Honourable Senators:

I rise today to deliver my response to the October 16, 2013 Speech from the Throne

Before responding, I want to make a brief mention of the replies given on December 10 and 11, 2013, by the Honourable Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, which I listened to carefully.  I frankly found the tone of the speeches excessively partisan and vitriolic.  I had hoped for some balance, some slight trace of respect for the Prime Minister of this great country…some acknowledgement that even one policy or program of many were initiated by a government no one would deny has been active.  Example: the Gas Tax was a Paul Martin initiatives – our Government made it permanent. Was that not a good thing? Instead, the Leader resorted to hyperbole, cheap shots, panda bears, and innuendo, which I frankly found to be demeaning to him and unconstructive.

I do not say this lightly, I respect the Honourable Leader of the Opposition in the Senate for many positions he has taken and advanced eloquently in this Chamber.  And we are fellow alumni of the best law school in the country and I worked with the distinguished law firm with which he is still currently associated with.

So I would have expected some restraint, even on the heels of a most confrontational debate, last session, about Tory Senators and abuse of taxpayers’ money, and curiously there was nary a comment about one of their own, who quietly slipped under the radar by resigning; one who is perhaps the most likely to be charged with fraud.

I cite as an example of this extreme rhetoric his suggestion that our Prime Minister knowingly condones the crack smoking mayor of Toronto – judge a man by the company he keeps, he said – by participating with him in a fishing derby. The Honourable Leader of the Opposition must know that the crack smoking admission occurred in recent months and long after this event.

Curiously, there was no mention, in the Honourable Leader’s speech, of his own Party Leader’s admission of having broken drug laws while a Member of Parliament and no comment about whether this admission helps qualify his Party’s leader to be Prime Minister of Canada.

And in the discussion of deficits, there was no acknowledgement of chilling shock of the worldwide recession of 2008, nor of the exhortations of his own Party to increase government spending at that time to buoy a faltering domestic economy.

I found the overall tawdry and exclusively partisan tone ironic, when I heard the Opposition Leader’s exhortation at the conclusion of his speech that we should all work together “and look forward to an active, productive sessions, working together, across party lines where possible, in the interests of all Canadians.”  This spirit of consensus and good will is what I do hope for, in this place, but after that nasty speech, I wonder if the Honourable Leader of the Opposition in the Senate really meant that or knows how to achieve it?

In this place, I for one cherish the less partisan tone which we are known for.  So I was disappointed that the Leader’s speech seemed mostly made for sound bites over thoughtful and balanced substance.
Now, I want to bring Senators’ attention to the Throne Speech and some important references to the North, references which truly demonstrate our Government’s commitment to implementing its Northern Agenda.

The Governor General stated:

“We are a northern country. We are a northern people. Canada’s greatest dreams are to be found in our highest latitudes. They are the dreams of a North confident and prosperous, the True North, strong and free.”

He outlined our Government’s accomplishments to date and elaborated on what it plans for the future, including completing the Dempster Highway to the Arctic Ocean; establishing the Canadian High Arctic Research Station; and opening Canada’s first deep water Arctic port at Nanisivik.

The Throne Speech also said: “the future prosperity of the north requires responsible development of its abundant natural resources….”

In this connection, I want to bring to Honourable Senators attention recent mining industry developments in my Nunavut constituency, developments which have produced or will produce investment, jobs, training and business opportunities and GDP growth in both the north and Canada.

All of these developments took place at a time when our national media and opposition parties, especially the opposition in this place, were eagerly consumed with spending irregularities in the Senate, – a scandal which we must not forget is fundamentally, at least on our side, about returning taxpayer’s money, not stealing it – rather than the real priorities of Canadians. Even Senator Harb returned $230,000 to the federal treasury, though under protest. And he was wrong about seals and sealing. More on that later.

While all this fulmination was going on in the Senate, I was watching what was going on in my home constituency of Nunavut.

A massive sealift to transport construction materials and fuel to the $4B Mary River Iron Ore Mine on the northern tip of Baffin Island was underway last summer. Baffinland’s sealift originated from Valleyfield, Quebec, a major marshaling centre for Arctic-bound goods.  Using nine cargo vessels and three fuel carrying vessels, Baffinland has shipped 32,700 tonnes of cargo; 33 million litres of diesel; and, 2.1 million litres of jet fuel.  All the cargo was shipped using two Inuit owned companies: Nunavut Sealink and Nunavut Eastern Arctic Shipping.  In total $60M in shipping contracts were tendered.  Last month, construction work was underway with about 375 workers on the site, 30% being Inuit beneficiaries, and will continue into 2014 with production set to start in 2016.  Baffinland estimates that 1,400 workers will be on site in 2014 and 2,000 by 2015.
Peregrine Diamond’s Chidliak project, located 120 kilometers northeast of Iqaluit, is also anticipating a bright future even though De Beers declined in October to pursue a potential joint venture with Peregrine.  At a time when investment capital is scarce, the company reports that it will continue its drilling programs in 2014 and 2015 to move the project closer to the feasibility study stage.  In early December, Peregrine reported that a kimberlite pipe on its Chidliak property contained a grade of 2.7 carats per tonne, an indication it is one of the highest grade kimberlites in the world –  and the proposed diamond mine is 120 kilometres northeast (stone’s throw) from Iqaluit, Nunavut’s capital.

Moving west to the Kivalliq region, while attending the Kivalliq Trade Show last September, I was honoured to be given a tour of every nook and cranny of  Agnico Eagle’s new Meliadine gold property, including its 24 km all weather road from Rankin Inlet to the property.  Agnico Eagle built and operates Nunavut’s first mine: the Meadowbank gold mine which is located near Baker Lake, Nunavut.  Because of fluctuations in the price of gold, Agnico Eagle has reduced expenditure plans at Meliadine, but still plans to have spent $80M in 2013 and spend $45M in 2014. Project spending in 2014 will focus on exploration development and drilling.  If a mine is constructed, capital costs would be in the order of $800M.  1,000 workers would be hired during construction and up to 700 workers during production.  The challenge for Agnico Eagle is the high cost of energy required to operate a mine at Meliadine.  It is currently investigating more cost effective sources, including extending the Manitoba hydro grid from Churchill into the Kivalliq region and using less costly electrical power from this source: a significant project which will require Manitoba and federal government endorsement and participation. I would love to see this seriously explored. It could be a win win for Manitoba, Nunavut and Canada.

Another promising Kivalliq region development is the Kiggavik uranium project which is located 80 kilometres west of Baker Lake Nunavut.  Areva Canada Resources, the project proponent, is currently gathering community input before it submits its final environmental impact statement for the Kiggavik project.  It is expected to cost $2.1B to construct, employing 700 workers during construction and 400 to 600 during operation.
Mining activity continues in the Kitikmeot region where international industry giants like Glencore and MMG are active in exploration projects and contemplating production.  Sabina, a junior exploration company, is looking to bring its Back River open pit gold property into production in 2017.  Despite challenges in raising investment dollars, MMG and Glencore have committed to continue with exploration projects in 2014.

Meanwhile, at Newmont’s Hope Bay project, TMAC Resources Inc., the new owners, and the Kitikmeot Inuit Association, have agreed to a five-year renewal of the commercial lease for the Doris North mine as well as facilities at Robert’s Bay and the Doris North site.  Very positive news considering that one year ago, Newmont was ready to put its Hope Bay property under care and maintenance.

Honourable Senators, at a time when the mining industry in Canada and internationally is facing major challenges attracting investment dollars and where complex regulatory regimes and challenging relations with Aboriginal land owners have discouraged mining development, Nunavut is thriving.

Nunavut has a modern, effective regulatory regime comprising four agencies, including the Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB) which has been doing an excellent job assessing small, medium and large scale development projects for the territory; the Nunavut Planning Commission which is in the process of consulting Nunavut communities on a draft land use plan for all of Nunavut; the Nunavut Water Board which works in close cooperation with the NIRB on management and regulation of Nunavut’s inland waters; and, the Nunavut Wildlife Board which manages and regulates access to wildlife in Nunavut.  Recent amendments made by our Government to the Nunavut Planning and Project Assessment Act (NUPPAA) will further enhance the ability of these agencies to regulate resource development.

I must gratefully acknowledge the contributions of our government to this success scenario.  Last summer, during his annual tour of the North, Prime Minister Harper announced the extension of the Geo-mapping for Energy and Minerals (GEM) program which is essential for providing industry with information required to make exploration and investment decisions.  Consecutive budgets under our government have also helped considerably with extension of the Mineral Exploration Tax Credit.  And significant funding is flowing to federal departments, territorial governments and territorial mine training societies to help train northern residents for mining related employment opportunities.

I also want to congratulate, the Hon. Peter Taptuna, formerly Nunavut’s Minister of Economic Development and Transportation, on his recent re-election to the Nunavut Legislative Assembly and appointment as Nunavut’s Premier.  Mr. Taptuna brings with him a wealth of experience in Nunavut’s resource sector, having worked as a young man during the 1970s to become the lead on offshore drilling rigs in the Mackenzie Delta/Beaufort Sea region of the NWT.

So, Honourable Senators,  there is a real world beyond the boundaries of our sometimes too partisan, I think, Parliamentary Precinct  – to the north – where the priorities are jobs, training, business opportunities in partnership with aboriginal people, creating a more attractive investment climate and generally improving the quality of life for northerners and  Canadians.

Our national media and federal opposition parties should spend some time outside of the Precinct where they will discover the real priorities of Canadians – priorities which our Government has been responding to for the benefit of the North and all Canadians.

Hon. Senators, given the importance of the seal harvest for my constituents, I want to also offer some comments on another Throne Speech reference to the North and the defense of the seal hunt.

I would like to begin, Honourable Senators, by applauding the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, under the determined leadership of the Honourable Minister Gail Shea, for recently accepting a proposal by the Fur Institute that seeks to develop a sustainable sealing program which responsibly and effectively manages seal meat and by-products produced by current seal management programs.

Canadian seals have become abundant – well actually pestilential – in our coastal waters.  The Northwest Atlantic Harp Seal population numbers 7.3 million; since 1970, their numbers have multiplied by five. The waters of Frobisher Bay literally boil with them.  I have seen it with my own eyes. Similarly, the grey seal population in Eastern Canada has increased from approximately 5,000 in the mid 1960’s to some 400,000 today.  Both types of seal are listed on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), as a species of “least concern” on its Red List of Threatened Species.

Harp seals are estimated to consume more than 500,000 tonnes of cod per year; contrast that with the 11,000 tonnes caught commercially in 2012.  IUCN has listed Atlantic cod as “vulnerable”.  In 2012, a study on seal-cod interactions on the Eastern Scotian Shelf by O’Boyle and Sinclair suggests that grey seals play an important role in the failure of Gulf cod stocks to recover while commercial and subsistence fishing is prohibited.

Honourable Senators, the Speech from the Throne spoke of the seal hunt as “an important source of food and income for coastal and Inuit communities” and this could not be more accurate.  In 2013, by harvesting 92,000 seals, the sealers purchase over $360 million worth of marine products to the fishing sector according to the Seals and Sealing Network.

The seal also appears as an underused species on the Smart Seafood List because of its many uses: including its rich source of healthy protein – it is an elixir for the Inuit who cherish it as a great delicacy and omega 3. Senator Greene Raine is a living example of the benefits of seal omega 3. She has a source in Newfoundland.

This important trade, entrenched in tradition and culture and supported by a need to control the seal population, is once again under attack by bullying foreign entities.  Inuit have been labeled cruel and inhumane for their treatment of seals.

Honourable Senators, I am proud to consider myself a seal hunter, though not a great one.  I learned to hunt seals with reverence and respect at the hands of great teachers; Inuit elders.  I am offended by these labels.

And consider this: since 1987, seals are not hunted before they reach maturity. We don’t kill baby seals commercially any more.  As well, professional seal hunters employ effective and established practices that take into account animal welfare as recommended by the Independent Veterinarians’ Working Group of 2005, The European Food Safety Authority, and the North Atlantic Marine Mammal

Conservation Organization, the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, and the Malouf Commission.  The same cannot be said of the EU which banned the import of Canadian seal products in 2010.  EU seal “pest control” continues to this day but the precious meat and other by-products are wasted.  This is not much talked about, but in 2007 records also show that 1.2 million deer and 500,000 wild boar were killed as big game in Europe: but all this is underground. There is a market based hunt for big game in Europe, but nothing has been done to acknowledge that and to make it acceptable.

The ban was said to be justified on “moral grounds” and this was recently upheld by a WTO ruling this past November despite newly surfaced documents that show the EU’s legal counsel delivering a 2009 opinion that clearly states that there is no ‘‘Article of the EC Treaty could be used as a legal basis for the adoption of the proposal.”

Canada launched an official appeal on January 24, 2014, and I feel I must take this opportunity, Honourable Senators, to also voice my outrage at the WTO decision.

I wholeheartedly agree with a joint statement released by Ministers Fast, Shea and Aglukkaq, who stated that “the seal harvest is a humane, sustainable and well-regulated activity. Any views to the contrary are based on myths and misinformation and the panel’s findings should be of concern to all WTO members.
To whose moral standards should the world be held?  Does the EU mean to say that their ‘pate de foie gras’ – eating citizens sit pontifically  on a moral high ground compared to our Inuit and coastal communities and anyone else who fully supports the seal hunt such as myself?

Colleagues, the findings of the WTO and the EU ban are hypocritical and discriminatory towards the Canadian seal industry.   The EU has banned all Canadian seal products, yet they continue to import seal products from Greenland, Sweden and Finland under the Inuit/Indigenous Communities and Marine Resource Management exemptions.  Canada should be next, a concession which I believe might warm the Arctic Council to determining that the EU has shown the respect for Indigenous Arctic cultures required for their acceptance as Arctic Council Official Observers.

Hypocritically, the EU, even though they condemn the Inuit of Canada for inhumane practices,  do not require any standard for animal welfare when hunting seals despite their proclamation that the very basis of their imperious ban is animal welfare or “humaneness”.  A proposal from the Canadian government to establish a “seal hunting welfare standard” was dismissed by the WTO as “impractical”.   This, even knowing that Canada, the EU and Russia signed onto the Agreement in International Humane Trapping Standards in 1997.  While Canada is in compliance with the agreement, Europe has done very little to implement the standards within its 28 member states, all of whom “manage” furbearers in some way.

Honourable Senators, we must remain steadfast and vigilant as foreign entities threaten our people’s traditional way of life.  We must stop the spread of misinformation and continue to support our government’s efforts to repeal this hypocritical and discriminatory ban on Canadian seal products.

In closing, I look forward to implementing the priorities of my Nunavut constituents and Canadians in the coming months, priorities which are reflected in the Speech from the Throne; our Government’s legislative, policy and program agendas; and, which I am confident will be further reinforced in Budget 2014.

 

Speaking Notes – Speech from the Throne Reply