Hon. Anne McLellan (Minister of Natural Resources)
moved that Bill C-48, an act to establish the Department of Natural Resources and to amend related acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise on second reading of Bill C-48, an act to establish the Department of Natural Resources and to amend other related acts.
I would like to take this opportunity to describe to my colleagues and all Canadians how this bill is consistent with this government's agenda for Canada's natural resource sector.
As well I will describe the importance of the natural resource sector to Canada's economic strength and job creation and the role of my department to ensure that the natural resource sector continues to be a cornerstone of our economy, of employment and of Canada's progress toward sustainable development.
Bill C-48 will establish the Department of Natural Resources under one act. At the present time authorities for the minister and the department are set out in two acts, the Department of Forestry Act and the Department of Energy, Mines and Re-
sources Act. According to the bill natural resources incorporate all of the resources covered in the two departmental acts. Specifically, these resources are mines, minerals and other non-renewable resources, energy and forest resources.
While we recognize the provincial responsibility for the management of natural resources in Canada, the federal government has the responsibility in partnership with the provinces to maintain and enhance the contribution of the natural resource sector to our economic growth and job creation.
In essence, Bill C-48 provides a legal framework for the federal Department of Natural Resources to provide a national perspective on mining, energy and forestry issues and to provide leading edge expertise in research and development to help the natural resource sector meet current and future challenges.
One of those challenges is Canada's progress toward sustainable development. Bill C-48 respects the federal government's commitment to encourage progress toward sustainable development.
For example, the bill states that to carry out the minister's assigned powers, duties and functions the Minister of Natural Resources is required to have regard to the integrated management and sustainable development of Canada's natural resources. While this requirement is contained in the present Department of Forestry Act there is no such reference in the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources Act. This provision will now be clearly stated and applied to all natural resources.
Canada's natural resource industries are not sunset industries. Let me make that point today very emphatically. These industries provide a major portion of Canada's gross domestic product. For example, in 1992 the value of energy, forestry, mineral and metal production totalled $69 billion or 14 per cent of our GDP. In 1992 net trade in energy, mineral and forest products amounted to $40.5 billion and provided much of the basis for Canada's $15 billion trade surplus.
One in every 13 members of Canada's workforce is employed in the energy, forest and mining sectors in all regions of this country. In fact natural resource activity provides the economic backbone for over 500 Canadian communities, many of them in remote areas.
As well, our natural resource industries are high tech industries. Canada is a world leader in the development and application of technology to improve productivity and competitiveness of our mining, forestry and energy industries. This effort to develop new technology has resulted in the emergence of new industries and therefore new jobs.
For example, Canada's requirements for accurate information about our resources has stimulated a new industry known as geomatics. This high potential, $1.3 billion industry employs over 12,000 Canadians. Furthermore Canada's geomatics industry contributes $100 million a year in exports.
Economic challenges face Canada's natural resource industries. Improved productivity and efficiency are essential to our country's ability to remain competitive in the natural resource sector. However the environmental challenges facing the sector are equally important. As a result, I believe that Natural Resources Canada will be a vital bridge between industrial and environmental concerns as we move to meet the challenges of the future.
Fiscal restraint affects all orders of government in Canada. Therefore we must find new and innovative ways to work together. I believe that our ability to encourage the integration of economic and environmental demands will be enhanced through co-operative ventures and partnerships which involve all stakeholders.
Throughout the years the department's research and technology expertise has built a solid reputation throughout the world. Its work has been geared to improving resource sector competitiveness and environmental performance. Natural Resource Canada's scientific and technological expertise has focused on all aspects of natural resource management.
For example, in forest management the Canada forest accord and its action plan, the national forest strategy, represent a commitment to sustainable forest development in the country. Through partnerships between federal and provincial governments, environmental and aboriginal groups and other forest users, we are working together to test and apply new approaches to manage forests as ecosystems.
Our mining industry is always moving forward, searching for innovations to become even more efficient and more competitive. As a result, the mining sector has one of the highest productivity levels in the world. The department's science and technology expertise has contributed to the development of many of these innovative processes. Many are linked to the challenge of meeting environmental concerns. Examples include acid mine drainage, effluents and promoting the use of metal recycling.
The energy sector will continue to be an important part of the department. There is no question that oil and gas development is important to sustain jobs and to Canada's overall economic strength. We are committed to market based principles. We are committed to sustainable development. Therefore we will work closely with industry, the provinces and others to harmonize economic and environmental goals.
Increased energy efficiency is widely recognized to have the greatest potential for short term contributions to our progress toward sustainable development. Moreover, energy efficiency can help Canada make a positive contribution to the government's goal of limiting greenhouse gas emissions.
Energy efficient technologies also contribute to wealth generation and job creation. Many companies and businesses have discovered that energy efficiency makes business sense. Innovative, made in Canada technologies for new products, processes, systems and services can also be exported to a rapidly expanding world market.
Natural Resources Canada will therefore continue to address the economic and environmental concerns of the natural resource sector. Canada will continue to lead and be a model in all aspects of natural resource management and use.
I will continue to work with the provinces, industry, environmental and aboriginal groups, and other stakeholders in the natural resource sector. The Department of Natural Resources will promote sustainable development practices and will apply its science and technological expertise to enhance our international trade, our competitiveness and the contribution by the natural resource sector to Canada's economic strength and job creation.
The bill will provide the Department of Natural Resources with the legal mandate and framework in which to deliver all these commitments as we move forward to the next century.
Topic: Government Orders
Subtopic: Department Of Natural Resources Act