Mr. Speaker, I will be happily splitting my time with the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands.
It is an absolutely great honour for me to rise in the House and speak on behalf of the residents of Davenport to Bill C-69. It has quite a long name, 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.
Davenport residents deeply care about the environment. They care about how we develop projects in this country that impact our environment. They care about how the Canadian government will be adhering to our Paris accord commitments. They have been asking me to show them the plan for how Canada will be achieving its targets, and I will be showing that to them very shortly. In Davenport we are doing our own bit as well in terms of trying to find ways to model a low-carbon, urban, sustainable community.
Back to Bill C-69, I am so pleased to have this opportunity to address the House regarding a legislative initiative that is at the heart of our priorities as a government: to ensure a sustainable future for Canadians. Our guiding principle is that a strong economy and a clean environment go hand in hand. We believe that we can harness our natural resources to create good jobs while fulfilling our duty as stewards of the environment.
Bill C-69 would introduce a review process that for major projects would strike a balance between protecting our environment and ensuring that good projects can be built and can create jobs for the middle class. Essentially, Bill C-69 would create a single agency, called the impact assessment agency of Canada, that would lead all impact assessments for major projects to ensure a consistent and efficient approach. The impact assessment agency of Canada would ensure that there were better rules in place to protect our environment, our fish, and our waterways; to rebuild public trust and respect indigenous rights; and to strengthen our economy. Let me spend the next few minutes telling members how.
We have to go back a little in time. The fact is that many Canadians no longer have faith in our previous environmental review process following changes introduced by the former government. That is why we made a promise to Canadians that we would review and modernize environmental assessment and regulatory processes. I am proud to say that we are delivering on that promise by bringing in better rules that will restore environmental protections and rebuild public trust in decisions about major projects. Building on what works, we have designed an assessment system that is clearer and more predictable and that allows good projects to go ahead sustainably.
We are a government that consults broadly. The proposed impact assessment act was not arrived at in isolation. It is the result of careful examination and extensive consultations with Canadians.
More than two years ago, our government launched a comprehensive review of federal environmental assessment and regulatory processes. This comprised four separate, but complementary, reviews. We looked at ways to improve federal environmental assessments, to modernize the National Energy Board, and to restore lost protections and introduce modern safeguards under the Fisheries Act and the Navigation Protection Act.
To that end, our government set up a four-person expert panel to solicit the views of Canadians from across the country. We also established a multi-interest advisory committee to support this work. The expert panel went to 21 cities, received more than 800 online and written submissions, and welcomed over 1,000 people at engagement sessions. We had extensive consultations with indigenous peoples and heard from the provinces and territories, industry, environmental groups, and the public.
We also took into account input from three other processes led by another expert panel and two parliamentary standing committees. We then prepared a discussion paper on the government's proposed path forward and solicited feedback. What did we hear? We heard from environmental groups, indigenous leaders, provinces and territories, businesses, and Canadians from communities across our country who told us that effective assessment must not only focus on avoiding negative impacts but must foster sustainability.
Stakeholders told us that there was a need for greater transparency and that assessments must demonstrate how public input informs decision-making. Project reviews must be grounded in scientific evidence as well as in indigenous traditional knowledge. Indigenous people want to participate as partners in the economic development of their territories. We heard that Canadians want to be more involved in our processes. Businesses need clearer and more predictable timelines, and decisions should be more open and evidence-based.
Let there be no doubt that the residents of Davenport also contributed their thoughts to the consultation process. They felt that the previous assessment process was not a good one, that there was not enough consultation with communities and indigenous groups, that there was not enough being done to protect nature, and in general that we needed stronger and fairer environmental assessment laws. I am happy to say that the new legislation incorporates and reflects not only the views of Davenport residents but of all Canadians who participated in the process. What we are proposing is a system that is more transparent, effective, and efficient for all concerned.
I will now highlight some of the principles that form the basis of Bill C-69.
First, we are adopting a broader approach based on the principles of sustainability. Canada has had a law in place since 1992 to ensure that the environment is taken into account as projects are considered for design and implementation. When first introduced, environmental assessment laws and regulatory processes had a specific focus on environmental impacts. Our thinking has greatly evolved since then, and we now understand that an assessment system must consider more than just the environment. It must take into account wider concerns, including the economic, social, and health consequences associated with proposed projects. The new act would do just that, and that is why the name of the act would change from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act to the impact assessment act, reflecting a much wider range of effects we would consider as we reviewed projects for implementation and aimed to foster sustainability.
Second, the new process would be more efficient and more predictable. It would allow people to know where they stood. Projects would now go through an early planning and engagement phase during which potential impacts would be identified and discussed with the public, indigenous people, and the project proponent at the outset of an initiative. Timelines would continue to be legislated. Efficiencies gained through early planning would allow timelines for other phases to be reduced, leading to more timely decisions.
Third, we want to establish a new partnership with indigenous people. They are the most affected by the impacts of the projects, and we will ensure that we respect their rights and jurisdiction in the way decisions are considered.
Fourth, we want evidence to guide and inform all our decisions, so we will consider evidence of science as well as indigenous traditional knowledge as we move forward on these projects. The value of indigenous traditional knowledge cannot be underestimated, and we are determined to include indigenous people in every single project moving forward.
Fifth, we want to increase transparency. By transparency we mean openness that translates into removing barriers to public participation in the review process and making key project information openly available.
Finally, we want to take a truly big-picture view of impacts, one that improves our understanding of the cumulative effects of all projects in a given region. The new impact assessment would take this wider view through the increased use of regional assessments. Regional assessments would examine the effects of past, present, and future activities in a region. For instance, they might examine effects on biodiversity and species at risk and identify impacts on the rights and interests of indigenous people. They would provide decision-makers with a fuller and more complete picture of the context within which a project was proposed, allowing for a better understanding of the overall impact on the environment.
These are not mere operational changes we have introduced but rather are fundamental changes in the way we actually do business. I am very proud to be in this House speaking on behalf of Bill C-69. I believe that we have a wonderful new process in place, and I have a lot of confidence in the projects moving forward. I appreciate the opportunity to speak on behalf of the residents of Davenport.