Mr. Speaker, I know that they are chirping over there.
I know that the member is from Western Arctic, and he will be very happy to know that we did a lot of consultation in his part of the country. We heard directly from victims and participants in the justice system.
When it comes to committee witnesses, I invite the member to rise in this place and walk over to talk to the committee chair, because it is the chair who decides on the witnesses and the sitting times. That work is done by those committees at arm's length from the Minister of Justice. He would be the first, I am sure, to rise in his place and decry any interference from the Minister of Justice if I in any way tried to influence those witnesses.
Mr. Speaker, it is the NDP that wants exemptions for all international musicians to come and take jobs from Canadian musicians without any screening.
It is the NDP that wants to open the floodgates with no verification for the computer gaming industry in Montreal, because, I guess, they talk to them.
It was the NDP critic who lobbied me for a crane operator to come into her riding as a temporary foreign worker.
It was the MP for Halifax who asked us to streamline the LMO screening process.
It was the MP for Western Arctic who said that our wage levels were too high in the temporary foreign worker program.
We will not listen to the NDP on this.
Mr. Speaker, the NDP member for Western Arctic wrote to the Minister of Employment and Social Development to complain about the fact that low-skilled temporary foreign workers were being overpaid. That same NDP member said that higher salaries were making the program “unworkable”.
Does the Minister of Employment and Social Development agree with the NDP that paying temporary foreign workers market wages is harmful to the program?
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.
Order. The member for Western Arctic knows to address his comments and questions to the Chair and not to the member opposite.
The hon. member for Oxford.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today in the House to speak on Bill C-15, an act to replace the Northwest Territories Act to implement certain provisions of the Northwest Territories Lands and Resources Devolution Agreement and to repeal or make amendments to the Territorial Lands Act, the Northwest Territories Waters Act, the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act, other acts and certain orders and regulations.
I had the pleasure to speak on this bill at second reading before it went to committee. Although I am not a northerner—I am from the south, from Vancouver, and I represent a very urban community—I must say that I did relate to many of the issues in this bill and the concerns that were expressed about it. In particular, I want to pay tribute to the NDP member for Western Arctic, who has done an incredible amount of work not only on this bill but on the issue generally of the devolution of powers and support of the Northwest Territories. As someone from an urban riding, I appreciate the vastness of the territory that the member represents and all of the communities he has to communicate with to find out what concerns there are on the ground. It is really quite phenomenal, and that I cannot relate to in a geographical sense.
I know that the member for Western Arctic has been painstaking in his journey and his consultations with people. When he speaks to us in the House about Bill C-15 and the concerns about it that he took to committee and the amendments that he tried to get, we know that it comes from the grassroots. It comes from consultations with local communities and individual constituents, and that is why we are here: to bring that kind of information and that grassroots approach into the House.
Therefore, when a bill like this comes forward—an historic bill, something that we have been working toward for many decades in terms of devolution, and something that New Democrats have certainly supported for decades to ensure that the Northwest Territories can take over federal responsibilities in the north—it is very disconcerting when local voices are not heard. Unfortunately, I think this is what happened with this bill.
New Democrats supported the bill at second reading. We thought that the bill, in terms of its general principle and its thrust and its journey of devolution, was a very important milestone. We were very hopeful that when the bill went to committee, there would be a thorough examination and that particularly the government members of the committee would come to an understanding that this bill had too much in it. For example, it would make amendments to the Mackenzie Valley agreement that are very problematic and that people in local communities were expressing a lot of concerns about.
I want to thank the NDP members who were on the committee: the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan; the member for Manicouagan; the member for Western Arctic, whom I have spoken about; and the member for Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing. These members worked very hard.
There were only four meetings in which the committee looked at the bill, but it is quite interesting to note that one of the meetings was a nine-and-a-half-hour meeting in Yellowknife. That is very telling. It shows that the committee travelled to the north and listened to witnesses who came to the committee. I have never heard of a committee hearing witnesses for nine and a half hours.
The fact that it was done in the local community tells us that there was a lot of interest in the bill. Obviously there were witnesses who wholeheartedly supported the bill without reservation, but, having read some of the transcripts and having spoken to the member for Western Arctic and others, I know there were people in Yellowknife and in the Northwest Territories who expressed their concerns about the consequences and impacts of this bill.
I want to quote one of the witnesses, Mr. David Bob, who is the vice-president of the Northern Territories Federation of Labour. When I read his comments, I thought he succinctly outlined some of the problems with this bill.
Bill C-15 should really be split into two distinct bills that can be debated and voted on separately. Combining devolution legislation with amendments to the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act is a tortured exercise and one not worthy of a government wishing to be transparent and democratic. While some may quibble over the details and outcomes of devolution, that part of the bill will probably earn general consent from the people of the NWT.
The part of the bill that completely disrupts our existing regulatory system, however, is sure to elicit substantial adverse reactions. The intent of devolution is to transfer greater authority over land and resource decisions to the north and northerners, but we do not believe this would be achieved by the proposed changes to the regulatory regime contained in part 4 of the bill.
As I have said, that is a revealing quote from a key witness on this bill that has now come back to the House. I think the NDP submitted 11 amendments. The Conservatives did not submit any amendments. Two of the NDP amendments were approved, but it is really disconcerting to see some of the fundamental questions about the bill covering too much by going into the Mackenzie Valley agreement and that it will cause a lot of negative consequences in the local community.
That is unfortunate. Overall, the NDP is still in support of this bill at report stage. We are going through that debate now and then we will go onto third and final reading, but I hope there will be a measure of thoughtfulness once the bill is passed, as I am sure it will, and that there will be a willingness on the part of the government to review this devolution and listen to the concerns of northerners, and that with the practicalities of implementing the devolution and transfer of those powers, the needs of the community will be heard.
Today I was at the Standing Committee on Health, and this issue came up again. Unfortunately, it is all too familiar to us to see what is happening with devolution. We see the federal government wash its hands and say it does not have anything to do with health care anymore and might transfer its programs and services to the Assembly of First Nations or other organizations, but the resources are not provided.
There is still a responsibility for the federal government to provide those resources once the transfer has been made. We see this in health care. I am sure we will not see an acknowledgement in the budget today that the provinces and territories have been shortchanged $36 billion in health care. It is a provincial delivery system, but there is a federal responsibility.
In terms of Bill C-15, which is before us today, unfortunately it is the same old story. Devolution in this circumstance is warranted, it has been asked for, and it is something that we support. However, it is critical that the federal government listen to the local community and not just do the legal transfer. There is more to it than that. The federal government must provide the resources required so that the authority, in this case the Northwest Territories, can carry out its legal responsibility under the agreement.
Those are the observations I have at third reading. I thank my colleagues on the committee who went through the bill, who gave it due diligence, who listened to people, and who made amendments. Unfortunately, most of them were not supported.
We still support the bill, but I can say that we will be vigilant. We will watch this. We will continue to work with northerners and with people in the Northwest Territories, particularly aboriginal first nations people, to make sure the bill is not just a legal document but actually has a positive impact on people in local communities.
Mr. Speaker, I think my colleague from Western Arctic hit it on the head. Business needs predictability. If it does not have predictability in this area, the influx of additional capital that may be needed to either expand the mines or keep them operating can indeed dry up. If that happens, mines can either decide to shut down or throttle back.
As the government has said in its own legislation, this is not just about the economy of the Northwest Territories, because under the act of devolving it keeps 50% of that resource, of that wealth that is generated. If the government causes unpredictability in the mining sector, which generates wealth to the broader Canadian public—because clearly the federal government represents all Canadians across this land—it would actually be harming the broader Canadian economy, simply because it has not given predictability. It would perhaps have actually sent the participants on a path of litigation, which ultimately would end up in a place where no one needs to be, and ultimately the economy would be the great sufferer.
Being the the great manager it says it is, the government apparently is about to once more mismanage this economy.
The electoral district of Western Arctic (Northwest Territories) has a population of 41,464 with 28,787 registered voters and 73 polling divisions.
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