Mr. Doug Rowland (Selkirk):
Mr. Speaker, I shall be brief this evening and need not take my full seven minutes. I have referred to this subject continually in the hope that in the end action will be taken. I raised this matter on May 1, again on May 24, and I am raising it once more tonight. On May 24 I directed the following question
July 4, 1972
to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (Mr. Chretien), as reported in Hansard, page 2519:
Mr. Speaker, my question is addressed to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. On May 1 I asked him a question on a matter of some urgency in light of recent oil finds in the Arctic, namely, when the regulations under the Northern Inland Waters Act would be completed and published. The hon. gentleman took the question as notice and undertook to look into the matter. I wonder whether he is now in a position to reply?
The minister replied as follows:
Mr. Speaker, the act has been proclaimed and I understand that the regulations are being considered by the two councils which have been established in order to implement them. I think that a meeting has been held last week and as soon as the report is submitted, we shall be able to proclaim these regulations. Meanwhile, officials of my department have advised the companies that they should abide by the regulations as if they were actually in force.
I think it is indicative of the government's commitment to the preservation of the Arctic ecology that the minister said, when I first asked my question on May 1, that he was not sure of the status of the regulations-regulations which he had promised would be in force by the end of 1971. He thought that they were in force. His answer on May 24 confirmed information which I had received, to the effect that the regulations had not been promulgated. Moreover, his answer gave no definite indication of just when they would be promulgated and when the regulations would come into force. I hope that information will be forthcoming this evening. I further hope that the actual date of the proclamation of these regulations will soon be here.
The present situation, in which companies are advised to act as if the draft regulations are already in effect, is obviously untenable on two grounds. First, it is dangerous for a government to require any of its citizens, corporate or individual, to follow a course of action which has not been prescribed by law. Second, and this is perhaps more important in the short run, the government would have no legal recourse in the event that a company operating in the north chose to ignore the draft regulations and, in ignoring them, caused ecological damage. The government would not have any legal recourse at all, as the required regulations have not been promulgated as the law requires.
I submit, Mr. Speaker, that the heightened rate of activity in the north demands that the government should act immediately and bring into effect the regulations which will make the Northern Inland Waters Act an effective piece of legislation. The balance within the ecology of the north is far too delicate to permit the possibility of error; indeed, so delicate is it that one wonders what can possibly be in the mind of a government which permits major efforts to exploit the wealth of the north to take place before laws and regulations to govern such activities have been devised.
I hope the parliamentary secretary will be able to present to the House tonight concrete information with respect to the expected date of the publication of the regulations which will flesh out the bones of the Northern Inland Waters Act, regulations which are urgently required to protect the northern environment.
Proceedings on Adjournment Motion