, seconded by the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, moved that Bill C-235, An Act respecting the building of a green economy in the Prairies, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
He said: Mr. Speaker, one does not plan in life to win the lottery, but when one does, one is left with decisions about how to take advantage of the good fortune. I thought long and hard about how I would use my good fortune to come up with a private member’s bill that was an extension of so much of the work I have done across the Prairies.
The building a green economy in the Prairies act was inspired by reflections over decades. The first were in my own province of Manitoba. In the 1980s, the $200-million core area initiative program shaped the interests of the governments of Canada, Manitoba and Winnipeg into a common agenda. The three levels of government, through their senior representatives, met often to work to align their policies in the interest of rehabilitating and renewing downtown Winnipeg's core. Almost $200 million was invested through this format. It was successful and well regarded by the citizens of Manitoba.
More recently, during the first months of the pandemic, it was notable how much Canadians appreciated governments collaborating, co-operating and co-ordinating their agendas around the common interest, the public interest, to achieve shared goals. Canadian federalism is strong and flexible, but it cannot be taken for granted. This bill was developed by placing these thoughts side by side and applying to them the economic development of my own region, the Prairies.
This bill would give the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry of Canada, in consultation with the Minister of Natural Resources, the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and the Minister responsible for Prairies Economic Development Canada, a mandate and statutory framework of consultation with provincial governments, first nation and Métis governments, municipal governments, businesses and their employees, and civil society itself to prepare for significant changes in federal public policy. This is adapting to the new reality of how we produce energy, how we adapt to the new reality of using that energy and how we prepare for the changes to the energy environment worldwide and in our own communities.
We know that the prairie provinces are going to be especially impacted by climate change and the policies implemented to combat it. Traditional industries will take on a far different look, and we already have evidence of that. Leaders in the corporate sector are changing their strategic plans to adapt to a reduced reliance on fossil fuels and investing in other sources of energy. We have many examples of this.
In my home riding of Winnipeg South Centre, there are start-up companies that recognize the growing importance of carbon capture utilization and storage, and they are developing prototypes to build this technology on an industrial scale. Alberta is already the largest hydrogen producer in Canada. It recognizes its role in bringing this cleaner, low-cost energy to the rest of the Prairies, Canada and the global market. We see the evolution of the small modular reactor technology, and we know that if Canada is going to meet our objective of net-zero emissions by 2050, we must rely on a wide variety of energy sources.
For a few hundred years now, we have grown food on the Prairies to feed ourselves and to feed the world. Increasingly, it is evident that what we grow on the Prairies can also fuel the world. The pace of innovation in the biomass supply chain means that very soon we may be able to do just about anything with a bushel of canola that we can do with a barrel of oil.
The bill recognizes this and knows that, to implement these policy objectives, our chances of success improve if there is co-operation among the levels of government and those who create wealth. In Canada, we talk about the distribution of the nation’s wealth, and these discussions are critical. We should also talk about wealth creation, something that we do not do much about because we are so focused on how we are going to spend the bounty of our nation.
We can take child care as an example. It is both an economic and a social policy. We know that the Prairies are struggling with other difficult circumstances. I can use transportation as an other example. Anybody who has tried to get from one part of the region to the other over the last number of years will know how challenging it has become.
Train service has been dropped. A train has not run between the cities of Calgary and Edmonton since 1985. Bus service has been curtailed across wide sections of the Prairies, making life more difficult, particularly for seniors living in rural communities. Let us review this, discuss it and debate it. The bill emphasizes this.
This bill represents a new way of doing business as a nation. Many of the elements and the aspirations of the bill are already here, not because they are mandated or obliged to happen, but because a particular minister or a group of MPs or a premier or a mayor has an idea that co-operation would be a good thing. This bill would do more than make suggestions. It would give the minister of industry and the federal government 18 months to establish this framework, after deep and meaningful consultation with those mentioned in the bill, and it demands a reporting to Parliament.
The intention is to focus the ministerial mind to make that kind of consultation and coordination easier because it must happen. It mandates collaboration, co-operation and relationship building.
This bill is not about jurisdictional overreach. It is clear that these policies are within the federal jurisdiction but must consider local circumstances and continuing dialogue with local governments and with businesses and workers who, after all, are best positioned to understand the consequences of changing policy on the way they run their governments or their businesses in an ever-changing landscape.
Indigenous nations are partners because their interests are integral to the success of the entire region, and the entire country. Not only does our Constitution demand this, but we know that development of resources across first nation, Métis, and Inuit land requires these conversations to be meaningful from the start.
Though the bill is succinct, I believe it is full of possibilities and ideas that span a wide range. I am optimistic, which springs from spending many months as the minister responsible for the prairie provinces, talking to decision-makers and regular folk across a vast range of interests. I was working on my little computer on the second floor of my house. That gave me the scope and the capacity to cover a lot of ground.
I remember one day when I chatted with people over breakfast at the Calgary Chamber of Commerce before moving on to a visit with canola producers and then ranchers. After that, I talked to people who are in the power business in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, before leading a round table with first nations and Métis community and business leaders. I was in touch with the heads of unions and other associations too.
I was able to do this in a single day because I did not have to get on a plane. Having that ease to stay in touch with so many people was a great advantage.
What I found was that there are very few stereotypes that hold water and, in any case, stereotypes are barriers to progress. I wonder if colleagues know of Professor Michael Houghton at the University of Alberta, who has a PhD.D., is a Nobel laureate, and was recognized for his work combatting hepatitis C and with vaccinations. The Prairies are absolutely full of scientists in each of our provinces.
When we think of the Prairies and when we think of Alberta, I want us to think of Nobel prize winners. I want us to think of the cutting edge of research. I want us to think about feeding the world.
I was struck, over the course of those several days, by how much community of interest I found across the great diversity and expanse of the Prairies. In perspective, in topography and in geography, it is a vast region. What I found was that we can find common ground if we seek it.
I was often delighted and encouraged by the degree of agreement I saw and that played out as we moved closer to a whole variety of decisions.
The time for a bill like this one is now. It takes what we have already accomplished across this special part of our country and builds on it. I am hopeful this bill will tap into the aspiration that the country should unite around shared objectives and values.
The bill recognizes that what we have, more than the bounty of natural resources we have been so adept at developing, is this generation of young people who understand the urgency of climate change. They are sophisticated in their thinking and see the economic opportunities that building a new Prairie economy would provide for them as they choose career paths over the next 10, 20 and 30 years.
We want our young people across the Prairies to thrive in the region and to have prosperous and secure futures. We want the energy infrastructure we have today to help us move along to the next generation of energy development that is clean, sustainable and marketable. Without question, the region will be very attractive to those looking to invest in the new economy.
Though the Prairies are the region I have chosen, because it is the region I live in and the one most impacted by changes in the energy world, I am certain this bill provides a template for a way of building relationships and doing business that would be relevant to any other region of Canada.
Therefore, I am encouraged, excited and optimistic about how we can strengthen our federation in ways we have strived to achieve as a nation for decades. With this framework, mandated by a statute passed by the majority of members in the House of Commons and the Senate, I am confident that we will have ushered in a new era of co-operative federalism and a dynamic moment for Canadian democracy.