Madam Speaker, is this not a strange set of circumstances? When the government House leader said that we would be debating Bill C-12 last week, I foolishly assumed he meant the actual bill. Multiple times last week it looked like maybe Bill C-12 would be debated, but no. The Liberals say that we Conservatives are delaying. Unfortunately, instead of debating the bill today, we are debating a motion to shut down debate on the bill because the government cannot seem to manage the House agenda at all. To say this bill is urgent after not calling it for months, and indeed after proroguing the House and delaying everything, is the height of hypocrisy. Therefore, here we are.
This is not the first disaster of management on this legislation by the current government. Indeed, it is just the most recent in a long list of failures relating to the bill. I would like to go through some of those here.
When the bill was first introduced, I stood in the House and said I would support the bill. That is true and on the record. However, at that time, I made the mistake of taking the minister at his word: that he was willing to work in good faith with opposition parties. Very quickly I was disabused of this notion.
The first domino was when the government pre-empted the bill entirely. It ignored its own promises and appointed the advisory body. The minister had committed to working with us and with the oil and gas industry to develop the advisory group. In fact, the Minister of Natural Resources said, “We're not reaching net-zero without our oil and gas sector in this country. We're not reaching it.” I agree with this minister and expected direct representation from this critical industry on the group advising government. Unfortunately, instead, the minister appointed a body with no direct oil and gas representation. It was full of people devoted to the death of that industry and the jobs and prosperity it brings.
There were some choice quotes and statements from various members of the advisory committee. One tweet thanked Greta Thunberg for calling on the Prime Minister to stop all oil and gas projects. Another rejected that fossil fuels could co-exist with climate action, rejecting the industry and its workers entirely. Another advocated for stopping all fossil fuel exports and another said, “Tomorrow, I'll join thousands gathering around Canada to call on premiers to act on climate and reject pipelines.”
Members may think that I am done, but I am just getting started because all those were from one person: Catherine Abreu of the Climate Action Network.
Another board member, Kluane Adamek, again quoted Greta, advocating abandoning the fossil fuel economy. Simon Donner from UBC, another board member, called to halt all new oil sands projects and asked if we should cap production entirely.
To be clear, I am not saying that these people are not entitled to their own opinions and beliefs. We are a free country with free speech, until Bill C-10 passes I guess. However, the minister chose these people who are actively anti-oil and gas and put them on this group to tell him what to do in regard to policies relating to oil and gas.
We wanted to work with him on this advisory group and felt it could represent expertise in which Canadian industry excels. Instead, the minister would much rather reject industry entirely, so I for one have no interest in supporting his crusade or his legislation. It has become clear that the minister is completely focused on destroying Canada's oil and gas sector and all the people it employs.
Even knowing all that, we went into the committee process in good faith. I met with many groups from across the ideological spectrum, did a lot of research and worked to create productive and relevant amendments that would improve the bill. What did we find at committee? As many more people watch the House and committees, despite being wonderful entertainment, I will let those at home know what exactly occurred.
Initially, when the bill came to us at committee, all parties worked together to create a timeline for consideration that would have allowed enough time to hear witnesses, receive briefs and review the bill. However, when the committee next met, the Liberal members dropped a surprise motion to reverse all that had been agreed to in order to fast-track the bill and get it through as fast as possible. At the time, Conservatives warned that this schedule would make it difficult to properly conduct our important work, and how right we were.
The Liberals, with their NDP allies, were able to speed things up, so we started the study immediately. Witnesses were due the next day, so everyone had to scramble to do their best. Witness testimony was essentially limited to two days. We did hear some particularly good testimony from a variety of witnesses, yet on something clearly this important to the Liberals, why would they not want more evidence? It would become clear soon enough.
Many people do not know that when committees study a bill, there is a deadline to submit witnesses and amendments. As well, drafting amendments takes a couple of days. The incredibly hard-working staff, who assist in drafting these, are amazing to work with, but writing law takes time. The deadline for amendments in this sped-up Liberal-designed process was immediately after we heard the last witness testimony, so there was not much time to formulate ideas and get them ready. Even worse was how it affected the written submissions. This is what really gets me.
As soon as the bill got to committee, we put out a call for written briefs. These are quite common: Generally experts or interested Canadians send in their opinions on a piece of legislation. They are an essential aspect in ensuring that Canadians can feel included in the process and feel heard. I spoke to witnesses who, when invited to the committee, were told the deadline for submitting a brief was the day they were invited. These briefs are often technical and professionally researched articles. How is an expert supposed to write a submission with literally zero days' notice? The answer is they cannot.
Additionally, as we are a bilingual nation, all of the submissions had to be collected and translated before being sent to members of the public. All of this led to the farce that we saw at the environment committee on the study of Bill C-12. When amendments were due on a Friday before we started clause-by-clause review, only a small number of briefs were available to members. The next week, there were dozens of briefs. Over 70 were posted and then made available. That means that due to the Liberals' single-minded focus on passing the bill as fast as they could and limiting the witness testimony as much as they could, the vast majority of public opinion on the bill was not available until after amendments were due. This is a completely disrespectful act conducted by the Liberals and their allies in the NDP to ignore public opinion.
Ontario Power Generation, Fertilizer Canada, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, the Canadian Nuclear Association and the Canadian Electricity Association all sent briefs after amendments were due. Even environmental groups were hurt by this. The briefs from Ecojustice, Citizens' Climate Lobby, Leadnow, the David Suzuki Foundation and the previously mentioned Climate Action Network all were not available until after amendments were due.
Perhaps the most egregious impact of the Liberals' behaviour on this bill is that no indigenous witnesses were heard from during the study. As par for the course, the brief from the Assembly of First Nations, as I am sure everyone has guessed, was available only after amendments were due.
Additionally, there were a great many briefs from individual Canadians who worked hard to have their voices heard. Thanks to the Liberals, they feel ignored. I heard from one Canadian who said she worked hard on her brief and was excited to have her voice heard, yet when she learned that amendments were due before her brief could even be read, she was totally disenchanted with the process. Our responsibility as elected officials is to ensure that Canadians feel heard, feel included and feel a part of something. What the Liberals and their NDP allies did during this process is disgraceful, and it is a terrible mark on the history of this place.
Now I will get to the clause-by-clause study itself. Despite all I said, we still went in with productive amendments and hoped for the best. Indeed, the minister said he was willing to work with all parties to make the bill better. Again, that turned out not to be true. It became clear very quickly that, instead of there being a willingness to debate or even engage on good ideas, the fix was in. The Liberals and the NDP made a deal to approve their own amendments and reject everyone else's, no matter how reasoned or reasonable.
Before I get to our proposed amendments, I just want to share an example that shows how ridiculous the whole process was. At one point during the study, the Green Party proposed an amendment that was identical to a government amendment. The Green Party's amendment came up first, and the Liberal and NDP members opposed it even though it was exactly the same as their own amendment.
It is clear that their strategy was to reject literally every other suggestion, regardless of what it was. For context, the amendment in question would have required emissions targets to be set 10 years in advance.
People who are familiar with the workings of Parliament and committees can probably guess what happened next. If an amendment is rejected, any subsequent amendment that says the same thing is automatically removed from the list because the committee has already expressed its will on the matter. The Liberals and New Democrats are so staunchly opposed to any amendment other than their own that they ended up killing one of their own amendments.
What followed was an absurd exchange during which the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley proposed a new amendment that would require targets to be set 9 years and 366 days beforehand, instead of 10 years. I am not giving this example to poke fun at the Liberals and the New Democrats, even if it was funny, but because it shows to what extent they were reluctant to consider changes that were not theirs.
What were some of the reasonable changes we proposed? I think Canadians would like to know.
First, we think that solving the very real problem of climate change must be done through a whole-of-government approach. The federal government is famous for operating in silos. One group or department that is responsible for a problem or a particular issue does not usually work with others, or does not coordinate with them. I am sure anyone who has worked in Ottawa or for the federal government has many stories about this. That cannot happen when it comes to tackling climate change. Everyone must work together.
Of course, Environment and Climate Change Canada is the key department, but it also needs to coordinate with the departments of industry, finance, natural resources, employment, crown-indigenous relations and many others. We therefore proposed a series of straightforward amendments to remove the powers to set targets, create plans and approve reports from the Minister of Environment alone and include the entire cabinet. The Minister of Environment would recommend policy to cabinet, but cabinet would ultimately decide how to move forward. This is not exactly reinventing the wheel.
That is generally how policy is made in government: Silos are broken down as much as possible and other departments are included.
Perhaps the Minister of Environment did not consider the impact on industry, jobs and indigenous peoples. Bringing together cabinet to make decisions about these objectives and plans is the right thing to do. Unfortunately, the Liberals and the NDP even refused to debate, and they rejected every amendment we proposed for that purpose.
In their dream world, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change is an omnipotent figure who dictates every policy by decree. That is not how the Conservatives want to manage things. We believe in collaboration and the importance of working together, especially on the issue of climate change.
Another set of amendments that we proposed would have added that, when objectives were set or plans formulated, the minister would be required to balance social and economic factors, including the impact on employment and national unity. Climate change is real, and we absolutely need everyone to work hard to address it.
We cannot accomplish this by blowing the top off Canadian industry and the well-paying jobs that support Canadian families. We need to look at the big picture and make decisions that will improve the lives of all Canadians. That includes Canadians in the regions that will be most affected by these policies. Our country is stronger together, and we must do all we can to keep it that way. A government that is bent on destroying a region's main industry is not a government that knows how to build a nation. Therefore, it seems to me that examining how these policies will impact these factors would be a good idea.
However, the Liberals and the New Democrats refused to so much as debate the subject and rejected all the amendments, which, frankly, surprised me. The government loves to talk about how the green economy will create so many jobs. If that were true, our amendment would allow the government to brag about it, would it not? Instead, they rejected it. Why? Because it came from the Conservatives.
We then suggested that the progress report include the greenhouse gas emissions and sequestration from non-anthropogenic or non-human factors. This would include the amounts sequestered by our vast unmanaged forests and prairies and emissions from such things as forest fires and methane releases from melting permafrost. I personally feel that we cannot make a plan unless we have the full picture. Canadians often ask me what impact our forests have on emissions. Although this information is available in some places, it would be much easier for Canadians to have access to it in the main reports. Again, this seems like an obvious thing to include, but the Liberals and the NDP voted against it without debate.
After that, we proposed another great addition. As people know, Canada is a federation, and the provincial governments control many of the policy levers that are needed to achieve our climate goals. They manage the resource sector, the electrical grid and the building code.
We wanted the assessment reports to include a summary of the measures taken by the provincial governments to achieve the national greenhouse gas emissions targets.