Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to stand in the House today and speak to the motions put forward to the House on Bill S-6. I am going to get to the contents of the bill shortly and in direct respect to the motions that have been tabled here in the House.
Before I do that, I want to quickly express my thanks to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs. I was present in the House today listening to many of the speeches and the questions and answers that followed. It was appreciated that he recognized that our government has tremendous commitment to continued trilateral partnerships with both our public governments in the Yukon and with our first nations leadership in our territory.
From that point of view, I am optimistic and confident that the piece of legislation that we have before us, subject of course to continued dialogue and discussion, will be one that will indeed be in the best interests of all Yukoners.
I want to point out a couple of things before I get to the direct pieces of this legislation that are clearly worth highlighting. Some of that came in discussion today, some of it has been in prolonged discussion over the course of the bill, but it is absolutely worthwhile for us drilling right down to these very key pieces so that we can boil away some of the political rhetoric that has been generated by the opposition side.
I do take some offence to the opposition's positions where members have clearly feigned concern for the wants, needs and expectations of the Yukon people broadly and specifically for the Yukon first nations community. I say that, not tongue in cheek, with clear-cut examples that I will give now.
I put forward a study at the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans some time ago where we would travel north and see what was going on with the challenging state of Yukon River salmon in a transboundary relationship with Alaska and those waters. There are some issues that we really needed to seize as parliamentarians in undertaking that study.
However, guess who blocked travel for that study? Guess who voted that it was not important? The NDP. This is a social, ceremonial and traditional way of life for Yukon first nations, with Yukon River salmon of critical importance, and the NDP would not support that travel.
Then I had a study and a bill before the House for fetal alcohol spectrum disorder which is a topic seized by all Yukoners, an important issue to Yukon people and northern Canadians in particular and we wanted to travel for that. Guess who blocked that? The NDP. The members are continuing to block all these things, yet at the same time, they say they have care and concern for Yukon people and northern people. Their record is clear. They really do not.
In this case, I was proud to ensure that as we undertook the study for Bill S-6, I made it clear that we needed to bring the committee to the Yukon to hear directly from Yukon people to allow a balanced story, a balanced perspective and a balanced input, so we could seize ourselves with the concerns of Yukoners, understand them and hear that directly from them in testimony in our territory.
Of course, the NDP members agreed to travel for that, but only for the fact that they thought they might have some political advantage on this. It is a shameful use of Yukon people and northern people for their own political purposes. There is not true care and concern and that point needs to be made crystal clear.
I witnessed that before noon on the first day of committee study on Bill S-6, a member from the Liberal Party and a member from the NDP had clearly chosen a side and it is on record when we were interviewed by the CBC. They said their minds were made up and this was done at noon, before we had even heard from half of the people prepared to testify. Before we had heard a full and balanced perspective from Yukoners on this topic, the NDP members had their minds made up about the direction they were going to go. They said as much on CBC.
The Liberals had their minds made up long before. They say they came to hear from all the Yukoners, but their minds were made up before they arrived in my territory and they tried to drive their political agenda. It is important to me to communicate that very effectively here today; everything to this point from their side of the House has been nothing but politics. There has been no care and concern for the people of the north.
We are trying to bring balance and parity in our territory so that Yukoners have equal opportunities for jobs, growth, and economic prosperity like the rest of Canada, so they have equal opportunities like those shared in the Northwest Territories under its devolution agreements and resource development agreements, which, interestingly enough, the member for Northwest Territories was standing behind. However, when it comes to bringing parity to the Yukon, somehow he is objecting to that.
As we tasked ourselves with the bill and understood the evolution and the process, it has been clear that there are concerns, and our government has seized itself with those concerns. We have heard them clearly, and today we heard the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs say clearly that he fully understands that a trilateral relationship is important with the federal government in the Yukon, the Yukon territorial government, and Yukon first nation peoples. I applaud him and thank him for that, because that will ensure effective implementation of the bill. It will ensure that we honour the spirit and intention of the modern treaties that we have in our territory, those modern treaties that we are very proud of and that will continue to bring prosperity to our territory, prosperity that New Democrats really know nothing about.
People are going to ask if I can prove that statement. Sure I can. On the record, in the Yukon legislature, the leader of the territorial opposition had this to say about mining development in the Yukon:
...once the mine is in operation—has been for some time—but the actual procurement of everything from, I would say, toilet paper to lettuce to whatever comes in on big trucks, on pallets, from Outside, and nothing is sourced locally.
That is what was said by Liz Hanson, the leader of the NDP in the Yukon. She was specifically referencing one mine. That mine spent $78.1 million in the Yukon Territory in 2013 and $58.2 million in 2014 on goods and services, and that was before wages were paid out to Yukon first nation people and non-Yukon first nation people. Then those employees in turn spent that money in their communities, their homes, on goods and services, so the dollars continued to rotate around that community to the benefit and prosperity of all Yukoners.
My point is that if one starts with a fundamental misunderstanding of how mining and resource development actually contribute to our economy, then I guess it makes perfect sense that one would not want development to carry forward. However, the facts are clear. One mine alone contributed $78.1 million in one year to Yukon's GDP, to Yukon's economy, to the socio-economic fabric of our territory.
It was done so, I might add, in an environmentally responsible manner to protect and preserve the environmental heritage of our territory. Why is that? It is because these companies participate in environmental reviews. They have care and concern about reclamation and development. They engage with their first nation communities, and they do not always do that out of a legislative requirement. They do it because they form a social relationship and an important working relationship through IBAs, through direct community engagement and participation in the Yukon with first nation communities, who do indeed invite them in.
The NDP, the no development party, has no fundamental understanding at all of the direct value that resource development brings to our territory, to the north, and to our country, so from that point of view it makes sense that it would want to obstruct these things.
We have heard the concerns of Yukon first nations. Our minister is committed to continuing to work with them in a trilateral relationship to make sure we engage in productive and co-operative implementation to honour the spirit and intention of those modern treaties. The motions I see being put forward would actually do the reverse to many of the things that Yukon first nations, the Yukon government, and Canada have already agreed to in the five-year review of YESSA.
I look forward to any questions and I look forward to the passage of the Bill S-6 and our continued relationship-building with all partners in the Yukon on a very important message and bill.