A committee of MLAs wrapped up final public hearings on three environmental bills last week at the legislative assembly in preparation for a final vote.
The hearings concluded with much criticism about the amount of workload and condition of some of the bills.
The Standing Committee on Economic Development and Environment heard from final witnesses speaking to the proposed environmental bills — the Protected Areas Act, the Environmental Rights Act and the Forest Act — after completing several dates of hearings within the last couple of weeks on the draft legislation, included dates with the K’atl’odeeche First Nation, Hay River, Fort Smith, Fort Providence, Behchoko and Inuvik.
Committee chair Cory Vanthuyne said it is unprecedented for a legislative assembly committee to be taking three pieces of legislation at the same time. He said the timeline to complete reports for each piece of legislation with proposed amendments is tight.
“Normally you wouldn’t see bills bundled like this and normally it is one bill going out on the road with a reasonable amount of time for committee to review it and get feedback,” said Vanthuyne.
“While some might suggest that the fourth year of every assembly is a busy time for legislation, I understand that, but in most instances (based on experts) it has been referred to as unprecedented the amount of legislation that has been put forward in the last few months. ”
Also on the committee is Kevin O’Reilly (Frame Lake), RJ Simpson (Hay River North), Kieron Testart (Kam Lake), Herbert Nakimayak (Nunakput) and Daniel Mark McNeely (Sahtu)
O’Reilly said there has been a lot of work done by GNWT bureaucrats to bring the bills to MLAs, but he feels they aren’t yet ready and the committee has a lot of work to do to revise them.
“It would be fair to say that all these bills need a lot of work, some more than others,” he said.
“They haven’t been terribly well crafted.”
All three bills passed second reading during the last legislative assembly session and are among seven pieces of environmental legislation that the committee is reviewing that stem from the 2014 devolution agreement with Ottawa.
That agreement requires the GNWT to take jurisdictional control over lands from the federal government.
Committee hearings at legislative assembly
About 35 people attended the hearings April 30 and about another 25 on May 2. During the hearings, the committee heard from environmental lawyer Lyda Collins, Karen Hamre, environmental and social activist Nancy Vail, Bill Enge, president of the North Slave Metis Alliance, Hadley Archer and Tracey williams for Nature United, Kevin Smith and Barrett Lenoir for Ducks Unlimited Canada, and Steven Nitah and Larry Innes for the Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation, Dene National Chief Norman Yakeleya, Sarah Brown, chief executive officer of Northwest Territories Association of Communities, Nick Leeson of the Sahtu Renewable Resources Board, public member Matilda Becker, and Zoe Guile and Kris Brekke, of CPAWS NWT and Lois Little, Council of Canadians, NWT Chapter.
Numerous written submissions were also addressed during hearings leading up to a May 3 deadline and can be found on the legislative assembly website.
The legislative assembly issued a list of dates April 30 that will take the committee on the road for public hearings during much of May and June.
The committee will be reviewing three bills from the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment starting this week. They include public hearings on: Bill 34: Mineral Resources Act; Bill 36: an Act to amend the Petroleum Resources Act; and Bill 37: an Act to amend the Oil and Gas Operations Act.
According to a media advisory, dates include stops in Inuvik on May 6 at the Midnight Sun Complex at 7 p.m., Norman Wells, on May 7, at The Legion at 7 p.m., Yellowknife on May 8 at the legislative assembly at 7 p.m., Behchoko on May 9 at the Ko Gocho Centre at 7 p.m., and on May 10 in Fort Simpson at the Community Hall at 7 p.m.
In June the committee will hold public hearings for Bill 46: Public Lands Act, which include stops at Fort Smith on June 24 at the Salt River First Nation boardroom at 7 p.m.; at the K’atlodeeche First Nation’s Chief Lamalice Complex on June 25 at 12 p.m.; in Hay River on June 25 at the Community Centre at 7 p.m.; in Fort Simpson on June 26 at the Community Hall at 7 p.m; in Fort Providence on June 27 at the Community Hall at 12 p.m.; in Yellowknife, at the legislative assembly building at 7 p.m. and at Inuvik on June 28 at the Midnight Sun Complex at 7 p.m.