Madam Speaker, it is my great pleasure to rise tonight in support of Bill C-38, jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act.
Our government has been very clear that jobs and economic growth are our top priorities, the same today as when we were first elected in 2006. In fact, nearly 760,000 net new jobs have been created since July 2009, and 90% of those are full-time jobs. Our most recent budget reflects this.
In the words of Canadian Chamber of Commerce president Perrin Beatty:
We have urged the government to focus on where Canada needs to be five or 10 years from now, even if it means taking tough decisions now. The government has acted.... The result will be a stronger economy and more jobs.
That is what the budget implementation legislation before us today is all about. It is about ensuring that our economy continues to create dependable jobs and a high quality of life today and for the future.
To talk a little about the context of the bill, there is fragility on the global economic scene. We cannot deny that Europe is certainly in a debt crisis right now. As many Canadians know, one can only spend more than one makes for so long. We are seeing that in Europe right now, which is why our government has taken strong actions to move to balance our books while putting in policy that would ensure the long-term economic prosperity of this country.
In fact, as I mentioned earlier, our country has created more than 760,000 net new jobs since the financial downturn. The IMF has praised the stability of our financial sector. The OECD has praised us for our leadership in economic development and growth. We have also been called one of the best places to do business in the world.
We now have the opportunity to set the ball in motion to cement Canada's golden age on the world stage for years to come. This is especially important for people my age, younger, contemporaries and the children of my colleagues here in the House tonight.
We have the opportunity to ensure that Canada is that world leader for decades to come, which is what the bill is about. It is about that long-term prosperity, creating jobs and growth while ensuring that our financial house is kept in order. This is one of the unifying themes of the bill.
Why is the bill so urgent?
In Europe, we can see what happens if there are no financial policies in place to spur long-term economic growth. In fact, in Canada, one of the things we have been talking about here with my colleagues is the need to have stable funding to ensure the long-term stability of our social programs that we all hold dear, across the aisle here and around the House.
How do we do that?
We feel that the policies put forward in the bill would set that ball in motion, ensure that long-term prosperity and also ensure our books are balanced in the long term.
I would like to speak a little about the responsible resource development component of Bill C-38, in particular the environmental components.
It might surprise some of my colleagues opposite that, being from Alberta, I care deeply about Canada's natural heritage. Certainly my fellow Albertans would say how important the beauty of Banff National Park and the wilderness of Canada's boreal forests are to them. This is our brand, and it is important to our health and well-being. It is something I have had the privilege of hearing about in my last year of elected office. Our government does feel we can have that balance, as my colleague opposite spoke about earlier, between environmental protection and economic growth.
In fact, as part of the bill, there are numerous measures that we put in place to strengthen environmental protection, about which I have not heard any of my colleagues opposite speak. We are focusing environmental assessments on major projects that have greater potential for significant adverse environmental effects.
The Commissioner of the Environment, in testimony at our subcommittee that reviewed this particular component of Bill C-38, spoke about how 99% of the reviews that the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency conducts are what we call screenings on small projects, and 94% of those, in his words and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency's words, have little to no environmental impact. This means that our major oversight body for doing environmental reviews is spending time on things like reviewing the expansion of a maple sugar bush plant or adding a park bench in a Canadian national park.
To counter that, we are trying to ensure that our resources dedicated to reviewing environmental assessments are spent on major projects that have significant environmental impact. The commissioner of the environment, in his testimony before that committee, agreed that those resources currently spent on environmental assessments with limited environmental impact could be better spent on major proposals.
For the first time we would be introducing enforceable environmental assessment decisions under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. This means that proponents of major projects would have to comply with conditions set out in the decision statements or perhaps face tough financial penalties. We would require follow-up programs after all environmental assessments to verify the accuracy of predictions regarding potential environmental effects and to determine if mitigation measures were working as intended.
I could go on and on but I notice that my time is quickly elapsing. I want to talk about why it is important that we also focus on developing our natural resources in a sustainable way. The importance of our natural resources is well known in my riding of Calgary Centre-North. Their impact is felt from coast to coast. I feel a kinship with my colleague opposite who talked about how some of the people in his riding have seen the impacts of that. That is something we could all agree on.
However there are some statistics I want to talk about specifically with regard to the energy sector. New oil sands development is expected to contribute over $2.1 trillion 2010 dollars to the Canadian economy over the next 25 years. The oil sands alone will pay an estimated $766 billion in provincial and federal taxes, and provincial royalties over the next 25 years. That is our health care system. That is our OAS system. Those revenues will directly go to funding our social programs here in this country. I agree that we need to talk about how those resources are developed sustainably. That is why we have put things in place like the oil sands monitoring framework. That is why we are working with provincial governments and talking about things like land use planning.
There was something I wanted to highlight that blew my mind a bit. It happened in the subcommittee with someone I respect and have had meetings with, Mr. Stephen Hazell, a well-respected environmental lawyer.
He made a comment and I am not sure if it was tongue-in-cheek or not. I want to read the testimony into the record. I said to him, “You made a comment that was something to the effect of 'I saved Exxon $1 billion but they are not likely to thank me for it.'” This was with regard to the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline project. I asked, “Could you walk me through the line of thinking on that again?”
I encourage my colleagues opposite to read this testimony. At the end of it, the point he was trying to make was that, with the delay and the long EA process, the price of gas went from $6 to approximately $2. The project was no longer viable. Therefore, he saved the company money.
The point I wanted to make was that is not how we do business in this country. We support industry and free market principles. Business should be able to take risks. While it is absolutely true that we need to protect the environment and make sure that our environmental assessment process is robust, we also need to make sure that there is timeliness and predictability so that project proponents can ensure that the process is factored into their business decisions.
Few people talk about the window-to-market concept. For major resource projects that are very capital intensive, there is a timeline in which the project may or may not be viable.
We need to make sure as regulators that we ensure robustness in process. I feel very strongly that this is included in the new review process. We also have a duty to ensure that those processes are completed in a set period of time so that there can be predictability around planning for that window to market.
That is a principle that I hope we can just take the tone down a little bit and have a reasonable dialogue on. A strong national resource sector and energy sector is important to this economy. I agree that we need to have that strong environmental protection component, but that is locked into this process.
The opposition parties are talking about bailing out Europe when we should be talking about how we make our economy strong and prosperous over the next 25 years. Bill C-38 does that. I am so proud to be here in this House tonight with my colleagues to stand in support of it.