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

Sponsor

Status

Third reading (House), as of June 12, 2018

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Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

Part 1 enacts the Impact Assessment Act and repeals the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012. Among other things, the Impact Assessment Act

(a) names the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada as the authority responsible for impact assessments;

(b) provides for a process for assessing the environmental, health, social and economic effects of designated projects with a view to preventing certain adverse effects and fostering sustainability;

(c) prohibits proponents, subject to certain conditions, from carrying out a designated project if the designated project is likely to cause certain environmental, health, social or economic effects, unless the Minister of the Environment or Governor in Council determines that those effects are in the public interest, taking into account the impacts on the rights of the Indigenous peoples of Canada, all effects that may be caused by the carrying out of the project, the extent to which the project contributes to sustainability and other factors;

(d) establishes a planning phase for a possible impact assessment of a designated project, which includes requirements to cooperate with and consult certain persons and entities and requirements with respect to public participation;

(e) authorizes the Minister to refer an impact assessment of a designated project to a review panel if he or she considers it in the public interest to do so, and requires that an impact assessment be referred to a review panel if the designated project includes physical activities that are regulated under the Nuclear Safety and Control Act, the Canadian Energy Regulator Act, the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act and the Canada–Newfoundland and Labrador Atlantic Accord Implementation Act;

(f) establishes time limits with respect to the planning phase, to impact assessments and to certain decisions, in order to ensure that impact assessments are conducted in a timely manner;

(g) provides for public participation and for funding to allow the public to participate in a meaningful manner;

(h) sets out the factors to be taken into account in conducting an impact assessment, including the impacts on the rights of the Indigenous peoples of Canada;

(i) provides for cooperation with certain jurisdictions, including Indigenous governing bodies, through the delegation of any part of an impact assessment, the joint establishment of a review panel or the substitution of another process for the impact assessment;

(j) provides for transparency in decision-making by requiring that the scientific and other information taken into account in an impact assessment, as well as the reasons for decisions, be made available to the public through a registry that is accessible via the Internet;

(k) provides that the Minister may set conditions, including with respect to mitigation measures, that must be implemented by the proponent of a designated project;

(l) provides for the assessment of cumulative effects of existing or future activities in a specific region through regional assessments and of federal policies, plans and programs, and of issues, that are relevant to the impact assessment of designated projects through strategic assessments; and

(m) sets out requirements for an assessment of environmental effects of non-designated projects that are on federal lands or that are to be carried out outside Canada.

Part 2 enacts the Canadian Energy Regulator Act, which establishes the Canadian Energy Regulator and sets out its composition, mandate and powers. The role of the Regulator is to regulate the exploitation, development and transportation of energy within Parliament’s jurisdiction.

The Canadian Energy Regulator Act, among other things,

(a) provides for the establishment of a Commission that is responsible for the adjudicative functions of the Regulator;

(b) ensures the safety and security of persons, energy facilities and abandoned facilities and the protection of property and the environment;

(c) provides for the regulation of pipelines, abandoned pipelines, and traffic, tolls and tariffs relating to the transmission of oil or gas through pipelines;

(d) provides for the regulation of international power lines and certain interprovincial power lines;

(e) provides for the regulation of renewable energy projects and power lines in Canada’s offshore;

(f) provides for the regulation of access to lands;

(g) provides for the regulation of the exportation of oil, gas and electricity and the interprovincial oil and gas trade; and

(h) sets out the process the Commission must follow before making, amending or revoking a declaration of a significant discovery or a commercial discovery under the Canada Oil and Gas Operations Act and the process for appealing a decision made by the Chief Conservation Officer or the Chief Safety Officer under that Act.

Part 2 also repeals the National Energy Board Act.

Part 3 amends the Navigation Protection Act to, among other things,

(a) rename it the Canadian Navigable Waters Act;

(b) provide a comprehensive definition of navigable water;

(c) require that, when making a decision under that Act, the Minister must consider any adverse effects that the decision may have on the rights of the Indigenous peoples of Canada;

(d) require that an owner apply for an approval for a major work in any navigable water;

(e)  set out the factors that the Minister must consider when deciding whether to issue an approval;

(f) provide a process for addressing navigation-related concerns when an owner proposes to carry out a work in navigable waters that are not listed in the schedule;

(g) provide the Minister with powers to address obstructions in any navigable water;

(h) amend the criteria and process for adding a reference to a navigable water to the schedule;

(i) require that the Minister establish a registry; and

(j) provide for new measures for the administration and enforcement of the Act.

Part 4 makes consequential amendments to Acts of Parliament and regulations.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

June 11, 2018 Passed Concurrence at report stage of 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
June 11, 2018 Failed 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 (report stage amendment)
June 11, 2018 Failed 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 (report stage amendment)
June 11, 2018 Failed 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 (report stage amendment)
June 11, 2018 Failed 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 (report stage amendment)
June 11, 2018 Failed 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 (report stage amendment)
June 11, 2018 Failed 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 (report stage amendment)
June 6, 2018 Passed Time allocation for 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
March 19, 2018 Passed 2nd reading of 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
March 19, 2018 Passed 2nd reading of 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
Feb. 27, 2018 Passed Time allocation for 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

Motions in AmendmentImpact Assessment ActGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2018 / 12:35 p.m.
See context

NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, one of the gaps in Bill C-69 is that it only requires a consideration of indigenous knowledge in going ahead with these assessments.

The member for Edmonton Strathcona has moved some report stage amendments, specifically Motions Nos. 4, 7, 9, 10, 12, and 13, which seek to bring this bill in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. I checked the vote last week on May 30, and the member for Hastings—Lennox and Addington did vote in support of Bill C-262, which seeks to bring Canadian laws in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Will the member be consistent with his vote last week and vote in support of these amendments when they come before the House?

Motions in AmendmentImpact Assessment ActGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2018 / 12:40 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was also on the indigenous committee that studied Bill C-262. I am a very strong supporter of UNDRIP.

I am proud to say that we are the government that for the first time has embedded UNDRIP into a bill, even before UNDRIP was put into effect in this House, by introducing it into Bill C-69 through amendments that the Liberal members of the committee had put forward. I strove to ensure that UNDRIP was included in Bill C-69 even before Bill C-262 has fully passed in this House.

I am very proud of what our government is doing in moving forward with Bill C-262 and I have tremendous respect for the member for the James Bay region and his work on that bill.

Motions in AmendmentImpact Assessment ActGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2018 / 12:40 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, I first want to address the comment made to the member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke. It is not fearmongering and it is not hysteria; it is the fact that the constituents of her riding believe in her, because they know she is going to fight for what they believe in. The fact that she comes to this chamber with such passion is something we can all learn from, because she listens to her constituents and brings their voices to the chamber.

There was a comment made regarding the member for Edmonton Strathcona having a voice at the table. I adore the member for Edmonton Strathcona. Although we are from different parties, she brings so much to the House because of her background. When I sat down with her and we talked, she let me know she felt almost demoralized. That is not her word, but she felt she could not bring anything to the committee because Liberals were not listening. She had so much to bring to that committee, and those voices were not heard. People can say, “We let you sit at the table; we just told you to shut up”, and that is basically what happened here. That is very concerning.

UNDRIP is another thing, and I will allow the NDP members to talk about UNDRIP in this bill. The government says it will vote for something one week, and then the next week it does a total 180°.

I will now speak on 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. I must agree that with that title, we can recognize how large this act is and how many different committees should have been looking at this bill, but instead Liberals sent it to the environment committee, where it got shut down in debate.

There are many concerns being highlighted by the Conservative caucus, informing Canadians about concerns for Canada's economy and the decreased competitiveness in Canada on a number of issues, including reduced taxes on corporations in the U.S. and the $25-a-barrel discount on our oil.

I want to discuss this issue to highlight how it impacts our constituents. I am from the riding of Elgin—Middlesex—London. I am not from a riding that is oceanside and there are not a lot of pipes going through my community, but this bill will impact my community of Elgin—Middlesex—London, so I want to discuss two key items.

In late spring, a bridge collapsed in the village of Port Bruce. This bridge connected the village of Port Bruce to the rest of Aylmer on Highway 73. The first issue was how to rebuild the bridge. We had to look at so many different things, including where we were going to get the money and what we were going to do. There are great people in the municipalities and the country working on this. When the bridge collapsed, one of the first things that came to mind, other than the money, was what the government was going to do with regard to environmental impacts and what kinds of delays the community and council were going to have to deal with.

Having worked with a former MP, I recalled some work I had done with the municipality of Thames Centre back in 2010 on species at risk. We have to understand that there are going to be obstacles, and there was about a 10-month delay in the municipality of Thames Centre because of this. I am very concerned that we will see delays like this when this new legislation proposed by the Liberal government passes. Maybe some things will work and maybe some things are better, but we will never know, because we never got the chance to debate it.

The bridge that collapsed is near the mouth of Catfish Creek and connects the waterways from Catfish Creek to the Great Lakes, specifically Lake Erie. Although I agree with the necessity of environmental assessments, I am concerned that the reconstruction of the bridge will be hampered because of increased bureaucracy, specifically with the passage of Bill C-69. This small community needs support from all levels of government, including the Government of Canada. What will these new timelines do to the government's response and what will the government's involvement be in this project?

Although the government states that what is in the bill would reduce the timelines, we have seen the government's track record and the raft of broken promises. I just do not have it in me to believe that this proposed legislation would create anything but obstacles for our economy and the people who live in Canada. The new planning phase would add an additional 180 days, followed by a 30-day assessment by the minister. There are so many opportunities for both major and minor projects to be slowed down because of this hierarchy and the ministerial and Governor in Council exemptions.

The village of Port Bruce will need a plan. I have reached out to all of the ministers of the government who could impact the reconstruction of this bridge. To date, all of the responses that I have received are basically a bunch of Liberal talking points. I am not seeing assistance. I am not seeing help. Rather, I see the government telling me what it is doing and patting itself on the back and saying that maybe we can go after the gas tax fund. Those are not the kinds of things that we need from the government. I do not really know if people in government understand how smaller municipalities need to work together with all levels of government and how they have to be part of this. They cannot just give us platitudes.

Whether the township and county decide to go with a temporary bridge or go directly toward reconstructing this bridge, I fear that the government will slow things down. The village is a tourist destination and is currently being greatly impacted by the inability of people to take a direct route. We also must be concerned over the inability of the township to adequately provide emergency services. One of the biggest challenges that this community has had is that Highway 73 does not even go there, so we have had neighbouring municipalities get on board to provide those emergency services.

However, we must move forward on our project, and I am totally concerned about what is going to happen in our next phase. Once it decides what it will do, what is the government going to be doing with new red tape approaches, both to the county and to the municipalities?

My second point also focuses on the farmers in my riding and the change to the navigational waters act. For years, I have heard from local farmers about some of the restrictions regarding ditches and things of that sort. We all have different ways of looking at it, but the fact is that we do not have a way of discussing this issue because when we are at committee, debate gets shut down.

For years farmers have been strongly speaking about the restrictions that they have been under, and when in 2012 there were some changes, they applauded the government because they felt that they were not going to be restricted as much. That is positive. When we are trying to work on the economy, we want to make sure that we are working with the stewards of our land and not always against them. I am always concerned with how we are going to make sure we are working forward. I believe in our farmers and I have watched them use responsible methods to improve their applications.

What will this legislation do to impact our local farmers, as well as reconstruction of the bridge? Well, I wish I could tell members more about that, but this bill was rammed through the committee and amendments proposed by all opposition parties were ignored. The government says it is allowing people's voices to be heard, but we know that the moment nine o'clock strikes at committee, committee members can not debate anything further.

We know that the Liberal government put in over 100 of their own recommendations when it came to amendments. Are the Liberals saying that this bill does not need amendments? By having to amend their own bill that many times, I think they have proven to the entire committee and to all Canadians that the bill is flawed.

We may not agree on everything, but the government cut debate. Although we may not agree on everything, the most important part is to listen. As the chair of the status of women committee, I have seen some co-operation when we are talking about amendments and when we are talking about recommendations. When we are all sitting at the table and really trying to do what is best for Canadians, everyone is actually listening. There are opportunities for us to merge. When we are putting in a recommendation, we may take something from the NDP or we may take something from the Liberals and the Conservative Party and merge those thoughts together so that we can all be heard, but Canadian voices have been shut down at committee and in this House when debating this bill.

How are Canadians supposed to know that their voices are being heard when time allocation is being imposed not only on their representatives in this House but also in the committees? How do we know that we are getting what is best for Canadians when the Liberals seem to be listening only to themselves and not listening to some of these amendments?

I agree that Liberals may have some good suggestions but do not think that the Conservatives, the NDP, the Green Party, and the Bloc all have good suggestions. We need to work together.

I see that part of my role as a parliamentarian is to listen. I urge the government to start to listen again. We have seen a lot of problems, but if the government can get off its talking points, maybe we can all do better. I think that is part of the issue: the questions that are being asked are taken back to government talking points. We are not talking about how it is going to impact people. We are not talking how it is going to impact the Trans Mountain pipeline. We are not talking about those things. We are talking about spending $4.5 billion without even seeing how we will get a pipeline built. We know that the government was the obstacle for Kinder Morgan, and now how is it not going to be the obstacle for itself, unless it turns 180° once again?

The government's role is to create a positive atmosphere for businesses to succeed. New taxes, government red tape, and truly poor opportunities for Canadians to speak on legislative changes that engage Canadians are here with this government. I heard the leader of the Greens say that we can do better. With discussions and amendments actually being heard, we can do better. I urge the Liberals to start consulting with all parties.

Motions in AmendmentImpact Assessment ActGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2018 / 12:55 p.m.
See context

North Vancouver B.C.

Liberal

Jonathan Wilkinson LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak in support of Bill C-69. The bill fulfills a core commitment our government made to rebuild public trust in the environmental assessment system. It is based on 14 months of consultation with provinces and territories, indigenous peoples, companies, environmental groups, and Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

Today, I will start by outlining why we created this bill and what it will accomplish. I will then discuss how our government and the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development have engaged in dialogue with indigenous communities and other partners throughout this process. I will also speak about what we heard.

Finally, I will describe how the standing committee's hard work in studying and amending the bill responds to the comments that have been received, and how it supports our government's commitment to a clean environment and a strong economy.

Before I begin, I would like to congratulate the standing committee and recognize what has been accomplished. Consideration of such a complex and significant bill is a challenging task. I commend the committee for its openness in hearing diverse witness testimony and for making thoughtful amendments that address important issues and significantly strengthen the original bill.

I would like to start my comments by providing some background about Bill C-69: why it is before us today and why it is so important for the future of Canada's economy and environment.

Public trust was eroded as a result of changes made by the Harper government in 2012. Canadians lost confidence in how decisions about major resource projects were made. Bill C-69 aims to restore that trust, put in place better rules to protect our environment, and build a stronger economy. It reflects our conviction that a clean environment and a strong economy can and must go hand in hand in the modern world, something that has guided all of our actions since forming government. It takes a balanced approach: providing certainty for industry while upholding the rights of indigenous peoples, protecting our environment, and facilitating the generation of economic benefits for all Canadians.

I would like to thank indigenous peoples, stakeholders, and Canadians who contributed their knowledge and perspectives. The proposed legislation provides many important improvements. Decisions would be transparent and guided by robust science and indigenous knowledge. Project reviews would consider a wide range of impacts on the economy, health, indigenous rights, and the community, not simply the environment. Reviews would be more timely and more predicable. Measures are included to advance reconciliation and partnership with indigenous peoples. Duplication and red tape would be reduced through a “one project, one review” approach.

As I was saying, during months of consultation, indigenous peoples, stakeholders, and Canadians across the country helped us develop Bill C-69. Since the bill was introduced, our government has continued to ensure that they participate fully in the process at every opportunity.

Hearing from Canadians directly was also central to the standing committee's consideration of the bill. In recent months, the committee heard from more than 80 witnesses with diverse perspectives and expertise. I would like to share some of the valuable input that we heard from stakeholders during this process.

First, indigenous peoples and organizations have said that Bill C-69 must fully support our government's goal of advancing reconciliation and a renewed relationship based on the recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership, as well as our commitment to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This is critically important.

As the Prime Minister said, no relationship is more important to Canada than the one with indigenous peoples.

Environmental organizations have stressed the importance of public participation and accessible, transparent information. In particular, they told us that the bill must ensure not just participation, but meaningful participation that has an influence on project reviews and decision-making. From industry and other stakeholders, we heard that the legislation must provide certainty and clarity about what would be considered in project reviews and in decision-making.

The project proponent and other participants should feel confident that the decisions are evidence-based and are made in the public interest.

I am pleased that the standing committee has made a number of amendments to the bill that respond to many of the comments and concerns highlighted by stakeholders and indigenous peoples. Finding appropriate ways to address these issues is not easy, and I want to recognize the committee for its dedication and its collaborative approach.

I would now like to mention some amendments made by the committee and explain how they support our goals for a sound environment and a strong economy.

As a result of the committee's work and feedback from indigenous peoples, the bill now clearly states our government's commitment to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The declaration would now be reflected in the preamble to both the proposed impact assessment act and the proposed Canadian energy regulator act. The government, the minister, the agency, the Canadian energy regulator, and other federal authorities would also need to exercise their powers under the impact assessment act and the Canadian energy regulator act in a manner that respects the government's commitments with respect to the rights of indigenous peoples.

The amendments also add to the existing provisions, to ensure that indigenous knowledge is taken into account along with the science when projects are being assessed. The bill will now require more transparency in how the indigenous knowledge is used and will implement strong measures to protect this knowledge.

The standing committee has strengthened the public participation and transparency provisions across the legislation. The bill now clarifies that Canadians would have opportunities for meaningful participation throughout assessments. To support meaningful participation, a broad range of project information would need to be posted online, and there would be a requirement to maintain this information so that it stays accessible over time.

Furthermore, in response to reactions from environmental organizations, amendments would establish new safeguards so that Canadians can have confidence that the process is fair. For example, the bill clarifies that the project would be based on the impact assessment report and that decisions would also have to consider the main factors of public interest, including the project's contribution to sustainability.

The committee has also responded to industry's calls for more certainty. Amendments have been made to clarify that the government's public interest decision will be based on the assessment report and the consideration of specific factors, including positive and negative consequences. Other amendments include clarifying that comments must be provided during a time period specified by the impact assessment agency of Canada so that meaningful participation is ensured and balanced with a need for timely assessments. They would also enable the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to inform companies early on if a project is likely to have negative impacts, giving proponents an earlier opportunity to decide whether to continue with an impact assessment. Finally, the committee's amendments would improve the transition provisions set out in the bill.

The committee has strengthened Bill C-69 with these changes and others. By maintaining a balanced approach, the bill will further support environmental protection and reconciliation, and will also help increase investor confidence.

I am very proud of our government's work on this bill.

Bill C-69 addresses a key commitment we made during the 2015 election campaign. Our best rules adopt a balanced approach that takes into account the interests of people across Canada.

Once again, I want to recognize the essential contributions made by the standing committee, as well as the many Canadians who participated in consultations and made their voices heard. Thanks to their passion and commitment, I am confident that this bill will support the goals that I believe all of my colleagues share: a clean environment for our children, and a strong and growing economy.

I hope that all members of the House will join me in supporting this bill.

Motions in AmendmentImpact Assessment ActGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2018 / 1:05 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is clear that the Liberal government is out to destroy our natural resources sector, not only with this bill but with the introduction of carbon taxes.

In terms of looking at advancements in how we process these things, Bill C-69 proposes a 180-day planning phase, which can be extended by 90 days by the minister or indefinitely by cabinet. There is actually no timeline for establishing the panel. Once it is finally established, the panel has to submit its report within 600 days, and that, again, can be extended by the minister for 90 days or indefinitely by cabinet.

How can my colleague stand in this place and actually imply that the bill would enhance the capability of bringing projects online?

Motions in AmendmentImpact Assessment ActGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2018 / 1:05 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Jonathan Wilkinson Liberal North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, obviously, it is important to restore public trust in the processes so that projects can move forward. That was the primary focus of all the work that was done on Bill C-69.

One very important measure that has been introduced is related to the early planning phase. It is something that many resource-based organizations have called for to try to set the parameters and scope of when the environmental assessment would take place so that we can flag issues that need to be addressed early on and not flag them far down the road when they are much more difficult to address. Therefore, I would suggest that the hon. member may want to reflect that comment back to some of the natural resource organizations that asked for this.

With respect to the timelines, there are specific timelines that will provide certainty for proponents going forward. One of the amendments that the member has perhaps not seen is the lowering of the 600-day limit to 300 days. However, the focus is very much on providing timelines that will give certainty to proponents as to how this will proceed in a timely way.

Motions in AmendmentImpact Assessment ActGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2018 / 1:10 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Jonathan Wilkinson Liberal North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, the focus of the conversation today is Bill C-69. I do not think the hon. member was actually speaking to the bill.

The focus is really very much on enhancing the integrity and transparency of the process, and restoring the public trust that was destroyed in 2012 by the Harper government when it introduced significant changes to the environmental assessment process, the Fisheries Act, and the Navigable Waters Act. This government is very focused on ensuring that we are in a position to address legitimate environmental concerns so that good projects can move forward in an expedited way to ensure that we are creating good middle-class jobs for Canadians.

Motions in AmendmentImpact Assessment ActGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2018 / 1:10 p.m.
See context

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-69 at report stage. It has been a long time coming, since it was one of the major promises the Liberal Party made to Canadians during the last election.

In 2012, the environmental assessment process was scrapped, which undermined Quebeckers’ and other Canadians’ confidence in an independent, transparent, fair, balanced and scientific process based on facts. It was absolutely necessary that we change course and repair the damage done, but, unfortunately, the attempt is a bit late and, once again, half-hearted.

The parliamentary secretary said that the delay was in large part due to the consultations the Liberal government conducted and the fact that it created expert committees that made their own recommendations. I might believe that if the government had listened to the recommendations made by the experts and by the citizens of Canada. Unfortunately, that is not the case. It received a number of good suggestions and recommendations from the panels it created, but it rejected practically all of the suggestions from the environmental and scientific communities.

Despite the Liberals’ rhetoric and their boasting about having collaborated, they rejected 99% of all amendments proposed by the opposition parties in committee in an effort to improve the bill. Almost all of the 33 amendments that were accepted in committee were proposed by Liberal members. I wanted to set the record straight.

We in the NDP believe that the Liberals took their time because they were actually pleased to be able to use the old Conservative system to quickly and quietly pass certain projects that they did not want people to look at too closely. I am thinking in particular of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline project. As luck would have it, it is too late for the project to be assessed under the new system.

They tried to tinker with the existing process by adding criteria, some of which are not being met. Contrary to the clear promise made by the Prime Minister in British Columbia during the election campaign that no new pipeline projects would be accepted under Stephen Harper’s environmental assessment process, the Liberals were far from thorough. Astonishingly, once again, they broke their promise and approved the project under an obsolete system that they criticized and said they did not trust.

Today, we are wondering how we can trust the government’s decision. I do not even want to talk about the fact that we are spending who knows how many billions of dollars to purchase a pipeline that no one will want in 30 or 40 years because it will be worthless.

If we are in trouble up to our necks today because of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline scandal, it is in large part because, from the get-go, the Liberals did not fulfill their promise, did not do their job, and rushed the project through without the people’s consent. They did not respect the first nations’ territories, and the first nations are challenging the legitimacy of the pipeline in court and complaining that they are not getting their due respect and that no one is listening to them.

Last week, everyone, Liberal and New Democrat alike, was pleased with the support for my colleague’s bill making the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples law in Canada. Just five days later, however, the Liberal government was already breaking its commitment by refusing to incorporate the declaration's principles into the Trans Mountain pipeline project. That is a betrayal. I have never seen a government flip-flop in such a way in under a week.

To get back to Bill C-69, we believe that there are three key issues. The first concerns how we determine which projects will be assessed.

The second is how we choose the expert panels to do the assessment, and whether they are truly independent. The third involves the minister’s discretion when it comes to accepting or refusing the experts’ recommendations and the results of the environmental assessment. We have a problem with these three issues.

First, and this is critical, there is no definition or criteria for determining which economic or energy development project will be subject to the new environmental assessment process. Astonishingly, the parliamentary secretary just conceded the point to me. If a project is not assessed, we can have the best process in the world, but it will not do us any good. If I buy a new computer and I leave it in the box in the corner of my office, I will not derive any benefit from it. We now fear the worst. The absence of clear criteria, commitments or a list of projects means that projects that will have an impact on territories and communities might very well not be subject to the new Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency process.

This discretion, this willingness to select projects as it sees fit in a seemingly random fashion is a huge problem for us as environmentalists, and for people who want to do serious work.

Second, there are many in the community who have serious doubts about the political independence of the panels that will be appointed to consult scientists, indigenous peoples and Canadians in general. Will these experts not simply be political hacks that will become complacent or shut their eyes to certain issues instead of doing their job?

We have seen the credibility of the National Energy Board suffer because of this type of cronyism. The Centre québécois du droit de l’environnement shares our concern; it made two statements that I would like to share. The first is, and I quote, “In order to restore confidence, project assessment panels must be truly independent from both industry and the government”, and the second, “Bill [C-69] contains no mechanism for ensuring independence from political interference or avoiding partisan appointments or complacency in assessment panels, on whose recommendations the government now bases its final decisions”.

We are not the only ones to say so. There is a fundamental problem with the fact that there is no guarantee, no structure for preventing politics and partisanship from affecting the assessments. There could be a considerable loss of credibility. That would be a shame, because it is really an institution based on trust. Here is a good example: the BAPE is a respected institution in Québec, and Quebeckers have confidence in it. We would like to see that model used, and we do not understand why, in its bill, the federal government did not include anything about accepting environmental assessment processes carried out in some of the provinces, including Québec, since the BAPE is recognized by all of the stakeholders and groups at the table.

The third issue involves the end of the process. Decisions are made regarding which projects will be assessed, experts are appointed to engage in consultations, scientists and local populations are listened to, the general mood is gauged and the indigenous peoples involved are given a chance to express themselves but, at the end of the day, the sitting minister is not bound by the assessment panel’s recommendation. An assessment panel could say that there are too many dangers, too many risks, that the project is not acceptable to the population and that it is dangerous for the environment but, in the end, the minister could order that the project go ahead anyway.

Today, we have a Minister of Environment who says she is concerned about the environment. In my opinion, sometimes she is, sometimes she is not. However, this legislative provision will remain on the books for many Parliaments down the road. We think that this is extremely dangerous, because in the past we have seen a minister dismiss indigenous peoples, scientists and Canadians in general and opt for projects that pose a danger to our environment, our ecosystems and public health.

Motions in AmendmentImpact Assessment ActGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2018 / 1:25 p.m.
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NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Trois-Rivières for his question.

I share his concern and his apprehension, because this government has said one thing and done the opposite all too often. Therefore, yes, this might look good on paper, but when we consider the decisions this government has actually made, it simply does not pass a reality check. It is constantly contradicting itself.

It is troubling, because if we do not have a mechanism in place to ensure that expert panels really are free of all political influence, it means that the government could easily ignore the lofty principles set out in Bill C-69, just as it is now ignoring the principle of informed, clear, and transparent consultation with indigenous peoples regarding the Trans Mountain pipeline, which the government just bought with our money.

Motions in AmendmentImpact Assessment ActGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2018 / 1:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague has highlighted many of the challenges Bill C-69 presents. We also have concerns with Bill C-69, but they are concerns that investment in Canada is fleeing. In fact, over the last two years, we have seen the most dramatic drop in foreign investment the country has ever seen. We have seen it drop in half. That is because the investment environment in Canada is one that is no longer attractive and welcoming to the people who want to invest, especially in our resource industry.

Recently, the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain was purchased by the government, which shocked all of us. The last time that happened was under the Prime Minister's father, who was prime minister at the time. We know how that played out. Eventually Petro-Canada was returned to the private sector. It always should have been in private hands.

The member clearly is not a big supporter of the Kinder Morgan pipeline, yet we still have a robust oil industry in Canada. Canada has the third-largest oil reserves in the world. The world still is beating a path to our doorstep, wanting to buy our oil. Therefore, if the member is not supportive of the Kinder Morgan pipeline, does he then propose that we continue to use and increase the use of rail to transport oil? His own province has had a big problem at Lac-Mégantic with oil being transported by rail. Is that his solution to the way we get oil to markets outside of Canada?

Motions in AmendmentImpact Assessment ActGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2018 / 1:25 p.m.
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Liberal

William Amos Liberal Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-69, which is very important.

Following the debate on the previous government's reform of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, I was very pleased to see that we are moving forward with this bill, which is the product of extensive consultation over the past two years.

I would like to recognize the hard work that the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development did on this file. The committee heard from more than 50 witnesses and received 150 briefs. Several hundred amendments were proposed, 130 of which were adopted. It is therefore clear that this was a very robust process, and I would like to commend my colleagues for the work they did in committee. I was very impressed by their willingness to consider possible improvements.

I would like to focus a bit on that aspect in particular. I note our chair and vice-chair are sitting opposite having a discussion, likely on topics related to the committee's work. This committee was charged with an important assignment, which was to ensure democracy functioned in the context of reviewing complex legislation.

If we rewind to 2012, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 was incorporated into the previous Conservative government's budget bill. It was an entire replacement of the previous Environmental Assessment Act. It was brought through the omnibus budget bill and there were no hearings specifically on the bill to reform the environmental assessment rules. That was criticized across the country, from indigenous communities to environmental groups. Even municipal actors were literally appalled at the anti-democratic approach taken to amend that law.

Therefore, the pendulum swings back a bit. We knew and committed in the previous campaign to reforming that legislation. Thankfully, pursuant to many months of consultation, a better starting point, which was Bill C-69, was achieved. However, when it went to committee, to the committee's great credit, all sorts of analysis was brought to bear from members opposite , from the New Democratic Party, the Green Party, and the Conservative Party. Every party that participated, with the possible exception of the Bloc, independent Bloc, and the CCF, brought forward an amendment that was voted upon and approved, which is a remarkable achievement.

It is also important to note that the government, in particular the Minister of Environment, the Minister of Transport, and the Minister of Natural Resources have commented positively on the amendments brought forward by the committee, on which we will subsequently be voting.

One hundred and fifty amendments were made. The government is responding positively to the fact that these changes are being brought in to ensure openness and transparency, improve public participation, better engage indigenous communities, and to provide greater predictability and certainty for our businesses and those who wish to bring good projects forward. The fact that agreement could be reached on 150 amendments is a tremendous statement and says a lot about the state of democracy right now. That is a really important thing.

I would like to first look at some of the amendments, particularly those related to reconciliation and navigable waters.

With regard to reconciliation, I was very proud to work with my colleagues, including opposition members, to propose amendments that would incorporate the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into the bill. That is very important and our government supports enshrining the declaration in law through Bill C-262, which will soon become law.

I would like to congratulate those who worked on Bill C-69, because including the declaration in future impact assessments across the country will be very good for reconciliation and for the development of nation-to-nation relationships.

I would also like to mention how the bill now provides for calling on indigenous peoples' knowledge and expertise when impact assessments are conducted. That will help to improve future project analyses. We need to improve our way of working with indigenous peoples on impact assessments.

Protection of waterways is another very important aspect, and we all know the former government scrapped several provisions protecting navigable waters. Since 2015, the government has been working very hard to improve those protections because waterways and navigation rights are protected not only by statute but also under common law.

The protections for navigable waters are of crucial importance to Canadians, and certainly to the constituents I represent in the Pontiac.

With respect to navigation, very important changes were brought by the committee to ensure water flows would be protected. That is a really crucial piece of the puzzle. Why? Because many Canadian communities, indigenous groups, and paddling groups were concerned that projects might move forward and would not receive the necessary scrutiny, that the law would not necessarily enable protection of the flows of water that would go down various waterways, whether that is the Ottawa River, the Gatineau River, the St. Lawrence Seaway, or other major waterways. That is a key point, and I am very proud our committee brought forward those amendments.

Overall, I would like to conclude by suggesting that beyond the hyperbole, beyond all of the easy, partisan criticism that has been lobbed from the other side, at the end of the day, Canadians are looking for a stronger process that builds trust when good projects come forward and ensures the independence of decision-makers in the context of evaluating projects. We need the public to not only know that a good analysis is being done, but that this analysis is being done independently, on the basis of solid, hard evidence, and on the basis of the engagement of Canada's indigenous peoples.

I am really proud of the work our government has done. Bill C-69 is a good starting point. The committee worked very hard to achieve improvements on it. I commend the government for its positive reaction to the changes brought forward by the standing committee.

Motions in AmendmentImpact Assessment ActGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2018 / 1:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, that member is an invaluable member of our environment committee, and I enjoy working with him.

He did mention the navigable waters piece in Bill C-69. We need to make it very clear in the House that navigable waters is about navigation. It has nothing to do with the environment.

The previous government made those changes to the navigable waters act because government officials with sidearms were accosting farmers in fields who had dug a ditch that was classified as a waterway. They told our farmers not to touch or clean that ditch because they would be breaking the law. Imagine how farmers reacted. In my City of Abbotsford, the community I represent, farmers were livid about how the government approached this.

Another reason we moved forward with changes to the navigable waters legislation was because it was about navigation, not about the environment. The Liberal government seems to conflate those and has taken the navigable waters legislation and thrown it in the middle of Bill C-69, which is essentially an environmental piece of legislation. Does the member not understand that navigable waters is about protecting navigation? It should not cover minor waterways.

Why is his government so intent on changing and trying to remediate a piece of legislation that was actually working very well for those impacted by it?

Motions in AmendmentImpact Assessment ActGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2018 / 1:40 p.m.
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Liberal

William Amos Liberal Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is always a pleasure to work with the member opposite who represents Abbotsford. I have enjoyed many positive moments on our standing committee and have great respect for the work he does.

With all due respect, I would refer the member to an opinion editorial that I had published in The Globe and Mail in 2012, where I laid out the critique of the previous government's changes to navigation law in Canada. When the changes were made, Canadians' ability to navigate was still protected by the common law, but most of their statutory rights previously protected by Transport Canada were stripped away. The statutory protections for navigation were stripped away, leaving the public with common law protections only.

I take the point that there is a distinction to be drawn between navigation protections and environmental protections. That is an absolutely valid point to make. However there is no doubt that in past, environmental assessment laws, which Canadian waters were subject to prior to the previous government, the required navigational permitting triggered an environmental assessment. That is how it used to work. The Conservative government stripped all of that away, so we needed to find a new way to bring back navigation protections and a robust impact assessment regime. That is what Bill C-69 seeks to achieve.

Motions in AmendmentImpact Assessment ActGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2018 / 1:40 p.m.
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NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Pontiac mentioned that the committee had agreed to make an amendment to Bill C-69 with regards to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. It amended the preamble, but that preamble is non-binding, so it was a meaningless gesture by the government.

I will bring to the attention of all members that the member for Edmonton Strathcona has brought forward report stage amendments, notably, Motions Nos. 4, 7, 9, 10, 12, and 13. Given that the member across the way voted last week in support of Bill C-262, which strives to bring the laws of Canada into harmony with UNDRIP, will he be consistent this week and support those amendments and live up to what he did last week?

Motions in AmendmentImpact Assessment ActGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2018 / 1:40 p.m.
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Liberal

William Amos Liberal Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, the issue of incorporating the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into Bill C-69 was an important one. We had lengthy discussions during the committee proceedings. We on this side of the House most certainly feel that incorporating indigenous rights and ensuring they are respected and that the constitutional protections afforded to indigenous rights are given pride of place in this legislation is of absolutely fundamental importance. That is exactly what we achieved.

Many amendments were brought to Bill C-69 in relation to indigenous rights, including but not limited to UNDRIP, and I mentioned others related to traditional knowledge. Members on this side of the House are extremely proud of how that was achieved.