Northwest Territories Devolution Act

Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, I will try to squeeze in two questions to the minister in response to Bill C-15.

The first question is that I am confused by the fact that in Bill C-4, which was an omnibus budget bill, we incorporated a change that would have more properly been done here—the Mackenzie gas project impacts fund act, which allows the minister to have complete discretion as to how the funds are used, as opposed to the previous way they were used.

This relates to my next question, which is this. Admittedly the Northwest Territories has a complex jurisdictional framework. Anyone who participated in the Mackenzie gas pipeline hearings is aware of the multiple levels of jurisdiction. However, the regional boards that were established, and which are being conflated through this act, were set up in relation to land claims agreements and were to stay in place until all land claims agreements were resolved. With land claims agreements still outstanding in the area, was it appropriate to devolve and reduce the number of boards? It is fine to say it makes the Northwest Territories more competitive, but what does it say about the consistency with agreements with the federal Crown and various complex regional organizations?

Bernard Valcourt:  Mr. Speaker, the hon. member raises a question that she knows is particularly sensitive to the aboriginal parties in the region in question.

Currently, there are four land and water boards for the Mackenzie Valley. Three of the existing land and water boards, Gwich’in, Sahtu and Wek’èezhìi, function in each of their respective areas as regional panels of the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board, which is responsible for projects that cover more than one region and for the unsettled areas.

The restructured board was envisaged and agreed to when the land claims agreements were concluded. Every aboriginal group with whom these comprehensive land claims agreements were concluded knew that at one point a board could cover the whole of the Northwest Territories. That is exactly what we are achieving in Bill C-15, which is quite respectful of our treaty obligations.