Madam Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity to stand in support of Bill C-38, the jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act, the key legislation to implement the economic action plan 2012.
Our Conservative government, as demonstrated through today's act, is focused on what matters to Canadians, which is keeping the economy on the right track. In that regard, the nearly 700,000 net new jobs Canada has created since July 2009, 90% of those being full-time jobs, is a positive sign we are on the right track for Canadian families.
Indeed, a recent Wall Street Journal editorial praised Canada's economic leadership focus on private economic growth and its sound policies as a model for others to follow. As CIBC World Markets chief economist Avery Shenfeld recently declared:
Canada’s federal government remains the very picture of health, standing head and shoulders above many developed countries in terms of fiscal sustainability.
Nevertheless, we recognize global economic turbulences remain today and too many Canadians are still looking for work. That is why the economic action plan 2012, legislated through Bill C-38, takes responsible, positive action to support the economy now and over the long term, while keeping taxes low and returning to balanced budgets.
This plan has been largely welcomed by Canadians from coast to coast to coast, save the ideological NDP opposition.
For instance, the Vancouver Board of Trade, representing thousands of businesses in the Lower Mainland, assigned an overall grade of A to the economic action plan 2012, noting:
The federal government's reasonable and prudent 'game plan' continues to be the right one for British Columbia and Vancouver, and it remains the right strategy for Canada within a challenging global economic environment
For the remainder of my time today, I want to focus on the aspects of the jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act that deal with responsible resource development and how we have found the right balance between economic and environmental priorities.
Let me be clear. Our Conservative government is committed to being proactive in our stewardship of our national treasures, preserving them so we can pass them down to future generations. However, unlike the ideological NDP, we recognize that a healthy environment and a strong economy go hand in hand. Major economic projects create jobs and spur development across Canada.
In 2011 alone, the natural resource sector employed over 790,000 Canadians in communities throughout the country. It is predicted that in the next 10 years more than 500 major economic projects, representing $500 billion in new investments, are planned across Canada.
Increasing global demand for resources, particularly from emerging economies, will create new economic and job opportunities from which all Canadians will benefit. Canadians will only reap the benefits that come from our natural resources once investments are made by the private sector to bring the resources to market. Currently conditions are hardly ideal for any business that wants to do so.
Canadian businesses in the resource sector that wish to undertake major economic projects must navigate a complex maze of regulatory requirements and processes. Approval processes can be long and unpredictable. Delays and red tape often plague projects despite few environmental risks. In the federal government alone, accountability for assessments rests with dozens of departments and agencies, each with its own mandate, processes, information needs and timelines. This leads to duplication and the needless waste of time and resources.
The starting point of federal environment assessments can also be unpredictable, which can cause lengthy delays. This leads to delays in investment and job creation, and some plans are even abandoned because of them. Frankly, that is unacceptable.
As stated in a recent Vancouver Sun editorial:
Currently, worthwhile projects are needlessly bogged down in repetitive environmental and regulatory assessments that increase costs to industry without adding value for Canadian taxpayers.
That is why we have worked hard, since 2006, to streamline and improve regulatory processes. However, more work still needs to be done. A modern regulatory system should support progress on economically viable and significant projects and sustain Canada's reputation as an attractive place to invest, all the while contributing to better environmental outcomes.
That is why we are focusing on four major areas to streamline the review process for major economic projects in economic action plan 2012, specifically making the review process for major projects more predictable and timely, reducing duplication and regulatory burdens, strengthening environmental protection and enhancing consultations with aboriginal peoples. This modernized federal regulatory system will establish clear timelines, reduce duplication, regulatory burdens and focus resources more effectively to protect the environment.
We will achieve the goal of one project, one review, in clearly defined time periods, something long overdue, especially for my home province of British Columbia. In the words of British Columbia's finance minister Kevin Falcon:
The moving to a one-permit, one-process approach on environmental assessments is extraordinarily important for British Columbia...We have many major, major projects on the table today that are in the billions of dollars that could have important ramifications for jobs and employment. I’m really encouraged by that...
He went on to say that what they always said about the environment was that they should not measure the environmental process based on how long the process took, that it should be measured based on outcome and that was what they believed in.
Rest assured our Conservative government also understands that long-term economic prosperity and a high quality of life requires a healthy and sustainable environment. That is why protecting Canada's environment and the health of Canadians is a key priority of this government.
For instance, the safe navigation of oil tankers is very important to our government. Oil tankers have been moving safely and regularly along Canada's west coast since the 1930s. For example, 82 oil tankers arrived at Port Metro Vancouver in 2011. Nearly 200 tankers visited the ports of Prince Rupert and Kitimat over the past five years. They all did this safely.
Canada's regulatory system had a lot to do with that. Oil tankers in Canada must comply with the safety and environmental protection requirements of international conventions, and while in Canadian waters, with Canada's marine safety regulatory regime.
These requirements include double hulling of ships, mandatory pilotage, regular inspections and aerial surveillance. In fact, in 2011 almost 1,100 inspections were carried out across Canada, 147 of them on oil tankers.
We have a strong system, but any responsible government must continually work to make it stronger. That is why economic action plan 2012 includes further measures to support responsible energy development, including: new regulations which will enhance existing tanker inspection regime by strengthening vessel inspection requirements; a review of handling processes for oil products by an independent international panel of tanker experts; improved navigational products, such as updated charts for shipping routes; research to improve our scientific knowledge and understanding of risks; and to manage the impacts on marine resources habitat and users in the even of a marine pollution incident, and much more.
As I indicated in my introduction, we must be vigilant in guarding our spectacular natural treasures, but unlike the NDP, we realize that Canada's economic prosperity cannot be sustained without a healthy environment, just as environmental progress cannot be achieved without a healthy economy.
That is why I urge all hon. members to join with me in supporting Bill C-38, the jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act, and supporting a stronger Canadian economy.