Thank you very much once again.
As you all know, Canada's north is home to world-class reserves of natural resources representing tremendous economic opportunities for northerners and for all Canadians. Since forming government in 2006 our government has consistently demonstrated its commitment to equipping northerners with the tools they need to take advantage of those opportunities. I cannot emphasize enough how important Bill C-47 will be in allowing northerners to unlock these opportunities. Bill C-47 fulfills the Government of Canada's last legislative obligations flowing from negotiated land claims in both Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, and proposes mechanisms to improve regulatory processes, encourage investment, and allow resources to be developed in a sustainable manner. This will lead to jobs and benefits for future generations of Canadians.
I understand my officials were here on Monday last week to speak to some of the technical elements of Bill C-47, but their appearance was cut short due to votes. They're here again with me today and can answer some of your more technical questions. I understand they'll be coming again before committee soon.
The first part of this bill is the Nunavut planning and project assessment act. This bill sets out clear, consistent, reliable, regulatory processes that the people of Nunavut can use to manage development of their land and resources that will promote economic development by boosting investor confidence. Not only does this bill implement Canada's legislative obligations under the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement, it also fills existing gaps in the Nunavut regime for project approval. These improvements are not just necessary, they are urgent. They are needed in order to put in place a state-of-the-art planning and assessment regime to meet the surging tide of resource development opportunity in Nunavut.
The fact that the bill establishes the Nunavut Planning Commission as the single entry for project proponents will provide the clarity and certainty that has been called for and supported in various other jurisdictions across Canada, and will no doubt prove to be equally successful in Nunavut. For example, the bill assigns clear roles and responsibilities to the Nunavut Planning Commission, the Nunavut Impact Review Board, departments and agencies, responsible ministers, regulatory authorities, and project proponents. It allows the development and implementation of critical timelines for key decision points in the process, ensures that all parties to the process do not act until the appropriate approvals have been received, and establishes the critical inspection, enforcement, and monitoring regimes to backstop all decisions taken.
Mr. Chairman, there have been questions raised in the House of Commons about the adequacy of our consultations on this bill. Work on the Nunavut planning and project assessment act began in 2002, and the resulting bill before you today reflects almost a decade of negotiation and close consultation. This bill is a direct result of the government's strong partnership with the Government of Nunavut and Inuit leadership, as well as extensive consultation with the resource industries that will be affected. This bill, produced in partnership, includes valuable input from the Nunavut Legislative Working Group, a group of representatives from the federal government, the Government of Nunavut, and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.
Representatives from the Nunavut Planning Commission and the Nunavut Impact Review Board also acted as advisers. Their technical expertise and experience were great assets to the working group.
Representatives of the mining and oil and gas industries also provided useful suggestions related to maximizing regulatory efficiency and avoiding duplication, achieving clarity and certainty through specific timelines, and consolidating roles and responsibilities among institutions of government.
Other groups raised additional concerns. Certain roles and responsibilities outlined in the draft bill required further clarification; monitoring and enforcement provisions needed to be strengthened; and questions over the bill's application to development projects that cross geographic boundaries and political jurisdictions called for further clarity.
I'm proud to say that these consultations have resulted in legislation that will truly serve the needs of the people of Nunavut today and in the future.
The second part of Bill C-47 will establish the Northwest Territories surface rights board. This fulfills obligations in the Northwest Territories under the Gwich'in Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement and the Sahtu Dene and Métis Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement. Both agreements refer specifically to the need for a surface rights board.
The establishment of the board is also consistent with the terms and the spirit of the Inuvialuit Final Agreement and the Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government Agreement, the other two comprehensive land claims in the Northwest Territories. The Tlicho agreement allows for the establishment of a surface rights board. The Inuvialuit Final Agreement specifies that any interim measures related to access across Inuvialuit lands to reach adjacent lands will be replaced when a law of general application, such as this bill, is enacted.
The board will, on application, make orders related to terms, conditions, and compensation only where they have been requested to do so and only after such rights have been previously issued. In so doing, this board will contribute to greater certainty and predictability for long-term economic growth and job creation in the territory.
I want to emphasize that this board does not, nor will it ever, issue any kind of right to surface or subsurface resources. To be absolutely clear, this board does not have any jurisdiction in the realm of resource development decision-making. This board does one thing only: if asked by one or both of the parties, it will settle disputes about access to land.
Consultations on the development of the Northwest Territories surface rights board act were also extensive. As I mentioned earlier, this bill responds to our last legislative obligation from the Gwich'in and Sahtu land claim agreements, and completes the regulatory regime that was originally envisioned in the Northwest Territories land claim agreements.
In total, over 35 consultation sessions were held with 13 aboriginal groups and governments, the Government of the Northwest Territories, and industry organizations. These sessions included groups within and outside settled land claims in the Northwest Territories, and groups outside of the Northwest Territories with transboundary claims. That was the comprehensive consultation, negotiation, and collaboration that went into developing the bill. That was the degree of partnership that went into putting together this very important legislation.
The bill before this committee today is a product that reflects the work, the opinions, and the positions of many interests and groups across two territories. All sides contributed to produce a bill that meets the needs of the people of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.
As you can see, Bill C-47 responds to a chorus of other groups calling for action. Territorial governments have asked for better coordination and clearly defined time periods for project reviews. Resource companies have urged us to make the review process more streamlined and predictable. All Canadians want to make sure that promising opportunities will no longer be delayed or lost due to complex, unpredictable, and time-consuming regulatory processes. Bill C-47 will help make this a reality.
Thank you, Chair.
I look forward to the committee's review, and my officials and I will be pleased to respond to any questions.