TORONTO – Greg Rickford states, “We are taking concrete action to equip Aboriginals with the education, the skills and the training they need to take full advantage of the opportunities a well-paying job in the resource sector presents”. Rickford, the MP from Kenora and the Parliamentary Secretary for the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and North Development was speaking to the PDAC Convention in Toronto.
Greg Rickford – Speech to PDAC
I am pleased to be here to talk with you about an issue important to all of us: job creation and economic growth. Both of these remain priorities for our Government.
Thanks in no small part to the clear vision and strong leadership of our Prime Minister Canada has weathered the economic storm better than most countries.
But we are not immune to the turmoil we are seeing elsewhere in the world.
That is why we remain focused on the basics: keeping the economy strong and creating well-paying jobs for Canadians.
In Canada we’re fortunate. Our country is home to world-class reserves of natural resources, representing tremendous economic potential.
Developed sustainably these resources will provide economic benefits for generations of Canadians.
But their development requires a skilled work force, one that is ready and able to meet the needs of the labour market.
And it requires that we recognize that in developing them we must work together, in partnership, with all interested parties, including Canada’s Aboriginal people.
Our Government is prepared to do its part. For instance, as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, I can tell you our Government is not just committed to ensuring Canada’s Aboriginals are equipped to participate in the economy.
We are taking concrete action to equip Aboriginals with the education, the skills and the training they need to take full advantage of the opportunities a well-paying job in the resource sector presents.
The Prospectors and Developers’ Association of Canada should also be recognized for helping to promote Aboriginal participation in the mineral industry, through such initiatives as the Mineral Exploration and Mining Guide for Aboriginal Communities, and events like this Aboriginal Forum.
I’m especially pleased to note the increased participation of Aboriginal governments, industry and people in events such as this. Your increased participation and engagement with the resource industry demonstrates progress, but we must continue to find ways of working together. The opportunities are too great for us not to.
Today there are close to 763,000 Canadians directly employed in the natural resources sector across the country, with thousands more employed by industries servicing the sector.
Yet, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce forecasts job requirements of 81,000 in the mining industry in the next decade.
This is both a challenge to be faced and an opportunity that must be seized.
According to the Conference Board of Canada, over the next five years alone, some 155,000 Aboriginal young people will reach working age. This demographic shift represents a tremendous opportunity to address Canada’s labour needs, while also improving the socio-economic conditions for Aboriginal people.
When we combine this young and growing population with the demand for employees in the natural resource sector, as well as the proximity of so many Aboriginal communities to those resources, Aboriginal communities are ideally placed to contribute to and benefit from natural resource development.
That’s why our government invests more than $400 million annually in direct funding for Aboriginal skills development and training.
Our Major Projects and Investment Funds Initiative has contributed over $22 million, from 2008 to 2012, to support Aboriginal participation in 87 energy and resource projects such as hydro, mining, renewable energy and forestry across Canada. These contributions have helped create jobs and investments in our economy.
Across Canada there are over 600 major resource projects planned over the next 10 years, both North and South of 60, representing billions of dollars in economic activity, and thousands of important, well-paying direct and indirect jobs.
Our Government has been delivering on its commitment to enable businesses to seize these opportunities.
For instance, our ‘one project, one review’ policy streamlines the review process, allowing companies to operate at the speed of business, while enhancing environmental protection, ensuring sustainable development, and providing additional resources for meaningful Aboriginal consultation.
Last month we announced new regulations that will allow the proposed Kitimat LNG facility on the Haisla First Nation’s Bees Indian Reserve No. 6 to proceed.
The Kitimat LNG facility demonstrates the benefits of working together. The federal and provincial governments, along with the First Nation, came together to create a solution that will benefit not just the First Nation and the province, but all of Canada.
The Kitimat LNG facility will provide Canada’s energy producers with a doorway to overseas markets, creating jobs and economic growth.
And there is no shortage of opportunities like this…
For instance, Aboriginals, industry and the province can count on our government to work collaboratively to maximize the economic opportunities and development potential of Ontario’s Ring of Fire.
Through FedNor our government has programs that can assist First Nation communities, municipalities and others to prepare for and take advantage of Ring of Fire development opportunities.
In Canada’s North, the number of mines in operation continues to grow and exploration activities are on the rise. In all, there are more than 25 projects in the works North of 60, representing $21 billion in potential investment in the mining sector.
According to some estimates, one-quarter of our known reserves of conventional oil and gas can be found North of 60. That’s immense potential waiting to be realized.
Canada has what the world needs: fuel to power growth and minerals to build, expand and enrich businesses, countries and lives.
Businesses, investors and communities want to unleash that resource wealth and create opportunities for individuals and communities across the country.
Our government has taken steps to do just that.
Bill C-47, the Northern Jobs and Growth Act, which is currently before parliament, fulfils key elements of our Action Plan to Improve Northern Regulatory Regimes. It honours obligations made by the Government of Canada to Northerners when representatives of the federal government negotiated and signed land claims agreements with Aboriginal groups in Yukon, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.
It will enable us to strengthen, streamline and align resource-development regulations in each of Canada’s three territories.
The North’s abundance of natural resources could potentially fuel Canada’s prosperity for decades to come…
…And the concrete steps we have taken are key to unlocking that potential.
Looking to the future, our government will continue to put forward measures that will help create the conditions for jobs, growth and long-term prosperity across Canada, including for Aboriginal communities.
Supporting environmentally sustainable resource development is this government’s priority. This will fuel economic growth, which in turn produces jobs. Jobs this country needs and jobs that will ensure Canada continues to thrive.
Our government supports your work as prospectors and developers and will continue to implement policy and legislation to ensure resource development, cutting edge research and strategic investments continue to make Canada a leader in resource development, and as a result an international leader of the future.
Sound resource development is vital to the growth and future prosperity of Canada’s economy. Through events like this Aboriginal Forum, we can find ways to work together to promote successful Aboriginal participation in the mineral industry. Every business and person in this room contributes to a future where all Canadians benefit from sustainable and strategic development of natural resources in Canada.
Greg Rickford MP