Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to lead off debate on this legislation today on behalf of the official opposition. Although this legislation seems confined to one geographical area, with a very specific intent, it is in fact of national importance, with wide-ranging impacts on people and communities in the local vicinity and also across Canada. It is also instructive of the particular ideology driving the Liberals' policy decisions and reveals the cavern between their words, their aims, and the real consequences of their actions.
The roots of this bill were planted very early, in fact less than a month after the last general election. The Prime Minister himself said that it was his own highest priority to base his government's policies and laws on evidence and consultation. In the mandate letter to the Minister of Natural Resources, the Prime Minister said, “ensure that decisions are based on science, facts, and evidence, and serve the public’s interest”.
However, on November 13, 2015, mandate letters from the Prime Minister to at least three ministers directed them to work together to formalize a moratorium on crude oil tankers off British Columbia's north coast. One wonders quite reasonably how it could at all be possible that there was sufficient time in 25 days to ground this directive on the results of comprehensive assessments of existing environmental and safety records, standards, outcomes, and gaps; a comparative analysis of marine traffic rules, enforcement, and track records on all Canadian coasts and internationally; and thorough local, regional, and national economic impact studies. Clearly, those undertakings would deliver the information required for fact- and evidence-based decision-making.
On top of that, how could there possibly be sufficient time to consult with impacted communities, first nations, industry, and experts? There is a difference between consulting to get to a decision and meeting in order to get to the conclusion one already wants. Unfortunately, two years in, this is a pattern to which Canadians are getting accustomed. Despite all the talk, it is actually voter coalitions, politics, and ideology that drive the Liberals' predetermined conclusions.
This bill, of course, is not really about transport standards, marine traffic, or protecting the safety and ecology of B.C.'s northern shore exclusively for the Liberals. It is really yet another step in limiting Canadian oil development and hindering Canadian oil transportation and the Prime Minister's own explicit goal of phasing out the oil sands. The fact that this ban is exclusively in northern B.C. and only applies to crude oil tankers in a specific zone begs the question: why is tanker traffic okay near Vancouver and off the east coast but not in northern B.C.?
The unbiased, non-partisan Library of Parliament's legislative summary states explicitly that the debate around the tanker moratorium stems from the Conservative-approved northern gateway pipeline project, which would have transported 525,000 additional barrels per day of oil from Bruderheim, Alberta, which is in my riding of Lakeland in the industrial heartland that is Canada's largest petrochemical and refining region, to Kitimat, B.C.
In November 2016, the Liberals directed the National Energy Board to dismiss the project, citing concerns about crude oil tankers transiting in the area. The tanker ban in this region would permanently prevent any other opportunities for pipelines to transport world-leading Canadian oil to the Prince Rupert and Kitimat area, where it could reach the rapidly growing Asia-Pacific region to achieve export market diversification by expanding Canada's customer base.
Reaching more export markets is vital to ensuring the long-term development of Canada's crude oil reserves, which are the third largest in the world. Energy is Canada's second biggest export, and 97% is imported by the United States. As the U.S. becomes Canada's biggest energy competitor, infrastructure that will get landlocked Canadian oil to more export markets worldwide is more important than ever. This is vital for all Canadians.
This bill is not a minor one with only specific impacts in a particular region, as it may seem. In fact, it is a measure that would impact all of Canada, with future consequences for the hundreds of thousands of Canadians employed in the energy sector across the country. Energy is the biggest private sector investor in Canada's economy, and as mentioned, oil and gas is Canada's second biggest export. Deliberately limiting export capacity potential by putting up roadblocks to access to tidewater, thereby putting a ceiling on production, would be detrimental to the livelihoods of Canadians everywhere. It would put very real limits on future economic opportunities, certainly with disproportionately harmful outcomes for certain communities and certain provinces.
Canadian oil and gas provides 670,000 direct and indirect jobs across Canada. In 2015, the oil sands alone generated 151,000 direct jobs and 300,000 indirect jobs across the country. The Prime Minister said, “the world needs more Canada”. We Conservatives agree. The good news is that the world wants Canada too, and it wants Canadian energy in particular.
The International Energy Agency projects that global oil demand will continue to grow in the decades ahead, reaching 99 million barrels a day this year and increasing to 121 million barrels a day by 2040. Global oil demand expanded in the past five years by 6.8 million barrels a day, with 69% of that growth in the Asia-Pacific region.
Reaching tidewater in all directions for Canada's oil and gas should be a pressing priority for the Liberals. It makes no sense to delay, hinder, or equivocate on this point from an economic, environmental, or moral perspective in the global context. All that does is take Canada out, ceding market share to oil- and gas-producing countries where standards, enforcement, and outcomes do not measure up to Canada's performance, and to corrupt regimes with abysmal environmental and human rights records, where energy development benefits only a select few. This is in stark contrast to Canada, where energy development benefits every community with jobs and with revenue for multiple levels of government, which is also shared across the country, with the aim of ensuring that all Canadians have access to roughly similar services and programs. Between 2000 and 2014, for example, on a net basis Alberta's individual and corporate taxpayers shipped an estimated $200 billion-plus to the federal government, and a major source of that revenue was from oil and gas.
A 2014 WorleyParsons study, which compared Alberta's environmental and regulatory systems with similarly sized oil- and gas-producing jurisdictions around the world, said that Alberta was among the best. That is no surprise, considering that Alberta, of course, was the first jurisdiction in all of North America to regulate emissions. The study said that Alberta was near the top of the list for the most stringent environmental laws and that Alberta ranked at the top for the availability of public information about the environmental performance of the oil and gas industry. The study confirmed that Alberta is unmatched on the compliance and enforcement scale.
Pipelines are a safe, efficient, and reliable way to move Canadian energy to consumers. In Canada, federally regulated pipelines carry over $100 billion worth of natural gas, oil, and petroleum products each year, 99.99% of which is transported safely.
I know that my Liberal colleagues will be eager to spin their narrative as champions of pipelines while peddling the myth that not one kilometre of pipeline went ahead under the previous Conservative government. I would like to dispense with that false claim right now, and I hope we can actually have accurate exchanges on the topic in the future. The Conservatives approved 10 pipelines, four that are already constructed and operating. Importantly, Conservatives accepted the independent regulator's recommendation to approve the northern gateway pipeline, which was a $7.9-billion initiative that notably involved 31 benefit agreements with first nations' equity partners of $2 billion all along the pipeline route. It also would have secured critical access for Canada to the Asia-Pacific.
On July 23, 2016, the Supreme Court ruled that the crown did not adequately consult on the project. In response, the current Prime Minister could have sought additional consultations, with expanded scope, with directly impacted first nations and with those who stood to lose immediate and long-term revenue for their communities and job opportunities for their children and future generations, but he did not. Instead, for the first time in Canadian history, a prime minister overruled and rejected a recommendation by the independent, world-renowned, expert regulator and killed the northern gateway outright and unilaterally, along with all associated economic opportunities and an actual concrete way to give the world more Canada.
This tanker ban would permanently eliminate all potential for any future initiatives in the region.
Context is important. Incredibly, the Prime Minister vetoed northern gateway on the very same day he accepted the Trans Mountain and Line 3 expansions, the latter of which is currently at serious risk in Minnesota. The Minnesota Department of Commerce has said that the expansion is not needed. If Minnesota blocks the pipeline, landlocked oil and gas will face an additional challenge even getting to Canada's already biggest customer, which reinforces why Canadian access to tidewater is crucial.
The Liberals should restrain themselves on this theme, since they actually unilaterally denied the only new opportunity to reach tidewater while they approved two expansions assessed under the exact same process, with the same evidence. Anyone wondering about this incoherence can understand that it is a result of political and ideology-driven decisions, where the priority is holding voting coalitions together to fend off political opponents like the NDP and the Greens, rather than basing policy on science, evidence, or consultations or reaching conclusions in service of the broad national public interest.
The by-product of the constant Liberal and leftist barrage of attacks on Canadian regulators and energy developers, and changes to rules with new red tape and added costs, is that energy investment in Canada has dropped dramatically in the same time frame. Since the Liberals were elected, the policy uncertainty and additional hurdles during an already challenging time for prices, costs, and competitiveness have caused the biggest two-year decline in Canadian oil and gas investment in any other two-year period since 1947. This year alone, there is a projected 47% drop in oil and gas capital from 2016 levels. Energy investment in Canada, on which hundreds of thousands of Canadian jobs depend, has declined more in the two years after the 2015 federal election than before it. One-sixth of total energy workers in Canada have lost their jobs with it.
Context matters here too. The overall lost investment of more than $50 billion is difficult to conceptualize, so I think it is important to know that it is equivalent to the loss of about 75% of Canada's auto manufacturing, and nearly the entire aerospace industry. I would suggest that those scenarios would rightfully be a national crisis and a top priority for a federal government, and not something to be met with added barriers, benign neglect, and a dismissive, “Hang in there” attitude. Therefore, it is rational to conclude that this ban is about stopping crude oil, not about protecting a specific area from marine vessels.
Gavin Smith, a lawyer for West Coast Environmental Law, points out that there is already a voluntary ban that keeps most big tankers out of the area and a dearth of information about what kind of traffic goes through the region, something that Transport Canada should make public.
This law will not affect the current voluntary exclusion zone that was implemented decades ago. The voluntary exclusion zone was put in place for American shipping from Alaska to the west coast. Because of international law, foreign vessels can decide whether or not to abide by the exclusion zone boundaries. This tanker ban will not make this ban involuntary for American tanker traffic and it will not mandate it for the exact same kinds of tankers that will now not be allowed to carry Canadian oil as a result of this bill. It makes no sense.
Nearly three years ago, the former Conservative government implemented a suite of strong measures to create a world-class tanker safety system that modernized Canada's navigation system, enhanced area response planning and marine safety capacity for first nation communities, and ensured that polluters pay for spills and damages on all coasts. Canada has industry-leading regulations with standards well beyond other jurisdictions'. Government certified and industry-funded marine response organizations, like the eastern and western Canada response corporations, and the marine safety response systems on the east and west coast and in the Gulf of St. Lawrence are among the best in the world. Canada's commitment to ocean and coastline protection renders this moratorium unnecessary.
What is the evidence? Tankers have safely and regularly transported crude oil from Canada's west coast since the 1930s. In 2011, 2.2 million tonnes of oil were safely shipped from B.C., and on the east coast, 82.5 million tonnes of various petroleum products have been shipped from 23 ports in Atlantic Canada. There have not been any tanker navigational issues or incidents in about 50 years in the port of Vancouver.
To make matters worse, it turns out that many first nations leaders do not think the Liberals consulted on this tanker ban adequately either. In addition to the lost economic opportunities for first nations offered by the northern gateway pipeline, this tanker ban puts the $14 billion Eagle Spirit Energy pipeline proposal from Fort McMurray to Prince Rupert in serious peril.
The Chief's Council Eagle Spirit Energy Project has stated:
To be clear; there has been insufficient consultation for the proposed Tanker Moratorium and it does not have our consent. As Indigenous peoples, we want to preserve the right to determine the types of activities that take place in our territories and do not accept that the federal government should tell us how to preserve, protect, and work within our traditional territories.
Moreover, Isaac Laboucan-Avirom, a member of that chief's council, has said:
The decision to do that impairs not only the people on the coast but it impairs the diverse Canadian economy
This reality is in direct contradiction to what the Prime Minister and many ministers have said repeatedly they would ensure in laws, policies, operational practices, project reviews and assessments in service to what they have said is their most important relationship. However, it makes sense why the Liberals would not want to elevate the voices of the first nations people who supported northern gateway and those who oppose this tanker ban, because it undermines their myth that all first nations people are opposed to oil and gas and to pipelines, which the left exploits to advance its anti-Canadian energy agenda.
In fact, first nations are partners in Canadian energy development everywhere, with more than 300 impact and benefit agreements with energy developers in the last decade, worth millions of dollars and thousands of jobs. AFN Chief Bellegarde says that 500 of the 630 first nations in Canada are open to pipelines and to oil and gas development. First nations in Lakeland and the oil sands region demonstrate that every day. For example, the Fort McKay First Nation near the epicentre of the Athabasca oil sands have an unemployment rate of zero, average annual incomes of $120,000, and financial holdings in excess of $2 billion. Moreover, the Mikisew Cree are owners of part of a Suncor tank storage facility worth more than $350 million. In fact, there are 327 indigenous-owned enterprises that do business with oil and gas operations in Alberta alone, involving $10 billion in goods and services from those companies over the last 15 years.
It is not isolated to Alberta. The Hereditary Chiefs' Council of Lax Kw'alaams, whose traditional territories extend along the coastline that will be affected by this ban, declared their frustration with the Liberals' delay in consulting them on the tanker ban. They say it will have significant impacts on the ability of the council's members to make a living. They state:
As Indigenous peoples, we want to preserve the right to determine the types of activities that take place in our territories and do not accept that the government should tell us how to preserve, protect, and work within our traditional territories.
This tanker ban is not in the best interests of all Canadians. This bill enables an ideological, predetermined conclusion that is not based on evidence or consultations and is not substantiated by comprehensive safety, environmental, and economic assessments, or at least none that have been made public.
It deliberately and specifically targets one industry, with disproportionate damage to landlocked provinces, which will seriously hamper future prosperity for all Canadians and limit Canada's leadership role in the world. It is really all about Liberal politicking.
Canada's energy diversity is a vital strength. Responsible development in all sectors across all of Canada should be championed by governments. It is important to know that conventional oil and gas, oil sands, and pipeline companies are among the largest private sector investors in alternative energy technologies like wind and solar in Canada. When one sector thrives, so does the other.
Conservatives value the responsible development of natural resources in all sectors, in all provinces, to benefit all of Canada, and we oppose this crude oil tanker ban.