Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to address this very important motion tabled by the NDP. This opposition day motion focuses on Canada's overall energy future. It is unfortunate that the NDP did not situate the motion in that context, but I want to make some opening remarks for Canadians to understand why what this motion is calling for is so fundamentally important to our future.
This motion would have the House of Commons approve that the government conduct a review and revision of all relevant federal laws, regulations and policies regarding the development of different forms of oil and gas. This would include the oil sands, deepwater oil and gas recovery, which is the type of exploration we are seeing in the Gulf of Mexico, and shale gas so that we can ensure that Canada has the strongest set of environmental and safety rules in the world.
By conducting such an analysis, the government would report back to the House on how we could take appropriate action to improve a situation. After all, good government is always a constant improvement struggle. It is constantly moving to improve a situation as it evolves over time, through knowledge, technology and investments.
For me and many Canadians, this motion shows that there is absolutely no national strategy in Canada for our energy future. We really do not know where we are going with respect to energy.
That is why just a few short weeks ago in an opposition day motion which I was privileged to table on behalf of the Liberal Party of Canada, I asked the House to endorse the notion that the Prime Minister would, within 90 days of the passing of that motion, convene a first ministers meeting to deal with energy and climate change for this country. The motion did pass and the Prime Minister has yet to respond to Parliament's desire to see that meeting convened.
I asked specifically because there is a lot of good effort and good work going on in the country, led by the provinces, our cities, our municipalities, our universities, our schools and our hospitals. We have good practices in industry. We have all kinds of improvement being made. However, we do not have federal leadership to tie it all together and identify those best practices to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and become more efficient with our energy use.
As I said a moment ago, this motion shows that we have no national approach, let us call it a strategy, for Canada's energy future. We are seeing increasing and inordinate pressure being placed on Canadian citizens, Canadian companies and Canadian provinces who are desirous of seeing more and more offshore oil and gas exploration and exploitation.
All of a sudden, with massive publicity and in dramatic fashion, the Canadian people see what can potentially go wrong and the risks inherent in the kind of exploitation that is taking place in the Gulf of Mexico with the BP oil rig, which is leaking more oil than the Exxon Valdez in a much shorter period of time. It is a huge challenge not just for a particular oil company, but for hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Americans living near the Gulf of Mexico. It is wreaking havoc not just on the environment, but is now showing how it can also wreak havoc on the economy there.
We have no national approach to energy because the Conservative regime in place does not want to talk about it. For example, the Prime Minister has completely stopped talking about putting a price on carbon emissions. He promised in a foundational speech that he delivered in London, England several years ago that in the next several years, Canada would see a price placed on the privilege of emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
Since that speech, which he described as a clean energy superpower speech in his first foreign trip to the United Kingdom, all talk by the Prime Minister about an energy future for Canada has evaporated. He has not talked about this issue since. I can only ascribe it to his handlers and his pollsters who are telling him that he cannot win on this issue, which is very unfortunate and very irresponsible from my perspective.
Canadians need to know where we are going on our energy front. We need to know how hydro power will connect with nuclear power will connect with, yes, fossil fuel power and fossil fuel usage. They need to know how we are moving to become, hopefully, the most energy efficient economy in the world and the cleanest economy in the world. That is the race, after all, that we are embroiled in here. I would ask the Prime Minister to buy himself a pair of sneakers and get in the race, because we are being left behind, as I hope to illustrate through these remarks.
Industrial sectors right across the country, the oil and gas sector, the transport sector, the manufacturing and exporting sector, every single group I meet with is clamouring for a vision and an approach nationally on our energy future. They understand the climate change crisis is connected directly to our energy usage patterns and our energy efficiency patterns.
Citizens get it. Senior citizens in their homes get it. That is why they were stunned to learn last month that the government, by sleight of hand and in the dark of night, had announced that the eco-energy grant program which had commenced five, six, or seven years ago, with a threefold increase in take-up in the last three years, was being eliminated without any rhyme or reason when Canadians are most prepared to make those investments and do the right thing to help reduce their energy consumption and to save money, change their furnace and windows, and become more energy efficient.
It is just a small example of the government's abdication of federal leadership on our energy future. The government says it has a target. Okay, let us take that at face value. The Conservative regime says it has a target to reduce our greenhouse gases by 17% from 2006 levels in the next nine years. Okay. How are we going to get there? In the Liberal motion that we passed some two weeks ago, we asked for an independent group of experts to report to the House of Commons to help design the pathway.
How are we going to reduce our greenhouse gases by that amount? Where is the plan? Where are the regulations that were promised? What are the regulations to deal with greenhouse gas emissions that were promised not once but seven times by the Prime Minister in the last fifty-three months? He is on to his third minister of the environment. There is no regulation and there is no plan.
The second issue I want to deal with is the continuing claim, repeated again here today during question period and in remarks made by the Minister of Natural Resources earlier, that Canada is somehow harmonized with the United States when it comes to energy and environmental policy, or that we are harmonized on a continental basis. Let us just examine that claim for a second.
Yesterday President Calderón from Mexico spoke in this chamber. Afterwards he was very open and direct with the Prime Minister and told him face to face that he was making a serious error by waiting for the United States to act and that he was compromising Canada's future and Canada's leadership on the climate change and energy front.
It took a Mexican president to get the Prime Minister's attention to understand that it is not responsible to allow for a climate change and energy plan to be designed for Canada in Washington. Would Canada design a plan to benefit the specific nature of the American economy? Never. Would we do so to benefit the specific nature of the Mexican economy? No, we would not.
Why would we expect the United States Congress to go forward and design a climate change and energy plan, which would be a benefit to the Canadian economy and the Canadian people? It would not be. I think that is why President Calderón disciplined the Prime Minister yesterday and reminded him that Canada was a sovereign state with sovereign responsibilities.
Let us look how the Prime Minister reacted to this unfortunate spill in the Gulf of Mexico. His first knee-jerk reaction, as he has wanted to do, a function I think of his character and his anger, was to attack the United States. He stood in the House of Commons and finger wagged the American administration and the American regulatory system and said that it was all their fault. This was the day after he stood and said that Canada had the most stringent standards and regulations in place to deal with the environment and oil and gas exploration both onshore and offshore. That is really quite a claim.
We then learned that the environmental assessment regime in the United States was a much more demanding regime than the one in place in Canada when it came to, for example, offshore oil exploration and exploitation. The Prime Minister does not address that issue.
Then two days after his claim that Canada was perfectly all right, in a very career limiting move, the head of the National Energy Board undercut the Prime Minister by specifically announcing that the National Energy Board would be conducting a complete analysis, a serious and detailed review, of what was happening in Canada's Arctic, not on the west coast, not on the east coast, but in the Arctic when it came to oil and gas exploration and exploitation.
The head of the NEB should be very careful. I commend him for his courage because many heads of independent boards, agencies and commissions have spoken out with the Prime Minister in power and have seen their heads cut off. Five or six senior regulators have been fired by the Prime Minister, none the least of which was the head of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission for speaking truth to power. Doing her job got her fired.
There is another angle on this that has come up more recently. I raised it earlier today with the Minister of Natural Resources.
The Prime Minister flew to Pittsburgh and participated in a G20 meeting on behalf of Canada. He signed on to a specific commitment to phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies. He stood, in response to that, and said that we had already done it, that in budget 2007, the government announced one measure, which begins in 2011, called the accelerated capital cost allowance measure, which will be phased out over four years.
Then we find out, through a leaked memo produced by the deputy minister at Finance Canada, that the Prime Minister was not exactly forthcoming in his remarks. We find out that the deputy minister, Mr. Horgan, advised the Prime Minister, through his Minister of Finance and through the Clerk of the Privy Council, the top official in Canada, that the Prime Minister should move responsibly to eliminate a series of fossil fuel subsidies.
We heard the Minister of Finance say, no, that would not happen, despite the efforts of the Minister of the Environment to bring him to understand the connection between the environment and the economy.
It is interesting that the deputy minister of Finance Canada confirmed in a leak memo that the Prime Minister was briefed on a whole series of new measures that could be eliminated to make Canada more efficient and to stop subsidizing fossil fuel production. In other words, he got caught and he got caught again.
It is particularly striking that he got caught because he has said that we are harmonized with the United States. However, in a 2011 budget, being proposed by President Obama, 12 measures are singled out to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies on the production side of fossil fuels, not necessarily fossil fuel subsidies to deal with the question to help, for example, Canadians in the Northwest Territories to comply with very high costs for diesel fuel so they can have power like every other Canadian in an affordable way.
When the government also relies on the National Energy Board's commitment to conduct a review, it does not tell us that the review, as I mentioned earlier, is specifically curtailed, that it is actually just about the Arctic. It only covers a review of safety and environmental requirements in the Arctic but not in other areas. It does not include a review of existing or future projects, for example, in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. It does not talk about potential future projects off the coast of British Columbia.
While drilling in the Arctic environment would require a different set of safety and environmental rules, Canadians are watching television and they are questioning the safety of existing and soon to be developed projects.
It is interesting to note that there are a whole series of projects being contemplated off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador and the coast of Nova Scotia: the Terra Nova floating production, storage and offloading vessel, which is currently operating; the Hibernia production platform; the Searose floating production, storage and offloading vessel; and the Deep Panuke offshore gas development project. All these projects are being contemplated or are under way. There is so much inherent risk in terms of what is at play here if we are to continue in our country to pursue offshore exploration and exploitation.
I want to turn to those risks for a second.
Almost two years ago to the day, I stood in the House and I asked the government about the fast-tracking of exploration licences, which was then under way in the Beaufort. The ocean is very shallow and fragile at the very northern part of the country. At the time, I raised the fact that one of the project proponents had already had a spill in 2000 on the American side of the Beaufort Sea. During that spill, the particular oil company discovered that its existing technologies, its boom system to contain a spill, and there was a small spill, failed. The Arctic Ocean seawater is particularly rough and particularly aggressive. As a result, the system put in place by this company collapsed and oil was shed in that part of the ocean.
At the same time, I raised concerns about wildlife habitat. I asked the government about beluga whales, about the polar bear habitat, about the pristine and sensitive nature of the shoreline in that area of the Arctic. My question was met with a denial. It was met with, quite frankly, a deceiving answer, that nothing was happening, until we confirmed, with the good help of WWF and other actors, that the government was in fact fast-tracking those very licences.
There are currently in place oil and gas development moratoria, or basically temporary bans. They go back in B.C., for example, on oil and gas drilling, to the 1980s. The province of B.C. and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers have come out in favour of lifting the moratorium to allow for oil and gas exploration and extraction. It is a very interesting possibility.
I was in British Columbia some 10 days ago. I spent a considerable amount of time meeting with people in British Columbia and western Canada from the Vancouver Port Authority to the Vancouver Aquarium, which is one of Canada's leading west coast research and analysis locations. I met with folks involved with existing pipelines and proponents for a future pipeline between Fort McMurray and northern British Columbia for a new deep sea port so we could sell more oil and gas into emerging markets in India and China. It was interesting to note that every actor I met was unable to defend the call for, or the need for, an additional pipeline.
What that really tells us is this motion is timely. Canada needs to stop, take some time out and examine not just the existing state of technology for offshore oil and gas exploration, but also the question of moratoria, temporary bans, and the question of fiscal measures, as I alluded to earlier, promises the government made to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies. That would constitute the beginning, the architecture, for a national approach to our energy future. That is why the official opposition is pleased to support this motion.
We would call on the government to do the right and reasonable thing. Stop the bobbing, the weaving and jumping from ice floe to ice floe, stop trying to contain environmental issues as just another crisis to contain from a public perception approach and, instead, do the right thing. Sit down with other parliamentarians in the House and come forward with a new, improved national approach to our energy future, its linkage to climate change and greenhouse gases and, hopefully, place Canada not just at the forefront for leadership in the world, but to become the most energy efficient, cleanest economy in the world.
We can do it. We have the knowhow, the people, the risk takers and the practices. It takes political leadership and some courage. I call upon the government to get with it.