Madam Speaker, it is always good to speak in the House and on an issue about which I am passionate, northern Canada.
Bill C-15, which we have heard referenced a number of times, was legislation of which I was very proud to have been a part. I was part of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. We spent a lot of quality time in the Northwest Territories talking to people about making government work better for the people of the Northwest Territories. That is what Bill C-15 did. It devolved powers from Ottawa to the territories, something for which the Northwest Territories had been fighting and asking for decades. That is what our government delivered.
This bill, Bill C-88, basically formalizes in law one of the most egregious slaps in the face I think I have ever witnessed as an elected representative.
The Prime Minister went to Washington, D.C., to see his friend Barack Obama off. He had already termed out. He was in the lame duck portion of his presidency. The Prime Minister decided that it would be a good going away present to put a moratorium on oil and gas drilling in the Beaufort Sea in the Northwest Territories and he did it without consulting.
The current government likes to talk about consulting with indigenous people. However, when the rubber hits the road, it could not care less what the indigenous people of the country think unless it goes along with its preconceived notion of what it wants to do as a government. We saw that with the moratorium. We saw it as well with the northern gateway pipeline, where the Aboriginal Equity Partners, a group of 31 indigenous communities, had a $2 billion opportunity staring them in the face. The Prime Minister and the Liberal government shut that down with the stroke of a pen. Again, they did it from Ottawa.
When it comes to the Liberals, Ottawa always knows best and when it comes to indigenous peoples and the Liberals, Ottawa always knows best. We saw that with the moratorium and the northern gateway pipeline. They feel they have no obligation to consult when it comes to the economic opportunities they rip away from indigenous communities. They ripped away opportunities from the Aboriginal Equity Partners. They again ripped away opportunities from northerners with this moratorium.
The member for Northwest Territories said that there was no oil and gas development happening there. Is that any surprise? Why would any company invest its hard-earned dollars in a jurisdiction when a government, with 20 minutes notice, can shut the whole thing down? In the case of the northern gateway pipeline, there was three-quarters of a billion dollars of private company investment and the government shut it down with the stroke of a pen, ripping away $2 billion of economic opportunity from a group of aboriginal communities in a region of the country that has very little other economic opportunity.
What was the reaction from the northerners when this was done? The Northwest Territories premier, Bob McLeod, said very clearly, “The promise of the North is fading and the dreams of northerners are dying as we see a re-emergence of colonialism.” He was talking about the approach of the Prime Minister and the government, with its colonial approach, shutting down development because it would play well with Barack Obama, the green lobby and southern Canada. They did not care at all what the reality would be in the north.
The premier also stated, “We shouldn't have to stop our own development so the rest of Canada can feel better.” He went on to say, “We need jobs. We need work. You want us to leave the North because we can't work there. You want us to live in a large park. That's essentially what's happened.”
The Premier of the Northwest Territories gets exactly what the Prime Minister is trying to do, which is to make the Northwest Territories, Canada's north in general, Nunavut and Yukon, into a great protected space, where Ottawa will just keep sending up the money and the northerners will not have the ability to control their own natural resources and destiny. That is what Bill C-15 did. It gave control of the north to those who lived there, to the northerners. It brought into line the regulatory processes and regime with what was happening in the rest of Canada.
In a way, I guess Bill C-88 would do the same thing. The Liberal government brought in Bill C-69, which will devastate and kill resource development in this country. Everyone in the industry says so. Everyone in oil and gas knows that Bill C-69 will devastate them. The entire province of Alberta, from the NDP to the United Conservative Party and all points in between are saying that Bill C-69 has to be removed. The government must repeal Bill C-69, or at least pause it.
The Liberals say, “We know best. We are the federal government.” Here in Ottawa, in their wisdom, even though the price of oil is now down to $10 a barrel, a price differential of $50 between a barrel on the world market and what Albertan oil companies can sell it for, in their wisdom the Liberals say that is not a problem and that their hearts go out to them.
With Bill C-88, they are saying that since Bill C-69 devastated the resource economy in the rest of Canada, they need to partner it with legislation specific to the north, which would be Bill C-88, and would prevent oil and gas development in that region. What these Liberals do not seem to understand is that when capital investment is driven away, it does not simply turn around on a dime and come back when the moratorium might be lifted some day in the future.
It is the same as we have seen in Alberta. When these companies pack up and leave, when they are driven out of the country by government policies, as they have been by the Liberal government, they do not simply turn around and come back with their billions of dollars and tens of thousands of jobs on a whim. It will take decades to repair the damage the government has done in three short years. It will take decades to build back the capacity and investor confidence that has evaporated since the Liberal government has taken office.
Why has it evaporated? The government has taken the processes in place and politicized them for its own gains. The Liberals have said, “We do not care that the National Energy Board has conducted an independent two-year long, $750-million investigation of the northern gateway pipeline, with 209 conditions placed upon it. We do not care about that because we know best. We are going to cancel that pipeline. We are going to make it impossible for the energy east pipeline to go ahead. We are going to buy the Trans Mountain pipeline, just park it and see what happens in a few years after the next election.”
Companies have abandoned this country in the billions of dollars and in the tens of thousands of workers. This legislation is just another example of that sort of philosophy where Ottawa knows best. The government certainly thinks it knows best when it comes to indigenous communities. Bob McLeod and many others in the north have said to the government, “We earn our living with oil and gas revenues. We work in these industries, and you are taking away opportunity from our people.” However, the Liberal government does not believe it needs to talk to those people who actually support resource development. It believes it only needs to talk to people who support the Liberal government's agenda.
When I hear the Prime Minister say that there is no relationship more important than that with Canada's indigenous people, his record proves it is simply untrue. With certain indigenous people, the ones who agree with him, he is very into maintaining that relationship. However, for those who disagree with the Prime Minister, or those who have an agenda and want to pursue economic development for their people, the Prime Minister does not have to consult with them, because Ottawa knows best. That is what this legislation is, an Ottawa-knows-best, made-in-southern-Canada solution for northerners.
It is unlike our previous government, which wanted to see the north thrive. We wanted to promote northern sovereignty. We wanted to promote devolution of powers to northerners because they know best how to govern themselves. They do not need a prime minister going down to Washington, D.C., to tell them how to do it.
We will proudly vote against this legislation, and when we form government in 2019, we will work to rebuild the damage the Liberal government has done in this country.