Myths and Facts: Bill C-15, Northwest Territories Devolution Act - Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity
The Regulatory Regime Is Fine As It Is
As outlined in Neil McCrank's 2008 report, Road to Improvement: The Review of the Regulatory Systems Across the North, the current regulatory processes in the Northwest Territories are complex, costly, unpredictable and time consuming.
The Northwest Territories Devolution Act includes to: the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act, the Northwest Territories Waters Act, and the Territorial Lands Act. These include measures that will streamline the regulatory process by placing time limits on environmental assessments and reviews, consolidate federal decision-making, as well as measures that will enhance environmental stewardship.
Measures such as these are essential for the people of the NWT to realise the full benefits of devolution and will increase investor confidence by providing a clear and predictable review and assessment process that will allow the Northwest Territories to remain competitive in a global marketplace.
Proposed Regulatory Changes Will Weaken Environmental Protection
The amendments do not change the existing environmental assessment process. Rather, the changes strengthen environmental stewardship by providing regulators with modern enforcement and compliance tools such as:
- Modernizing and increasing the existing fines and penalties structure
- Implementing new Administrative Monetary Penalties
- Introducing enforceable development certificates that developers must comply with in order to proceed with a project
- Providing the authority to conduct Regional Environmental Studies
The changes to the enforcement tools will also ensure that the enforcement and compliance regimes in the Northwest Territories are consistent with other federal environmental protection legislation in Canada.
There has been insufficient Consultation with Aboriginal groups
The Government of Canada has maintained an open dialogue with the Government of the Northwest Territories, Aboriginal groups and other stakeholders with respect to both devolution and regulatory improvement for years.
Aboriginal groups in the Northwest Territories have been active participants in devolution negotiations with Canada and the Government of the Northwest Territories, since the early 2000's. They directly participated in negotiations at all stages of the process and received funding to support their participation, and five groups are official signatories to the Final Devolution Agreement signed in July 2013.
Extensive consultations were also conducted with Aboriginal groups and regulatory boards in the Northwest Territories over the past three years on the Action Plan to Improve Northern Regulatory Regimes announced in 2010 to ensure that all stakeholder views were taken into consideration and to fulfil treaty obligations under the land claims agreements. John Pollard, a former Cabinet Minister of the Government of the Northwest Territories and Canada's Chief Federal Negotiator, has held over 50 consultation meetings with Aboriginal groups and organizations, co-management boards and industry. In all, 24 Aboriginal groups were invited to participate in technical consultations and funds were made available to them to assist them in the consultation process.
Input received during these consultations helped to shape the draft legislative proposals that are part of the Northwest Territories Devolution Act, including the restructuring of the land and water boards in the Mackenzie Valley. The restructuring of the boards is expected to come into force in 2015. Aboriginal groups are also participating in the Parliamentary review process, currently underway. The Government of Canada will also maintain an open dialogue with Aboriginal groups to address any future questions.
Streamlining Regional Boards will Lead to Less Informed Decision-Making
Streamlining the Northwest Territories land and water management process will lead to an integrated regulatory regime that will ensure consistent and informed decision making across the territory. It will also ensure that the Northern regulatory regime will be strong, effective, efficient and predictable.
Under the Northwest Territories Devolution Act, a consolidated land and water board under the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act will include the Delcho, North Slave and South Slave regions, as well as the Sahtu, the Gwich'in, and the Tlicho regions.
The consolidated board and its structure is consistent with the provisions of existing land claims agreements and will reduce administrative and process inefficiencies, ensure consistent application of the regulatory framework and increase investor confidence in resource development in the Mackenzie Valley.
Clause 30(2) in the Northwest Territories Act will allow the federal government to overturn any territorial law that the federal government does not like.
In those areas where authority has been delegated to the territorial government under the Act, all final decisions will rest with the territorial government.
A federal minister can overturn or veto a land or water use decision made by the delegated territorial minister under the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act.
In those areas where authority has been delegated to the territorial government, the territorial government will make final decisions.
Existing land and water regulations are going to be dramatically changed under the new Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act
Regulatory regulatory improvements are designed to strengthen and modernize the regulatory regime through the introduction of such measures as time limits on decision-making and enhance environmental protection. The mandate of the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board will not change.
Elimination of regional land and water boards will force land claim agreements to be re-negotiated or modified
Devolution will have a negative impact on outstanding land claims settlements
Resolving land claims with Aboriginal groups will remain under the authority of the federal government and the Government of Canada remains committed to the negotiation of comprehensive land claims.
Restructuring of the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board will significantly reduce Aboriginal input
As is currently the case, the new Board will be made up of equal membership from Aboriginal and government nominees, not including the chairperson. This approach is consistent with settled land claim agreements in the Mackenzie Valley and is expected to come into force in Spring 2015.