Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to continue with this important discussion of policies around environmental sustainability. My colleagues in the other parties are saying it is their pleasure. I hope so, because there may be things that they do not hear in the talking points that are sent from the PMO about the accomplishments of the previous government in respect of the environment. It is an opportunity for them to take these things on board and benefit from them as they consider the policies that they are going to pursue. It is a good time for them to consider the contradictions in their discussion of pipelines as it relates to the issue of sustainability.
What did the Liberals do when it came to pipelines? One of their first acts, and their first act with respect to pipelines, was to shut down the northern gateway pipeline project. This is a project that had been approved under the previous government. It would have allowed energy from my province, from very near my riding, to get to the port of Kitimat in northern B.C., access a deep-water port there, and give Canada access to international markets.
This is so important as countries in Asia and other parts of the world think about how to increase their energy security. It is a Canadian economic question, a sustainability question, and it is also a geostrategic question. There are countries in East Asia, for example, Japan, that import most of their energy resources. They get them from the Middle East and they have to travel through the South China Sea.
The opportunities for energy security, for Japan and other countries in East Asia, to benefit from Canadian energy exports are significant. The opportunities for us economically, and the opportunities for them in terms of economic benefit as well as security of that supply are very significant.
The northern gateway project would have allowed us to have access to international markets. For these pipeline projects, from initial filing to being built, we are talking about a time period of three years. Had the Liberal government actually listened to Albertans, listened to Canadians when it came to the benefit of the northern gateway project, we might already be up and running. We might not have to have these challenges that Alberta faces, in terms of the big gap that exists between the oil price in the global market and the price that we are achieving here in North America.
The government has this talking point that is worth responding to in this context, where it will say that most of Canada's oil was being sold to the United States when the previous government took power, and when it left power, most of the oil was still being sold to the United States. The Liberals conveniently forget that the critical steps to reduce our dependency on the United States were in place and that the Liberal government cut those critical steps out at the knees. That was maybe an unhelpful mixing of metaphors, the steps were cut out at the knees.
In any event, the Liberal government cut off that progress that was being made that would have brought us to a point today where we would not have to be dealing with this massive spread in price that is killing jobs in Alberta. The decision to kill the northern gateway pipeline was a policy choice of the Liberal government that weakened our sustainability on so many fronts, and it was one that it must be accountable for.
To add insult to injury, the Liberals decided to pass Bill C-48 which formalized in law a tanker traffic exclusion zone that prohibits the export of our energy resources from anywhere in that zone on the Pacific coast between the northern tip of Vancouver Island and the Alaskan border. There are tankers in that area as a result of activity coming off Alaska, but from the Liberal government's perspective, we cannot have it; the Canadians are benefiting from that economic activity, so we have to shut off even the possibility of a future project by bringing in Bill C-48.
Again, the government cannot deny that these were policy choices. It was not good enough just to kill the project, it had to add on another bill designed to make sure no new project could be put forward in place of the northern gateway project. That was the Liberals' intended direct action in the case of the northern gateway pipeline.
What did the government do with the energy east pipeline? In geostrategic terms, this is an idea we should view favourably, to create pipeline linkages to a greater extent between western and eastern Canada to reduce the need for foreign oil to be imported. I would ask environmental activists who are against the construction of pipelines what they are doing about the terrible record of countries like Saudi Arabia when it comes to things like human rights. What are they doing to try to allow Canadian sustainable, well-managed energy resources to displace foreign oil?
As we delve deeper into the need for the government to be articulating plans around sustainability, I hope that with the requirements in Bill C-57 for the government to provide information and government departments to be more engaged on sustainability, we think about the contrast between Canadian sustainability practices of our energy sector and what is happening in other countries, as well as the value of the global impact vis-à-vis sustainability associated with displacing the unsustainable and anti-human rights practices we see in some other countries.
Energy east was an economic project. It was about this country prospering. It was also about saying that we can have nation-building infrastructure which allows the country to prosper together and reduce our dependence on actors which do not share our values and interests.
In the 19th century, it was a Conservative prime minister, John A. Macdonald, who had the vision of a railroad that would make our union sustainable, that would unite our country from coast to coast and allow us to do commerce with each other. Today, pipelines are the nation-building infrastructure of our generation. As we think about the legacy of those who came before us who understood the importance of nation-building infrastructure for our political and economic unity and our prosperity, we need to consider whether or not we are up for the challenge. Can we do the same kinds of things they did? Do we have the vision and the willingness to make nation-building infrastructure happen?
In particular, I know many members of the government caucus elected from the Maritimes are hearing from voters in their ridings about the benefits of nation-building infrastructure that connects western Canada with eastern Canada. Even though the government clearly has an anti-development, anti-pipeline agenda, that is why the government did not want to do as directly with an east-west pipeline what it did with the northern gateway pipeline. Therefore, the government simply piled on conditions in a way that made the project harder and harder to sustain from an economic perspective.
See, it was not that the project itself could not have succeeded economically. Rather, it was that the government sought the opportunity to impose new conditions that would make it impossible to proceed. One can never know with certainty the intentions of the government in this respect, but sometimes past statements are revealing enough.
A tweet I referred to before, which was put out by the Minister of Democratic Institutions before she was elected, talked about land-locking the tar sands. This is obviously deeply offensive language to many Albertans and many across the country. When we see government policy with respect to different pipeline projects that has as its effect the land-locking of our energy resources, the significant expansion of the spread between the world price and the local price and economic devastation for our province being the results of government policy, it is worth comparing that to past statements of a cabinet minister who said that this was something she thought was desirable.
There is an agenda among some to squeeze the Alberta economy and the energy sector in a way that forces a significant reduction in investments in our energy sector and that accepts the job losses. We in the opposition stand against that. We will stand up for our energy sector, which benefits not just one region of the country but benefits the whole country.
The government directly killed the northern gateway pipeline project and it added Bill C-48, to add insult to injury. The Liberals found a way of indirectly killing the northern gateway project, and now they have been pushing forward Bill C-69. Bill C-69 quite clearly is the “no new pipelines” bill. The Liberals are trying to establish the conditions which will make it impossible for us to build the nation-building infrastructure of the 21st century. They have an anti-development agenda which is out of step with the vision of our founders and is out of step with the vision that Canadians want, which is a country that can benefit from commerce done together, where people in eastern Canada can buy energy resources coming from western Canada and they can benefit from the value-added opportunities that are associated with that. In Bill C-69, we see specific policies that will make it harder for Canada to make pipelines. It will make it virtually impossible to see pipelines go forward in the future. That is the record with respect to the pipelines.
I have to add a few comments on the Trans Mountain project. As part of the Liberals' discussion on sustainability, they thought they would try this bait and switch strategy because they know Canadians want to see development of pipelines. On the one hand, the Liberals are killing many projects, but on the other hand, without doing anything to establish conditions for the success of the Trans Mountain pipeline, they decided to buy it. They pretended that buying the existing pipeline would somehow increase its chances of success.
Whether the federal government or the private sector is the owner of the project does not change the fundamental issues, which are the government's refusal to assert federal jurisdiction, the lack of a plan to get it built and the failure of the government to appeal a court decision. There would have been nothing wrong with appealing a court decision that blocked construction from beginning on this project, yet we see, despite spending $4.5 billion of taxpayer money and despite sending money to an oil company that will now use that money to invest in energy infrastructure outside of Canada, the Liberals still have absolutely no plan. They refuse to appeal a court decision with respect to this decision and they are piling on policies that make it difficult for this to happen in the future.
There is this deeply dishonest set of policies, in the sense that the Liberals are selling a particular policy approach as achieving a result that they do not want to achieve and that they are in fact choosing not to do the things that would much more obviously and directly help us move toward the goal.
When it comes to the government's anti-pipeline agenda, I want to read a few different quotations that underline the problems with Bill C-69, the government's “no more pipelines” bill.
Let us start with someone who is known to many members of Parliament, Martha Hall Findlay, president and CEO of the Canada West Foundation. My notes say she is a former Liberal, but she may well still be a Liberal. She was a Liberal leadership contestant twice. What she had to say about Bill C-69 was:
If passed in its current, even amended form, it could set Canada back for many years in terms of attracting investment and overall prosperity – at exactly the time when our competitiveness, particularly vis-a-vis our huge neighbour to the south, is in peril.
We might be in a much better position if she had won that leadership race, because I think Martha Hall Findlay hits the point on the head here. Again, she said with regard to Bill C-69 the following:
If passed in its current, even amended form, it could set Canada back for many years in terms of attracting investment and overall prosperity—at exactly the time when our competitiveness, particularly vis-a-vis our huge neighbour to the south, is in peril.
I worry that the policies of the government are actually designed precisely to achieve that objective. They are designed to make our energy sector less competitive overall. Therefore, the government is achieving its objective, but it is an objective it is not willing to acknowledge. Again, the Liberals persist in wanting to speak on both sides of these questions, but we see concretely in their policy agenda, recognized in that quotation by the Liberal leadership candidate Martha Hall Findlay, that what they would do through Bill C-69 is to undermine Canada's competitiveness. They have already done many different things that undermine our competitiveness, but this is yet another example of that happening.
I will also read what Gordon Christie, University of British Columbia law professor specializing in indigenous law, said about Bill C-69:
But the courts have said for 15 years that you need to have meaningful dialogue [with first nations and] there is nothing in this legislation that seems to do that.
Moreover, with regard to Canada's activity in the north, the government feels that, somehow, without consultation, it can impose its anti-development agenda on Canadians and in particular on indigenous people there.
I will read what Stephen Buffalo, president and CEO of the Indian Resource Council and a member of the Samson Cree Nation said on Bill C-69:
Indigenous communities are on the verge of a major economic breakthrough, one that finally allows Indigenous people to share in Canada’s economic prosperity...Bill C-69 will stop this progress in its tracks.
That is a powerful quote from an indigenous leader that, while indigenous communities are on the verge of a major economic breakthrough, that would be stopped in its tracks by the no-more-pipelines Bill C-69. That is not a plan that reflects an understanding of sustainability in terms of our national economy. It is not a plan that reflects the need of indigenous communities to be economically sustainable. I think indigenous Canadians want us to support their opportunities for economic development and ensure that they are engaged in the process, as well as ensure that we are working with all communities, including indigenous communities, in respecting environmental stewardship and the importance of environmental sustainability. However, that is not happening under the government. It is persisting with a unilateral and anti-development mentality that holds back our prosperity and that hurts the prosperity of communities all across this country, especially communities in Canada's north that especially benefit from natural resource development.
Mr. Buffalo continued:
Left as it is, Bill C-69 will harm Indigenous economic development, create barriers to decision-making, and make Canada unattractive for resource investment. This legislation must be stopped immediately.
Mr. Buffalo also said:
We find it ironic and upsetting that the prime minister who has repeatedly said that the federal relationship with Indigenous peoples will be the defining characteristic of his government will be the one snatching opportunity and prosperity from our grasp.
He went to call on the government to “pull Bill C-69 from its legislative calendar”.
We see this recognition of the negative impacts associated with Bill C-69 from even the NDP premier of Alberta, Rachel Notley, someone I do not quote often. She said that “Bill C-69 in its current form stands to hurt that competitive position”.
Wow, it must be an election year or maybe there is a sincere conversion going on.
Moreover, the Quebec Mining Association says, “The time limits introduced by the bill will be enough to discourage mining companies and weaken Quebec and Canada in relation to other more attractive jurisdictions.”
We are hearing so much opposition to this bill, not just from energy companies, energy workers and Conservative politicians, but also from Liberals, New Democrats, indigenous leaders and people in every region of this country. The approach in Bill C-69 is not one that recognizes the appropriate balance required for sustainable environmental and economic policy. It is not one that recognizes the benefits that can be achieved by facilitating economic growth in a way that advances our environmental situation as well.
What is the justification for the government's ill-considered environmental policy? It speaks often about the importance of responding to climate change, and I think all of us in the House agree on that. I have spoken today about the real concrete achievements that were advanced under the previous government with respect to environmental change and greenhouse gas emission reductions. When it comes to assessing our sustainability obligations, we need to look at real results and outcomes, not just at the rhetoric.
Part of why the Conservative opposition supported Bill C-57 was that it would provide an opportunity for greater reporting across a greater number of departments and more mechanisms for holding the government accountable for what are demonstrable failures in the area of sustainability. With the kind of reporting mechanism called for in a committee report and that is now moving forward in Bill C-57, people will see more clearly the failures of the Liberal government in achieving our objectives.
When we think about the government's rhetoric around greenhouse gas emissions and sustainability, there is actually a real dissonance between the realities of what it talks about in terms of our international targets and the mechanisms it is putting forward. In that context, I want to make a few comments on the Paris accord.
The Paris Accord establishes a framework that comes out of the Copenhagen, which of course was one that the previous Conservative government was a part of and played a very constructive role in supporting. That process was to recognize the need for all countries to be involved, and the value of having nationally determined targets and clear and transparent reporting around those nationally determined targets. The second section of the Paris Accord speaks specifically of the issue of intended nationally determined targets and creates a mechanism whereby nations would provide reporting internationally on that.
It has been good to have an opportunity to have discussions with constituents on the Paris accord. From time to time, I meet people who are very skeptical about the Paris Accord, but my party recognizes the value of the framework and the differences between the framework we saw in the Paris Accord, for example, and the framework in the Kyoto Accord.
The Kyoto Accord, which was signed by a previous Liberal government that then failed to take any meaningful action toward realizing the goals set under that process, would have involved Canada sending money overseas to buy credits, effectively not reducing our emissions but simply buying credits overseas. That was the policy of the previous Liberal government, which was to do nothing on the environment, but to give money to other countries to buy credits, as if that somehow were a solution.
I do not think that is a sustainable solution by any metric. It is one that is very clearly in the framework of the transparent reporting that is moving forward in Bill C-57. I think that people would be very disappointed about seeing that.
The framework that was put in place was nationally-determined targets, which contrast favourably with what was put in place under the Kyoto protocol. The Copenhagen process, of which the previous government was a part, and the targets we set were targets that involved us taking real action at home, not simply musing about buying credits from other countries overseas.
It is very interesting to see the government come into power, championing the Paris accord, yet going into the Paris accord process with the same kinds of targets that were in place under the previous government. I know it has been criticized in some quarters for that by people who said there was there supposed to be real change. We have seen in so many areas a failure of real change in different ways.
Frankly, when it comes to the environment, it would have been better if we had seen more learning from the constructive action and experience of the previous government. So much was achieved at that time in the way of real, meaningful progress when it came to the issue of sustainability. I have read off some of those accomplishments.
I wanted to jump back for a moment to my discussion of Bill C-69. I want to read a letter that was sent to senators dealing with Bill C-69. In particular, it comes from those supporting the Eagle Spirit energy corridor. This is a proposal that would help to strengthen our indigenous communities economically, create linkages that would benefit them in energy development and export, and provide economic benefits in terms of energy across the whole country.
This is a letter that was signed by Helen Johnson, chair, ESE Chief's Council; Chief Isaac Laboucan-Avirom, Woodland Cree First Nation; and Chief Gary Alexcee, co-chair of the Chief's Council of B.C. They write the following:
“Dear Senators, we represent the 35 indigenous communities supporting the Eagle Spirit energy corridor from Fort McMurray, Alberta to Grassy Point on British Columbia's north coast. We have been working on this nation-building multi-pipeline project for the past six years and it is vital to the health of our communities and the future of our collective development. In this time, we have created the greenest project on the planet and developed a new model for indigenous engagement, real ownership and oversight that will lead to self-reliance and prosperity.”
“We are acutely aware that the Senate is currently debating Bill C-69, legislation that will change resource and other major project review in Canada. The objectives of this bill are vital to our communities and we believe the country as a whole. We trust that it should create a project review process involving substantial engagement with indigenous peoples and one in which all Canadians can have confidence.”
“While the bill includes many elements that are constructive, including early planning and engagement and a shift to broader impact benefit analysis, we have some serious concerns. In its current form, Bill C-69 has fundamental problems that increase the complexity and uncertainty of the project review and environmental assessment review process and must be addressed before it can be adopted.”
“Our chiefs have emphasized that the environment is at the top of their list of concerns and we have developed an energy corridor that will be the greenest on the planet and will set a precedent for all nations on how to engage with the impacted indigenous population. We do, however, have to holistically balance environmental concerns against other priorities such as building a strong local economy.”
I will pause to re-read that, because I think it is critical, and it is great wisdom coming from our indigenous leaders:
“We do, however, have to holistically balance environmental concerns against other priorities, such as building a strong local economy. There are simply no other opportunities than natural resource development in the remote locations where our communities are located, where 90% unemployment rates are common.
“ For some, the economic opportunities from oil and gas projects have allowed investment in local priorities and the future. It is critical that we develop our own resource revenues rather than continue in debt slavery to the federal government. The best social program is the jobs and business opportunities that come from our own efforts. If reconciliation and UNDRIP mean anything, it should be that indigenous communities have the ability to help themselves rather than continuing the past colonial litany of failed government-led initiatives.
“We agree that the current project review system should require strong engagement with indigenous communities affected by the project as well as responsible and timely development of natural resources. It should avoid litigation of projects in the courts. Investor confidence needs to be restored, and a clear and predictable process has to be set out for indigenous and proponents to follow.
“We are particularly concerned that Bill C-69 allows any stakeholder, indigenous or non-indigenous, to have equal standing in the review process. It is an absurd situation that the only people who have fought long and hard for constitutionally protected rights would have no stronger role in the process than a special interest group that is in no way directly affected by the project. This is a serious and fundamental flaw in Bill C-69 that could undermine the rights of all indigenous people in Canada, and it needs to be addressed.
“We are particularly concerned about the interference in our traditional territories of environmental NGOs financed by American foundations seeking to dictate development and government policy and law in ways that limit our ability to help our own people. What interests could such eco-colonialists have when parachuting in from big cities? They have no experience with our culture, people, history or knowledge of our traditional land. Input from such elitists in this process, who are secure in their economic futures and intent on making parks in our backyard, is not welcome while our people suffer the worst social and economic conditions in the country.
“We have been stewards of our traditional territories from time immemorial, and we believe that such parties should have absolutely no say in projects on our traditional territories.
“At the recent meeting of all communities of the chiefs council we unanimously voted in favour of the attached resolution to take whatever legal and political action is necessary to enforce our rights in relation to Bill C-69. In this spirit, we urge you to protect our rights and support badly required amendments to Bill C-69.”
I want to read as well the resolution signed by many indigenous leaders. It reflects unanimous support of the chiefs council that was referenced:
“Therefore, be it resolved that we oppose an act to enact the impact assessment act and the Canadian energy regulator act, to amend the Navigation Protection Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts, legally and politically, as it will have an enormous and devastating impact on the ability of first nations to cultivate or develop economic development opportunities in their traditional territory, since it is being imposed without any consultation whatsoever and against the principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the purported reconciliation agenda of the federal government.
“Furthermore, we agree that we will collectively file a civil writ seeking to quash an act to enact the impact assessment act and the Canadian energy regulator act, to amend the Navigation Protection Act and to make consequential amendment to other acts, should it become law.”
These are powerful words from indigenous leaders in Canada. This is the first time I have heard the word eco-colonialists.
That is an interesting term to use. These indigenous leaders speak about people who do not have the same history or connection to their land and who enjoy much greater prosperity than indigenous people in these cases might, yet they are coming in and claiming to speak on behalf of indigenous people while taking action that really has the effect of limiting their opportunity to pursue development.
They are thinking about sustainability. I talked at the beginning about what the principle of sustainability means. Sustainability is the idea that we receive the goods of society, of the Earth, from previous generations. We hold them in trust for the benefit of future generations. This idea is particularly well understood by our indigenous leaders. They have the longest history, by far, in this country. Their understanding of their history, of the need to proceed in this fashion, is particularly acute and is referenced in this case.
They are speaking in this letter very much about the importance of preserving our environment but also about striking a balance that builds opportunity for indigenous people, opportunity economically that would allow them to enjoy a similar standard of living as those who live in other parts of this country. It is rooted in an understanding of equity. That is what they are speaking about in this letter.
For once, the government should actually listen to what they are saying and pursue a change in course that supports the development of pipelines that are good for the environment. It should take steps that are actually going to move us forward, economically and environmentally. That means building pipelines, having a strong sustainability framework and having meaningful consultation when proceeding with a project but also when trying to kill a project. That is what we are talking about when we talk about the principle of sustainability.
At this point in my remarks, I want to dig a little deeper into the philosophy behind the principle of sustainability. When we talk about sustainability, it should not just be with reference to environmental issues. We can think across the board about our economic policies and our social policies. Are the decisions we are making decisions we could sustain and continue in future generations? Are they decisions that could only be operationalized in the short term, or are they things we could maintain in the long term?
When we look across the board at the government, the clearest example of its lack of sensitivity to the importance of sustainability is its approach to fiscal policy. This has implications for our environmental stability as well, because if we do not have a sustainable fiscal or economic policy, then cuts will have to be made, especially in critical areas, at times when we may not want those cuts.
That is why Conservative governments have pursued a responsible middle course. My friend from Spadina—Fort York thinks this is a reference to Tony Blair, but it is actually a reference to Aristotle, who said that virtue is the mean between extremes. We have pursued a middle course between the extreme of needing to make dramatic cuts when there is a fiscal situation that forces it on us, such as the situation of the previous Liberal government in the 1990s, and avoiding the other extreme of spending out of control and having no conception of the fact that what goes up must come down.
The history of Liberal governments we have seen in this country is a succession of extremes. We have the case with the government, and with the previous Trudeau government, of dramatic out-of-control deficit spending, unprecedented in peacetime in Canada. We had a reality in 1990 when, eventually, the Liberals' out-of-control spending caught up with them. Fortunately, we had opposition parties, as well, that were calling for some measure of restraint. Really, at the time, their way of responding was to make cuts in transfers to the provinces, which passed on the application of that to other levels of government.
Compare that with the approach of the previous Conservative government, which brought us back to balanced budgets, while continually increasing the level of transfers to the provinces.
My friend from Spadina—Fort York is shaking his head, but he needs to review the reality, because transfers were significantly increased to the provinces in every successive year of the previous government, and they were cut by the Liberals in 1990. I look forward to his intervention.