moved that Bill C-69, 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, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I wish to acknowledge that we are all on the traditional territory of the Algonquin and Anishinabe peoples. On this historic day, the Government of Canada has committed to developing a new recognition and implementation of an indigenous rights framework.
I stand here today to address this chamber in support of Bill C-69, a legislative initiative that is a key priority of our government. We are keeping our promise to Canadians. We are putting in place better rules to protect our environment and build a stronger economy. After 14 months of hearing from provinces and territories, indigenous peoples, companies, environmental groups, and Canadians from coast to coast to coast, we are making real changes.
Bill C-69 aims to restore public trust in how the federal government makes decisions about major projects, such as mines, pipelines, and hydro dams. These better rules are designed to protect our environment while improving investor confidence, strengthening our economy, and creating good middle-class jobs. They will also make the Canadian energy and resource sectors more competitive. We are working to build on Canada's strong economic growth and historic job numbers.
Today we are keeping our promise to Canadians. We are putting in place better rules to protect our environment and build a stronger economy. After 14 months of hearing from provinces and territories, indigenous peoples, companies, environmental groups, and Canadians across the country, we are making real changes. The legislation we are introducing today aims to restore public trust in how the federal government makes decisions about major projects, like mines, pipelines, and hydro dams. These better rules are designed to protect our environment while improving investor confidence, strengthening our economy and creating good middle-class jobs. They will also make the Canadian energy and resource sectors more competitive. We are working to build on Canada’s strong economic growth and historic job numbers.
Our government understands the importance of the resource sector to our economy. Over $500 billion in major resource projects are planned across Canada over the next decade. These projects would mean tens of thousands of well-paying jobs across the country and provide an economic boost for nearby communities and our economy as a whole, but we cannot get there without better rules to guide our decisions around resource development. Unfortunately, the Harper government gutted environmental protections and made changes to the environmental assessment process that eroded public trust in how decisions are made.
Unfortunately, the Harper government gutted environmental protections and made changes to the environmental assessment process that eroded public trust in how decisions are made.
Canadians became concerned that project approvals were based on politics rather than robust science. There were concerns that changes were putting our fish, waterways, and communities at risk and we are not taking into account the climate impacts of projects. They were also concerned that the views of communities and indigenous peoples were not being heard. This lack of trust resulted in polarization and paralysis. Projects stalled and resource development became a lightning rod for public opposition and court challenges. Billions of dollars of investment were put in jeopardy, raising concerns for investors and shareholders. Ironically, the Harper government's changes made it a lot more challenging for good projects to get built. Weaker rules hurt both our environment and our economy.
Since we formed government, we have worked very hard to restore public trust while providing certainty to business. In January 2016, we introduced interim principles to guide how our government would review proposed major projects until we could put better rules in place. We knew we could not keep approving projects under the Harper government's flawed rules, but we also knew that we could not put our economic development on hold for two years while we worked on the new rules.
Our recent principles were the first part of delivering on one of our high priority platform commitments: to review and fix Canada's environmental assessment process and to restore confidence in how decisions about resource development are made. Those interim principles made it clear that decisions would be based on robust science, evidence, and indigenous traditional knowledge; that we would listen to the views of Canadians and communities that could be affected by proposed projects; that indigenous peoples would be consulted in a meaningful and respectful manner; that decisions would take into account the climate impacts of proposed projects; and that no project already under review would be sent back to the starting line.
Our government did not stop at the interim principles. In November 2016, we also announced a $1.5-billion oceans protection plan. Through that historic investment we are creating a world-class marine safety system while protecting our coastlines and clean waters for generations to come. Then in the summer of 2016, after a year of negotiations with provinces, territories, and indigenous leaders, we announced the first ever made-in-Canada climate plan. Our national climate plan builds on the actions of provinces and territories and provides a clear road map as to how we will cut carbon pollution and move together toward a cleaner future.
Using the interim principles, and building on the foundations of our oceans protection plan and climate action plan, we moved forward with approving new major projects worth billions of dollars to the Canadian economy and thousands of good middle-class jobs across the country. These projects are clearly in the national interest, and because of the steps we have taken to date, we are confident they can be built in a way that protects our environment and communities. We are committed to seeing them built.
The better rules outlined in Bill C-69 build on improvements we have already made and on the feedback that we received from Canadians over the last 14 months. We heard loud and clear that Canadians want a modern environmental and regulatory system that protects the environment, supports reconciliation with indigenous peoples, attracts investment, and ensures that good projects go ahead in a timely way to create new jobs and economic opportunities for the middle class. We heard from investors and project proponents that they want a clear, predictable, and timely process. That is what our better rules provide.
First, these better rules will rebuild trust. When it comes to resource development, we cannot get very far if people do not trust the rules and the way governments make decisions. The same goes for companies. They need to know what is expected of them from the start and that the process will be predictable, timely, and evidence-based. That is why our top priority with the changes we are proposing is increasing transparency and rebuilding trust.
To rebuild trust, we will increase public participation in project reviews so that Canadians can help shape the project design, provide input into the project plan, and assess the science used to make decisions. We will create a new early engagement phase, to ensure that indigenous peoples’ rights are recognized and respected, and that we work in partnership from the outset; and that communities will have their voices heard from the start.
We will create a single agency, the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada, that will lead all impact assessments for major projects, to ensure the approach is consistent and efficient.
The impact assessment agency of Canada will work with and draw expertise from other bodies, such as the Canadian energy regulator, which is currently the National Energy Board, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, and offshore boards, but the final decision on major projects will rest with me or with the federal cabinet, because our government is ultimately accountable to Canadians for the decisions we make in the national interest.
Second, decisions on projects will be transparent and guided by robust science, evidence, and indigenous traditional knowledge. We will also increase Canadians' access to the science and evidence behind project proposals and make easy-to-understand summaries of decisions publicly available.
Third, we are expanding project reviews to assess what matters to Canadians. The new impact assessment will look at a project's potential impacts, not just on the environment but also its health, social, gender, and economic impacts over the long term as well as the impacts on indigenous peoples. We will also evaluate projects against our environmental obligations and national climate plan.
Fourth, we will advance Canada's commitment to reconciliation and get to better project decisions by recognizing indigenous rights and working in partnership from the start. We will make it mandatory to consider indigenous traditional knowledge alongside science and other evidence. Indigenous jurisdictions would have greater opportunities to exercise powers and duties under the new impact assessment act, and we would increase the funding available to support indigenous participation and capacity development relating to assessing and monitoring the impacts of projects.
Fifth, project reviews will be completed through a timely and predictable process. The new early planning and engagement phase would provide clarity on what is required and more certainty about the process ahead. Shorter legislated timelines for the project review phase will be rigorously managed to keep the process on track. A more efficient and predictable process will lead to more timely decisions.
Finally, we will streamline the process and coordinate with the provinces and territories to reduce red tape for companies and avoid duplicating efforts in reviewing proposed projects. Our goal is one project, one review.
We have also announced that we are seeking Canadians' feedback on how we will change the project list regulations that define the types of projects that would be subject to impact assessment. The project list aims to make it easier for everyone to understand when the new rules will apply, providing certainty that both Canadians and companies need and expect.
The Harper government's project list was a grab bag of projects developed in a non-transparent way, and based on political motives, not the public interest. The project list is meant to identify the types of projects that pose significant risks to the environment in areas that fall under federal jurisdiction. These projects will always require federal review.
We want to hear from Canadians on the criteria to revise the project list to ensure that they are more robust and effective and that they include criteria such as environmental objectives and standards for clean air, water and climate change.
The new rules outlined in Bill C-69 must undergo a thorough review in the House and the Senate until they come into effect. Existing laws and interim principles for project reviews will continue to apply to projects under review.
In terms of changes to other statutes as part of our government's regulatory review, we are also proposing changes to the Canadian Navigable Waters Act, and in Bill C-68, to the Fisheries Act, as was announced by the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard last week. These changes would better protect waterways, fish, and fish habitat.
The Canadian Navigable Waters Act will restore navigation protection for every navigable waterway in Canada. Changes to the Fisheries Act will add important new safeguards for our fisheries, including measures to rebuild damaged fish stocks and restore degraded habitat, ensuring that our fisheries and environment are protected for future generations.
Of course, none of these proposed changes mean much without providing the extra capacity needed to deliver on our commitments. That is why we are investing up to $1 billion over five years to support the proposed changes to impact assessments and the Canadian energy regulator; increased scientific capacity in federal departments and agencies; changes required to protect water, fish, and navigation; and increased indigenous and public participation.
I am extremely proud today that we are delivering on one of our major campaign promises. I want to thank Canadians from coast to coast to coast for all of their valuable input which will help ensure better rules to make our environment and grow the economy.
We know that the changes we are announcing today in Bill C-69 will not satisfy everyone. People who tend to distrust business and want no project to go ahead will say we are doing too little to protect our environment. Those who want every project to go ahead whatever the environmental cost will say we are doing too little to support resource development. However, the better rules we are announcing today in Bill C-69 reflect what we have heard overwhelmingly and consistently from Canadians over the past year and a half.
Canadians want a modern environmental and regulatory system that protects the environment, supports reconciliation with indigenous peoples, attracts investment, and ensures good projects can go ahead, which creates middle-class jobs and grows our economy. Canadians understand that better rules will make us more competitive, not less. Canadians understand that the environment and the economy go together.