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House of Commons Hansard #117 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was affordable.

Topics

(Return tabled)

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I ask that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker Mr. Bruce Stanton

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-38, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 29, 2012 and other measures, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

When we last left this matter, the hon. member for Winnipeg North had five minutes remaining for questions and comments.

Questions and comments. The hon. member for Kingston and the Islands.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Ted Hsu Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, if we look at all the acts that would be affected by the budget implementation bill, and with maybe one or two days set aside for debate on each one, how many days of debate would the member come up with as a reasonable number for the bill?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, this particular budget has hundreds of pages, many of which have little if anything to do with implementing the budget. The government is using the budget in an attempt to introduce new legislation through the back door, legislation that should be stand-alone legislation.

By doing that, the government is disallowing possibly thousands of hours of debate, whether inside the House or in committee. It is also denying hundreds of witnesses from across the country the opportunity to participate in decisions on important legislation that will pass as a direct result of the government using this back door. It is unprecedented. Canadians need to be aware that this is more than just a typical budget debate. It is unacceptable behaviour by the Government of Canada.

We call upon the Government of Canada to recognize the importance of democracy and the role that this chamber plays by taking out the 70-plus acts that would be changed by using the back door.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Romeo Saganash NDP Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Mr. Speaker, there are many parts of the budget that are troublesome to me.

I would like to ask my hon. colleague a question about the changes to the environmental assessment and review processes that are proposed in what the government is calling a budget bill. Why is the government calling this a budget bill? Does the member think the government is trying to hide the huge changes that would be made to the environmental assessment process?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the critic for that member's party and the Liberal Party critic have talked about how devastating the bill would be on the environment. The bill would change legislation with respect to the environment which t would ultimately have a negative impact on Canada's environment.

That is the point I am trying to make when I say that this is supposed to be a budget debate. We should be talking about priorities. The government is cutting over 15,000 civil servants in the same year that it made the decision to increase the number of politicians. We will have more MPs, more political spin doctors. At the same time the government is telling Canadians that 10,000-plus jobs will be cut from the very important and vulnerable services that Canadians need.

This debate should be about those kinds of priorities. That is what the bill is supposed to be about. Unfortunately, because of the 70-plus acts, we have to talk about many other issues, such as the bill's impact on environmental legislation, which is a great case in point.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

Oak Ridges—Markham Ontario

Conservative

Paul Calandra ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, it is always an honour to rise in the House but it is a particularly big honour to rise and talk about the next phase of Canada's economic action plan.

It is also important for us to give some thought to how we came about this next phase of the economic action plan. We were elected on a promise to focus on jobs and the economy. We were elected on the promise to bring our budget back into balance.

Since we were elected, members on this side of the House have been engaging in their local communities. We have talked to members of the Chambers of Commerce. We have talked to our neighbours and our friends. We have held round tables, not only in our ridings but in ridings across this country. We asked Canadians how they thought the government should proceed toward guaranteeing the future economic stability and prosperity of this country and how we should bring our budget back into balance to guarantee that long-term stability and economic growth.

Canadians were very clear in saying that they wanted the government to look at ways of reducing waste. They wanted government to continue to look at ways of reducing duplication. They wanted to ensure their government kept in mind that they wanted their taxes lower and that the government offered hope and opportunity for future generations of Canadians, and that is what the next phase of Canada's economic action plan offers.

However, it is also important for us to look back to see how we came to this particular point. When this government was elected, it began almost immediately to focus on renewing and restoring faith and pride in the institutions of this country. It began to focus exclusively on how we could improve the economy, not just on that day but for future generations of Canadians. We also knew at that time that there would be some difficult times and difficult choices that would need to be made in the years ahead.

I remember an interview that the Prime Minister gave in, I believe, 2007, in which he talked about the years ahead and that there would be some difficult choices that would need to be made and that there were some troubling signs that the global economy was headed for some difficult waters. Therefore, we made some very clear choices back then to ensure that the Canadian economy had all the tools it needed to continue long-term growth and prosperity. We campaigned on that.

That is why, after we were elected, we immediately set out to stimulate the Canadian economy and to leave more money in the hands of Canadians. How did we do that? We did that by reducing taxes for families. We cut the GST from 7% to 6% and then down to 5% because we recognized that the way we could stimulate the economy was by leaving more money in the pockets of hard-working Canadians so that they could invest in themselves, in their families and in their businesses.

However, then we did more. We introduced the national infrastructure program at the time, which was one of the largest infrastructure programs in Canadian history. The building Canada fund, which went across this country to reinvest in our infrastructure, be it roads or bridges. We started down that road.

We looked at our small businesses to see how we could help them to succeed, not only locally but so they could compete and succeed internationally. That is why we reduced taxes for our small businesses. We reduced taxes for our manufacturers. We set out a very aggressive agenda to open up new markets for our small businesses, our medium-sized businesses and our large businesses. We set out to create and open new markets so that those people who generate wealth and create jobs in this country had every opportunity to do that going forward.

In advance of the global economic downturn, we paid down some $40 billion worth of debt, recognizing that there could be some troubled waters ahead.

I remember the time when that discussion was taking place. I had not yet been elected but I remember being at home and listening to how some of the other parties suggested that the $40 billion that had been used to pay down the debt should have been spent in other areas of government. However, we resisted that because we knew that the best thing for the Canadians economy and for Canadians was to start to pay down our debt.

When the global economy did eventually turn, as it did in late 2008 and in 2009, we were in an extraordinary position to meet that challenge and to actually succeed in ensuring that Canadian prosperity and Canadian families could enjoy future economic opportunities.

What did we do in 2008 and 2009 when the global economy started to shift? We started to invest. We again sought the advice of Canadians. We asked Canadian businesses, Canadian families and our partners at the provincial and municipal levels what we needed to do to make sure that hope that opportunity continued in this country. We asked what we needed to do to guarantee that our health care system and the social programs that Canadians rely on could be guaranteed for future generations.

That is when we brought forward Canada's first economic action plan. It was an incredible document that sought advice from all kinds of Canadians. In the first phase of that economic action plan, we set out a very aggressive agenda to reinvest in our country, to make a very large investment with our provincial and municipal partners in roads, sewers and hospitals, as well as massive investments in our colleges and universities and in our recreation and sporting facilities.

We did all of the things that we needed to do in order to give the economy and our small businesses—our wealth generators, and the people who create jobs—the opportunity to succeed as we came out of the global economic downturn.

The results are quite clear. Despite the global economic downturn, this government has created over 700,000 net new jobs. These are predominantly full-time jobs and very well-paying jobs. Canada is leading the G7 in terms of economic prosperity. It is leading the G7 in terms of economic growth.

We know that the first phase of Canada's economic action plan was an incredible and resounding success, and through the last election we said that it was now time for us to move forward. It is time for us to move forward to continue to guarantee long-term growth in this country.

We asked what we needed to do that, and Canadians told us to continue to move forward by reducing taxes but to also start to bring the budget back into balance. That is what this government has been doing for the last year, after consulting Canadians.

The economic action plan introduced by the award-winning Minister of Finance outlines a clear course, a clear path to a balanced budget, but it does even more than that. It continues to reduce taxes for Canadians. It continues to reduce taxes for our small businesses. It gets out of the way of people who want to create wealth and jobs and opportunity.

As part of the consultations for the economic action plan, the red tape commission was formed. That red tape commission criss-crossed this country and asked people how government could assist them and how government could get out of the way.

Part of the economic action plan going forward is a recognition that when government brings in a regulation, another regulation should be removed, so that we do not handcuff the people who want to create jobs in this country. I think that is an extraordinarily important initiative.

The Minister of Finance, along with the Minister of Health, announced a long-term strategy to guarantee that we have sufficient resources and some record funding for health care in this country. We have said to our provincial partners and to our friends at the municipal level that we will continue to work with them and not against them, that the days of unilateral cuts, as we saw from previous Liberal governments, are over, and that this government was going to work with them in the best interests of all Canadians.

We have moved forward with trade agreements with the European Union. We are expanding markets for our manufacturers. We are doing more with respect to environmental assessment to make sure that we not only protect Canadian jobs but also open up new markets. For the manufacturers in southern Ontario, this is an extraordinary benefit. It is the manufacturers of southern Ontario that support the wealth that is being created in the west through our oil and natural resources, so they are very excited by the opportunity.

When we look more closely at the department that I have the honour of working with, Canadian Heritage, we can see the opportunities we are creating there by protecting the investments we have made. This government, throughout the global economic downturn, was one of the only governments that did not just maintain funding for arts and culture but actually increased funding for arts and culture. We did that because we understand that arts and culture are very important to the Canadian economy. They are the source of thousands of jobs and the source of an incredible amount of revenue generated across the country.

We have guaranteed and maintained the highest level of funding for the Canada Council for the Arts in this budget. When we came to office, our museums were struggling; this government increased funding to our national museums. We have created two new national museums in Halifax and Winnipeg and we have guaranteed the funding to those national museums. We are investing record amounts in youth programs across the country.

The future is very bright indeed for this country. Through the continued efforts of the Minister of Finance and all of the members on this side of the House to guarantee that future through this economic action plan by voting with it, we can ensure a very prosperous and happy future for Canadians for generations to come.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. parliamentary secretary talks about future generations, and that is one of our primary concerns in looking at this legislation: the failure to look to future generations, to think about what we owe future generations, both in terms of our fiscal performance and in terms of the ecological deficit we will leave.

One of the pieces of legislation repealed in this act spoke specifically to the question of intergenerational equity through the concept of sustainable development. The Minister of the Environment has put forward the idea that we can eliminate the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy because we now have the Internet.

I would like to tell the hon. parliamentary secretary that no technological gizmo can replace getting CEOs of Canada's leading industries in the same room with trade union leaders, in the same room with environmental experts and in the same room with first nations to come to better decisions for future generations.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Paul Calandra Conservative Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, of course the environment is extraordinarily important to the members on this side of the House. My family was one of the first families to donate a conservation easement across 60 acres of 100 acres of land that we owned just north of Markham. That easement was given to the Oak Ridges Moraine Land Trust to preserve significant amounts of natural heritage.

This government has continued to do that. Before I was elected and before that member was elected, we worked with our partners, the Nature Conservancy of Canada and Ducks Unlimited, and put significant investments into securing our natural heritage across this country. I know that in my riding we have announced the creation of a new park, the Rouge Park. We are doing a lot of things.

Some can talk about environmental protection; we chose a different path. What we chose to do is to actually act on protecting our environment. That is why greenhouse gases are coming down. That is why we are creating new parks. That is why this government has decided to get out of programs and services that do not work and to focus on those that actually do work for the environment and the Canadian economy.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Liberal Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is difficult to say that the environment is being protected when regulations are being dismantled and scientists are being fired.

My colleague said that the government is very careful not to spend too much on politicians and to protect services to people. In fact, the Conservatives are cutting 55,000 jobs in the public service, but they will increase the size of this House by 10%. They will increase the number of seats to 338 when there is no need to do that. We are able to address the imbalance between the provinces by keeping this House at the caucus it has today with 308 seats.

What kind of scandal is this, when politicians are thinking about themselves and cutting people?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Paul Calandra Conservative Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, clearly the hon. member does not know that I actually represent the largest riding in the country. There are 228,000 people who call my riding home. Why should the vote of the people in my riding count for significantly less than the vote of people in the ridings of other members of the House? I represent more people than Prince Edward Island.

I think that the good, hard-working people of Oak Ridges—Markham deserve equal representation. That is why the minister of democratic reform has finally sought to balance that representation here in the House. I am very proud of what the minister has done. I am very proud that this government has actually had the courage to look at how we are represented. I am extraordinarily excited for the people of my region, because their vote will finally equal the votes of people in other parts of this country.

I know that I represent the 228,000 people in my riding very well, but they deserve to have their vote count as much as anybody else's does.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo B.C.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, the member for Oak Ridges—Markham talked a bit about the history of the economic action plan, how we had to stimulate the economy and where we are going now.

Of course the focus in terms of where we are going now is on having jobs available for our workforce, having a responsible government that spends within its means and moving back toward a balanced budget.

I would ask the member this: if we were not making this very important move to return to a balanced budget, what would be the long-term future for Canada and Canadians?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Paul Calandra Conservative Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is a very good question. We can see what the result is if we look at other jurisdictions around the world that did not focus on the economy and on balancing their budget. We are seeing extraordinary turmoil in Europe. We are seeing the difficulties that our friends to the south are having. That is why, in this country, we have talked to Canadians, and they have told us that it is very important that we return our budget back into balance. They understand that what we had to do through economic action plan one was to stimulate the economy.

However, the hon. member is quite correct. Canadians want us to return this budget back to balance because they know that through a balanced budget we can guarantee funding for health care, for social programs and for all of those programs and services that Canadians depend on and all the things that make this country the best place in the world in which to live.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Mathieu Ravignat NDP Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-38 is a rather crafty bill. It is another one of the Conservatives' strategies to ram things down Canadians' throats. It is a frontal attack on government accountability measures. As the Treasury Board critic, the thing that concerns me the most is how this bill would make our government and our democracy even less transparent and accountable.

A major theme of Bill C-38 was not even in budget 2012, namely the reduction of the Auditor General's oversight powers. This bill eliminates the requirements for a mandatory audit by the Auditor General of the financial statements of 12 agencies. It is important for Canadians to know that.

The 12 agencies are Northern Pipeline Agency Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the Canada Revenue Agency, the Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, the Exchange Fund Account established under the Currency Act, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Canadian Polar Commission, the Yukon Surface Rights Board, and the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy.

What is more, Bill C-38 dissolves the Public Appointments Commission. Doing away with this commission will significantly reduce the transparency of the public appointment process and will open the door to more political interference.

For these reasons alone, I am against this bill, and I think that most Canadians are as well.

Democracy is a fragile thing, and it must be protected. We cannot allow a procedural strategy of this government to undermine it.

This bill contains yet more pills that are hard for Canadians to swallow. For example, Bill C-38 will also weaken reporting requirements in the area of environmental protection by limiting the scope of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and increasing the minister's discretionary power. Once again, we see the theme of concentrating authority in the offices of the minister and the Prime Minister.

Bill C-38 reduces transparency with regard to the evaluation of large pipeline projects and allows cabinet to overrule the National Energy Board's decisions about such projects. This is another measure that lacks transparency.

Bill C-38 also reduces the government's transparency with regard to fisheries and oceans. It reduces transparency with regard to the protection of fish habitats and does away with the obligation to examine the possible effects of proposed projects. The bill also attacks the health of at-risk Canadians by reducing government transparency with regard to food safety and by giving the minister the authority to ignore the Food and Drugs Act and arbitrarily exempt certain foods and drugs from the regulations designed to protect Canadians against harmful substances.

That is not all. Bill C-38 does away with the position of Inspector General of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. Why? Because he has been very critical of the agency and the government.

The bill also dissolves the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, thereby reducing the available sources of independent scientific advice that can help to guide the development of government and parliamentary policies. In short, it eliminates any criticism of the government.

Bill C-38 also does away with the First Nations Statistical Institute, once again eliminating an independent source of statistics on first nations that is essential to the development of transparent and effective policies on the issues faced by the first nations of this country.

The bill increases the minister's discretionary power on immigration and refugee measures and—I repeat—it does so at the expense of an independent and transparent decision-making process.

Canadians listening today will no doubt be surprised about all of this and they would be right to wonder why all of these unrelated measures are included in this bill. Are we not talking about a budget implementation bill? Then again, they probably have not seen a budget bill like this, consisting of 420-plus pages. As they can see, Bill C-38, which is meant to implement budget 2012, actually goes much further than the budget document. This massive-paged bill not only contains measures outlined in the budget but, as I pointed out, includes many previously unannounced changes that could potentially change Canada forever. It is a full frontal assault on the principle of transparency.

A full one-third of the 420-plus pages of Bill C-38 is not even dedicated to budget implementation, but rather to gutting one regulation after another, things that are in place to protect Canadians, to inform Canadians. No doubt, my colleagues on the other side of the benches will say that this is about freedom. In addition, the bill includes a series of previously unannounced measures that would contribute to a more secretive environment and government.

Unlike Conservatives, New Democrats believe in a respectful and open Parliament. We believe that it is inappropriate to try to sneak measures through parliamentary procedures and particularly by legislation that would only make government less accountable.

It is even more regrettable, and I cannot believe I am actually saying this yet again, that the government wants to silence Parliament and the people of Canada by passing a time allocation motion on the bill. I am beginning to wonder how many democrats are still left on the other side of the benches. There may be several, but they are probably silenced by the Prime Minister and their caucus, a Prime Minister who unfortunately seems to be more and more obsessed with secrecy and control.

The different provisions affecting regulations in the bill must be debated in the House and in the committees that are responsible for their legislation. Canadians have a right to know these things are being changed. Sneaking them through a budget implementation bill is a total lack of democratic process. Canadians deserve better than secrecy and the government.

What is the solution? Separate the bills and bring out the regulations that are specifically related to the environment, food security and oceans and fisheries. Separate these elements so they can be brought to Parliament for debate. Send them to the committees so they can hear from independent experts who can tell us what effect they will have on our future and on the futures of our children.

I can stand here and take offence to the fact that these measures have been introduced in an omnibus bill, but ultimately the decision is the government's. I hope the government and my colleagues on the other side, particularly those who I know are dedicated with heart and soul to the democratic process, will change this bill.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to my colleague's speech. When he talked about debate, was he aware that last month his colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster spent 13 hours filibustering by reading tweets in the House. It prevented literally dozens of MPs from getting in on the debate.

The truth is there is a democratically-elected government in our country and no matter what we bring forward, the NDP will be against it. It wants to put forth policies like those in Europe, where countries, whether it is Greece, Portugal or Spain. New Democrats want to bring Canada down to that level. We are trying to support jobs.

Could the member stand in the House and name any policies by the NDP that are consistent with creating jobs, because New Democrats have voted against every one that we have put forward?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Mathieu Ravignat NDP Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, clearly promoting a greener economy creates jobs. Every expert understands that. If we look at examples in Europe, whether it be Sweden, France or Germany, the green economy is booming and we could do the same.

On the first point the member made about a lack of debate, the reality is we are now at 18 time allocations on bills, the most in history. I do not think the member needs to be congratulating himself.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I believe it is worth repeating, as the member has pointed out, that we have consistently said throughout this debate that Canadians need to be aware and concerned about what the government is doing with this bill.

Today we are supposed to be debating a budget bill, a bill that deals with the priorities of government. We can see the priorities of the budget when we hear the government of the day saying that is going to increase the number of members of Parliament while at the same time reducing the number of civil servants.

We see a bill that incorporates legislation that would have a profound impact on issues like the environment. By incorporating the two, we are preventing people from having input into a substantial policy initiative. It should have been a stand-alone bill along with numerous other bills that are all being incorporated into this bill.

I wonder if the member might want to add further comment to that issue.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Mathieu Ravignat NDP Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, as I said in my speech, the government's strategy is to make Canadians swallow pills that are hard to swallow by hiding certain measures like this one in omnibus bills.

The NDP is calling for a separate debate regarding the regulations that are to be modified, which could change things for Canada and for our children's future.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-François Fortin Bloc Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I wish to add my voice to that of my distinguished colleague to condemn how this budget is being passed—through force and closure. As hon. members know, this is a completely undemocratic measure, especially since this budget contains a huge number of bills that should be debated outside the budget process.

The budget bill also includes a provision to exclude banks from the application of Quebec laws.

I would like to hear more of my colleague's thoughts on this. For instance, Quebec legislation currently sets a limit on interest rates, a usurious rate, which has been established at 35% by case law, while the federal Criminal Code establishes it at 60%.

What does the member think of that?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Mathieu Ravignat NDP Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my distinguished colleague for the question.

That is another example that illustrates how this government operates and how it likes to interfere in provincial areas of jurisdiction. The Conservatives bragged about having consulted Canadians regarding the budget and this bill. Clearly, they did not consult Quebec. The federal government has a duty to respect the measures that are in place to protect consumers and Quebeckers.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise today to speak to the jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act.

This act would take important steps toward addressing current challenges and helping to take advantage of opportunities in the global economy. At the same time, this legislation would ensure that Canada's social programs would be sustainable and our public finances would remain sound for future generations.

Indeed, with the economic action plan 2012, our government is looking ahead, not only over the next few years but for years to come. The measures presented in the bill are substantial, responsible and necessary. They will ensure that across the government we are focused on enabling and sustaining Canada's long-term economic growth.

Included within these measures is our government's plan for responsible resource development. I would like to take this time to focus on the plan and why it is so important to my riding of Prince George—Peace River and our national economy.

Canada's abundant natural resources have always been an important part of our economy. Few countries are as blessed with natural resources as we are. Canada ranks first in the production of potash, second in uranium production and third in natural gas, hydroelectricity production and proven oil reserves. We are also among the top five producers in the world of more than 10 minerals and metals, including nickel, aluminum and diamonds.

In 2010 Canada's natural resource sectors employed more than 760,000 workers across the country. In fact, the mining and energy sectors alone represent 10% of the Canadian economy and 40% of our exports. In the next 10 years, more than 500 new projects, representing over $500 billion in new investments, will be proposed for Canada. The potential for job growth is absolutely huge.

In my riding, where natural resources continue to drive the local economy, I have heard from many constituents about the need to grab on to these opportunities.

Currently, companies undertaking major projects must navigate a complex maze of regulatory requirements and processes and approval processes are long and unpredictable.

If we are to compete with other resource-rich countries for those vital job-creating investment dollars, we need to put in place a world-class regulatory system to review major projects. We need a system that ensures timely, efficient and effective reviews, a system that promotes business confidence and investment, while strengthening our world-class environmental standards.

As Pierre Gratton, president and CEO of Mining Association of Canada, said following the tabling of budget 2012:

Canada is in a global competition for mining investment and an effective and efficient regulatory regime can provide a competitive advantage over other jurisdictions.

Since 2006, our government has been working to streamline the review process for major economic projects.

These efforts have made a difference without having a negative environmental impact. However, more work needs to be done.

That is why our government is taking action, in budget 2012, with our plan for responsible resource development. The plan would streamline the review process for major economic projects by providing predictable timelines for project approvals. It would prevent long delays that kill potential jobs and stall economic growth by putting value investment at risk. Most important, responsible resource development would create good, skilled and well-paying jobs in cities and communities across the country, while maintaining the highest possible standards for protecting the environment.

The plan's guiding principle is simple and straightforward. In protecting the environment, our sense of common good should be matched by our good common sense: common sense to clear up the clutter and confusion that comes with having more than 40 federal departments and agencies involved in environmental assessments; common sense in addressing the delays and unpredictability of the current system with its open-ended reviews that often require, not only several months, but several years to complete; common sense in eliminating unnecessary duplication within the federal government itself and between the federal government and the provincial governments; and common sense in making our efforts to protect the environment as effective as possible.

Common good and commons sense, the two pillars of good public policy, are front and centre in our plan to modernize the regulatory system.

As it stands now, Canada's review process has become bogged in procedures delays, jurisdictional overlaps and unpredictable timelines. Major projects are subject to long and potentially endless delays because of needlessly complex and duplicative review process. This tangled web of rules and procedures now jeopardizes the timely and responsible development of our natural resources.

In order to move toward a more efficient and effective regulatory system, we need to make changes.

The goal of responsible resource development is one project, one review, in a clearly defined period of time. That is simple. To accomplish this goal, measures introduced in Bill C-38 would focus federal assessment efforts on major projects that could have a significant effect on the environment. Under the current system, thousands of small projects that pose little or no risk to the environment still get reviewed. This bill would consolidate federal responsibilities for environmental assessments in three agencies: the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, the National Energy Board and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. It would reduce unnecessary duplication by better integrating federal and provincial requirements for major economic projects and establish fixed timelines for government activities associated with reviews. They are: 24 months for review panels under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and 18 months for projects under the National Energy Board Act.

These are just a few of the ways our government would make the system more efficient. At the same time, these proposed measures would continue to make the regulatory system more effective in protecting the environment by taking real, concrete and substantive action. We would introduce enforceable environmental assessment decision statements to ensure project proponents comply with mitigation measures, as well as new penalties for violations. We would enhance pipeline and marine safety through initiatives such as a strengthened tanker safety regime and a substantial increase in the number of inspections for oil and gas pipelines. We would strengthen compliance by authorizing the use of administrative monetary penalties for violations of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the Nuclear Safety and Control Act and the National Energy Board Act.

In co-operation with provincial governments, we would allow the greater use of regional environmental assessments to identify and address potential regional and cumulative effects of projects, especially in areas experiencing large-scale developments.

Despite what some may suggest, with natural resource development we do not have to choose between the economy or the environment. The two can, and must, go together. It will, however, take a lot of hard work that would require a comprehensive approach to ensure that we are doing things right.

We Canadians have a wonderful new opportunity before us. The global economy's appetite for the kinds of resources we have is bigger than it ever has been, and it even continues to grow. There is no better time to act than right now. We have to give ourselves every chance possible to compete for the job-creating investment dollars in fast-growing markets in Asia and elsewhere.

I know that it is not only possible but absolutely necessary to develop our natural resources in a responsible way. That means maintaining, and in fact strengthening, our protection of the environment. In resource-rich regions, like that of my riding in northeastern B.C, the future of our local economies will ultimately be decided by the way in which we approach development of our natural resources. I believe in our government's approach to responsible resource development. That is why I am encouraging all members of the House to support the bill.