Mr. Brad Trost (Saskatoon—University, CPC): Mr. Speaker, before I begin my remarks, I need to note, for the Chair and for the House, that I will be splitting my time with my good friend and colleague, the hon. member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands.
I can bring everything back to relevance, but the House will have to bear with me for one little indulgence. I should explain to the House why I was unable to be here for the last parliamentary sitting week, and that was because my household welcomed a new eight pound, 10 ounce little girl, Elena Esu Trost. I was not away at some costume party in India or something like that. I was actually celebrating the birth of my daughter, and doing some constituency work at the same time. These things always need relevance and, like very piece of legislation we are talking about, it always impacts our children’s future.
This legislation is of particular interest to me. The members who have been here for quite a few years will understand why. Prior to my election to the House of Commons, I worked as a mining exploration geophysicist. Geophysics was my education. It was my primary degree at the University of Saskatchewan. I actually worked in the field on mining, mineral exploration projects.
For me, when I read bills that talk about regulation, about impact of natural resources, it is not an academic question. Nowadays, increasingly, we have more and more Canadians who are removed from the production of primary goods. We see more and more people, as the joke goes, who think milk comes from a box in the store, not from a cow. They think that houses magically appear, and they are not made out of lumber and wood.
The same thing happens with oil and gas, and mineral resources. People often do not have a fundamentally good understanding of where these products come from or the impact or what needs to be done. Rather than going through some of the technical elements of the bill, which my colleagues are going to do very well here today, I want to talk a little about what this actually means to people on the ground.
One of the things that needs to be understood by Canadians who are watching this, by people who do not live in primary natural resource communities, is what this actually means for the social well-being, health, and other things of people in these areas. Every time we make it more difficult to produce natural resource wealth from rural and remote areas, we completely and deeply impact the lives of the people who live in those areas. For people who live in downtown Toronto, downtown Vancouver, or even in my city, downtown Saskatoon, this is a remote issue for them. It does not actually impact their day-to-day life.
Let me give an example of what things can actually change if mining, oil and gas projects get through. In the year 2000, I was an exploration geophysicist up in Baker Lake, Nunavut, a great community. The geographical centre of Canada is just outside of town. In that community at that point, there was a high unemployment rate. There were naturally issues, and not all issues go away with economic development.
What happened in the following years after we were up there and working on the Meadowbank and the Melinda project that later on Cumberland Resources turned into a mine. To date, there is a gold mine not too far away from the community. They can drive there, back and forth, and they take out the ore deposits.
Baker Lake has less than a 0% unemployment rate. They have full employment there. I had the privilege of sitting in at a committee hearing where representatives of Baker Lake actually came. They came and they talked about what this means to their communities.
When we talk about this legislation here, we are not just talking about things in the abstract. We are talking about a change in standard of living, a change in communities, particularly for our remote and rural areas. This has more impact on the social well-being of many of these communities than all the government projects combined.
That is why I think it should be, in many ways, a prejudice, not a negative prejudice but a positive prejudice, toward development in these smaller communities in particular. When it doubt, we should give extra weight to people who will get economic benefit from these projects.
That is what concerns me about this legislation that the government is bringing forward today. The government has taken away one very important element in this legislation that previously existed, and that was the concept of standing.