Canada maintains the responsibility for outlining the environmental regulations there. The Yukon Environmental Socio-economic Assessment Board was established under the final agreement.
Our Bill was intended to make, and did make, the northern regulatory regimes more consistent with those in the south to attract investment and develop economic opportunities. Bill was a very good bill. It put time limits on the review process. It exempted a project from reassessment when an authorization is renewed or amended, unless there was a significant change to the project. It gave the federal minister the ability to provide binding policy direction to the board, and very importantly, the ability to delegate the federal minister's powers, duties, or functions under the act to the territorial government.
I became a member of Parliament in 2010. For the first term of our government I was on both the fisheries committee and the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development. For most of that time, I was the only member of Parliament of any political party who was on both of those committees. I was very privileged to get a view into our environmental policy-making and I participated fully in many of the changes that we made. Many of the changes that we made improved the environmental process, cleaned up a number of very bad pieces of environmental legislation, improved the potential for economic development, and had absolutely no negative effects on the environment. We amended the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act to remove duplication.
We changed the Navigable Waters Protection Act into the Navigation Protection Act. The Navigable Waters Protection Act was a particularly egregious act. It was a good act when it was written back in the 1800s when Canada depended on water navigation to a very great extent, and blocking navigable waters simply was not an option for our growing economy. However, over the course of decades and years, judicial interpretation of what was a navigable water kept growing smaller until intermittent streams were considered navigable waters. There are those who have a strong interest in stopping economic development. My colleague opposite inadvertently used the phrase “environmental industry”. I think there is an industry that has been developed that is doing very well financially in stopping projects. The old Navigable Waters Protection Act was a particularly bad act because it forced municipalities to spend inordinate amounts of money to build bridges over tiny intermittent water bodies.
We also changed the Fisheries Act quite dramatically. As a fisheries biologist, I was very much involved with the changes to the Fisheries Act.
These examples that I am citing are germane to the topic of the Yukon situation because the regulatory regime of a country is critical to the economic development of that country. Modern projects must be environmentally sound, and indeed they are, and at the same time investment must be encouraged.
Revising the Fisheries Act, 2012, which was our Fisheries Act, was one of the current federal government's platform policies. The fisheries committee had extensive hearings. I am still on the fisheries committee as the vice-chair. We had weeks of hearings where people who were opposed to the changes we made to the act wanted the act to go back to the way it was, the old way, where basically the entire country was considered fish habitat, and the Fisheries Act was able to be used by the environmental industry and environmental lawyers to block, hold up, or otherwise stop economic development.
I have a strange view of the environment. I believe that when we talk about environmental policy, we should actually talk about ecology, nature, landscapes, and water, because presumably that is what it is all about. However, all I hear mostly from environmental advocates these days, especially those on the Liberal left, is process, process, process.
In our Fisheries Act hearings, over and over again we asked this of the ones who were so excited about the changes we made to the act. Since the act was changed in 2012, we asked them if they could point to any fish populations that had been decimated or affected by the changes we had made. Not a person could come up with any examples, but they sure were mad at the process. Their metric for success of an act was how many investigations there were, how many charges there were, and how many processes there were. The fish and the environment actually became an afterthought.
The changes we made in the Yukon Act included putting in time limits, no reassessment unless the project was significantly changed, the federal minister binding policy direction, and delegate the federal minister's powers to the territorial government.
When I was an environmental director at a paper mill, I remember being involved with a change in the direction of our mill. Multiple bodies were regulating the environmental assessment we were doing. We never knew which level of government would step in since it was optional. They would sit in the weeds, we would do the environmental assessment, and we would ask what they thought. They would say that they were not sure, that we should keep doing what we were doing. This kind of uncertainty has a very direct and negative effect on investment. It is great for lawyers, the billable times just keep going up and up. However, with respect to communities, people, livelihoods, it is the worst thing that could happen.
When I was a young biologist in the seventies, and right out of university, one of my very first jobs was being part of the environmental assessment of the Mackenzie Valley pipeline. It was dream job for a kid out of university. I was able to play around with fish, fly around in helicopters, and sample rivers and lakes in remote parts of the Mackenzie Valley. It was an absolutely marvellous experience. This was back in the days of the Berger commission. I remember the team of which I was a part. We sampled every waterway in the Mackenzie Valley, every tributary, all the lakes along the proposed pipeline route. We flew the pipeline route, wrote copious reports, and took a lot of water and fish samples, all the usual kinds of fun stuff that field biologists get to do.
The report was written and the Berger commission was held. At that point, oil and gas prices were not too bad. We had an oil embargo, so there was a certain urgency for Canada to develop our natural resources. The government of Pierre Elliott Trudeau of the day ultimately turned the project down after all that work.
Interestingly, the project was resurrected in the 1990s again. Gas prices were up. I think it was $15 a thousand cubic feet. It was a high price and they wanted to see if we could get the Mackenzie Valley pipeline going again. The proponents for that project in the 1990s had to do exactly the same environmental assessment that we did in the 1970s. Nothing had changed. The rivers and lakes were exactly the same. There had been no development, no economic expansion, nothing, yet what we did in the 1970s was redone all over again for a number of years.
As time went on, the price of natural gas declined dramatically and the project became uneconomical. Delay and uncertainty kill projects. Now we have no Mackenzie Valley pipeline and we have 15 or 20 communities that are in dire economic straits. We know how to build pipelines safely. They are all built in an environmentally sound way. It is because they are so good that when a spill actually occurs, then it is a big event because it is an extremely rare event.
There is a fundamental misunderstanding of modern economic development, especially resource projects. All projects are built with state-of-the-art environmental technology. The implication when one goes into an environmental review process is we either do this review process or the environment will be destroyed, which is complete and utter nonsense.
Again, in my own experience managing a waste water treatment plant at a paper mill, doing environmental assessments in the oil sands, and many years of experience doing environmental assessments across the country, working with companies, working with engineers and designers, I can absolutely guarantee that state-of-the-art environmental technology is built into every project before any shovel goes in the ground. Scrubbers are put on smokestacks, waste water treatment plants are designed for, and the technology for environmental improvement is increasing all the time.
One can look at the miracle of Inco. Thirty or 40 years ago there was a moonscape around that town because of acid rain emissions from the mill. The mill has been cleaned up and the landscape around Sudbury has come back. I have been there and seen it. This is what advanced industrial capitalist free market societies do. We get richer and we do a better job environmentally, and the process is ongoing and continuing.
The other thing about environmental policy is that it is very important to measure environmental results.
There was a great philosopher, Pythagoras, who said that all was math. What I see in environmental policy-making is that nobody measures anything. We have this faith, and I use the term advisedly, that what we want to do is good for the world because, “I am a good person and I want to save the world, therefore what I do is good.” We do not do the hard-nosed measurements to zero in on what the environmental problems may be, measuring the state of the earth, measuring fish populations, water quality, and so on, and then focusing our efforts on where environmental programs will actually make a difference. For example, wetland loss is very serious in the country, yet we only have halfhearted measures to preserve wetlands.
Again, I go back to the process and I go back to what we, as the previous government, did to streamline the process and remove duplication. Hearings and meetings by themselves rarely result in environmental improvement. Spending $25 million putting a waste water treatment plant at a paper mill will improve the environment. That is how I look at environmental policy, and that is how it should be looked at across the country.
When we were going through the process of the Fisheries Act, as I mentioned earlier, there were critics of what we did under the Fisheries Act. Their metric as to what the 2012 changes to the Fisheries Act did was how many authorizations, how many charges resulted from the 2012 act, whereas our main concern, obviously, was the health of the fish.
Mr. Speaker, it was great to hear from my colleague, the member for . Hopefully I have pronounced that correctly. I always struggle with it. This House has some interesting riding names; many of them I avoid saying. Again, that speaks to the fact that in this House we have many members who have a great deal of technical knowledge who bring it to the House in order to explain their viewpoints on the value of a particular bill, either based on the clause-by-clause assessment they bring to it or because they have, perhaps, concerns of principle and differ on principle with the direction the government is taking.
I am pleased to rise on Bill . Obviously I do not entirely agree with all of the content, but I want to bring up a few points, perhaps, on clause-by-clause issues that I have with the bill, the intent of the bill, and the possible consequences of it.
With that in mind, I do have a Yiddish proverb. Many members know I care much for the Yiddish language, especially the proverbs, and this one is “A fool says what he knows and a wise man knows what he says.” What I hope to live up to in this speech is very much the latter instead of the former, so judge me based on when I am done at the end of it.
I think the bill again represents the positive and sunny attitude the government has taken on, the sunny agenda of just taking the entire accomplishments of the previous government and wrecking them, whether it is the economy, the low-tax environment, the success in the economy in more general terms and also specific sectors that did so well, and then the legislative initiatives that actually made it easier to create jobs, made it easier to develop an approach, and gave us the certainty that if we put a project forward, we were going to get an answer, a yes or a no, and some type of content so that we could decide as a shareholder, a company owner, or a worker whether it was worth pursuing or not. That simply does not exist anymore if we go ahead with this particular piece of legislation.
Revoking everything that our government has done is not a positive agenda. I want to make that point, because that is consistently what I see here. A bill that was passed by a private member in this House before, the member for , was torn apart by the government.
Again, this is another continuation of that positive sunny attitude, and I say that with a great deal of sarcasm in this House.
It is typical of a government, I feel, that has no clear or credible plan, whether it comes to the economy or whether it comes to ensuring jobs are created by the private sector. It does not really have a plan. We saw that in the budget as well. It just went all over the place. It did not have a focus to it, and now we are spending a Monday debating a bill that would make it more difficult to grow the economy in the Yukon.
That is my personal belief, of course. The member for is here, and he sits on the opposite benches, which is most unfortunate, because I do appreciate his chairing the House procedures committee and I have been there many times now. I am so glad we are able to have a debate here, he and I, and that he can listen to me debate Bill during daytime hours as opposed to midnight hours.
Again, I really do believe that Bill would make it more difficult for companies, workers, and shareholders to move forward with some type of understanding that they will have the project assessed in a reasonable amount of time and have a decision rendered upon it.
One of the reasons I have for opposing the bill is that it is a step backwards for the self-determination of Yukoners. It takes away northern control over northern resources.
Members will disagree with me, but I still think it is that “Ottawa knows best” attitude. I feel that is the vein in this bill. As someone from Alberta, representing a constituency full of people from all across Canada who have made Alberta their home, who have chosen Alberta, we have this strong attitude that Ottawa has this kind of vibe that it knows best. They come to our city, to our province, pretending they can fix all of our problems. The best thing they could ever do is simply stay out of our province. We can handle things ourselves. I think many people in the territories and the other provinces would feel the same way.
Another reason to oppose the bill is that it introduces unnecessary delays and a potential for delays. I think it's the potential for delays, the uncertainty that the bill continues to create and aggravate, that is far more critical to this debate.
I will bring forward my experience. I actually worked for the Ministry of Sustainable Resource Development in Alberta, which took care of fish and wildlife, lands, water, biodiversity, forestry, so it was very much the ministry responsible for an entire landscape of Alberta and the industrial development happening on it, whether people like it or not. I know there are many members in different parts of this House who do not like industrial development. They do not like timber. They do not seem to like oil and gas. They do not seem to like the products and the fruits of the labour of individuals who create wealth, and then we get to put up buildings such as this. We get to renovate buildings. We get to grow the economy. The jobs created are created, again, by the private sector. They allow us to create that wealth and to trade and find opportunities to meet each other's needs.
I also think, as a last reason to oppose this, that it puts Yukon at a competitive disadvantage with the rest of Canada because, again, the system of approvals will differ from some of the provinces to some of the territories, and I think that is an error. I think, as much as possible—because companies in Canada operate throughout all jurisdictions; the really large ones are interested in large energy or mining infrastructure projects—we should ensure that they have the same rules apply to them wherever they go because it is much simpler for their technical staff, the workers who are there, to understand the rules and make sure they can comply with them.
Bill shows, yet again, a deep disdain for natural resources and energy workers. This is something that many constituents of mine have expressed, through email, in phone calls, and at open houses that I have had. There is this continued kind of dislike. Being in mining and energy development is just not trendy or, as was in the budget, innovative. The word “innovative” was used 212 times in the budget. I think “small business” was used six times. It is a supercluster of innovation. I do not know what these buzzwords in the budget really mean. They were just slammed together. I think it was called a “word salad” at one point.
The resource industry and the mining industry are some of the most innovative industries. The workers there spend years upon years getting a technical education that allows them to develop these resources responsibly, which is what they want to do, very much. They are hearing that the government is making it more difficult to develop mining and energy projects, that there is even just the potential for extra difficulty. There is the potential for projects not being approved within 18 months or 24 months, or for being denied with no explanation. It concerns them, because some of them have put two years of their life into trying to find a way to meet the approval requirements. Now they may be faced with potential changes again, and there might be more changes down the line that the government may want to make.
In the budget we saw changes to some of the ways mining tax credits and the exploration tax credits work. All of those things add up. It has a cumulative impact on industry. We always hear about cumulative impacts on the environment, but the decisions being made by the government are having a cumulative impact on industry. It will affect jobs, GDP growth, and child poverty rates. The government is paying itself through these metrics that it will have to meet some day. Again, it likely will not be able to.
Without clear and predictable timelines, it is impossible for companies and their workers, as I said, to plan anything. We have had the pipeline debate in Canada. I know there were some approvals that the government went through, but there was also cancellation of the northern gateway. That had a big impact on Calgary. It had a big impact on companies, and the certainty they had that a process that was followed to a T by companies would actually end with an approval and the jobs that come with it. Even though there was an approval, it did not mean the company would be able to go ahead and build, if they thought the government would change the rules and arm the opponents of the project with extra judicial or legal tools to try to delay the project. All of these things matter.
As we have seen over the past weeks, many international companies are leaving Calgary, leaving their head offices, selling off their assets, and basically abandoning Alberta, because they do not feel they can make a good enough return.
The energy industry in Alberta, western Canada, and in the northern territories and Yukon is still hurting. I am still hearing from my constituents who are still considering work outside of Canada or in one of the eastern provinces, because they just cannot find work in the sector that they have trained for their entire lives. Alberta spent a generation trying to find the requisite human resources, the workers who we desperately needed to fill the jobs. It was the same for Yukon. People from the Yukon travelled to Calgary. I used to work in human resources; we had people travelling.
Companies were actively recruiting workers in Calgary with amazing compensation packages, just trying to bring them to Yukon and trying to convince them that it was worth taking two, three, or four years making incredible pay, making an incredible contribution to the economy there. Now it is not happening anymore.
I believe Bill will only make things worse. What the Liberal government is doing through this specific piece of legislation is just spreading that joy and sunny ways all across western Canada and into the north now. We have seen what it has done to the economy in western Canada with two consecutive budgets. There is a pittance, in terms of job creation. There is no business confidence that good times will return. There is no certainty in the regulatory environment that a project put forward today will receive approval within 18 or 24 months.
That is what many of these companies want. It is not just for the companies, not just for the shareholders, but it is for the workers. If individuals are going to spend two years of their life trying to meet the regulatory requirements of the government, that is two years of what I would call red tape.
One person's red tape is another person's responsible accountability, but two years, three years, four years? What about the Mackenzie gas pipeline? What about the millions of hours of worker time spent on a project that never ever went ahead?
I am not a biologist. I am also, thankfully, not a lawyer, with all due respect to the lawyers in this House. I am just speaking a bit from my time working for the minister of sustainable resource development, because it informs how I view the bill specifically.
That department took care of public lands, grazing leases, forestry, mining, energy leases, fish and wildlife, wildlife management areas, wildlife protection, and provincial parks. It took care of forestry, the economics, the leases, the public lands associated with it, the regulations governing the industry. It was what I would call almost like a hodgepodge of different types of sectors of what the government is so-called responsible for, setting the rules of the game for different companies and different individuals who want to participate in it.
I will be the first to say that I am a city boy. I have lived all my life in big cities. I was born in a large city, Danzig, in Poland. My parents came to Montreal. That was the city I grew up in. I have lived in Calgary. I have lived in Edmonton. I have lived in Ottawa. I have lived in many great, large urban centres, but working for this department gave me a much greater appreciation for the breadth of activity across Alberta and the breadth of industrial activity and what industrial activity actually means to the people on the ground, to the jobs, the families, the incomes that it creates. How can government make it simpler for industrial activity to happen in a responsible way?
I do not think Bill accomplishes that. I think it takes a step backward. I think it makes it more complicated to meet the requirements that the government might support. Again, it is a lack of confidence. There is a general lack of confidence with people here that this government actually has it right, that it actually knows what it is doing.
We look at things like the economics of development, the certainty of decision-making, that when one puts forward one's project, it would be approved, or not approved, with very clear reasons why it would not go ahead.
Many workers I speak to, energy workers and mining workers, take an immense amount of pride in the work they do, and it goes from worker to management. It really does not matter. Even the families take pride in this too. More often than not, what they are looking for is ensuring that the industrial footprint of the projects they are connected to, they are working on, becomes kind of exemplary. We could almost think of that as a postcard. This is how we do development.
That is true for Alberta. That is true for Saskatchewan. That is true for every single western province. It is true for everywhere in Canada. Nobody goes out there with the intention of wrecking the environment. That is just the point. I think we have it inverted in Bill . I think it comes with the presupposition that industrial development is automatically wrong and we should not move ahead with it.
That is fundamentally an issues of principles. That is not how it works. It should not be thought of in that way. I think, with the vast majority of energy workers, mining workers, what they are looking forward to is having the best possible stewardship rules that they can apply, and the certainty that their projects will go ahead or not, but with very clear reasons why they cannot go ahead, so they can try to meet them in the future. They do not need the government hanging over their shoulder telling them what to do every which way. They can do it themselves. They are the experts in the field. They are the ones who accumulate decades of traditional knowledge on the ground, working with aboriginal groups, working with different companies, because they may switch companies as well. They are also working in those communities, getting a better understanding of the lay of the land and the impacts that industrial development will have.
Albertans have fought ardently for that good stewardship concept. The minister I used to work for was known as a kind of right-wing environmentalist. At the time, Ted Morton was well respected in the environmental community, because he did quite a bit of work on land-use management on the forestry industry side, but especially on fish and wildlife, ensuring that the resource was well looked after, but that the rules of the game were consistent and certain. Consistency and certainty were the main things that both the political staff and the civil servants were responsible for, and again, with Bill , it worries me that we just may not see that.
On Bill , just to refer back to a few points I made before and why I think it is an error and why I oppose a great deal of the bill, I think it does take away northern independence. I do think it is an attack on natural resources development, mining, energy, and forestry, potentially. I think it does add uncertainty into the review process. I think the removal of the timelines and the option for exempting renewals fits well with the ongoing narrative on that side.
Introducing unnecessary delays and uncertainty into our regulatory process is not the right way to go when we are trying to induce or convince companies that they should be creating jobs. We are creating quite the opposite. Multinational companies are very much leaving Canada or leaving the jurisdictions in Canada where they are working right now because they do not think they can earn a return on their investment.
Many domestic companies, good Alberta-based, B.C.-based, Yukon-based companies, which would like to take a chance and be entrepreneurial and take a risk, are uncertain what is going to happen. These rules change today and perhaps the rules will change again in a year or two years down the line. If innovation is the name of the game, then maybe we should call all these mining projects superclusters and just call it the supercluster diamond mine, the supercluster energy development, the supercluster pipeline. If the name of the game is the buzzword, then maybe they could meet it if they are just told which buzzwords to use.
Also, I fear the impact to the economy. Bill , the original bill that made those amendments, was reasonable. I was not a member at the time, but I remember some of those debates and I have gone through Hansard to see what leading members of the business community in Yukon were saying about it at the time.
I have an article I want to refer to before I go into those comments from the debates at the time. It is called “Feds table legislation to repeal parts of Bill S-6” on June 10, 2016. We are debating the bill today in April, so obviously this was not a huge rush in terms of coming up for debate, but one of the comments I want to refer to here says, “he claimed his government would 'not be a barrier' if the new Liberal government did repeal the four provisions.” This was Yukon Premier Darrell Pasloski, a good name of eastern or central European descent. The article went on to say:
...during a campaign visit to Whitehorse last fall, former prime minister Stephen Harper said it was the territorial government that requested the changes to the assessment act laid out in Bill S-6.
The Yukon government has also spoken out against [this particular piece of legislation] more recently, after oil-and-gas exploration company Northern Cross filed for a judicial review of the board’s decision to refer its Eagle Plain drilling project to a higher level of assessment.
Now we can differ perhaps on these quotes being related accurately, but it shows there was industrial development and energy development going on and now uncertainty is starting to get into the whole process: judicial uncertainty, regulatory uncertainty, and now perhaps legislative uncertainty is being added onto it.
Bill was the final legislative step in the previous Conservative government's plan to approve northern regulatory regimes. I do not think we can talk about Bill without talking about Bill S-6, because from 2011 to 2013, Yukon was rated the single most desirable place in the world for mining companies to conduct business. Bill S-6 was improving upon that goal because Yukon had started to fall. Other jurisdictions were catching up. It was not so much that they were falling behind, but other jurisdictions were making the necessary amendments.
I will finish by mentioning those people who were for Bill at the time. Samson Hartland, executive director of the Yukon Chamber of Mines, described the introduction of time limits as “probably the most important aspect of this bill to our membership.”
At the time also David Morrison, president and CEO of Yukon Energy Corporation, agreed:
Having screening processes that don't have defined timelines, and strictly defined timelines, makes it very difficult for people who are investing millions and hundreds of millions of dollars.
Clynton Nauman, president and CEO of Alexco Resource Corporation, also told the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, Environment and Natural Resources on September 30, 2014:
The current uncertainty has had a negative impact on our ability to efficiently plan and operate our business, and by extension, it impairs the competitiveness of Yukon as a jurisdiction to assert certainty in the mine development and production process.
This is a very important matter in very many important matters, especially as the PROC committee filibuster continues. I look forward to seeing the chair, the member for , there at midnight hopefully next time. As long as he wishes to continue, I will be there participating in those debates.
That the debate be now adjourned.