FAQ: Bill S-6 — Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement Act

General

Q1. How does Bill S-6 support the Action Plan to Improve Northern Regulatory Regimes?

The Action Plan to Improve Northern Regulatory Regimes builds on the Government of Canada's efforts to create a strong and prosperous North that realizes its resource potential while safeguarding the environmental health and heritage of the region. It is a key step forward in implementing the Northern Strategy.

Canada's Northern Strategy outlines an overarching vision for the North which focuses on four priority areas; strengthening Canada's sovereignty; protecting our environmental heritage; promoting economic and social development; and improving and devolving governance.

Bill S-6 completes the legislative portion of Canada's Action Plan to Improve Northern Regulatory Regimes. The proposed amendments in Bill S-6 are based on the following principles:

  • more predictable and timely reviews;
  • reduced duplication for project reviews;
  • strengthened environmental protection; and
  • achieving meaningful Aboriginal consultation.

These improvements will result in further unlocking the economic potential of the North while ensuring sound environmental stewardship and help the territories remain an attractive place in which to live, work and invest.

For a status update on the Action Plan to Improve Northern Regulatory Regimes see Question 7.

Q2. How will Bill S-6 benefit Northerners?

The bill responds to calls from territorial governments, Aboriginal groups and industry to improve regulatory processes across the North.

The proposed amendments to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act would contribute to the efficient and predictable environmental assessment process in Yukon through the introduction of legislated time limits and clarity around project assessments. This would promote investor confidence, foster economic opportunities and growth while promoting sound environmental stewardship.

The proposed amendments to the Nunavut Waters and Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal Act would streamline water licensing processes and ensure timely and predictable water licence reviews. In addition, tools for enforcement of the Act would be expanded, enhancing environmental stewardship. Finally, the amendments would require the Nunavut Water Board to consider security agreements between Canada, Inuit and proponents, thereby promoting investor confidence.

Q3: Why are both these Acts included in the one piece of legislation?

The proposed Act includes amendments to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act and the Nunavut Waters and Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal Act. Taken together, these proposed amendments would address the final legislative elements required under the Action Plan to Improve Northern Regulatory Regimes.

Consolidating the amendments in the proposed Act brings together common themes and allows for simultaneous consideration of related elements. Doing so also takes advantage of a limited opportunity for parliamentary consideration.

Q4. When would the proposed amendments come into force?

All amendments proposed to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act would come into force upon Royal Assent.

In the Nunavut Waters and Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal Act, only the provisions relating to administrative monetary penalties, security arrangements and fines would come into force upon Royal Assent. Amendments relating to timelines, life of project water licences and cost recovery would come into effect 12 months after Royal Assent or on an earlier day set by order of the Governor-in-Council. This would give the Nunavut Water Board time to prepare for the changes.

Q5. Would the amended acts be applicable to projects currently in approvals should Royal Assent be given?

Project proposals submitted before the amendments come into force would be governed by the Act as it read before the amendments were made. Any proposals submitted after would be governed by the amended Acts.

The time limit provisions however, would apply to all project proposals, with the clock starting on the date of Royal Assent.

Q6. Some of the proposed amendments require accompanying regulations. How will this be done?

The implementation of some of the regulatory improvements would require the development of regulations. The Government of Canada is committed to working with our Aboriginal and government partners in Yukon and Nunavut, as well as industry in the development of regulations that are fair, reasonable, and achieve the intended legislative effect.

Q7. Status about the Northern Regulatory Improvement Action Plan. List of all legislations/accomplishments since the 2010 announcement.

Key accomplishments and investments since 2006 on the Action Plan have included:

  • In 2007, the Government of Canada invested $6.6 million over five years to address the immediate operational needs in the Northwest Territories to ensure timely review of project proposals.
  • Appointment of Neil McCrank in 2007 to review and make recommendations on improving northern regulatory regimes. His report was issued in 2008.
  • Launch of the Action Plan to Improve Northern Regulatory Regimes in May 2010, which included: legislative and regulatory changes; investments in the Cumulative Impact Monitoring Program and the Nunavut General Monitoring Plan; and the appointment of John Pollard to negotiate restructuring of the land and water boards in the Mackenzie Valley in the Northwest Territories.
  • In support of the Action Plan to Improve Northern Regulatory Regimes, Budget 2010 committed $11 million to streamline the regulatory regimes in the North and $8 million to support community-based environmental monitoring.
  • On June 19, 2013, the Northern Jobs and Growth Act received Royal Assent. This Act created the Nunavut Planning and Project Assessment Act and the Northwest Territories Surface Rights Board Act, as well as amended the Yukon Surface Rights Tribunal Act.
  • In Fall 2013, Canada established multi-party working groups in Yukon and Nunavut to finalize the Action Plan in each territory through amendments to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act and the Nunavut Waters and Surface Rights Tribunal Act, respectively.
  • On March 25, 2014, Bill C-15, the Northwest Territories Devolution Act received Royal Assent. Bill C-15 included amendments to the Northwest Territories Waters Act, the Territorial Lands Act and the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act, as well as amendments to the Northwest Territories Act and other minor amendments required to implement Northwest Territories devolution. Implementation of Bill C-15 changes is underway.

Part I - Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act (YESAA) Amendments

General

Q8. Why are changes being proposed to YESAA?

Proposed amendments to this Act are based on recommendations from a tripartite review conducted by Canada, Yukon and Yukon First Nations and on the Action Plan to Improve Northern Regulatory Regimes. Section 12.19.3 of the Umbrella Final Agreement (UFA) required a comprehensive review of the environmental assessment process five years after YESAA became law in 2003. The five-year review looked at all aspects of the Yukon development assessment process and resulted in recommendations to help improve the environmental review process. The Action Plan seeks to align northern regulatory regimes and promote jobs, growth and prosperity for all Northerners.

Consultation Process for the YESAA Amendments

Q9. What was the process used to come up with the proposed amendments to YESAA?

The Government of Canada distributed the first draft legislative proposal of the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act amendments to the Government of Yukon, First Nations, the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board, and industry in late May and early June 2013 for review and comment. Subsequent consultation sessions were held in July and November 2013, primarily in Whitehorse, Yukon, and provided the opportunity for First Nations to learn about the proposed amendments, voice their concerns and make recommendations on how to improve the legislative proposals. Feedback received resulted in a second draft of the proposal being distributed in February 2014. Recipients had eight weeks to review and provide written responses. Consultation sessions were held in Whitehorse in April 2014 and May 2014 to discuss the legislation proposal and address concerns.

Funding assistance was offered to all First Nations throughout the consultation process for the review of the legislative proposals, the preparation of written representations and for attending consultation sessions. This funding could be used for legal counsel or consultants to assist in reviewing the more technical aspects of the proposals.

Proposed YESAA Amendments

Q10. What are the proposed legislative amendments?

The proposed amendments to YESAA include:

  • making time limits for environmental assessments by the Yukon Environmental Socio-economic Assessment Board consistent with other jurisdictions in the North;
  • enabling the Government of Canada to develop regulations to recover from proponents costs to undertake assessments;
  • making YESAA the definitive environmental and socio-economic assessment process in Yukon, meaning that the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 would no longer apply in Yukon;
  • providing the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development with the authority to provide binding policy direction to the Yukon Environmental Socio-economic Assessment Board;
  • allowing for a board member's term to be extended for the purpose of completing a screening or review; and
  • eliminating the requirement that a project undergo another assessment when a project authorization is to be renewed or amended, unless, in the opinion of the decision body or bodies, there is a significant change to the project.

The proposed amendments to YESAA would improve decision making and information gathering and would contribute to the efficient, predictable and coherent environmental assessment process in Yukon that would both foster economic opportunities and growth while protecting the environment.

Part II – Nunavut Waters and Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal Act (NWNSRTA) Amendments

General

Q11. Why are changes being made to the NWNSRTA?

The proposed amendments would streamline water licensing processes in Nunavut and ensure timely and predictable water licence reviews. In addition, tools for enforcement of the Act would be expanded, enhancing environmental stewardship. Finally, the amendments would require the Nunavut Water Board to consider security agreements between Canada, Inuit and proponents, thereby promoting investor confidence.

Amendment Consultation Process

Q12. What was the process used to come up with the proposed amendments to NWNSRTA?

In response to a request from the Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, a working group was established with the Government of Nunavut and the Nunavut Water Board to review proposed amendments to the legislation. It met in January, February and again in March 2014. In February 2014, a draft legislative proposal was sent to the working group members, including Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, and to a broader circulation of stakeholders, including other government departments and industry, for review and comment. Inuit groups were invited to all meetings of the working group. A number of adjustments have been made to the proposed amendments in response to the comments and concerns of the working group.

Proposed NWNSRTA Amendments

Q13. What are the proposed legislative amendments?

The proposed amendments to NWNSRTA include:

  • introducing time limits for water licence reviews;
  • establishing a regulation-making authority to recover costs while undertaking reviews;
  • increasing existing fines associated with water licences;
  • adding new administrative monetary penalties;
  • allowing for "life-of-project" water licences; and
  • requiring the Nunavut Water Board to consider agreements between land owners and proponents regarding posting security to eliminate over bonding.
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