Public Safety Minister Vic Toews says the Harper government has full support for the future development in the North from resources and its potentials for Canadians and especially young people in the country.
Toews says the North is a good area for people to settle in, to live and to raise families.
“Canada’s future, Canada’s strength, lies in the North. Prime Minister Harper has been very focused on the North as far as development goes and the government does not want to lose the potential.”
Toews says he equates the north to time of Sir John A. MacDonald when he was looking at the rail system making its way across Canada and how important that was in bringing British Columbia into Confederation.
“John A. MacDonald saw Canada from sea to sea, and Prime Minister Harper takes it one step farther from sea to sea to sea.”
He says every year Prime Minister Harper hand his Ministers visit the North, including places such as Labrador to help the government to understand northern rural isolated areas.
“Which will inevitably be developed and we want to do it in a careful and responsible way, I really think that has been Stephen Harper’s hallmark. He wants to develop, but wants it done in a responsible way.”
Toews says the government is looking at mining, resource development and housing.
“Unlike the NDP, who regard resource development as a disease, we believe natural resource development benefits manufacturing industries in Southern Canada, including Southern Ontario.”
He says there are so many jobs in Southern Ontario dependent on what is happening in the North, including here in Labrador. He says that the government is very fortunate to have Regional Minister Peter Penashue here in Labrador, and Labrador is fortunate to have him here as well to work with the government to bring Labrador’s uniqueness and resources to the rest of Canada.
Muskrat falls project
Toews says that as far as Muskrat Falls goes the federal government is behind the project and they are not opposed to legitimate arguments for or against the project. But added his government is committed to Muskrat Falls and they stand behind Peter Penashue and his commitment to Muskrat Falls.
“But let’s not dress up political ambition in an environmental wrap. It happens from time to time. Todd Russell’s people and Yvonne Jones have agendas when it comes to Muskrat Falls. So let’s divide what is politically motivated and what is a genuine environmental concern.”
NunatuKavut president Todd Russell said that his nation certainly does have legitimate environmental concerns when it comes to Muskrat Falls.
“We have social economic concerns, we have legitimate aboriginal treaty right concerns, and all of these things have to be taken into account with the federal government.”
Russell said, “Of course we have agendas and some of them are truly political and says the political agenda is for equal rights and recognition of the people of NunatuKavut.”
Peter Penashue said that NunatuKavut is not opposed to Muskrat Falls, but are offended that they have not been included in the project or the benefits agreement, that is similar to that of the Innu Nation.
Russell said that he and his nation have wanted to sit at a table and negotiate an agreement that respects the rights of the NunatuKavut people.
“We want proper consultation and accommodation as per the law, so yes we have indicated all of that.”
Toews said in the case of NunatuKavut there is a difference between opposition and a land claim.
“Because if they say I agree with the project and I want a piece of the action, that issue needs to be addressed in accordance with the legal entitlement that they would have. So again lets not confuse land entitlement with compensation with is this something good for Labrador overall.”
Russell says the interesting thing about the comments that were made, it seems that they are the “prosecution and the judge, we submit a Land Claim for negotiation with the federal government and they have a responsibility whether or not they will join negotiations or not.”
He said that there is also a Treaty that needs to be recognized as well, and that is the British Init treaty of 1764.
Toews said with Muskrat Falls there has to be reasonable steps taken to address legitimate concerns with First Nations communities and other aboriginal communities and make sure Muskrat Falls is done in an environmentally sound way.
“That is done on a legal and scientifically basis, it is not done as a result of a political agenda.”
Toews says he comes from a province where hydro is very important and he could argue that there may have been cost overruns.
“Do I think I have a better solution? Well yes I do, but that is not my business.”
MP Peter Penashue says that most people in Labrador agree to development mining and forestry, including the Lower Churchill development.
“People want jobs, growth in their communities, people want to see their children come back to the community after working in Alberta or wherever they are. People want their children to come home to Labrador and work.”
Penashue says he has talked to elders in the community and they all want their children and grandchildren to come back here to work.
“Why do you think there is all this buzz here in Goose Bay? Because people are excited, they are spending money like crazy. People are excited about Lower Churchill.”
He says he knows that there are people opposed to the Lower Churchill project, but they are ones who have personal or political agendas.
“I Ran in Labrador that I was promoting resource development and I supported Lower Churchill. My opponent was against Lower Churchill and people chose to elect me. So the people support my position.”
Penashue says he was elected to do what is best for Labrador and knows the spinoffs from the project will benefit all of Labrador. He says that it is time for Labrador to look after itself.
“Labrador has to start to benefit from its resources. If you look at what is happening in Labrador, we have all the resources that the rest of the country needs, we have hydro development, mining development, we have iron ore, we just have to make sure we do it properly,” he said.
Northern Gateway pipeline
With the Northern Gateway pipeline running across many First Nations and Aboriginal Territories the federal government is working on land deals to ensure the line can move forward economically, scientifically, and in the best interests to all Canadians.
“This pipeline will be done on a scientific bases, this will be done in away that develops resources in a appropriate manner. You know many other Premier’s recognize that and want to be part of it,” said Toews.
In British Columbia the government has come out saying they do not want the pipeline going through the province, because of the possibility of damage to the natural environment and they want a bigger piece of the revenues that would be generated.
“It’s a question of whether or not B.C. wants it (the pipeline) or not. They are pre-positioning themselves before an election, so who knows exactly who wants what,” Toews said.
Toews compared the pipeline that many Premiers want to the level of co-operation between Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia with hydroelectric power.
“That type of co-operation is essential for our country to grow and survive as a unit. So with the controversy going on with B.C., the premier (Bob McLeod) of the North West Territories said if B.C. does not want the pipeline, it could go through N.W.T.”
Toews says even with the Northern Gateway pipeline going through parts of Canada’s North, the government knows that there are several aboriginal nations that the government has to sit down with and consult with before the lines can move forward.
“Speaking with ministers responsible, especially in the N.W.T., they are fully prepared to work with all the aboriginal communities to make sure development occurs in a responsible way. So in the N.W.T. they welcome the development and are optimistic it will occur ”
There are 26 Nations represented in N.W.T., which include Métis and Inuit communities and are willing to work with the government to ensure that the work will be environmentally responsible, while others say more talks are needed.
Toews says the government is implementing reforms to eliminate duplication hearings of environment impacts, which are provincial, but then the federal government can come in a do exactly the same thing.
“Our goal is not inappropriate exploitation and ignoring of environmental rules, ours is to bring a rationality to the regulatory process, that ensures environmental concerns are heard and the development takes place.”
Toews says, “Some people who oppose natural resource development, oppose all natural resource development and we as a government think that is short sighted.”