House of Commons Hansard #201 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was education.


Hydroelectric ProjectPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


Jay Aspin Conservative Nipissing—Timiskaming, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I have mentioned in my speech, the lower Churchill project will provide significant economic benefit for the whole Atlantic region. At peak employment, we are talking in the order of an estimated 3,100 jobs for the Atlantic region, which is a region that certainly needs employment. In addition, this project will substantially help reduce greenhouse gases by 4.5 million megatonnes, which is the equivalent of over one million cars.

Our government is signing the term sheet for this loan guarantee. This shows our government's support for Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and indeed the entire Atlantic region.

Hydroelectric ProjectPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


Ryan Cleary NDP St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Mr. Speaker, I also look forward to the day when the ribbon is cut on the Muskrat Falls project. This project means a lot to my province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The member spoke about how hydro is reliable, affordable and clean. What is the government prepared to do to advance the cause of a national power grid while, of course, respecting the rights of provincial governments? I would see this as a first step toward a national power grid. What is the next step?

Hydroelectric ProjectPrivate Members' Business

January 31st, 2013 / 5:30 p.m.


Jay Aspin Conservative Nipissing—Timiskaming, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member is right that this could be the first step toward that particular arrangement. I would like to give particular credit to the member for Labrador for his advocacy on behalf of this particular project with the government. It will certainly create a lot of jobs in the Atlantic region and he deserves a lot of credit for his support.

Hydroelectric ProjectPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I want to start by thanking the member for Nipissing—Timiskaming for presenting the motion to the House. As he pointed out, it does give members an opportunity to offer their comments and make speeches, and also to show their support for what is a proper and helpful federal role in supporting the kind of project identified in the lower Churchill hydroelectric development.

I noticed in his speech that he mentioned projects in the plural. I do not know whether that is advance notice that they are prepared to support other projects on the lower Churchill River, but the Muskrat Falls project is, as he says, an important part of the clean energy agenda.

I first want to make sure that he and those paying attention to this know that the New Democratic Party has been on record, going back as far as 2005, as supporting a federal role in providing a loan guarantee for the development of the lower Churchill as an alternative energy project.

As the member pointed out, one of the results of this in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador would be to change Newfoundland's large dependence on an oil fired generating plant to a situation where it would be using 98% alternative energy instead. That would obviously be a first for Newfoundland and Labrador. It is very important to cutting out greenhouse gases—I think a million tonnes alone in the case of the Holyrood generating station. I spent a lot of time criticizing it in my years as a member of the provincial legislature in Newfoundland, not only for its greenhouse gas emissions but also for its other significant pollutants, including sulphur dioxide, dioxins, furans and other chemical emissions into the air. It is a terrible example of industrial pollution. It will be taken out of the mix to the tune of a million tonnes of greenhouse gases and all these other pollutants I mentioned.

The project has terrific benefits as well in terms of co-operation between provinces. We will see the makings of a regional power grid in the Atlantic involving the partners, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, as well as a flow through to the power grid through New Brunswick and accessibility to Prince Edward Island, which is very interested in the Muskrat Falls power as part of its power needs. Therefore, we see that degree of interprovincial co-operation, which is a very important feature of this project.

This project is not without controversy, both in Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia. There are debates about alternatives, power costs and any number of aspects of the project. That is right and proper. We live in a democratic society and we are going to have these agreements and disagreements. However, at the end of the day, if those provinces decide that this is a project they want to proceed with, then it is a proper and appropriate role for the federal government to support that through the loan guarantee.

What does that guarantee do? A loan guarantee in this case allows this project to have the benefit of the credit rating of the Government of Canada. I believe it is AAA, and maybe plus, plus, plus. I am not sure, but it is up there. It is certainly a lot higher than Nalcor or Emera could get on their own, or the Newfoundland and Labrador or Nova Scotia governments could get on their own. That is the advantage. It allows access to markets where they can get cheaper interest rates to the tune of a $1 billion over the life of the project. That reduces the cost of the project and the cost of electricity to consumers as a result.

As all of the decision processes go through, if at the end of the day this is a project the provinces want to do, the obligation is there for the federal government to help.

I want to agree on the record and to confirm our party's very clear position that we not only support the role of the Government of Canada in providing a loan guarantee in this particular circumstance, but also that this is something we would support and encourage other jurisdictions and provinces to develop.

We need to have a greener economy. We need to have alternate energy. We need to have opportunities for the east-west north-south national power grid so we work together for a greener future. That is a very important step for Canada and I would like to see greater federal government involvement. Our party is certainly committed to not only a green economy, but the positives of that in terms of economic clout.

The member spoke of the benefits to Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia, but there benefits throughout Canada for this. The power generating plant in Muskrat Falls will not be made in Newfoundland and Labrador. There is already an engineering design contract awarded to the well known SNC Lavalin in Quebec to design the power project. The transmission towers will not be built in Newfoundland and Labrador. They will be manufactured probably in Ontario. The steel for the cables and so on are part of a industrial plant that we do not have the capability for in our province because that is the centre in other provinces where this happens. The money that is spent is part of the industrial benefit to Canada therefore it is right and proper that the Government of Canada should support this. That is an important point to make.

We are very proud of what our government has done in Nova Scotia in setting targets for renewable energy. That is one of the reasons why this project is attractive to it. It has set hard targets for the reduction of fossil fuel electricity production and this is one way of helping to meet that. It would take coal-fired power out of production in Nova Scotia. That is a significant benefit, again not only in greenhouse gas production, but also in terms of pollution and the greater dependence on fossil fuels.

It is not certain this electricity will be any cheaper, in fact it will probably be more expensive. However, as electricity costs go up, the greater the dependence on fossil fuels, the greater the likelihood of electricity going out of control without control over it. One of the things that hydroelectricity brings to the mix is a long-term stable price for electricity. That is important in this mix.

For Newfoundland and Labrador, the participation for the island for the first time in a power grid that is not limited is a very positive thing for the opportunities for other forms of renewable energy. Wind energy, for example, and I am no expert on this, but I am told by people who know that an isolated grid has only a certain amount of wind power it can handle. When the wind blows, electricity can be produced and sent across the grid to places that need it and the hydroelectricity can be built up in dams so that when the wind stops blowing that can be used. Hydro and wind power go hand in hand. They fit like a glove, so that is another advantage from our point of view as an island, not so much for Labrador. I am looking at my friend, the member for Labrador, who shall remain nameless because we are not allowed to mention his name, not because we want to insult him. It is an issue for the island of Newfoundland because we have an isolated grid right now.

The more opportunities there are for wind power, the more chance there will be wind power put into that grid. We also see that in the case of tidal power in New Brunswick, so we will have a grid that works. That kind of interprovincial co-operation is also a technological advantage.

On balance, the idea of the Government of Canada being a backer of this as the loan guarantor is extremely positive. We hope to see the Government of Canada playing a strong role in this and other jurisdictions, whether it be Quebec, Manitoba or British Columbia, which are doing projects like this. There should be federal leadership and there should be federal support. We are pleased to see that in this project. Our party will be supporting this motion.

Hydroelectric ProjectPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.


Gerry Byrne Liberal Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL

Mr. Speaker, it is a valuable exercise to provide some input into the Conservative government's recent decisions in terms of providing a loan guarantee to the lower Churchill project. I will note, though, that this is a 40-year endeavour. This is a project that transcends many decades. The ambition and the dream of having the Churchill River provide hydroelectricity has been a dream for over 40 years.

I will note for the drafter of this particular motion, there are four key points contained within it. The fact that the lower Churchill project provides clean energy. It is economically viable because of the amount of energy and the vast value of that natural resource, the water resources there. It is indeed economically viable and has been for about a 40-year period.

It is regionally significant to Atlantic Canada. That is absolutely true. What would actually be even more true is to extend that to all of Canada, because as the member just mentioned, the value of goods and services going elsewhere beyond Atlantic Canada is indeed quite significant. Finally, it is, of course, environmentally friendly. With no greenhouse gas emissions as a result of the production of hydroelectricity, it is obviously a key component of any future energy strategy.

However, there is something missing, which the mover may have intended, and that is any reference to the project as defined by the December 17, 2012 sanctioning. What he is referring to in the motion, as we all understand to be true in Newfoundland and Labrador, is the 40-year project, the ambition of developing the lower Churchill.

This is why it is very easy to support the motion because it is the right thing to do. For all those reasons, for those four points outlined by the mover, this project is worthwhile. The motion does not reflect, and I can only assume is not meant to reflect, the actual project as defined by the December 17, 2012 sanctioning, which is a very in-depth project indeed. This is about what the lower Churchill could provide us. That said, I think it will be very easy for all members, hopefully with unanimous consent, to pass the motion.

I will speak a little bit about what the motion does not intend. It could be argued, and I do not mean to be too critical here, that this might have been meant as a self-congratulatory message. It might be argued that this was meant as, “Now that we have provided the loan guarantee, this is what the government has been done all along”.

This is a 40-year project, and while many may not agree with the current project as defined by the sanctioning document that was inked on December 17, I would hope that everyone could agree that the development of hydroelectric resources for Canada and for our particular region of Atlantic Canada and particularly for Newfoundland, and most particularly for Labrador, is always a beneficial thing.

Here is what the motion does not talk about: how the government can advance the cause even further. Because while there is Muskrat Falls, which is being developed, there is also Gull Island in the future. There are other hydroelectric resources that are encompassed within the lower Churchill hydroelectric project that are not a part of the motion. The lower Churchill is a much larger entity. It is a much larger project.

What does the government not have in the motion? It does not speak about its future ambition to provide, under the general agreement on internal trade, a completion of the energy chapter. I have often wondered why there has been little to no attention paid by the government to completing the provisions of the general agreement on internal trade, which actually has a specific chapter on the internal trade, the province-to-province trade, in energy resources.

Some work has been done. A proposed agreement was near completion a few years back, but apparently one province did not want to sign on. Therefore, without a unanimous consensus, the general agreement on internal trade regarding energy, the energy chapter as it is known, could not proceed.

In terms of delivering on the full lower Churchill project, it would be helpful if the government completed that necessary chapter to have unanimous consent, by all provinces, in the wheeling rights and wheeling tariffs for hydroelectricity. What I mean by “wheeling rights” is the ability for provinces to take electrical energy across provincial borders under a rules-based system that outlines the tariff system, which can then be arbitrated and judged to ensure it is fair. This is one of the big things we are missing in Canada, encouraging and promoting a true electrical strategy and true energy strategy for our country.

We are often considered an energy-rich country. Yet, we still have tremendous barriers to export from one province to either an international client or an entity within the country in a distant province: an east-west grid. We still have no free trade in energy products. While the government has said those who want to propose an energy strategy for our country are looking backward, it is the Conservative government itself that has said it would be helpful if we had an agreement on the trade of energy across provincial boundaries as part of a national energy strategy. However, we do not. We do not because not enough attention has been placed by the government on this critical key component of promoting investment, development, and economic benefits from our energy resources.

To be clear, those who think the lower Churchill project is Muskrat Falls are wrong. The lower Churchill project is a very large project that is not yet compete.

I wish the motion were a little more in-depth in providing a full and complete picture of what is required, but it is not. However, I applaud the mover for presenting it to us. It does allow us an opportunity to affirm that we support, not only the elements of the project that are currently proceeding, but the 40-year vision for developing this project. That is really what the motion speaks to, and it is worth our support.

I hope there is an opportunity for the government in the future to provide further clarification instead of an arguably self-congratulatory message, which it may not have thought through because it did not understand the full context of what the project represents. If there is an opportunity for the government to come forward again, I hope it would be to update the House on the general agreement on internal trade, chapter 11, the chapter on energy. How far along are we? When can we see a signed agreement that would create a rules-based approach to the wheeling of hydroelectric resources across provincial boundaries with full unanimous provincial consent? That is an element that is still missing. I wish the government would fulfill its commitments.

Hydroelectric ProjectPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands Saskatchewan


David Anderson ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, I think one of the things we can be proud of with this motion is that we are fulfilling our commitment. It is good to see, today, the member for Nipissing—Timiskaming bring this forward and to see it is supported so strongly by the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, the member for Labrador, as well.

I have been the parliamentary secretary for natural resources now for a number of years. It is good to be able to come into the House and to be able to work on an initiative like this that has the support of the major parties. Hopefully, as the Liberal member opposite indicated, we can get unanimous support for this motion.

Our government's support for the Lower Churchill River projects demonstrates our strong desire to work with the provinces and territories. That is all about Canada's sustainable energy resources being used to create jobs, being used to create long-term economic growth and being used to create energy security for Canadians.

On November 30, 2012, the governments of Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia announced that they had reached an agreement on the terms for a federal loan guarantee for the Lower Churchill River projects. This agreement is a clear indication of the Government of Canada's strong support for vital, renewable energy projects. The signed term sheet will position the proponents to engage capital markets for arranging the financing for the Lower Churchill River projects.

The Government of Canada has agreed to guarantee the loan for a period of 35 to 40 years from the time project debt is raised, which will apply to the construction and operating phases of the projects. By backing the Lower Churchill River projects with Canada's strong credit rating, the loan guarantee will significantly reduce borrowing costs. My colleague in the NDP noted that. It is estimated that the loan guarantee will save over $1 billion for the projects and, in turn, for ratepayers in Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia.

Private member's Motion No. 412 offers all members of this House an opportunity to show their support for an important renewable energy project. Our government stands behind the Lower Churchill River projects on their merits: a significant source of clean, renewable energy, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and economic benefits for all Atlantic Canada.

In addition, it should be pointed out, and just in the context of our discussion today, that this important energy initiative fits well with the broader plans for growth of Canada's economy.

The Conservative government knows full well that Canada's economic growth requires innovation, and it requires investment and education, as well as skill development, all of which have been the focus of our economic action plan 2012, a plan for job creation that is working out.

Since July 2009, employment in Canada has increased by more than 900,000 jobs. Members here would be familiar with the numbers. This is the strongest job growth among G7 countries. While the parties opposite often refuse to support our job-creating policies, we are going to continue to get the job done for Canadians.

In addition, both the IMF and the OECD forecast that Canada will continue to have among the strongest economic growth in the G7 in the next year.

While we are focusing on growing Canada's economy and jobs, we would suggest that the Liberals have no economic plan and the NDP continues to push dangerous high tax schemes, like its $21 billion carbon tax. I understand if we add all of its tax proposals together, it comes closer to $54 billion. That is quite a different perspective than we have.

Over the last several years, a large part of Canada's economic success has been due to our resource industries. In 2011, these industries contributed 20%, and employment is close to 1.6 million Canadian jobs.

With the potential, over the next decade, for more than $650 billion to be invested in more than 600 major resource projects in Canada, our government is moving forward with our plan for responsible resource development, which is a plan that would allow us to develop our resources, bring them to market and bolster investment and job creation, all while protecting Canada's environment.

Newfoundland and Labrador has certainly seen the benefits of resource development. Offshore development has made enormous economic contributions and completely transformed the province's economy. Not long ago, it was receiving the highest per capita equalization payments in the country. Today, the province is among our strongest provincial economies. Offshore energy development has supported Newfoundland and Labrador jobs, lowered taxes and created new investments in services and infrastructure, all while contributing to stronger local communities.

There is no doubt that these benefits from the energy sector will continue to grow. There is no doubt, also, that the Lower Churchill River projects will make significant and lasting contributions to the economies of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia.

I wish I could say that I was surprised that the leader of the Green Party has spoken out against these projects, but it is clear that she is insistent on opposing development in all forms.

The Green Party says the project should be reconsidered because renewable forms of energy other than a large hydroelectric plant should be pursued. I suggest that is a strange position and I would ask the member and those who share that position to review the independent third-party analyses commissioned by Nalcor and by the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. These analyses strongly support these projects for the reasons that we mentioned earlier.

The Province of Newfoundland and Labrador strongly considered alternatives to the projects, including wind power and the possibility of natural gas generation. However, every consideration favoured hydro power. It is safe to say that for Newfoundland and Labrador, the Green Party is wrong and that hydro generation is as good as it gets and provides a source of electricity that will be steady, reliable, clean, renewable and affordable.

The same can be said of Canada as a whole. As the members of the House are aware, hydro power plays a tremendous role in our nation's economy, not only generating electric power but also in job creation, economic prosperity and supporting our quality of life. Canada is the third-largest hydro power producer in the world. We are blessed in the quality of our power as well as in its quantity. Canada's electricity supply is one of the cleanest in the world with 75% of our electrical supply coming from non-emitting sources, including about 60% from hydroelectricity.

As I indicated in my earlier remarks, Canadians are very fortunate to have a wealth of natural resources. Our hydro power industry is a key part of our energy sector. It is destined to grow even more and provide even greater contributions to our economic and environmental goals. The lower Churchill River projects are a significant part of this expansion, as are several other large hydro projects already in various stages of development in British Columbia, Quebec and Manitoba. With these advances, Canada will continue to contribute significantly to the world supply of clean energy.

The International Energy Agency has called for a doubling of the world's hydro power by 2050 to limit emissions of greenhouse gases and contain global warming. The IEA says that hydro currently provides only 16% of electricity worldwide, with oil, gas and coal-fired generation contributing 67% of all electricity.

Today's debate is about ensuring a more prosperous future for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia. That is exactly why our government's endorsement of the lower Churchill River projects is as strong today as it was when we first indicated our support. For these reasons we are supporting these projects: a clean, renewable and reliable source of energy; electrical self-sufficiency for Newfoundland and Labrador; stable electricity rates for families, businesses and communities in the region; thousands of jobs during construction and millions of dollars in economic spinoffs. It is for these reason that the Government of Canada is very proud to support this important clean energy initiative, and we remain fully committed to the success of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia's lower Churchill River projects.

With this in mind, I reaffirm our support for the lower Churchill River hydro projects by proposing the following amendments to the motion. I move:

That the motion be amended by: 1. replacing the words “government loan guarantee to the Lower Churchill hydroelectric project is: (a) an important part of a clean energy agenda; (b) an economically viable project that will create thousands of jobs and billions in economic growth; (c) regionally significant” with the words “loan guarantee provided by the federal government for the Lower Churchill hydroelectric projects—consisting of the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric generation facility, the Labrador Transmission Assets, the Labrador-Island Link, and the Maritime Link—will be an important and valuable step in advancing Canada's clean energy agenda, as it will support an economically viable, regional energy project that will (a) provide economic benefits”; 2. replacing the words “and (d) environmentally-friendly,” with the words “(b) create environmentally-friendly electricity,”; and 3. adding after the words “oil electricity sources” the words “; and (c) create thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic growth”.

Hydroelectric ProjectPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Colleagues, it is my duty to inform hon. members that, pursuant to Standing Order 93(3), no amendment may be proposed to a private member's motion or to the motion for second reading of a private member's bill unless the sponsor of the item indicates his or her consent. Therefore, I ask the hon. member for Nipissing—Timiskaming if he consents to the amendment being moved.

Hydroelectric ProjectPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


Jay Aspin Conservative Nipissing—Timiskaming, ON

Mr. Speaker, yes I do.

Hydroelectric ProjectPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The amendment is in order.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Trois-Rivières.

Hydroelectric ProjectPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, the motion we are discussing today, Motion No. 412, is of the utmost importance to Canada if it wishes to become a world leader in sustainable development. Sustainable development implies that there has to be a balance between the economic, social and environmental aspects of a project for it to be given the green light. It also means that a project supported by a government that believes in sustainable development should offer the same benefits for future generations as it does for this generation.

I have a hard time believing that the Conservative government, which has repeatedly turned its back on our international commitments—most notably by pulling out of the Kyoto protocol—and that went so far as to distort reality by creating green oil, has this view of development.

If we look into the story behind this loan guarantee—which represents the federal government's participation in the Muskrat Falls project—it quickly becomes clear that it was likely a bit of electioneering and was in no way a reflection of the federal government's desire to become a leader in renewable energy. If that had been the case, we would not be discussing this motion, but rather an actual bill that would set out specific criteria for all the partners in the federation to ensure that each one contributes to achieving a common, global environmental goal.

However, it is no secret that climate change knows no borders. We must work together to introduce measures to ensure that the two degree increase in global temperature is not reached. Some scientists say that it is practically too late already, but I continue to be optimistic and maintain that, if we quickly work together, we can do it.

Other than the two degree temperature increase, it is quite difficult for climatologists to suggest models that would allow us to anticipate the consequences of this warming on our lifestyle and our economy. Nevertheless, I would like to point out the interesting aspects of the motion in order to inform all parliamentarians, my colleagues and my fellow citizens of the work we still have to do to move into the 21st century and face the challenges.

The NDP believes that consistency must prevail. The leader of the NDP is defending the position of his predecessor, the late Jack Layton, on how important it is for the federal government to take a leadership role in the fight against climate change and in the development of green energy. It goes without saying that this loan guarantee should meet specific criteria that could result in all provinces and territories submitting their own applications. The unique and somewhat improvised nature of the loan guarantee has led to some confusion in Quebec. I will take a few minutes to try to clear this up.

First of all, Quebec objects to the project because it believes that the federal government is competing with Quebec's own taxes. Let us be clear. This is a loan guarantee and therefore Quebec taxes or any other province's taxes sent to Ottawa, will not be used to finance a Newfoundland project. Newfoundland is leveraging Canada's economic strength to lower its borrowing costs, but the province will be covering the full cost of the project, if it chooses to go ahead with it.

The second source of confusion we often heard about has to do with the federal government's interference in provincial jurisdictions. We heard that again this afternoon during question period from our Bloc Québécois friends. I must say, when an application for a loan guarantee comes from the province itself, I would hardly call that interference. I know that comparisons are always clumsy, but this is like the youngest child in a family asking his father to co-sign a car loan, while his older brother, who never thought of asking, accuses the father of being unfair. Furthermore, I would repeat, it is clear that the provincial government will remain the one in charge of the project.

The third source of confusion has to do with unfair competition on foreign markets. If the federal government had directly funded one project at the expense of another, we probably could have been talking about unfair competition.

As long as we ensure that all provinces and territories can obtain the same loan guarantees for green energy projects, I think this is a step in the right direction. Nothing is stopping the other partners in the federation from submitting similar applications, and the NDP will be there to ensure that all of these applications are processed equitably.

Regarding one final source of confusion, Hydro-Québec appears to be the biggest loser with this agreement. As the expression goes, “what is good for the goose is good for the gander”. Hydro-Québec has every right to apply for the same loan guarantees, and once again, the NDP will be there if any rights are trampled on.

Besides, when it comes to energy development, there is a history of collaboration between the federal government and Hydro-Québec, which we often forget. For example, consider the federal funding provided to help build Gentilly-1 at a time when people strongly believed that developing nuclear energy was a form of green energy despite the radioactive waste produced because thermonuclear plants do not emit any greenhouse gases.

In short, Quebeckers' concerns may have been understandable but I hope that I have shown that they were not justified, especially since the Muskrat Falls project offers the potential for significant economic spinoffs for Quebec. Over the years and through the projects that have been implemented, a solid expertise in hydroelectric infrastructure and distribution networks has been developed in Quebec.

In keeping with the way that the NDP looks at these major development projects, we cannot talk about big money or even loan guarantees unless serious environmental studies have shown that these projects are environmentally responsible. In the case of Muskrat Falls, the project passed the test. In March 2012, it received the green light based on the results of a federal-provincial environmental assessment.

What can we say about how this project will help our fight against climate change? If Newfoundland chooses to go ahead with its project, the following improvements will result. I will address them quickly since the previous speakers have mentioned them already. There would be a huge reduction in carbon dioxide gas emissions. We are talking about 16 megatonnes a year. It is difficult to measure megatonnes on a scale but it is equivalent to taking about three million cars off the road. Three million cars in a population of 34 million who do not all own vehicles constitutes significant progress.

The closure of a thermal generating station constitutes even more progress, as does the increase in renewable energy to over 90% of all Newfoundland's total energy. This would be another contribution that is just as significant as the progress Nova Scotia has made in terms of renewable energy. These are other things that deserve recognition.

Sharing income from natural resource development must improve the quality of life of all Canadians, from one generation to the next, first nations included. As such, the Quebec model for sharing the economic spinoffs generated by such projects could be an approach worth looking at.

Many economists believe that investing in our infrastructure is an effective way to put people to work and stimulate the economy, and at the same time provide an equal—if not better—quality of life for future generations. What kind of jobs could such a project generate? We are talking about 8,600 person-years of direct employment for Newfoundland and Labrador, 18,400 person-years of indirect employment, multiple engineering contracts that can and will extend beyond Newfoundland's borders, as well as multiple industrial manufacturing contracts. Take, for example, SNC-Lavalin, which has already signed a technical design contract for the Muskrat Falls project.

I have been going on for 10 minutes now about a sustainable development policy that balances the economy, the environment and an increased quality of life for Canadians, while the Conservative motion unfortunately mentions only a loan guarantee. Experience has shown us that we obviously cannot expect the Conservative government to develop such a vision for the future. However, 2015 is not far away, and now is the time to start preparing.

That is why I am proud to belong to this political party that will form the next government for the greater good of Canadians. Our leader, the member for Outremont, has demonstrated again and again his ability to balance economic development and environmental issues. Canadians will identify with the style of governance we are proposing for the next election and they will be respected, since Canadians clearly deserve more than half-measures.

The NDP always steps up when measures proposed by this government are pragmatic and will benefit all generations. We must act responsibly today to ensure that our country is a good place to live for our children and grandchildren.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

The EnvironmentAdjournment Proceedings

6:10 p.m.


Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, today's debate about aboriginal rights reminds us that we need to respect the environment. First nations could teach us a lot about that respect. The natural resources we have today are not unlimited. If we blindly exploit them, what will be left for future generations? How will they feed themselves? Will they have access to potable water?

With Bills C-38 and C-45, the government is endangering the quality of the water in our lakes and rivers. The changes to the environmental assessment process are dismantling all of the mechanisms that allowed us to develop projects while ensuring that environmental risks were minimized. The amendments to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act are expediting project approval and depriving the government of insight from subject matter experts. By approving projects that could have serious consequences for the environment, we are saddling future generations with environmental, economic and social debt. What is more, these laws limit the participation of civil society and aboriginals. It is unacceptable that the first peoples of this country, with whom Canada has signed multiple treaties, are not consulted when oil, mining and gas projects are under consideration.

We are already starting to pay for this government's mistakes. Years of inaction on climate change, increasingly lax laws, the clear lack of political will to enforce standards—all of these things have an impact on our lakes and rivers.

For instance, water levels in the St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes continue to drop. Lake Superior's water level has dropped 34 cm and Lake Huron's has dropped 71 cm. Michigan's governor has taken emergency action. What is the federal government doing? Nothing.

This situation has an impact on navigation, on tourism and on the economy in Quebec and Ontario. In the Arctic, studies have shown that pollution is contaminating the ocean, and therefore fish, seals and all marine mammals. This situation is having a serious impact on Inuit health and the Inuit way of life.

With Bill C-38, the government eliminated the protection of fish and other habitats. With Bill C-45, it did away with the environmental assessment of millions of rivers, not to mention that 95% of our environmental assessment process has disappeared.

What will happen to our fishery after all of our lakes and rivers have been polluted? We are fortunate to live in country that is rich in freshwater resources. Canada has nearly 18% of the world's freshwater supply. Are we really going to spoil it all?

My colleagues and I, and experts as well, have been sounding the alarm for months. In the past few weeks, aboriginal peoples have also expressed their concern. What is it going to take to spur the government to action? People want to be consulted before a project goes ahead, not after.

The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples stipulates that:

States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them.

Canada should apply the principles of this declaration to all legislation it enacts. My colleague from Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou introduced a bill to that effect on Monday in the hope that the government will honour its commitments.

I am therefore asking the government if it intends to protect all of Canada's lakes and rivers.

The EnvironmentAdjournment Proceedings

6:15 p.m.

Nepean—Carleton Ontario


Pierre Poilievre ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, we will protect all of Canada's lakes and rivers. The Navigable Waters Protection Act was never actually an environmental law.

The hon. member should read the act to learn more. If she does, she will see that words like “environment“, “nature”, “fishing” and so forth are not even in it. Why? Because it is not an environmental law and never was.

It is a law about navigation. It provides a framework for construction and transportation on navigable waters. For example, it regulates the construction of bridges in such a way as to enable a ship or boat to navigate the waters to which the act applies.

Given that it is not an environmental law, the changes we have made cannot have consequences for the environment.

The hon. member asked whether all lakes and rivers will be protected. I said yes. How can I say that? Because environmental laws will continue to apply. Changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act will have no impact on the seven or eight environmental laws that protect bodies of water. The Fisheries Act and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act will remain in force.

If we have the Fisheries Act, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and all the other acts related to the protection of wildlife habitat and the environment that are untouched by the amendments, those acts will continue to protect all of the waters of Canada.

The changes we have proposed are to limit the application of navigation laws to bodies of water that actually have navigation. In other words, if there are small bodies of water on which boats do not or rarely travel, we do not need to protect their right to travel. We do not need to protect the right of a ship to travel down a small stream because that right is taken away by the shallowness of the water. In other words, that ship was never meant to travel there in the first place. Therefore, the application of the law is currently misplaced on areas where it does not belong. The amendments stipulated in the budget legislation fix that problem.

The EnvironmentAdjournment Proceedings

6:20 p.m.


Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, the government keeps saying that Bill C-45 deals only with navigation and not the environment. I am having a really hard time understanding the logic of that argument. Navigation is done on waterways. Water contains living organisms. Water is safe to drink when environmental laws are followed. Navigation is therefore closely related to the environment.

Yet, under Bill C-45, many projects will no longer be required to undergo environmental assessments because they will be considered minor. This includes, for example, the construction of pipelines, bridges and other structures that had to undergo such evaluations in the past.

We are not operating in silos. The air we breathe and the water we drink are part of our environment, and human activity has an impact on that environment. By failing to take these factors into account, the government is playing a very dangerous game. The government is jeopardizing the quality of our water and waterways.

I would like to know how the government decided to protect only 97 lakes and 62 rivers, which are mostly found in Conservative ridings.

What is the logic behind these laws? What criteria did the Conservatives use to choose these lakes and rivers? Why are they neglecting thousands of others?

The EnvironmentAdjournment Proceedings

6:20 p.m.


Pierre Poilievre Conservative Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member said that water contains organisms and therefore that navigation, which also touches on water, should protect organisms. Those organisms and all of the ecological and environmental implications of our streams, rivers, and lakes are protected by different statutes. They are protected by environmental laws.

The law on navigation is focused on balancing the rights of someone who wants to build something over a body of water and someone who wants to travel on that body of water. Right now the law has resulted in small cottagers, for example, who want to build small docks on Lake Wabamun having to wait two years to do it because the government has had to study whether or not a ship would travel down their little lake.

That is not the purpose of navigation law. We are circumscribing it to fulfill its real purpose, which is navigation, while leaving environmental laws to protect the environment.

The EnvironmentAdjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:25 p.m.)