Inter-governmental relations & the duty to consult
A careful, considerate and transparent consultation process is an important aspect of successful project implementation in Yukon. All levels of government; First Nation, Federal and Territorial; need to work together with industry to ensure Yukon communities are in a position to receive socio-economic benefits of mining projects and successfully mitigate any potential impacts. To date, there have been strong disagreements between levels of government around the extent, level and direction of consultation required to bring a mining project forward.
- What steps would you take to bring participants to the table and engage in a constructive consultation process?
The lack of government efforts to finalize a consultation process has resulted in the courts having to intervene and define consultation requirements for governments and the project proponents. Liberals believe in a well-defined consultation protocol to provide certainty to the mining industry, and allow them to get their operations moving.
Though the current Prime Minister has ignored his obligations and refuses to meet with the Premiers, Liberals will confront these collective challenges by sitting down together with the premiers and engaging in open dialogue. That is why Justin Trudeau has committed a Liberal government to holding an annual First Minister’s meeting, and frequently and actively engaging with each Premier in service to the people of their province or territory.
- Some suggest the consultation process and policy of the Federal Government needs to be updated. Would you support such an initiative and why?
The current federal government has failed to develop a successful consultation process for project proponents, First Nations and local governments. Therefore, I would support an initiative to complete the design of the consultation process between the federal government, First Nations and Yukon’s mining stakeholders. As MP I oversaw the passage of four Yukon Land Claims through Parliament, YESAA legislation, and the Yukon Act that gave us Devolution. These agreements are an important framework to work within, but the consultation protocols can be better defined.
The regulatory and permitting process has been under scrutiny in the Yukon over the course of 2015. Attempts to reform the process have been undertaken in the past with very little success. Recently, the passage of Bill S-6, has refocused attention on the effectiveness of various stages of the process as well as the paramount importance of intergovernmental relations.
- In your opinion, what is the biggest regulatory issue facing the Yukon’s mining industry?
The biggest issue facing Yukon’s mining industry is the uncertainty caused by the passage of Bill S-6. The unilateral approach by the Harper Conservatives has further strained the relationships between First Nations and the federal Government. This has created a climate of uncertainty for the mining industry in Yukon, with three First Nations already announcing they will be filing law suits against the Government of Canada. Having the Government of Canada pitted against First Nation governments will hinder development, the ability for mining companies to get permits, and investment in Yukon resource projects.
- What steps would you promote, at the federal level, to reduce the regulatory uncertainty in Yukon’s mining sector?
If the Liberal Party forms government, we will repeal the four problematic elements of Bill S-6 and work collaboratively with Yukon First Nations and other partners to ensure the YESSA process reflects a true consensus and provides the certainty that mining investment needs.
The Liberal Party believes that the changes to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act (YESSA) in Bill S-6, which was pushed through by the Conservative government, without adequate consultation or collaboration with Yukoners and Yukon First Nations, are inconsistent with Canada’s treaty obligations and constitutional duties. The Conservative government has failed to meet its legal obligations and duties under the Yukon Land Claim Agreements regarding development assessment in the Yukon and, therefore, has diminished the honour of the Crown.
Our Party proposed a number of amendments to the Bill during the committee process that would help the mining industry and First Nations forge better partnerships. Unfortunately the Conservative majority on the committee voted down all the proposed amendments. While the Liberal Caucus voted unanimously against Bill S-6, the Conservative government used its majority in Parliament to push the flawed legislation through unchanged. Had this not occurred, many of the positive changes in S-6 by First Nations, proponents and government could have proceeded expeditiously.
The Yukon Chamber of Mines, in partnership with the Mining Association of Canada & Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada, co-authored a report earlier this year entitled “Leveling the Playing Field”, which revealed the costs for mine development is as much as 2.5 times higher for base metals in Northern Canada and 2 times higher for gold mines. This is a result of the lack of critical infrastructure available which creates major financial obstacles to exploring and operating a mine in Canada’s remote and northern regions. The report made a set of recommendations to aid with the development of the mining and investment climate in the north
- What is your position on creating and supporting federal programs, development incentives and investment programs to support northern mineral exploration and development?
Liberals recognize that extraction of remote ore bodies in rural and northern Canada are often hindered by the need for infrastructure development. One of the recommendations in the “Leveling the Playing Field” report is the creation of an infrastructure bank. The Liberal Party has committed to creating the Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB), to work in partnership with other levels of government and the private finance community. More details on this plan are listed in question three. The Liberals will also launch the largest infrastructure funding in Canadian history.
- What programs and/or initiatives do you envision having an immediate impact on the mining industry in Canada’s north?
The Liberal Party’s infrastructure investment plan will help develop roads, bridges and new sources of cleaner energy that will feed our resource industry and get products to market. Canada’s natural resource sectors can be world leaders in innovation and sustainability – and the federal government can help. We will invest $200 million more annually to create sector-specific strategies that support innovation and clean technologies in the mining, energy, forestry, fisheries, and agricultural sectors. These strategies will be developed in collaboration with the private sector, government, and research institutions, with the objective of producing real innovations that can be deployed in our natural resources sectors, commercialized, brought to scale, and exported.
The Liberal Party’s infrastructure plan has the ability to also improve the standard of living in many northern and remote communities. This plan, together with money ear-marked for affordable housing, will help encourage miners and their families to make Yukon their home, thus reducing labour market pressures which are always a challenge in the north.
- Would you support the creation of an infrastructure investment bank, separate from government, to promote direct investment in Yukon?
The Liberal Party is the only party that has committed to establishing the Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB) to provide low-cost financing to build new infrastructure projects. The new CIB will work in partnership with other orders of governments and Canada’s financial community, so that the federal government can use its strong credit rating and lending authority to make it easier – and more affordable – for proponents and municipalities to finance the broad range of infrastructure projects their communities need. Lending from the CIB will be linked to balance sheet assets, and will not require any increase in the federal government’s accumulated deficit.
Canada has become a global leader in infrastructure financing, and we will work with the private sector and pools of capital that choose for themselves to invest in Canadians infrastructure projects. Where a lack of capital available to territorial or municipal governments represents a barrier to projects, the CIB will be mandated to provide loan guarantees and small capital contributions to ensure that the projects are built. The CIB will help with building infrastructure projects to help get Yukon’s resources to market.
The majority of mining companies operating in the north, and in Yukon, are junior mining companies with limited internal financial resources. This requires them to raise funds through external financial markets and investors to carry projects forward to exploration and then to production. In recent years, securing financing options have become increasingly difficult for these companies given the increased costs associated with developing in the North.
- Given the current financial climate, what would you do to help promote the mining industry in Yukon to outside parties?
As MP I would be meeting with, and promoting Yukon mining, to outside investors as requested by industry. Canada needs to move our natural resources to domestic and global markets. One of the Prime Minister’s central responsibilities is to get Canadian resources to market, and by refusing to acknowledge that strong environmental and economic policies can and must coexist, Stephen Harper has damaged Canada’s future economic interests and jeopardized Canadian resource development.
Liberals, alternatively, have a plan to get our resources back to market while regaining public trust. Liberals believe projects must earn the trust of communities, must respect Aboriginal rights, and cannot place our lands, waterways or ecosystems at risk. After rebuilding broken relationships by amending YESAA, we will be able to promote stability in our regulatory regime to investors.
If we do not demonstrate to the world that we have our act together as a country on sustainable resource development we will find it harder and harder to get our resources to global markets.