Mr. Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity to speak and I appreciate your help in arranging this time for me.
It is a pleasure to rise to speak to Motion No. 298, put forward by the hon. member for Churchill River. The motion reads as follows:
That, in the opinion of this House, the government should provide initiatives to deliver natural gas to unserviced regions and address environmental concerns and high energy costs.
The motion is extremely important to an area such as my riding in northern Nova Scotia. There are all kinds of small communities like Advocate Harbour, Parrsboro, Tatamagouche, Pugwash and Stewiacke which are not in the mainstream and will not get the benefits of natural gas as pipelines pass through our area. If this initiative were successful, these small communities would have access to natural gas and would be treated equally, which is very important.
The PC Party and I support this motion for a number of reasons. First, if natural gas is supplied to unserviced areas, then it will spur regional economic development, always a challenge in my region. Second, natural gas is considered to be one of the cleanest energy sources widely available for public use.
Increased use of natural gas could help Canada meet its Kyoto targets. In Nova Scotia, we have a very pristine environment. It is very clean. We are very proud of it and we want to maintain that environment.
Canada signed a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 6% from 1990 levels by 2010. However, according to what I have been hearing, many of the industrialized nations of the world are uncertain about their abilities to meet these commitments, and Canada is one of those countries. Those commitments may have been made in good faith, but, by all accounts, Canada is nowhere near its targets. In fact, greenhouse gas emissions are now rising in the country.
The dramatic rise in gasoline prices over the past few months has shown consumers that dependence on a single energy source places people in a very vulnerable position, forcing them to either pay the price or forgo the service. Many people do not have any options, however, since they may be dependent on gasoline to travel to work or heat their homes.
There are a number of energy sources available, ranging from fuel oil and diesel fuel to hydro-electricity, coal-fired electricity and various other sources of energy, all of which can be fairly expensive. If another energy source can help reduce costs for industries or consumers, then I would support the initiative to help make that source widely available, which is exactly what we are talking about here today.
On the east coast there are some exciting projects that are developing, supplying natural gas to the area and to the United States, and there may be potential for many further developments. Only a few months ago the Sable offshore energy project, through the Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline, began supplying natural gas to buyers in the New England states. This pipeline goes through my riding, from one end to the other. A natural gas distribution franchise has now been awarded to Sempra Atlantic Gas and the construction of a natural gas pipeline will allow gas to flow to households in the maritime provinces.
By coincidence, I talked to officials from Sempra Gas this morning about routes for natural gas and the best way to get it to the smaller communities to see if there is some way to address those needs.
The pipeline is expected to service up to 300,000 households and 25,000 industrial, commercial and institutional customers.
There is also potential natural gas development in other parts of Canada, including the far north, Alberta and British Columbia. Recent newspaper articles have discussed the exciting prospect of natural gas development in the Northwest Territories after a 10 year moratorium which shut down operations near the Beaufort Sea.
The prospect of a 1,500 kilometre pipeline to link the Northwest Territories with markets in the United States is again under consideration. Future revenue from the $4 billion project makes that project attractive to the Northwest Territories government, which is willing to provide $100 million of the initial investment. Federal assistance is being sought to provide the additional $230 million needed over a four year period to see the project established.
Like all natural gas projects, the potential for spinoffs to the local economy could be great. Employment, infrastructure, training and other benefits would all be a part of the larger picture that would see the pipeline become a reality.
In my riding last year we experienced those spinoffs and benefits. The pipeline company and workers literally brought millions of dollars to our area and boosted our economy dramatically.
There is an estimated six trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves in the Mackenzie Delta region and the co-operation of the aboriginal groups in the area who have given their approval for development of these reserves means that oil companies are again exploring options in the area. It will be very interesting to see how this project develops and the economic spinoffs it will provide to the northern region.
It is clear that natural gas delivery to unserviced regions would assist regional economic development and improve the overall economic well-being of Canadian communities. The Progressive Conservative Party supports this motion because of the need to help remote or rural areas develop economically and also assist Canada in working toward meeting its Kyoto targets for lower greenhouse gases.