Mr. Chair, I am pleased to rise tonight to speak during this debate. It is 10:30 p.m. here in Ottawa but it is only 7:30 back in Yukon so I hold out hope that a number of my constituents will be tuning in to watch this and it will not just be my mother. All of them will be watching, not just my mom.
I am pleased to participate in this committee of the whole debate and would like to start my comments specifically with our government's most recent budget, economic action plan 2013.
Canada has a well-earned reputation for excellence in economic and financial management and we intend to return to balanced budgets by 2015. Economic action plan 2013 builds on our economic record by taking concrete steps to position Canada for success in the 21st century global economy. Specifically, it would help Canadians obtain the skills and qualifications they need to get jobs in high demand fields; it would help manufacturers and businesses succeed in the global economy by enhancing the conditions for creating and growing business; it introduces a new building Canada plan that would lead to better roads, bridges and public transit in cities and communities all across our great nation; and it would invest in world-class research and innovation to help ensure that new ideas are developed and transferred from the lab to the marketplace.
Of course our nation does have challenges to welcome. Despite the fact that Canadian workers are among the highest educated and the best trained in the world, Canada is facing shortages of skilled labour for the coming years. For example, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce has identified Canada's skill shortages as the number one issue facing its membership. Canada's resource industries are also facing the same problem with skilled labour and trades.
To help address these issues, economic action plan 2013 sets out a practical three-point plan.
First, to ensure that Canadians are acquiring the skills that employers are seeking, the plan introduces the new Canada jobs grant that would provide $15,000 more per person, including a maximum federal contribution of $5,000 to be matched by provincial and territorial governments and employers. Just this past week I was pleased to host an open house consultation in my riding to speak about the jobs grant and how employers and governments can partner and shape this plan into our future so that it works to meet the needs of industry in those skill shortages.
Second, the plan would create opportunities for apprentices by working with the provinces and territories and by introducing measures that would support the use of apprentices through federal construction and maintenance contracts.
Finally, economic action plan 2013 would provide support to groups that are under-represented in the job market, such as persons with disabilities, youth, aboriginal peoples and newcomers to our country.
These groups were well represented during the consultations that took place in Yukon. They had valuable input and feedback that we are looking forward to receiving and reviewing as we move forward.
Members of the House well know that Canada's abundant natural resources are pillars of our economic strength. When we take the direct and indirect impact into account, the natural resource sector represents about 20% of Canada's GDP and employs 1.6 million Canadians. The resource sector also pays more than $30 billion per year to government coffers through taxes and royalties, which helps pay for health care, education, pensions and other critical social programs.
In the case of the energy sector, many analysts say that it has become the new engine of Canada's economy. The oil sands alone are responsible for some 275,000 direct and indirect jobs in skilled trades, manufacturing, high technology and financial services in every single region of Canada. According to the Canadian Energy Research Institute, projected increases in oil sands production could support close to 630,000 jobs on average between now and 2035. The institute also forecasts that the oil sands could contribute more than $2.8 trillion to Canada's GDP, an annual average of $113 billion during that same period.
This is great news for all Canadian workers and their families, but while our resources are great and many, unless we can ensure that they will reach foreign markets and obtain world prices, we will not meet our full potential as a nation.
Those who think that pipelines are an Alberta issue should think again. Getting pipelines built west, south and east to send our oil and natural gas to the United States, to Asia and to other world markets is a national priority for this government. Few countries are generating natural resource products on the scale or pace of Canada. As many as 600 major resource projects worth more than $650 billion are under way or planned over the next decade, with the potential to create enormous prosperity for Canada, realizing the potential of our natural resources industries is critical to our government's goals of jobs, growth and long-term prosperity. That is why our government is so focused on creating the right conditions for success.
Through our plan for responsible resource development, we have set firm beginning to end timelines for project reviews. We are also eliminating duplication in the review process where provincial reviews meet our stringent environmental standards.
In Yukon, natural resources development projects have seen the benefit of regulatory reform through devolution. The 2003 Yukon Northern Affairs program devolution agreement brought management and the administration of all the lands and resources under the control of the government of the Yukon. The Hon. Michael Miltenberger referred to Yukon as a prime example of how timelines and the responsiveness of project reviews improved because of this important regulatory reform.
In addition, the former president of the Yukon Chamber of Commerce, Sandy Babcock, had reported to the Natural Resources committee that Yukon's cap of $3 million in resource revenue sharing needed to be increased so the territorial government received a greater share of its resource royalties.
The Government of Canada listened. Last summer, during the northern tour, the Prime Minister announced a new resource revenue sharing agreement, doubling the cap to $6 million. Recently, the premier of Yukon, Darrell Pasloski, outlined that this made for an additional sharing of $2.7 million to the territory.
However, our plan is not just about developing resources efficiently; it is about developing them responsibly. Our government is committed to developing our natural resources in a responsible way, which includes strengthening environmental protection. We reject the notion that we cannot do both at the same time. Through our actions, including tough new fines for companies that break our environmental laws and new measures to ensure world-class pipeline and marine safety regimes, we are proving we can.
Our government is also making every effort to ensure that aboriginal people and first nations people can share in the tremendous benefits that natural resources development offers in the years ahead. Earlier this month, Natural Resources Canada funded $500,000 to a consortium led by the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations to pursue the study of a potential power generation plant fed by biomass in Haines Junction. This project was included among 56 new innovative clean energy projects announced by the Prime Minister, representing an investment of $86 million through the Government of Canada's eco-energy innovation initiative. This program was created to invest in new clean energy technologies that would create jobs, generate economic opportunities and help protect the environment.
I was certainly pleased to be in Yukon to make that very important funding announcement and I can assure members that it was exceptionally well received by the people of the territory and the first nation of the Champagne and Aishihik in that community.
The significance of the resource sector's economic impact cannot be understated. In 2012, 32,000 aboriginal people, or 8.3% of the working aboriginal population, were employed in the natural resources industries of forestry, energy and mining. Aboriginal people make up 7.5% of the workforce in Canada's mining sector.
However, the minerals and metal sector is not the only sector offering opportunities for aboriginal people. Ten per cent of the oil sands workforce is aboriginal. Many aboriginal companies are also thriving in Alberta's oil patch. The Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business estimates that oil sand companies do $1.3 billion worth of business each year, with a wide range of aboriginal companies, including parts suppliers, mechanical contractors and camp caterers.
Given the scope of aboriginal business activities and employment, the council has named the oil sands as the largest single non-governmental source of aboriginal income in Canada. This degree of participation in Canada's resource economy is a substantial achievement and one that our government wishes to expand on across the country.
To that end, we are committed to working in concert with aboriginal communities to ensure they continue to share the rewards of natural resources development in Canada.
The committee on natural resources recommended this past year that the Government of Canada increase its support to mining training initiatives for first nation and Inuit communities in order to help develop the labour force required to support mining projects in northern Canada. Their contributions are vital to the mining sector, and these recommendations seek to further their impact. As members know, economic growth, job creation and prosperity for all Canadians is our government's top priority.
In conclusion, our government has designed and implemented policies aimed at driving the economy to its full potential for the benefit of all Canadians. Together the initiatives in economic action plan 2013 build on previous government actions to reinforce the fundamental strengths of the Canadian economy. By staying the course, the Government of Canada will continue to promote economic growth, job creation and long-term prosperity for all Canadians.
I would now like to ask the minister, along the vein of much of my discussion today, about the benefits for aboriginal and first nation communities in resource development, specifically in my riding of Yukon. Because we know that northerners, including our aboriginal people, first nations and Inuit, are an integral part of resource development in the north, I would like to ask what our government is doing to ensure that they are able to benefit from the opportunities that resource development provides.