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Bill S-6 Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement Act
Question to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs Bernard Valcourt about the Nutrition North Program
Nutrition North Program
Credits for former Indian Residential School students
the Conservatives Creating Uncertainty
Canadian High Arctic Research Station
Speech on Bill S-5
Help with the high cost of this year’s forest fire season NWT
Bill C-22 Energy Safety and Security Act
Question on the gas tax in the House of Commons
CanNor’s failure to create a headquarters in the north
Bill C-33 First Nations Education Act
Bill C-33 statements
Question in the House of Commons on Arctic Sovereignty
Bill C-15 Northwest Territories Devolution Act

Speech on Bill S-6 Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement Act

December 01, 2014

Mr. Dennis Bevington Former MP Northwest Territories:

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to the bill in front of us, which has found its way here through the Senate, a completely inappropriate way to bring forward legislation. It should have come here first and should be a government bill, but the government chose that pathway. That way it can move things through the House in a fashion and build a case using its witnesses in the Senate, which it controls, and take away the real responsibility for debate in this place.

This bill deals with northerners' rights and First Nations' rights. First Nations' rights are constitutionally protected, and northerners' rights have constitutional issues attached to them as well, which I will go into as I go forward. Bill S-6 would amend the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Act, known as YESAA, and the Nunavut Waters and Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal Act. I will deal mostly with the changes to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Act. The changes to the Nunavut Waters and Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal Act are much less profound and not as controversial.

There is a high level of opposition to these changes. In September, I was in Whitehorse and conducted a public hearing on these bills, with the assistance of the Yukon NDP. There was standing room only in that meeting room. People wanted to understand the bills and were concerned about their impact. Yukoners are sophisticated in their knowledge and understanding of legislative changes. They have been through it to a greater extent than perhaps the other territories. It is a territory that has achieved the highest level of devolution prior to this bill. People are on track in understanding what their rights are and what they see as their future.

However, of course, the Conservative MP, the Conservative senator, and the right-wing Yukon Party government are not listening to the people, not conducting public hearings, and not allowing the people of Yukon to have a say on this bill. They are doing their stakeholder consultation and fulfilling their obligations to first nations for consultations, but where are the public hearings? Where is the engagement of the public at large? They will not do that because they know very well that if they did, the real opposition to this bill would coalesce with the first nations and say no to the bill and the changes.

Why would people in Yukon who are concerned about their livelihoods and futures be concerned about these changes that the minister has presented as simply ways of increasing economic activity in Yukon and making things work a little better? There are four changes that really upset Yukoners. One of them is providing the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development the authority to provide binding policy direction to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board. This is something that was established in the NWT and there were real concerns with it there. The Yukon, which has been dealing with a different system for the past 10 years, is looking at anything like this as an abrogation of its rights and hard-fought authority over the lands and resources.

The second change is the introduction of legislative time limits for assessments. That is another issue that I will bring up a bit later.

The third change is allowing the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development to delegate any or all responsibilities to the Yukon government. That is an issue of huge concern to first nations, and Yukoners as well. Yukon has worked out an arrangement between first nations and public government that is critical to the future of the Yukon territory. I do not think anyone would deny that. That relationship is one that the provinces are having more and more trouble with every day. The failure to deal on a nation-to-nation basis at the provincial level is causing all kinds of grief in all kinds of projects right across this country. Therefore, there is concern about how the delegation takes place.

Then there is the question of creating broad exemptions from YESAA for renewals and amendments of permits and authorizations. People look at that and ask what is going on and wonder how they we make sure it is correct.

Additionally, these amendments favour the Yukon government over Yukon First Nations, the other partner in the YESAA process. The Council of Yukon First Nations has threatened legal action should the bill become law.

YESAA was established in 2003 in fulfilment of an obligation in the Yukon Umbrella Final Agreement, which has settled many First Nations land claims in that territory. In October, 2007, the five-year review of YESAA was initiated and then completed in 2012. The findings of the review were never made public.

Unlike the provinces, the legislative powers of the territories are determined through federal statute rather than through the Constitution. What we have in the Northwest Territories, Yukon, and Nunavut is what Parliament gives us. While section 3 of the charter of rights, which is part of the Constitution, guarantees that every citizen in Canada has the right to vote in an election of members of the House of Commons or of a legislative assembly and to be qualified for membership therein, the remainder of the Constitution describes the territories as lesser partners in Canada than the provinces.

We in the three territories have a problem in that we would remain without the authority of this body, the House of Commons, giving us our full due under Confederation. We would not have those powers under the Constitution.

Because of this reliance on the federal government to devolve the legislative powers and authorities that the provinces take for granted, it is really unfortunate and duplicitous that the Conservatives are taking away powers through these amendments to the act 11 years after they were granted.

Some hon. members: Oh, oh!

Mr. Dennis Bevington: Some might find it amusing that there are noises in the House, Mr. Speaker, but that is something we all have to live with. The rumbling of discontent in the country toward the Conservative government far exceeds any noise I have heard here in the House.

Yukoners are also angry about the lack of public involvement as Bill S-6 was developed. As I said, I held a public meeting in September. It was a full house. There was another public meeting held later on in the fall in the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre, where there was standing room only. A few hundred people showed up.

Why would people come out to a very dry discussion of environmental assessment? It is because they care. They understand and care about how their laws are being developed. If we went into the province of Alberta and said that we were going to change its laws about environment assessment, that this is the way things are going to go from now on, would the people of Alberta not come out and protest? If we did that in Quebec what would happen?

Why are we treated in this cavalier fashion where the federal government can come into a territory, hold hearings with stakeholders only, take the opinion of the people it considers important and not have any public meetings with the people of the territory about what is going on in their own territory?

When the original YESAA was developed, the department released drafts of the legislation in 1998 and 2001 for public review. It also undertook two separate tours of Yukon to meet with Yukon first nations and other residents to review and discuss these drafts. A little different pattern emerges here. Back then, one of the discussion tours lasted for 90 days and went to every community throughout Yukon. Every First Nations community not only had an opportunity to send in written submissions on the first draft, but each community also had an opportunity to have an open public hearing. The way that Bill S-6 has been developed is so different. Listening to the Conservatives one would think this has been a multi-year program with incredible input. The reality is much different.

The parties discussed the YESAA process for many hours between 2008 and 2011 as part of the YESAA five-year review. That review is required under the Umbrella Final Agreement, and not a discussion of a new draft bill.

The amendments to YESAA under Bill S-6 that are of concern were never discussed and never raised by the Conservatives during the five-year review. These new amendments were introduced with little opportunity to ensure there was adequate consultation and accommodation.

On February 26, 2014, as I said earlier to the minister, Canada arrived at a meeting with Yukon first nations and provided paper copies to those in attendance and would not even give electronic copies to those participating by telephone, despite the changes to first nations' relationship with the Crown and the Yukon territorial government. We had meeting where they could not even be there in person and they could not even have copies of the amendments.

What is going on there? They had less than two months to respond to these changes. This was hardly adequate.

Consultation means providing the necessary information to the parties, which the Conservatives did not do. They failed to meet the test of the treaty and common-law duty to consult and accommodate. So there was inadequate consultation with first nations, despite it being required by law. Democracy also requires the participation of the public. On that score, the Conservatives and their elected representatives did very little, and perhaps even nothing.

When I conducted a public hearing there, knowing that as critic I would be responsible for speaking on behalf of Yukoners here in the House, I met with many of the public afterward and the chiefs of the grand council. What did I hear? They questioned the constitutionality of the unilateral changes proposed in Bill S-6, which were not discussed during the five-year review or during the McCrank report.

The government has had plenty of opportunities to discuss changes like these, but did not take those opportunities.

They say that the 16-month timeline is out of touch with the reality on the ground, particularly further north where, depending upon the timing of the review, the project may have only one summer to conduct any necessary environmental work.

When it comes to the timelines, Yukoners, who live there and understand the place, say there are problems with the 16-month timeline, that it may not give them adequate time to provide the information to the board so that the project can be assessed properly.

Also, Yukoners fear that the first nations do not have the financial and person resources to adequately assess proposals and that a timeline like this would artificially strain the few resources they have. This is a common problem across the north, when it comes to environmental assessment.

Companies have adequate resources generally. They do not go into the process unless they do have those resources. Many times large multinational corporations can bring more to bear on the subject than a first nation community that might be the most affected by it.

Yukoners see these amendments as an attack on Yukoners' democratic rights and the constitutional rights of first nations. By ignoring first nations' rights, the bill would create uncertainty in the mining sector, as first nations would now resort to the courts to protect their interests.

We had a system in place that was working. There were some changes required. Those changes were discussed. There were 70 amendments to the act proposed, many of which could have been done in House. People agreed to them, according to the reports that we have heard of, although those reports were not made fully public. Instead, the Conservatives brought in these other measures that would have the ability to upset the operation of Yukon in the years to come, just as in the Northwest Territories they changed the environmental assessment legislation with devolution. We have two first nations now taking them to court over that.

Where is the certainty in the process? Where is the certainty to mining companies? They want to go ahead and do this kind of work, but they are not sure that everyone has come onside and they do not know whether they will end up in a situation where what they propose is in front of the courts?

“Social licence” is a phrase that members of the government need to understand. It should be branded on all their documents. They need social licence to move ahead these days. They cannot simply be the way they have been; that is not working. We can look at all the pipelines and all the proposed energy projects across the country, and we see that social licence has caused grief in almost every case.

We had a system in Yukon that was working. It needed some minor tweaking. What we have ended up with is a series of changes that take it far beyond the pale.

However, I have heard other voices in Yukon speaking against this bill. The proposed amendments in front of the Senate today were not discussed in the five-year process with Canada and the Yukon government.

This is the testimony of Ruth Massie, Grand Chief, Council of Yukon First Nations, before the Senate Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee. She said:

—it is our view that the YESAA has been operating effectively and efficiently since its enactment in 2003. The federal government now wants to unilaterally make additional amendments to the YESAA. We did not request these amendments, nor do support them. These amendments are not necessary.

This is the testimony of Mary Jane Jim, Councillor, Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, in front of that same committee. She said:

Eleven years ago, devolution gave the Yukon government province-like powers for land and resource management. This was an important step in Yukon’s history and crucial in Yukon’s ability to determine our own future, a future grounded in respectful relationships among Yukon First Nation governments and the Yukon government.

Yukon NDP leader, Liz Hanson, in the Yukon legislature, on October 23, said, “With these proposed amendments to what is a made-in-Yukon environmental assessment process, YESAA, it’s no longer ours”.

A Yukon News editorial, “Environmental assessment reform should be done in the open”, on June 13, said:

A long list of people deserve raspberries for this needlessly shady behaviour. At the top of the naughty list are [the Yukon senator and the MP for the Yukon] who are supposed to ensure that the interests of Yukoners are represented in Ottawa. Instead, they’ve kept the public out of the loop, other than [MP] uttering vague generalities about the forthcoming changes without offering any meaningful specifics. Shame on them.

Here is the final one, and I know the Conservatives do not like to hear the real people talking. The Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon, in a November 21 letter to the Yukon MP., said:

We believe that these changes will have a negative impact on the tourism industry, and for Yukoners overall. As YESAA is one of the cornerstones of the Yukon Umbrella Final Agreement, we are concerned with the Council of Yukon First Nations’ grievance with the lack of consultation regarding these proposed changes. Moreover, there was no opportunity for the Yukon public and the majority of stakeholders to provide their views through a transparent consultation process.

The members of the House are here to represent the people of their constituencies. The people of Yukon do not want this bill. They do not see the need for it. They do not understand why the federal government is taking things away from them that were well established in Yukon, that do not need to be changed. Why is this paternalistic attitude being foisted upon the people of Yukon?

Democracy is about serving the will of the people. If the Conservatives really cared about what is important for Yukon, they would listen very carefully to Yukoners. They are in an embryonic stage, creating their own society, their own way of life, their own relationships with first nations. This is what they are doing. If the Conservative people want to participate there, then they should go to Yukon and join with them there as citizens of Yukon.

The citizens of Yukon and the First Nations people in Yukon should have the absolute right to a final say about how their land is being managed. We have listened to the people of Yukon. We are ready to work to fight this bill.

PDF download
available as Acrobat PDF Bill S-6 Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement Act statement

Member of Parliament Dennis Bevington questions the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs Bernard Valcourt about the Nutrition North Program

November 26, 2014

Mr. Dennis Bevington Former MP Northwest Territories:

Mr. Speaker, I would like to invite the minister to come to Lutsel K’e or Fort Good Hope in my riding and repeat what he just said here.

Anyone trying to feed their families in remote communities will say that Nutrition North is not meeting their needs. Why has the minister ignored them for so long? Why did the NDP have to get the Auditor General to publicly embarrass him before he would agree to act?

Hon. Bernard Valcourt (Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development).:

Mr. Speaker, again, the fact is that Nutrition North has resulted in an approximately 25% increase in the average annual volume of healthy food being shipped to northern and remote communities.

A food basket for a family of four has gone down by $110 a month, and this is only in the first two years. If that does not count, the further investments we just announced last week will see an increase of $11 million a year, so that in the next two years we will spend $130 million for subsidies.

PDF download
available as Acrobat PDF to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs Bernard Valcourt about the Nutrition North Program question

Member of Parliament Dennis Bevington questions the Nutrition North Program.

November 25, 2014

Mr. Dennis Bevington Former MP Northwest Territories:

Mr. Speaker, in June 2013, six NDP MP’s called upon the Auditor General to audit the nutrition north program. He did and found a program in deep trouble, underfunded, improperly assessed, out of control.

He found that aboriginal affairs could not tell if the program was really bringing down the cost of food in Canada's north. He also indicated that the program was unfairly distributed to many families and many communities.

Could the minister defend, in any way, the lack of management of this vital program for northerners?

Hon. Bernard Valcourt (Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development).:

Mr. Speaker, the NDP may choose to criticize the bureaucrats who administered the program, but the results are clear.

Under the nutrition north program, the average volume of healthy food being shipped to these communities has gone up by almost 25% in the first two years of the program. Furthermore, for a family of four, the food basket has gone down by $110 a month. That is significant.

PDF download
available as Acrobat PDF the Nutrition North Program question

Member of Parliament Dennis Bevington questions the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs Bernard Valcourt on the Personal Credits for former Indian Residential School students.

October 30, 2014

Mr. Dennis Bevington Former MP Northwest Territories:

Mr. Speaker, the deadline for the Indian residential school personal credit for educational programs and services is tomorrow, yet out of around 80,000 former survivors who are eligible, only 10,000 have applied. This is pushing leaders like Dene National Chief Bill Erasmus to ask the government for an extension of the deadline.

Will the minister heed this call? Will he work with other signatories to the agreement and get the deadline extended so that more survivors can access compensation for these large sums of money that are owed to First Nations peoples?

Hon. Bernard Valcourt (Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development):

Mr. Speaker, although reminder notices were mailed to close to 75,000 of those recipients and although there has been an email and social media campaign to inform them, yes, indeed, we are going to work with the partners in the agreement to try to get an extension.

PDF download
available as Acrobat PDF Credits for former Indian Residential School students question

Member of Parliament Dennis Bevington’s statement on the Conservatives Creating Uncertainty

October 30, 2014

Mr. Dennis Bevington Former MP Northwest Territories:

Mr. Speaker, sometimes the actions of the government are so single-minded that people resort to writing books like Party of One. When it comes to northern policy, this really applies.

Last winter, the government wanted to devolve authority over lands and the environment to the Northwest Territories and to make it simpler for developers by doing away with the regional board structures that were negotiated with land claims, against the voices of 90% of northerners, particularly first nations. Now two first nations governments have taken it to court over the change, just as they said they would.

Where is the certainty for development with this kind of action? Now it wants to do the same thing in Yukon through Bill S-6. The Council of Yukon First Nations has already said that if this bill passes, it is going to court.

What is wrong with the government? What is it that makes it so single-minded that it creates these conflicts? Could it be the Prime Minister, the party of one, in all his glory, who listens to only one voice, his own?

PDF download
available as Acrobat PDF the Conservatives Creating Uncertainty statement

Member of Parliament Dennis Bevington questions the Minister of Environment on the Canadian High Arctic Research Station in the House of Commons

October 27, 2014

Mr. Dennis Bevington Former MP Northwest Territories:

Mr. Speaker, the latest omnibus budget bill combines the Polar Commission with the Canadian High Arctic Research Station, creating a new bureaucracy with a weaker reporting relationship with Parliament. Meanwhile there are numerous federal government Canadian Arctic science programs, such as the Polar continental shelf program at Natural Resources Canada, the Canadian Ice Service, and the NRC Arctic program.

Climate change is a crisis in the Arctic. Why has the Conservative government not created an organization that provides complete overall coordination of Arctic science, one that reports yearly to this Parliament?

Hon. Leona Aglukkaq (Minister of the Environment, Minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency and Minister for the Arctic Council):

Mr. Speaker, this amalgamation is an exciting opportunity to coordinate Arctic research. We have invested a significant amount of resources in creating Canada's High Arctic Research Station in Cambridge Bay. That project will be concluded by 2017, again bringing together researchers. The approach that we are taking is that research shall actually be conducted in the Arctic, and we are providing the avenues to do that.

PDF download
available as Acrobat PDF Canadian High Arctic Research Station question

Speech on Bill S-5

October 02, 2014

Mr. Dennis Bevington Former MP Northwest Territories:

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill S-5, which is a bill to create Nááts’ihch’oh national park in the Sahtu Region of the Northwest Territories.

This region is centred around the Mackenzie River and stretches towards the Yukon boundary with an incredibly beautiful mountain range and the magnificent wilderness that is the Northwest Territories.

I represent people who, when polled, have some of the highest regard for the environment among all the people in Canada. We really have that respect, and respect for the idea of national parks is strong in the Northwest Territories.

We have seen the creation of many national parks over many years throughout our territory and we understand the inherent issues that surround the development of national parks. Our first nations people have experience in dealing with park bureaucracies and understand how national parks and their rules and regulations sometimes intervene in their traditional lifestyle.

The Sahtu Dene have agreed to this park and to a comprehensive and co-operative management system that goes along with it. We look forward to seeing more details of that in committee so that we can understand how their interests will be protected going forward.

I am very pleased to see this beautiful area protected; however, I am not happy that the Conservatives chose the smallest size possible for the park.

Through the process of developing this park, there were three options that were set out for the park.

The Conservatives made this choice despite option one, the option of 6,450 square kilometres, getting the overwhelming support, at 92.3%, of those who indicated a preference during public consultations on the proposed park.

The people of the north said that they were fine with the park, but they wanted to make sure that the park works for the resources and values that are being included within it. This has not been done completely with this park. That is not surprising, because many on that side of the House see national parks as a waste of land and resources.

For example, the member for Oak Ridges—Markham has publicly stated that Parks Canada staff are not the best stewards of Canada's land. When a national park was proposed for part of his riding, he responded, “We're going to have to do whatever we can to prevent it.” He quickly changed his tune, however, when his bosses here in Ottawa told him that he should be in favour of the Rouge national urban park. It is a small park, but it is a park that absolutely has value for urban residents of Canada.

The belief that parks are a waste of land and resources is just plain wrong. National parks create long-term sustainable jobs and they create opportunities in tourism and support industries. These jobs and economic opportunities last forever, unlike those in the resource sector. Extraction only lasts a few years, and we are very familiar with that. Sometimes they leave a legacy of destruction that lasts for eternity, as was the case with the Giant Mine, so we have to be very careful with how we deal with land.

We know that in the Northwest Territories. We understand what goes on with development and we understand why we have to preserve land and why it is important that land be put aside.

Recently I had the opportunity to travel to Yukon to Kluane National Park and Reserve. Yukon's Parks Canada is worked with the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations to create a visitor centre at the Da Ku Cultural Centre in Haines Junction. This centre and the numerous businesses in Haines Junction all exist because of Kluane National Park and Reserve. Like other national parks, Kluane has created jobs and economic opportunities that are long lasting and environmentally sound.

However, many times it seems to me that to the Conservatives, tourism jobs and economic opportunities that surround that type of activity are of little value because it puts money not in the hands of big corporations, but in the hands of little people, local people, workers and those who want to see a future for the preservation of our natural beauty and such like. Is this the reason why the Conservatives chose the smallest size possible for the park against the recommendations of all the people who chose to make those recommendations in the public consultations?

I want to talk about the tourism industry, because it is what really will give the economic opportunities to the Sahtu region by putting aside 4,850 square kilometres of land.

Tourism opportunities provide great potentials for our future. They provide local jobs and local businesses, as with Kluane, and Kluane has been done in a very good fashion. It took years to get there. It took many difficult negotiations with first nations so they would achieve benefits, but now they are. We do not want to make those mistakes with any new national park. We want to move to the good side as quickly as possible.

The tourist industry in Canada, though, creates more than $84 billion in economic activity, more than $17 billion in export revenue, nearly $10 billion in federal revenue and employs more than 600,000 Canadians. Tourism's contribution to the GDP is worth more than agriculture, fisheries and forestry combined. Despite these figures, the Conservatives have turned their backs on Canadian tourist operators.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce has ranked the lack of support for our tourism industry as one of the top ten barriers to the competitiveness of the Canadian economy. Canada, during the reign of the Conservatives, has cut its tourism marketing budget by 20% over the last nine years. Instead of expanding the budget as it should be with inflation and all the rest, we have seen a cutback of 20%. It has forced the Canadian Tourism Commission to abandon advertising initiatives in lucrative markets like the United States. The Canadian Tourism Commission's core funding has declined from nearly $100 million in 2001.

The Conservatives continued lack of leadership in promoting tourism at home and abroad is needlessly damaging what was once a good news story for the Canadian economy. A quick look at other countries shows just how little the Conservatives support the tourism industry. Those results are showing in the incredible drop that we have seen in international tourism visitations to Canada.

These are countries where the money has been put in tourism: Ireland spent $211 million a year in promoting its tourism, which is a 14% increase in the same time; Mexico, $153 million, 4% increase; Australia, $147 million, 30% increase; Canada $72 million, down 10% over that same period. By the time when we factor in inflation, we see a massive decrease in the support for the tourism industry.

There is an old saying, and this is one that the neoliberals like, “A rising tide raises all boats”. What we see in the tourism industry is a falling tide which has becalmed the industry and left a lot of tourism boats stranded on the shore.

When we talk about increasing national parks, we want to talk about expanding tourism. What operator is going to create a new market in Canada for a new product when the Conservative government has decimated our tourism market. It has refused to put the dollars into it that can return, promote and increase this very important market. It is very content to see the tide go out and the boats sit on the sandy floor of the bay.

The Conservatives changed the tourism tax rebates, so only those on packaged tours could apply for a tax refund, rather than the old system where any visitor to Canada could get their GST refunded. This change has really hit small tourism businesses, but has provided an unfair advantage to large tourism operations.

What is going to happen in the Northwest Territories? We have small tourism operators. Everybody in the tourism industry starts out small. The average time to make a tourism business profitable is between 10 and 14 years. Someone has to invest. They have to create the market. They have to create the product. They have to make it work. That is what is going to have to happen in Nááts’ihch’oh. That is where we are going to have to put the investment to get the tourism industry to work there.

We need the support of the federal government on the federal programs that increase the volume of tourists to Canada. That is a fundamental.

I have included this in my speech because we want to see benefits from taking 4,850 square kilometres of land and creating a national park, which is a great idea for the people of Canada, and can be a great idea for the people of the North, but we need to promote tourism.

However, there is another story about tourism with the government and how little it supports it, and that is its treatment of Parks Canada. In budget 2012, Parks Canada had 638 positions eliminated. Many of the positions in national parks in the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Yukon were lost as well.

When we are trying to build a tourism industry based upon natural beauty, national parks, we see that the cutbacks affect that throughout the system.

Budget 2012 cut Parks Canada's budget by almost 7.1%. The cuts hit parks and historic sites nationwide. Nova Scotia's Fortress of Louisbourg, touted by the Canadian Tourism Association as a signature designation, is facing the loss of 120 jobs. Banff National Park, another prime tourist destination, is losing 40 jobs.

Winter services have been eliminated and visitors are left to guide themselves at historic sites.

We have even cut out cross-country ski trail building. One activity that could be guaranteed in national parks throughout northern Canada was cross-country ski events. We do not have that anymore.

Budget 2014 included $391 million, allocated over five years, allowing the agency to improve roads, bridges and dams located in Canada's national parks and historic canals. However, the 2014 budget specifies that only $1 million is allocated for this fiscal year and $4 million for 2015-16, with the rest to be handed out in 2016 and onward, after the next election.

It is estimated by Parks Canada reports the cost could be as much as $2.7 billion to complete all deferred infrastructure programs.

We are happy we see an agreement between the Sahtu Dene and Metis and the current government to create a national park reserve: Nááts’ihch’oh. This is a good thing. However, it cannot stand by itself. Efforts have to be made to create a situation where, what the parliamentary secretary talked about, the economic opportunities, the jobs, the local economy that can come out of a national park can flourish, and that is linked to tourism.

Without the effort put into that, without the effort put into Parks Canada to provide it with the resources to promote tourism, without the effort put in by the Canadian Tourism Commission and without the resources to advertise to promote Canada worldwide, we will not see an increase in our tourism, and we will continue this downward trend. This beautiful country, with so much to offer to so many people around the world, is not getting its due right now.

We are spending all kinds of money promoting the oil and gas industry, trying to do the work for multinational corporations that should do their own work because they are making massive profits from these resources. What do we do for the tourism people? What do we do for those little people who are trying to set up small businesses? What do we do to set up the opportunities for people to work in this field? We are cutting back on the resources that are available to promote this very important sector.

As I have pointed out, agriculture, forestry and fishing combined do not match up to the impact that tourism has on our economy. We want to be successful in the Northwest Territories. We want our people to have an opportunity to take advantage of the natural beauty of our country and the land. We want our first nations, which have gone into agreements, to invest in business and opportunities in the tourism sector. That is the real growth potential for the national parks in the Northwest Territories.

However, the government has shown that it is not interested in that. Perhaps after the next election, we will have another government; it looks likely. At that time, we perhaps will see the true potential of the Canadian national parks system, including all those in the Northwest Territories. They will have an opportunity to grow, so the people in that region, who have given up so much to provide these beautiful national parks to Canada for eternity, will have an opportunity to achieve a prosperous lifestyle from doing that. It will be hard. There is nothing easy about the tourism industry. It takes time, effort and resources, but it also takes the active participation of the Government of Canada in promoting Canada as a destination.

We cannot back off from that. We cannot say that it is not important, that we will leave it to the private sector. That does not work. This is our country. We have to make the best opportunities for it. We cannot simply continue to cut the opportunities that exist there to show the world what we have here.

I appreciate this. I really hope the Conservatives this time follow up on this, and have an active plan to get the facilities in place. With the Nahanni National Park Reserve expansion, we were promised seven years ago that these facilities would be built, including a proper visitors centre in Fort Simpson. The Nahanni National Park Reserve is a world heritage site. It is famous around the world. Yet there is absolutely nothing in Fort Simpson to sell somebody on getting in a plane and flying all the way out there to look at it. There is nothing there. There is nothing that has been put in place yet, after seven years. That is a shocking record. That is a record of ineffective behaviour. That is a record of not understanding how to get along with first nations to accomplish this. This is where that sits in the Nahanni National Park Reserve expansion plans.

I trust there is someone on the other side who might be listening to this and understanding that there is work to be done here, that this is not all just clapping our hands for the wonderful things that the government has created. The government has not created anything. It has taken land and put it aside. Now we need the work to go in to making it something.

PDF download
available as Acrobat PDF Speech on Bill S-5 statement

Help with high cost of this year’s forest fire season NWT

October 03, 2014

Dennis Bevington asks the federal government if they will help with the high cost of this year’s forest fire season in the Northwest Territories.:

Mr. Speaker, the Northwest Territories has experienced the worst forest fire season in memory, destroying 3.5 million hectares of boreal forest. In comparison, the average area of burn per year in all of Canada over the last 10 years was 2 million hectares.

Northerners know that this disaster is directly related to climate change. Will the Conservatives finally admit the reality of climate change and take action? Will the government be helping the people of the Northwest Territories deal with the overwhelming costs of this year's forest fire season?

Mr. Colin Carrie (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment):

Mr. Speaker, our government's record is clear. We have taken decisive action on the environment while protecting our economy.

Everyone internationally has to do their fair share, and Canada is doing its part. We emit only 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Building on that record, the Minister of the Environment announced a number of actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and pollution from vehicles a couple of weeks ago.

We have announced our intent to regulate HFCs, one of the fastest growing greenhouse gases in the world. We are accomplishing this without a job-killing carbon tax, which would raise the price of everything.

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available as Acrobat PDF Help with high cost this year’s forest fire season in NWT question

Bill C-22 Energy Safety and Security Act

May 29, 2014

Mr. Dennis Bevington Former MP Northwest Territories:

Mr. Speaker, after a number of years, I am glad to have the opportunity to speak to this new Bill C-22, an act that would set the terms and conditions of liability not only for nuclear issues but also for oil and gas issues. It is a little misleading in the title, as it speaks to only the offshore. I will point out later on that the title is not exactly right. First, at second reading, we deal with principles. This is when we talk about the principles of the bill. The principle I think we can all support is that liability for nuclear accidents and oil and gas spills should lie in a decent fashion with those who make those things happen. We can accept that the principle of the bill moving forward is okay. However, many of the details still remain, as they were six years ago, understated. Six years ago we talked about a $650-million liability limit for nuclear plants. Now we are talking about $1 billion.

What has happened in the intervening time? Well, we have seen what happened at Fukushima, and so we know quite clearly that nuclear liability is at a higher level than we ever dreamed or thought possible in a modern state, such as Japan, with the equipment we assumed would have been handled in a decent fashion. However, we found out that right from the very beginning, the opportunity for failure had been built into the system. Therefore, liability is important. It is important right from day one.

When people understand the nature of the liability, they are not going to shortchange during the construction of the facilities. They are not going to start out bean-counting how much they have to invest in a particular facility to avoid the type of unlimited liability that would apply to it. When we reduce liability, we probably end up with a lesser product to service our nuclear or offshore oil and gas industries. That, I think, is quite clear in the modern economics of today.

Most companies employ scores of accountants to examine the liability of their actions. When we set liability limits, they will determine the degree to which companies ensure that the safety of their projects is well maintained.

Is $1 billion enough for the nuclear industry to ensure that a nuclear operator is going to put the best possible effort into creating a nuclear plant? Is it enough to ensure the best possible effort in running an existing plant? When there are conditions, such as at Fukushima, where the backup power supply could quite easily be flooded, is $1 billion enough to ensure that someone does a careful safety analysis of the existing facilities?

Liability limits are extremely important, because they set the parameters for the industry. As we go along in this debate and see at committee the kinds of presentations about nuclear liability, the new presentations after Fukushima, I think it will become very clear to us that $1 billion is probably not enough.

I am going to leave that subject and move over to the liability regimes for offshore oil and gas operations. Interestingly enough, we speak of offshore, but here in appendix 1, we talk about onshore in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. If one is onshore within 200 metres of inland water, under the current liability limits, there is no limit specified. Now it would be put at $25 million.

What has happened recently in the Northwest Territories? Between Wrigley and Norman Wells, there was an oil spill from a buried pipeline that has easily cost that amount of money to clean up, and it still has not been dealt with completely. There are aging pipelines throughout this country, as well as in the Northwest Territories, and there are facilities that need attention.

What happens when we set a $25 million liability limit on an oil pipeline that has existed for 30 or 40 years? How does it work out when one company sells it to another, in the nature of the oil and gas industry? Who is taking care of it? To what degree do they see the liability as being the most important part of what they are doing? To me, $25 million on land in the Northwest Territories does not sound like a lot of money to take care of the kinds of spills that can occur from buried oil pipelines traversing the territory.

When it comes to blowouts in the High Arctic, there has actually been one. In the late 1970s in the Arctic Archipelago, there was a major blowout, but luckily it was natural gas. The flare from that natural gas blowout was visible by aviation. It was used as a navigation medium in the High Arctic because it was so large and went on for nine or ten months. We can imagine what would happen with that type of spill if that had been an oil discovery that had blown out. Within the limited number of wells that have been drilled in the Arctic, we have already had a blowout. That is the reality of it.

Now we are talking about a liability limit offshore of $1 billion. With the spill in the Gulf of Mexico, tens of billions of dollars were involved in the cleanup. How do we quantify that in the Arctic? The National Energy Board did a study on it and determined that it does not really know how to deal with it, but it is going to just approve projects as they come up and it will see what companies are offering in terms of how to deal with blowout situations or other types of spills.

Interestingly enough, there is a clause in here. With proof of fault or negligence, there would be unlimited liability in most of these cases. What we have done is separate it out. It is $1 billion if it is not a company's fault and it just happened to blow out. That is what it costs. If it was a company's fault, then it has to pay, pay, and pay.

How does that work, when the National Energy Board approves a project when it knows it does not have any solution for a blowout? Where does the liability land then? How does that work in a situation in the Arctic? These are questions that need examination. This is why we should talk about these things in Parliament. That is why I am standing here today taking the time that I have, which is 10 minutes. Does that cover the full knowledge we have about these situations? Does that answer any questions? Not really. That is not much. No, we are going to need some serious time in committee to do anything with this particular bill, to understand the liability.

Interestingly enough, we are setting liability limits on land in the Northwest Territories. What did we go through in Parliament just a little while ago? There was a devolution agreement, whereby the Government of the Northwest Territories is now responsible for a lot of the stuff on the land. How is that going to work? Has the Government of the Northwest Territories given its okay to this liability limit on the land for which it now has responsibility? These are questions that we need answered. These are things that are obviously going to take a long time in committee. We have been through this before. Seven years ago we started this. Many bills have been brought forward in that time and the government has thrown up its hands on more than one occasion.

We look forward to seeing this in committee. We have agreed that the principle is right, but the details in the bill need a lot of work.

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available as Acrobat PDF Bill C-22 Energy Safety and Security Act statement

MP Dennis Bevington asks a question on the gas tax in the House of Commons

May 28, 2014

Mr. Dennis Bevington Former MP Northwest Territories:

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives have removed the requirement that the gas tax funds be used for sustainable infrastructure, one of the few remaining federal programs fighting climate change. This is at a time when the mayor of Vancouver has said we need more, not less, federal funding to deal with climate change.

Why are the Conservatives excluding basic necessities like roads from the Building Canada fund and turning a $21 billion program for green infrastructure into one that can be used to fill potholes or build gazebos?

Denis Lebel, Minister of Infrastructure:

Mr. Speaker, the gas tax fund is totally dedicated to municipalities. The example the member gave is totally wrong. We are continuing to support the provinces and municipalities.

We have signed agreements with many provinces and we hope the money will flow very quickly to the municipalities and the provinces and will continue to do so. That is the biggest plan ever made in this country, and it is because of this great Prime Minister.

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available as Acrobat PDF Question on the gas tax in the House of Commons question

MP Dennis Bevington questions the Environment Minister about CanNor’s failure to create a headquarters in the north.

May 07, 2014

Mr. Dennis Bevington Former MP Northwest Territories:

Mr. Speaker, the Auditor General also outlined how Conservatives have bungled the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency from the start.

The government has failed to create a real headquarters in the north and has no plans to do so. Thirty-five per cent of CanNor's staff are in Ottawa, compared to less than a third in Iqaluit. One senior position was even filled by a person who lives in Iqaluit but was moved to Ottawa.

Why is the minister moving northerners to Ottawa instead of creating a northern headquarters, as she promised?

MP Colin Carrie (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment).:

Mr. Speaker, the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency accepts the Auditor General's recommendations, and the minister has already given the agency clear instructions to immediately improve its administrative procedures.

We will continue to make record investments in the north to help foster a strong northern economy that creates jobs, growth, and long-term prosperity for the benefit of northerners and all Canadians. We will do it without a $20-billion NDP carbon tax.

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available as Acrobat PDF CanNor’s failure to create a headquarters in the north statement

Bill C-33 First Nations Education Act

May 02, 2014

Mr. Dennis Bevington Former MP Northwest Territories:

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased that I have the brief opportunity on behalf of my caucus to speak on this bill. That is, of course, because of the closure that the government has brought in on this very important bill. This debate will end today and we will not hear any more about it.

The second reading of bills is to talk about the content of the bill and to come to grips with whether we support it or not.

I am also very pleased to be splitting my time with the member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou. Between the two of us, I think we have over 100 years of time in northern communities across this vast land. My colleague's knowledge and understanding of that should be of great interest to everyone in the House.

I want to speak a bit about my experience. I grew up in the north. My first school, at grade 1, was the Fort Smith Federal Day School, run by the Government of Canada. It had two residential schools attached to it, Breynat Hall and Grandin College. I grew up through the system with residential school survivors, and many who were not survivors. Many of my classmates came to untimely ends due to social conditions, and the residential apology that took place was a very emotional moment for me. I recognized that so much had happened to first nations people across the country, and it was very personal to me.

My experience also includes being the chair of a local school society, where over 50% of the students were aboriginal students. I was chair of the board of governors of NWT Aurora College. The college's great dedication is toward putting aboriginal students into career positions, and it is very successful at doing that.

I understand the systems that we have set up in the Northwest Territories to deal with education in small and remote communities.

I will move to the report of the national panel on first nation elementary and secondary education for students on reserve. I want to keep my remarks to funding, because it is an area that in my experience has always been very important to talk about when we talk about schools in remote and isolated communities. The report states:

Statutory funding that is needs-based, predictable, sustainable and used specifically for education purposes. [...]

First Nation education reform must be based on strong, positive education outcomes, not on an average cost per student approach. [...] Given the magnitude of barriers faced by First Nation learners, the level of resources and investment required per student will likely be substantially greater than the average level of expenditures provided in the public school system.

That is clearly the case in the Northwest Territories. We have 8,500 students in our schools in remote and isolated communities, as well as in large communities, like Yellowknife, Fort Smith, Hay River, and Inuvik. There the average expenditure per student is $22,000 a year. When I was the chair of our local education society, in 1985, the level of funding per student in the schools that I represented was equivalent to what the Conservative government is providing today for the students in first nations schools across the country.

We are talking about schools that require greater levels of funding in order to provide services. There is no question about that. There is no question that when we are dealing with a school in an isolated remote situation, where we have to work very hard to entice teachers to go there to teach, or pay the extraordinarily high costs of servicing schools, all of the costs of providing education to a very small number of students are very high. That is simply the case.

When we look at what is done in Canada, where we have 143,000 first nations children, in 2011-12, Aboriginal Affairs spent about $1.5 billion total. It sounds like a big number. For 8,500 students in the Northwest Territories, we spent in excess of $200 million a year.

When we look at what has happened in first nations education, we have to look at the dollars and ask how anyone can provide those services that are required across this country in remote locations, away from cities and from all the other things that allow the cost of providing those services to be reduced, and how that can be expected. We have schools that are chronically underfunded today. When we look at what the Conservatives are offering to put into the schools, starting in 2016 another $400 million per year on top of that, we see that the total amount provided in 2016 is far below what is really required to deal with those schools.

There are 515 on-reserve schools. Right now, there is a $200 million budget for repairs, maintenance, and infrastructure for schools and classrooms for 515 schools. No wonder these schools are failing apart. They simply cannot do that work. This has been going on since the Liberals. It has been going on for the last 20 or 30 years. Basically, we have never funded these schools properly. We have left them in a situation where schools are falling apart.

An hon. member: The member from Calgary said it did not matter.

Mr. Dennis Bevington: Well that is simply not the case, Mr. Speaker, when we talk about 515 schools and we have to replace a certain amount every 30 years. What does it cost to replace a school these days, especially in isolated, northern, and remote locations? I would refer members to some of the school replacements taking place in the Northwest Territories where the average replacement cost is between $30 million and $50 million for schools of 200 people. The average school on-reserve has around 200 students. This is the cost we are talking about.

If they are talking about a 30-year replacement plan, then those schools are going to eat up a heck of a lot more money that what they have in the budget here for operations, for maintenance, and for capital costs. What we have and will continue to have, unless we recognize that this is fundamentally underfunded, is having to add major dollars to it. There were the Liberals with their Kelowna Accord. This bill simply would not put the money where it is needed. We can spend billions of dollars a year updating our fighter fleet, but when it comes to upgrading our children's future we are not willing to put those kinds of dollars on the line.

This subject requires more debate and I know I have two minutes to talk about this very important topic and to talk about what we are actually doing with this bill. It is very difficult. I find it repugnant that the Conservatives have called closure on this subject where there is so much to say. There is so much to talk about that the couple of days of debate that we are taking at second reading is really ridiculous. I am in some ways outraged by it, but it is a pattern of the current government, when the Conservatives put forward in their way with all the lofty-sounding principles that they put forward here, and when we start to dig into this bill and realize that we are simply going to continue the situation that exists today. There is simply not enough effort put into this to make the change. What we need is a watershed of funding for these schools to bring them to a level that they can exist and can provide the services that first nations students require. My colleagues will talk about all the other aspects in the bill, and they would continue to talk about it if they had the chance. We do not have the chance to even get close to all the other subjects within this bill.

I appreciate this brief time here, and I appreciate that my colleague will come with some more statements very shortly, right after me, and I look forward to hearing what he has to say as well.

PDF download
available as Acrobat PDF First Nations Education Act statement

Bill C-33 statements

May 02, 2014

MP Jean Crowder on Bill C-33:

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Western Arctic for that very eloquent speech. The member has worked for many years on these matters, and I appreciate the perspective that he brings.

The member talked about the fact that the Conservatives have shut down debate on this particular piece of legislation. It seems ironic for a government that says that in developing this legislation it did all kinds of consultation. Yet, what we have now is overwhelming opposition, from coast to coast to coast, to their so-called First Nations control of First Nations Education Act.

I wonder if the member could comment on the fact that what we really need is fulsome debate here in the House, so that we do hear from First Nations from coast to coast to coast. Then we need adequate time at committee to fully understand the implications of this piece of legislation that could have far-ranging impacts on First Nations communities.

MP Dennis Bevington on Bill C-33:

Mr. Speaker, I could not agree more with my colleague from Nanaimo—Cowichan.

The problem we have is that these issues are complex. When we talk about turning over control of education to first nations, it is a process that is expensive and time-consuming.

I think of the community of Deline, in my riding, which finally completed a self-government agreement. It took 20 years to get to the self-government agreement, let alone adding on the aspect of the agreement of taking over education, which is going to take another significant period of time. We are talking about processes that are complex and are going to take much time and resources as well.

Do I see within this bill an indication that the government is going to put resources into the development of first nations regional education opportunities? Those are good ideas.

I fully agree that first nations taking over control of education is a good idea, but I do not see that the process has been fully outlined in this bill, or that it has been funded in a way that first nations could simply pick up on it.

MP Erin O’Toole, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade on Bill C-33:

Mr. Speaker, my concern with the remarks by the member for and even his responses to his colleagues, is that the NDP's typical approach here is to delay, suggest more talking, and not address the issues.

We are hearing from first nation leaders across Canada who like the idea of being empowered to provide education, and our government is also supplying the money to help them do that. Today, Regional Chief Roger Augustine described the bill as a “huge improvement” for First Nations parents and communities across the country.

The bill would be giving power and funds to help improve education for first nation students, yet it appears that the member for Western Arctic and his colleagues just want more delay and study, when we all know that this power has been asked for.

I would ask the member to justify his delay of this provision.

Mr. Dennis Bevington Former MP Northwest Territories:

Mr. Speaker, I would hardly call a 10-minute speech in the House a delay in the bill moving forward. That is simply ridiculous.

However, I would love to see the government put forward some details of its analysis on what it actually takes in terms of funding to bring aboriginal schools across this country up to the level that they should be.

If the member shows me the details that the Conservatives have put into understanding what it takes, that would be a big start toward supporting this type of legislation. However, they will not do it. They will not show us what it actually costs. They do not want to put the money forward.

PDF download
available as Acrobat PDF Bill C-33 statements statement

MP Dennis Bevington question in the House of Commons on Arctic Sovereignty

February 11, 2014

Mr. Dennis Bevington Former MP Northwest Territories:

Mr. Speaker, despite the Prime Minister's rhetoric on Arctic sovereignty, the Conservative government has done little to protect Canada's northern resources from foreign interests.

The largest offshore exploration leaseholder in the Beaufort Sea is a small two-person British company called Franklin Petroleum. Under the current rules, these leases could be transferred to anyone, to any country, at any time, without the involvement of Canada in approving the transfer.

Why has the Prime Minister not closed this loophole?

Joe Oliver Minister of Natural Resources:

Mr. Speaker, we rely on our regulatory authorities to determine what projects should go ahead. Projects only go ahead if they are safe for Canadians and safe for the environment. The party opposite should stop making decisions before it has independent scientific advice.

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available as Acrobat PDF Arctic Sovereignty question

MP Dennis Bevington speech on Bill C-15 Northwest Territories Devolution Act.

February 11, 2014

Mr. Dennis Bevington Former MP Northwest Territories:

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to the bill, a bill that affects my life, the life of my children, the life of my grandchildren, and the lives of all my friends and relatives who live in the Northwest Territories. The bill is part of our life, and we are the only ones who really are affected by the bill. The bill is for us. Our point of view is very important.

I want to thank the leader of the official opposition for standing and speaking to the bill at what all have said in the House is a critical moment in the constitutional development of Canada. I am very pleased that he has taken the time to do that.

Devolution is well supported in the Northwest Territories. We do not have to argue about that. We do not have to work very hard on that section of the bill. We did get one or two amendments that help a little bit and make this bill more equitable throughout the three territories.

The contentious part is the changes to the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act. There is a clear consensus that the one thing that is not appropriate is the change from the regional boards to a superboard. It is inappropriate, counterproductive, divisive, and destabilizing, all the things that we do not want to have happen in the Northwest Territories. These are things that go much beyond the addition of a few extra people sitting on boards that decide the future of the Northwest Territories. This has massive consequences to all.

Our amendment today to restore regional boards is a matter that will strengthen Bill C-15. It will strengthen devolution. It will ensure stability. It truly is representative of the wishes of the people in the Northwest Territories. I urge the government to support this amendment. This amendment can only help to create a bill that will heap praise on the government's shoulders. By supporting the amendment, the government will show its humanity and its desire to do the right thing.

I want to review how we got here, as presented in testimony. The first step in that was with the McCrank report. When Mr. McCrank stood in front of the committee, he admitted that the idea of a superboard was his idea. There was no one in the Northwest Territories who had suggested that to him. That idea came from him, from an Alberta person who ran the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board. Of course he thought that the structure should be similar to the one in Alberta, but that is not what we have set out to do in the Northwest Territories. We have set out to have regional governments and aboriginal governments, whether they are Inuvialuit—who are keeping their regional boards, by the way—or the Sahtu, the Tlicho, and the Gwich'in, who have made agreements.

My colleague across talked about contemplation of a single board within the land claims. Contemplation does not mean agreement. Contemplation does not mean that the government can go ahead without full negotiation to change a land claim just because something is contemplated within an agreement.

After the McCrank, report the government hired Mr. John Pollard to be its chief federal negotiator. It is interesting that the testimony from the Tlicho indicated that in 2011 they gave the government a protocol framework for negotiating changes to the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act. They were willing to work with the government to do the right thing, to make changes, to make the system more efficient. They set out a protocol. That protocol was shelved. In testimony, Mr. Pollard admitted that it was just taken as information. Nothing was done with it.

As a result, governments and Mr. Pollard held many meetings, but they were not in any framework that had been agreed upon by the two elements of the land claims, the first nations who have treaty rights and treaty responsibilities to their citizens and the Government of Canada representing the crown. There was no agreement on how to negotiate changes to these land claims.

That is where the government falls flat on its face. In the fall of this year, departmental officials then presented bills to the first nations. They presented a separate bill for devolution and a separate bill for the changes to the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act. They were never taken together.

Bertha Rabesca Zoe, legal counsel for the Tlicho government, stated:

In that October session I asked the federal officials who were there doing the presentation whether those bills would be bundled as an omnibus bill, and we were never given a response....

Mr. Daryn Leas, legal counsel for the Sahtu, stated:

Never once were the federal devolution negotiators able to provide any substance or details about the Mackenzie Valley legislation in the proposed amendments.

That is the state of the consultation that was taking place on this act, Bill C-15. The process on devolution has been going on for 20 years. The problem we had with devolution was getting first nations governments on side. Premier McLeod accomplished that for devolution. We have heard the testimony of Premier McLeod. He did not involve the first nations in discussions about the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act. He said that was not their business. Once again those regulation issues were designed to be kept separate.

Today, we have put forward an amendment to bring peace to this issue. Regional boards are working fine today.

I quote Mr. Tom Hoefer, executive director of the NWT & Nunavut Chamber of Mines, who stated:

We recognize that the aboriginal community is validly concerned by the loss of the existing regional panels. You should know that a number of industry members, especially those who have developed close working relationships with the regional boards, have likewise expressed reservations.

Does that sound like industry is offside on the regional boards? It does not. How does this uncertainty serve anyone's purpose? We are likely to be caught up in litigation. We are likely to have a new government in a year and a half. Would members not agree? We will have to fix these mistakes that have been made here, because the Conservatives' attitude of ignoring the wishes of the people will eventually catch up to them, and they will be thrown out of office.

I would say to the Conservatives that they should do their job, listen to people, hear what they have to say, and hear what the people in the Northwest Territories have to say about the laws that affect only us, the laws with respect to how we want to develop.

We are asking the Conservatives to listen to us and hear us. Then, perhaps, if they follow that lesson with us, they may follow it with others and they may find that their political careers can be extended.

The north is a great adventure. I have been part of it my whole life. In the end, we will do the right thing. In the end, we will create a territory with a unique and powerful system of government. The Conservatives should join us in doing that. This is a simple amendment that does not change much at all but represents so much to us.

PDF download
available as Acrobat PDF Bill C-15 Northwest Territories Devolution Act. statement