Thank you, Mr. Chairman and committee members.
We are pleased to have this opportunity to comment on Bill C-469 today.
I am Tom Huffaker, vice-president for policy and environment at the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.
As many of our concerns with this bill are legal in nature, we have provided a separate legal opinion. I am pleased to have with me the author of that analysis, Shawn Denstedt, a partner at Osler, Hoskin and Harcourt. He is available to assist me in answering your questions today.
I will make a few high-level comments on our overriding concerns with the bill rather than focusing on the many points of detailed objection that would arise from a line-by-line review. We provided a copy of our full statement last week, and I will make a slightly shorter statement today.
CAPP represents companies large and small that explore for and develop Canada’s natural gas and oil resources. We are part of a large, growing, and technologically advanced industry that contributes greatly to the wealth of the country, with over 500,000 Canadians directly or indirectly employed in the industry, annual investments of $110 billion, and payments to government exceeding $15 billion per year.
Canadians expect safe, reliable, and responsible energy development and delivery. Meeting high environmental standards is part of that expectation. We embrace those expectations. Canada has among the highest environmental standards in the world. Development is subject to numerous licensing and approval processes. Environmental considerations form part of all the decisions on whether to approve developments that could have an environmental impact. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act provides a rigorous process for assessing environmental effects.
The provinces where we operate have their own high environmental standards and rigorous regulatory regimes. These standards operate within a careful balance of federal and provincial law. There is no bright line where federal environmental jurisdiction ends and provincial jurisdiction begins. Respect for the rights and responsibilities of the differing jurisdictions is, of course, fundamental in Canada. We need wise and experienced policy-makers and politicians to ensure that a balance and respect for provincial jurisdiction is maintained.
The oil and gas industry, like many other industries here, is regulated from cradle to grave. The regulatory framework is open and transparent. Canadians who are affected by energy projects have robust opportunities to participate in regulatory processes. The National Energy Board conducts itself in a fully transparent manner, and all relevant input and opinion from any person or entity with a reasonable interest is accepted.
This bill is an appeal to the rising environmental sensibilities of Canadians. We are all acutely aware of the importance of environmental performance and the need for industry to meet high standards. However, we frankly do not see what problem this bill is trying to solve. Canadians already enjoy open and transparent environmental decision-making. This bill will only burden responsible development, while providing new avenues for those seeking to discourage development, growth, and job creation.
This bill would allow any resident of Canada to go to court, claiming that the Government of Canada has failed to carry out its duty as a trustee of the environment. And courts could grant a wide range of remedies. So the delicate art of politics on which the respect for federal and provincial powers now depends will become subject to rulings by federal courts brought by environmental activists.
Bill C-469 imposes a quasi-constitutional obligation, in our view, on the government to place environmental protection above all else. We embrace the need to place high priority on environmental protection, but environmental protection does not stand alone as a priority. The economy and energy security also rank high. More practically, Canadians want high environmental standards, but they also expect government and regulators to emphasize worker and public safety, jobs, and energy to heat their homes and power their vehicles.
Our own polling confirms that the overwhelming majority of Canadians believe it is not only important to balance environmental protection, energy security, and economic priorities, but possible. This bill threatens the very balance our public demands and believes in, and which is already codified in the federal Sustainable Development Act.
The Canadian legal system is a leader globally in protecting individual rights. However, it is one thing for the law to give me a right to protect the things I own by suing someone who trespasses on my rights, and it is quite another for every single Canadian resident to have the legal right to take environmental questions to court. These are questions of public policy that are for governments to decide through legitimate democratic processes. Every adult Canadian citizen can vote. Can every Canadian adult afford to go to court?
When activists bring cases to court under this bill, can every Canadian go down to the courthouse and ask to have their voice heard, maybe to protect the economic opportunity for their children in the future? Of course not.
This bill would undermine the proper role of elected officials. We believe that we need to pause, and think long and hard before we choose to diminish the ability of our democratically elected leaders, such as those in this room, to address complex problems.
Under this bill, no industry large or small can operate secure in the knowledge that they are on safe ground as long as they comply with the general law and any permits and licences they have been issued. Under this bill it does not matter whether those permits and licences have been issued under federal, provincial, or territorial law.
In a civil action, under clause 23 of this bill as we read it, a Canadian or resident or entity, whether or not they have any direct interest in the matter, need only claim contravention of an act of Parliament alleging significant environmental harm. The entities that can bring such action include environmental organizations that specialize in taking actions to court. All they need to do is open an office in Canada. Where the money to fund it comes from can be anywhere.
Businesses large and small need predictability to invest and provide the jobs that Canadians need. We look to government to provide that predictability, not only through laws and regulations that are enacted but also through the policies that guide implementation of those laws and regulations as well as the practical wisdom that is brought to bear when decisions are made to take enforcement action.
There will be no predictability, in our view, if Bill C-469 becomes law. The carefully balanced policies of government and the wise counsel of public servants will be held hostage to the court actions of single-interest groups. The bill will significantly increase the risks and costs of doing business in Canada, in our view. The result will be a loss of competitiveness for Canada, with reduced investment in economic opportunities and fewer jobs.
Capital is mobile, and while it is drawn to countries that have advanced environmental, regulatory, and legal systems, such as Canada, those systems have to be predictable and reliable for countries to be attractive to investors. We support good policy that holds industry to high standards of environmental performance.
In our view, Bill C-469 is not good policy for Canada. We believe it is fundamentally flawed and we respectfully submit that it cannot be amended into good policy.
Thank you very much. I look forward to your questions.