That, in the opinion of the House, the proposed Port of Gros-Cacouna oil terminal, which will be used for the sole purpose of exporting unprocessed Canadian oil, will have a negative impact on the Canadian economy through the loss of well-paid jobs, will constitute an unacceptable environmental threat to the St. Lawrence ecosystem, including the beluga whale population, and therefore, is not consistent with the principle of sustainable development, and must be rejected.
Mr. Speaker, to begin, I would like to mention that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, who will be giving an excellent speech once I have finished.
This debate and this motion are very important. They will showcase the foundation of the NDP's sustainable development plan when it forms the government in 2015. It is very important that we get back to basics and define sustainable development. It is built on three pillars. The first is economic. Of course, development is first economic. We need to determine how a project can benefit the Canadian economy. The Port of Gros-Cacouna project is not economically beneficial. In fact, the economy in this region already relies on ecotourism, fishing and marine resources. An oil spill would be catastrophic for all of those jobs. In addition, this project focuses solely on exporting. There is no opportunity to process the raw material; therefore, there is no possibility to add value or create jobs. That is why this project makes no sense economically.
The second pillar is environmental. The beluga whale, a symbol of Quebec, lives there. The beluga is a symbol not just of Quebec, but of Canada. The beluga is also a threatened species. In 2010, there were about 1,000 belugas, but the latest figures show that in 2012, there were only 880. Protecting the ecosystem and the environment is a very important aspect of sustainable development, but that protection will be impossible in this case.
The third pillar is social acceptance. I will explain why later, but I travelled around the Lower St. Lawrence and across Quebec twice, and there is no social acceptance.
The Conservatives have made a real mess of this file, and my colleagues who have been working on it can talk about that later on. For one thing, the Maurice Lamontagne Institute is in the region, and in 2012, the Conservatives made draconian cuts there. Some two-thirds of the scientists who worked at the institute, in fields such as ecotoxicology, lost their jobs. Environmental science was absolutely eviscerated there.
In addition, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act has been completely watered down. It has been hacked to bits. Right now, this act is a problem because environmental assessments and public consultations are no longer reliable.
That is what prompted my colleagues and me to move motions in committee. We have been concerned about belugas for a long time. As I said, belugas are a threatened species. They fall under the federal government's Species at Risk Act. That means the federal government is required, under its own act, to protect this species and come up with a recovery strategy, but that has not happened. The species is not recovering. On the contrary, from 2010 to 2012, the number of belugas dropped. As we approach 2015, the species is probably even more threatened. In the past few years, many young belugas have washed up on the beach and died. Protecting young belugas is critically important to the recovery of this species.
That is why, in June, I moved a motion in the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, and my colleague from Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup moved a motion in the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. We were very concerned about the work that was going on then and we wanted to know if the seismic survey and exploratory drilling work was happening with no regard for species like the beluga and the ecosystem in general off the coast of Cacouna.
We moved this motion in our respective committees. Unfortunately, the Conservatives decided to proceed in camera. I therefore cannot tell you what was discussed during those in camera meetings, but I can tell you that the motions are no longer on the order paper. Members can figure out what happened.
Then, there was a request to conduct exploratory drilling. I went to the Quebec Superior Court to hear the injunction application filed by the Centre québécois du droit de l'environnement and other environmentalists who are very concerned about the environment in that area. I listened to the arguments made by the lawyers for the Centre québécois de droit de l'environnement. The Conservatives' actions on this issue are truly shameful.
First, the Government of Quebec asked for clarification so that it could respond to the concerns about the protection of the ecosystem raised in response to TransCanada's request for authorization to conduct exploratory drilling off the coast of Gros-Cacouna. The Conservatives did not bother to respond through Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Then, rather than answering the questions they were asked, they said that they would send a letter. They did not send a scientific opinion. In the letter, they said that everything was going well, that people should trust them and that the project could go forward. We know what happened next: the Quebec Superior Court granted the injunction. Right now, no exploratory drilling can be done because of the injunction. TransCanada can no longer move forward with that request.
The Liberal leader visited the Lower St. Lawrence region and said that drilling and seismic testing could be done and that he supported the oil port project in Gros-Cacouna, without knowing what was happening and that the project was not backed by scientific evidence.