Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform you that I will be splitting my time with the member for Thérèse-De Blainville.
I welcome this opportunity to speak to a motion put forward by the hon. member for Portage—Lisgar. The motion is timely. It comes during a week when the Prime Minister clearly outlined the government's role in looking out for Canada's best interests during pipeline reviews rather than acting as a cheerleader.
The motion comes a day after the Minister of Natural Resources and I announced an interim approach and specific measures to immediately strengthen environmental assessments in advance of a review of environmental assessment processes.
I am certain that MPs would like to know how we reached this point. First, I will provide some context.
The federal system for project reviews, including energy projects and pipelines, includes environmental assessments, consultation of aboriginal groups and decisions on issuance of permits.
This system is important for protecting the environment and the safety of Canadians. Meaningful consultations with indigenous peoples are essential. The process must consider the views and concerns expressed by Canadians and affected communities. Achieving these objectives is important for the economy and the environment.
In 2012, omnibus budget legislation, Bill C-38 and Bill C-45, significantly changed the system for project reviews by replacing the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act with CEAA 2012, amending the National Energy Board Act and Fisheries Act, and amending and renaming the Navigation Protection Act. For such important legislation, Parliament did not spend long examining the bills: three months for the first bill and two months for the second one. This motion speaks to important issues that have been affected by the changes made in 2012.
We know that natural resources projects play a vital role in our economy and we recognize how important job creation and economic growth are to Canadians. We believe that it is important and essential to rebuild Canadians' trust in our environmental assessment processes. That is the only way to get resources to market responsibly in the 21st century.
The fact that the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and the Minister of Natural Resources are working together on this sends an important message. It indicates that a healthy environment and a strong economy go hand in hand.
We know that natural resources projects play a vital role in our economy and that they create jobs for Canadians and grow our economy. We also know that in 2016, projects will only get done if they are done sustainably and responsibly. We believe it is important and essential to rebuild Canadians' trust in our environmental assessment processes. We need to take into account the views and concerns of Canadians, respect the rights and interests of indigenous peoples, and support our natural resources sector. That is the only way to get resources to market responsibly in the 21st century.
Yesterday, we made the first steps toward that goal. The principles we announced will allow the government to make better evidence-based decisions on major projects. These principles will apply to projects currently undergoing a federal environmental assessment until legislated changes can be implemented.
The principles that we announced yesterday will allow the government to make better evidence-based decisions on major projects. These principles will apply to projects currently undergoing a federal environmental assessment until legislated changes can be implemented.
The principles are clear. They were part of our platform last fall. Canadians gave us a clear mandate to implement them. Yesterday, we delivered on that mandate. Our goal is to restore robust oversight and thorough environmental assessments of areas under federal jurisdiction while also working with provinces and territories to avoid duplication. Our goal is also to ensure that decisions are based on science, facts, and evidence and serve the public's interests. They are also to provide ways for Canadians to express their views and opportunities for experts to meaningfully participate; and they will require project advocates to choose the best technologies available to reduce environmental impacts.
With these goals in mind, we will be engaging Canadians through an open, inclusive, and respectful review of environmental processes. However a review will take time. Any proposals for legislative change arising out of the review will have to be carefully considered by Parliament. This raises the question of what to do with projects currently undergoing environmental assessments.
Yesterday, we announced the interim approach, including clear principles that the government will follow to make better decisions on major projects. These principles are based on the fact that protecting the environment and growing the economy are not incompatible goals. In fact, our future success depends on us doing both of those things.
The principles are clear. They were part of our platform last fall. Canadians gave us a clear mandate to implement them. Our interim principles are, first, no project review will return to square one; second, decisions will be based on science and evidence, including information on climate change and traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples; third, decisions will be informed by consultation and input from Canadians, including indigenous peoples and affected communities.
Consultation is, and will continue to be, a driving force of our government in how we approach environmental assessments. As the Prime Minister has said, there is no relationship more important to our government than the one with indigenous peoples. It is time for a renewed nation-to-nation relationship, based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership.
The principles underscore our commitment to work in partnership with indigenous people and to ensure that their rights and interests are respected. Greenhouse gas emissions must also be taken into account in decision making. Addressing climate change is a key priority for the Government of Canada.
Gathering evidence and facts on greenhouse gas emissions from a variety of sources, including environmental assessment, will further help inform our national climate change plan. At the same time, the private sector has a role to play as a source of dynamic innovation for greener and cleaner technology and practices. Environmental assessments can help promote this innovation. After all, the goal of environmental assessments is to improve the way projects are designed, built, and operated.
I want to emphasize that the interim approach released yesterday and our commitment to review environmental assessment processes are actions that I believe will help restore public trust in environmental assessment processes and the decisions that result.
Canadians voted for a government that understands that the economy and the environment go hand in hand. Yesterday, we gave business people the certainty they need to plan and build and grow, and we provided Canadians with the reassurance they want that their environment will be protected.
In 2016, that is the responsible thing to do and the only way we will ensure both our collective prosperity and our future. I am very pleased to read some reviews of yesterday's announcement of interim principles. Adam Scott of Environmental Defence said that to have all of the material in hand when making the decision will make for a better and higher-quality, informed decision.
Shannon Phillips, Alberta environment minister, said that she and I have had ongoing conversations about our role with respect to climate leadership; the importance of access to tidewater. She said we have in our initial meeting talked about environmental assessment processes, and so there have been conversations along the way. She said the federal government works productively and collaboratively with them, and they appreciate that respectful relationship.
Mark Cooper, TransCanada spokesman, said:
We support a strong and clear regulatory framework that helps Canadians see our commitment to building and operating oil and gas pipelines in the safest and most environmentally sound way possible.