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Remarks for Keynote Session: Sharing Mineral Wealth
The Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, PC, MP
Minister of the Environment
Minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency
and Minister for the Arctic Council
“Development for the People of the North”
Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada
2014 Convention and Trade Show
Metro Toronto Convention Centre
135 King Street East
March 3, 2014
Check against delivery
Thank you for your kind introduction, and thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for the opportunity to address the world’s leading Convention for people, companies and organizations involved in mineral exploration.
PDAC shares a vision with the Government of Canada – where economic wealth and quality of life go hand in hand with the responsible and sustainable development of our natural resources.
I am a proud Northern Canadianh – proud to live in a land of great abundance. Some of that wealth has been harvested for generations. Some of it is about to be developed. As the Minister for the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency – known as CanNor – I want to talk about CanNor’s goal: to help build a strong, diversified, sustainable and dynamic economy for all Northerners. And we will do it in a way that maintains the social well-being and the environmental health of the North.
Forty percent of Canada’s land mass is found in the three territories. It is a region rich in metals and minerals, oil and gas. It’s an area where most of the land claims have now been settled, and development can proceed in a climate of certainty and strong partnership with Aboriginal people.
The resource wealth of the North has in recent years sparked a lot of economic activity. Many Canadians in the South might be surprised to learn how, for several years, the North has enjoyed Canada’s fastest-growing GDP. Although the recent drop in commodity prices means slower growth, the Conference Board of Canadareports that economic growth in the territories is expected to easily outpace most other regions in Canada. Footnote 1 Now is the time to talk about the future.
When I’m back home in Nunavut, or travelling to communities in Yukon and the NWT, I hear similar messages from all regions. Northerners know that mining and other extraction industries play an important role in their economic development. But they also tell me that it must be done right.
Two things are uppermost in their minds. First, any development must happen in an environmentally responsible manner. We have lived in harmony with the land, the water and the animals for generations. We will depend on that harmony for generations to come.
Second, development in the North must bring benefits to the people and communities of the North. We are looking for investment in local communities, and for job opportunities. We have a young and growing population. For example, the average age in Nunavut is 25 years – that’s a strong potential labour pool that can benefit from this development. We are targeting specific training programs to help Northerners participate in development opportunities.
Since 2006, Prime Minister Harper has placed the North high on the policy agenda. So much has been accomplished through our Government’s Northern Strategy. It has four priorities. They deal with sovereignty, governance, protecting the environment and – most important for this Convention – social and economic development. But they are all interconnected.
Over the years, the Government has launched many initiatives to support the Strategy, including the creation of CanNor, which has a mandate to the economic development of Canada’s North. The Agency’s current priorities include:
Building a workforce that is skilled and engaged;
Promoting new infrastructure; and
Developing the capacity of our communities.
Since it was created in 2009, CanNor has invested close to $150 million through its various contributions programs to promote key sectors of the northern economy from tourism to fisheries, and including resource development.
Last month, the Minister of Finance renewed the Strategic Investments in Northern Economic Development Program with $40 million over two years, beginning April 1, 2014, to help strengthen the northern economy and to help Northerners benefit from resource development. On April 1st, we are also launching a renewed Aboriginal Economic Development program, which will place greater emphasis on ensuring the Aboriginal entrepreneurs realize business opportunities.
Under our Government’s Northern Strategy, we already have a number infrastructure projects under way: a highway from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk; upgrades to the Mayo B hydroelectric plant in Yukon, and the major improvements to Iqaluit Airport to name three. In Budget 2014, the Government of Canada recognized the tremendous development potential of the North and will work with territorial governments and local municipalities to develop much needed infrastructure in the North.
That’s not all. Municipalities in the territories will develop their own priorities for infrastructure. Beginning April 1st, the Northwest Territories will have control of its onshore lands and natural resources. We’ve also invested in the North through everything from the geological mapping to a training program aimed specifically at skills for the mining sector. As I say, the North is a priority for this Government – and it cuts across many departments and agencies.
I have given you an overview of CanNor. But now let me widen the scope of the discussion.
Because mineral exploration and development holds enormous potential – not just for the three territories, but for all of Canada – it’s important that we get the regulatory system right. It must be both effective at protecting ecosystems and promoting communities, but efficient as well. We don’t want worthy projects that represent a brighter future to get tangled in red tape. That’s why, the 2012 Economic Action Plan streamlined regulatory processes.
For example, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 – or CEAA 2012 – which applies primarily in the South, is an important part of the Economic Action Plan’s Responsible Resource Development initiative.
CEAA 2012 established legal timelines for environmental assessments. And I can tell you they are having their desired effect. Instead of taking months, proponents receive a decision about whether a federal EA is required in 45 days.
EAs themselves are proceeding on schedule. This means a maximum of 365 days for an EA by CEAA and 24 months for an assessment by an independent review panel.
We are also reducing duplication with provincial reviews. Under CEAA 2012, a provincial EA may substitute for the federal process. We already have six projects undergoing a substituted EA in British Columbia. Four of these projects are mines.
Responsible Resource Development is also about strengthening environmental protection. After an EA, I can now put legally binding conditions in a decision statement that proponents must implement. This authority did not exist under the old law.
Finally, Responsible Resource Development is enhancing consultations with Aboriginal groups potentially affected by proposed projects. CEAA is coordinating these consultations in a manner that is respectful, responsive, and consistent with the honour of the Crown.
I’d like to widen the scope of discussion even further and talk about the vast circumpolar region that contains not only Canada’s Arctic, but the Northern areas of the seven neighbouring states that are Canada’s partners at the Arctic Council.
I was honoured to be appointed Minister of the Arctic Council by our Prime Minister. Canada assumed the two-year Chairmanship of the Arctic Council in May 2013. Our overall theme is “Development for the people of the North.” Our focus is on responsible Arctic resource development, safe Arctic shipping, and sustainable circumpolar communities.
Under Canada’s chairmanship, the Arctic Council is facilitating the creation of a circumpolar business forum, called the Arctic Economic Council. It will foster business development in the Arctic and bring together indigenous and non-indigenous business and industry. In this way, we build Arctic-to-Arctic partnerships. The interests of this new forum match the interests of many of the companies here. Think of how you can participate. It can open doors to new opportunities for you in the circumpolar region.
Ladies and gentlemen, the metal and mining industry worldwide may have slowed, but I believe we are on the threshold of a new era of prosperity and development. Before the recent price slump, Canada’s North was well on its way to becoming a world class destination for investment in resource development. And we know it will attract more investment when commodity prices rise again, as demands for our rich resources will undoubtedly continue to grow.
However, our quality of life in Canada and particularly in the North– indeed our future – depends on nets in the water, steel on the traplines, and shovels in the ground. It takes roads, harbours and airstrips. It takes knowledge – knowledge of the traditional ways and also knowledge of the technology that links our communities – no matter how remote – to the rest of the world.
But most importantly, I believe that building a successful future takes strong partnerships. It is conferences such as PDAC that help foster these connections and partnerships. I wish you all a successful conference.
Qujannamiik. Thank you.
1. Slowdown in Mining Sector Holds Back Economies of Canada’s Territories in 2013
“Spending on mineral exploration is expected to be down in all three territories this year, with Nunavut experiencing the largest decline. Real GDP in the territories will increase by 0.5 per cent in 2013, below recent economic performances. The medium term is promising; economic growth in the territories over the next few years is expected to easily outpace growth in most other regions of Canada. Real GDP in the territories as a whole is expected to expand by a more robust 3.2 per cent in 2014 and 4.2 per cent in 2015. While a given mining project is never guaranteed to proceed, favourable global demand for metals suggest that Canada’s mining potential is bright over the next decade—particularly in the North.”
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