Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to 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, introduced by the Liberal government.
As members no doubt know, this bill would create a new impact assessment agency of Canada to replace the Canadian Environmental Protection Agency. This agency will be responsible for all federal reviews of major projects and will have to collaborate with other agencies, like the new Canadian energy regulator, currently known as the National Energy Board, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, and offshore offices.
As a citizen and as member of Parliament for Lévis—Lotbinière, I have always taken an interest in protecting our waterways and keeping them safe. The prestigious St. Lawrence runs not too far from my home, and all of these issues are close to my heart. This is one of the reasons our Conservative government amended the Canadian Environmental Protection Act in 2012.
I obviously have many concerns about Bill C-69, in particular about the merits of these amendments and the Liberal government's flexible ethics. The government claims to be accountable and transparent. In reality, the Liberals keep showing that all they care about is helping Liberal cronies and promoting Liberal partisanship by filling their party's coffers, from coast to coast, under some guise or other.
On the surface, this bill has the noble goal of ensuring that all projects will be assessed on the basis of their impact on the environment and health, and on social issues. However, we may need to cry foul on the practices of these good old Liberals, masters of all that is crooked and scandalous. Take, for example, the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard and fishery allocations for a highly valued shellfish.
Where things go downhill with the Liberal government is that it puts forward these bills that give ministers more discretionary power, and then issues around the economy and so-called gender and indigenous rights take a back seat to the financial interests of the highest bidders and people with Liberal connections.
The government loves nothing more than a taxpayer-funded spending spree and thinks it can reinvent the wheel. This bill lays out its plan to spend up to $1 billion over five years on the new regime, on necessary changes, and, ostensibly, on increasing the participation of indigenous peoples and the general public.
Let me once again point out that these objectives look very similar to those of the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, who we hope will soon be under investigation.
We all know that the former Conservative government knew how to make things better without raising Canadians' taxes. Canada's Conservatives understand how important certainty, predictability, and regulatory clarity are to ensuring the viability of major energy projects.
We know that these projects create tens of thousands of jobs and benefit communities across Canada, without any political favouritism. With the Conservatives, solid economic policies do not come at the expense of solid environmental policies, or vice versa.
Greater prosperity and better environmental performance always go hand in hand, but all the Liberal government sees are enticing opportunities to dole out goodies to friends and family members.
Bill C-69 will create two new regulatory burdens that, combined with the pointless federal carbon tax, will hurt Canada's global competitiveness even more without improving environmental protection in any way. This is scandalous.
These fresh repercussions are troubling, as are so many others we have suffered since this perpetually failing Liberal government took office.
The Liberals have a very long way to go before the next election if they want to start defending Canada's natural resource industry properly, instead of throwing up one roadblock after another.
Fortunately, in accordance with our values and commitments, we, Canada's Conservatives, will continue to oppose costly regulations that hurt jobs, economic growth, and global competitiveness.
Bill C-69 does not in any way meet the Conservative Party's objective of always striking a balance between protecting the environment and growing the economy.
When we look at what is happening with our neighbours, it is appalling to see that, while the American administration is relaxing regulations, lowering taxes, and encouraging energy production from natural gas or coal, Canada is regressing.
We cannot hamper our competitiveness by tightening regulations and creating uncertainty around the environmental assessment process. We need to stand up against and do away with any bill like this one that would harm Canada's economic competitiveness.
On this side of the House, we firmly believe that, in order to be effective, economic and environmental policies must not contradict each other, undermine each other, or cancel each other out. All the empirical evidence shows that prosperity brings with it a better environmental record. It is one thing for the Prime Minister to embarrass us and lose all credibility in our eyes and the eyes of the world, as he did on his trip to India, for example; it is quite another, however, for him to put Canada at a political disadvantage and jeopardize our position in the global economy. We will not allow him to do that.
We have repeatedly seen his picture in every situation and costume imaginable, but what we are interested in and concerned about on this side of the House is not Superman, it is Canada's image, its role, its prosperity, and the well-being of all Canadian families.
I am worried about how this bill will be used to determine whether a project should undergo an assessment by the agency or a panel. Beyond the process that has been set out, the answer is very easy and predictable. The assessment process will remain very political because it is the minister who will determine whether it is in the public interest for a project to be submitted to a panel instead of the agency's shorter impact assessment.
I am also concerned about why the government is saying that the bill will shorten the assessment process for resource projects. The government is misleading Canadians by saying that project assessments will be shorter. The planning phase adds 180 days to the process, even if the impact assessment is a bit shorter.
What is more, Bill C-69 provides for broad ministerial discretion to extend or suspend the process. In the Consultation Paper on Information Requirements and Time Management Regulations, a proposed impact assessment system, the Liberal government recognizes that in some cases, the proposed time limits in the legislation will not be met. In light of this discretionary power that will undoubtedly be abused, there is very little we can support in this legislative measure.
We support in principle the process providing for one assessment per project, as well as the commitment on the time limits proposed under the legislation. However, the bill puts up regulatory barriers and additional criteria that will invariably lengthen the assessment period.
We oppose Bill C-69 for many reasons, including the fact that it establishes a number of new criteria for impact assessment, in particular the impact that the project will have on Canada's climate change commitments. From now on we will have to consider the environmental impact upstream and downstream. The bill also substantially increases the number of people that could intervene in a review even if they do not have specific expertise. Finally, at the end of the planning phase and at the end of the impact assessment, the minister or the cabinet will make the final decision. The process remains political in nature, which creates ongoing uncertainty for investors.
There is nothing in today's announcement that would increase investor confidence or attract new investment to Canada's resource sector. We know that Canadian companies are already facing stiff competition even as the United States implements its plan to reduce regulations, cut taxes, and invest in coal-fired and natural-gas-fired electricity in order to cut energy costs.
Canadian businesses deserve a government that works with them, not against them. Canada's approach to fighting climate change must be realistic and strike the right balance between protecting the environment and growing the economy. The Conservatives support regulation, investment in clean technologies, and the mitigation of climate change if these initiatives produce concrete and measurable results for businesses and the environment.
We do not see any guarantees here.