moved that Bill C-628, An Act to amend the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 and the National Energy Board Act (oil transportation and pipeline certificate), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I represent northwestern British Columbia. It is an incredibly beautiful and powerful part of our country, not only in the make-up of the geography, the stunning mountains, the coastal communities, the ocean, the rivers, but as much in the people who live and have lived there since time immemorial. They are some of the proudest first nation cultures the continent has ever known, the Haida, the Haisla, the Taku River Tlingit, Tsimshian, Gitxsan, and on down the line. These are people living with and from the land.
There is an expression we use in the northwest. We say that “the land makes the people, the people don't make the land”. The bill that I bring to Parliament today for debate is born directly from that love of home, that defence of land, and the aspiration to be able to continue to hand it down to future generations in better condition than we found it, while creating the type of prosperity we all hope for.
I represent the northwest of B.C. It is has been one of the greatest honours and pride of my life. The stunning land has informed my very way of being. I hope every day I am in this place, the House of Commons, to do it some credit.
Over the last decade or so we have been facing a crisis, a crisis that has in fact borne out to be an opportunity. This has been the threat of an 1,100 kilometre pipeline running from Bruderheim, Alberta to the port in Kitimat, containing upwards of 525,000 barrels of diluted bitumen a day, then transported in supertankers three football fields long and a football field wide through the narrow passage of the Douglas Channel through three hairpin turns and out through the inside passage and the Hecate Strait by Haida Gwaii and on to China.
This threat is to our very core, our very being, as a people in the northwest, because our culture and our economy rely on the natural environment. We rely on the rivers, on the salmon, on the place that has sustained people for millennia. While this has been a direct threat to all of those things, it has also helped bring us together across the northwest, first nations and non-first nations, conservatives and progressives, people who find their love of the land in many different ways but are unified in the defence of that land.
It has also been born out of the crisis of a federal government that, rather than to work with us as a people, has chosen to use terms like “enemies of the state” and “foreign funded radicals” when we had the audacity to raise our voices about the proposed pipeline and the supertankers that threaten so much. Rather than silence our voices, which I suspect the government and the minister at the time had hoped to do, it strengthened our passions in defence of our home. We have been seeing municipalities, first nation communities, and groups across the political spectrum come together in opposing the plans, not only of this particular oil company with its Enbridge northern gateway pipeline, but also the plans of any government that hopes to bulldoze its way through the people it claims to represent.
It does not make us an enemy of the state to raise our voice in our country. It makes us Canadian. It is not to be an enemy of the state to join together with neighbours in common cause. It makes us Canadian. Any government that suggests otherwise is unfit to govern our great country.
This act defending the north coast does three principal things. It bans the export of raw bitumen and oil products from the north coast of British Columbia, period. It says that and recognizes what we all know to be true, that there are some things that we cannot risk. There are some places that are deserving of our concern and our protection.
The legislation also goes further. It seeks to deepen and broaden community consultations whenever the Government of Canada addresses the Canadian people about important projects like pipelines and mines and anything that might have an impact on our communities and our homes.
One would think the government would learn from the mistakes it has been making time and time again. The Conservatives have gutted the environmental assessment act. They have utterly destroyed the Navigable Waters Protection Act. They have gutted key parts of the Fisheries Act. This is all in an attempt to speed up and ram through various oil pipelines right across Canada.
However, the reaction from Canadians is most Canadian. It has been to oppose such actions, because when the government is not playing a fair and balanced role in a discussion of something as important as the transportation of energy, Canadians notice. Perhaps Canadians are smarter than the Conservatives think because they pay attention to these things, to all of these omnibus bills the Conservatives have been pushing through.
The third component of the bill is finally to ask the question in this place that has not been asked, that we should have an opinion and take some sort of position about the proposed raw export of our natural resources, in this case bitumen out of northern Alberta, with no value-added whatsoever. Not only is it environmentally risky when we move diluted bitumen because it sinks and cannot be cleaned up, it is also economically risky, in fact, economic suicide to export raw resources of such value, leaving behind all the jobs to some other country to pick up, with our resting just with the costs of production alone.
Those three components—to protect the north coast, to encourage and honour public consultation for once, and to finally talk about value added to our natural resources—are the core principles of this bill, borne out of the crisis, borne out of the threat the Enbridge northern gateway pipeline posed to my home, to the people I represent, but allowing us to take it for what it is, which is an opportunity to do something better in this country.
This in fact been a generational debate. Many in this place will not know that we have been debating supertanker bans off the north coast of British Columbia for 42 years in the House of Commons. The House passed a motion by one of my predecessors, Frank Howard, 42 years ago, to do this very thing. The then Liberal government later brought in voluntary prevention of shipping oil in this manner, and just four years ago, the House passed the New Democratic motion to protect the northwest, protect the north coast, and to say no to Enbridge northern gateway.
It has been 42 years. It is time to have a definitive declaration by the House of Commons and to find out, particularly from my B.C. colleagues across the way, who exactly they work for. I say this because I have been touring British Columbia from edge to edge and north to south, talking to hundreds and thousands of British Columbians at over 20 town halls, in Vancouver Island, Vancouver itself, up through the north and into the interior, packing rooms, church basements, community centres, town halls, with British Columbians from right across the political spectrum turning out, signing thousands upon thousands of pages of petitions that had been flooding into my office, participating online through Leadnow, Avaaz, and the Dogwood Initiative, raising their voices because they cannot seem to get the attention of their members of Parliament on this issue, if they happen to be Conservative
This should know no partisan bounds. This is not about right and left; this is about right and wrong. We know that in defence of home, we are always in the right. When we try to take an opportunity to improve the way we do things in this country, that is right. Anyone who thinks in 2014 that we can simply fire up the bulldozers and ram these projects through communities against their will, against the will of first nations that have right and title to the land, is someone living in a fantasy world. In 2006, the current Prime Minister declared for all the world to hear that Canada would become an energy superpower. We remember that.
Well, all these years on, how are they doing? Every major energy transportation project is mired in controversy, the latest being on Burnaby Mountain just outside Vancouver, where a company that wants to build a multibillion dollar pipeline cannot even get its GPS coordinates right when seeking an injunction through the courts.
The people stand up. Of course they stand up. This is a tradition in Canada. This is a welcome tradition in Canada. When a government refuses to listen, the people come together and join their voices one to the other that there is a better way to do things.
Up north, we call it the “Skeena model”, where first nations sit down with industry and industry recognizes their right and title to that land and works from values up, incorporating who we are as a people, as opposed to the top down Ottawa knows best Conservative model, which says, “We're just going to tell you what's going to happen to you. If you have the audacity to raise your voice, if you have the temerity to suggest that this Prime Minister and his oil executive friends do not know better than those of you who live with the resources, those of you who live in the communities that will be impacted and affected, well, then, we're going to try to silence you. We're going to change the laws of the whole country to silence you. We'll push people out of the conversation rather than welcome them in, rather than use their intelligence”.
What has the reaction been? Twice now the Union of B.C. Municipalities has passed resolutions against this pipeline. Twice it has done that. With the Save the Fraser Declaration, more than 130 first nations across British Columbia came together, put their differences aside, and said that this way of doing business is wrong, that the pipeline is wrong for first nations in that province and in this country.
Municipalities right across the northwest, towns that are based on resource development and have been for generations, understand the extractive economy but know that the risks of what Enbridge is proposing, which is supported by the Conservative government, is wrong. From Prince Rupert and Haida Gwaii, to Terrace, to the site in Kitimat where this pipeline is supposed to land, to Smithers, Hazelton, and on down the line, communities have passed resolutions at the municipal level against this project.
One would think all this would matter to the Conservatives across the way, but not as yet. They have not quite been able to hear their constituents. They have not quite been able to hear the people of British Columbia, who just last year were polled on supertankers off the north coast, and 80% said no. A small indication to my Conservative colleagues is that one in five British Columbians who voted Conservative in the last election said they would switch their vote.
If we cannot make an economic argument the Conservatives are willing to listen to, which is that raw exports are bad for the Canadian resource economy, if we cannot make a moral argument about standing against people who have presented their voices in calm and peaceful ways, if we cannot make the legal argument that this thing is not going to go through the objections of first nations, who just recently proved their case at the Supreme Court through the Tsilhqot’in decision that rights and title must be honoured, if we cannot convince the Conservatives on any of those fronts, then certainly we can convince them of the politics, because that is something the Prime Minister claims to pay a lot of attention to.
I can remember the day the Conservatives gave their tacit approval to this pipeline. Lord help the media who were out there trying to get one Conservative MP from British Columbia to make one comment about how enthusiastic he or she was about this pipeline. They could not find a one. They did find one, actually, after a few days of hunting, and his message was, “Do not worry, this pipeline will not be built anyway”. What kind of government operates this way? What kind of integrity is this? What happened to standing up for Canada?
The threat is real when a government has so lost its way that it feels it does not derive its power, authority, and legitimacy from the people of this country.
The threat to the wild salmon economy just in the northwest alone is $140 million per year. Across British Columbia, it is $1.7 billion from the seafood industry and recreation. It is $1.5 billion from tourism, which is almost wholly based on the appreciation of what British Columbia is, which is a magnificent and beautiful place, a place all Canadians treasure, certainly those of us who live there, in their imaginations, hearts, and minds.
Through all of this, we launched the campaign takebackourcoast.ca. Thousands upon thousands of average, ordinary, everyday British Columbians have been signing on and joining, encouraging their friends to participate. They believe in one hopeful idea: that we still have something akin to representative government that seeks to represent the people rather than some narrow interests, a government that if pleaded with at the moral, legal, ethical, and economic level, and ultimately, I suppose, at the political level, we can sway, even the current government when it comes to oil and the oil industry, to do the right thing.
I believe in my heart of hearts that there are friends across the way. I appreciate the support we have heard from the Liberal Party and the Green Party. I believe in my heart of hearts that there are members across the way who understand the importance of getting this right, of having an energy policy that actually fits with Canadian values, and that in this day and age, we can do better than what we have seen so far. In this day and age, we can learn to respect first nations and respect citizens when they come forward. We can understand that this project, as designed by northern gateway, is not in the interest of this country and certainly not in the interest of the people I represent. There is a better way, one that seeks to respect those who send us here, one that seeks to respect rights and title, one that seeks to respect, finally, the balance and harmony we seek with the environment in which we live.