Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to speak on a subject that is particularly important in my own constituency of Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, the issues around pipeline construction.
I want to start with some context about how pipelines are built. Some members may know this already; some, unfortunately, may not. It is important that we start with an understanding of the context.
First, pipeline projects are proposed by the private sector. Already some people have made claims about the previous government not building pipelines to tidewater, and so forth. There needs to be an understanding that pipelines are proposed and then, if approved, built by the private sector, and it is up to the government to decide to approve or not approve pipelines for which there have been applications. That is one important point.
The second point is that after a project is proposed, there is a consultation process through the independent National Energy Board. The National Energy Board hears from different people in the community and from experts, considers the evidence, and weighs the facts of the situation. Then it comes forward with a recommendation to the government. Ultimately it is the cabinet's call, but in my view, it virtually always makes sense for the cabinet to approve projects that have been approved by the NEB. The NEB is, after all, the expert. It hears and weighs the evidence and then presents a recommendation.
Finally, it is important, as we think about how pipelines are built, to understand that these are clearly and squarely within federal jurisdiction. There was much discussion and public discourse about what particular provincial leaders and even mayors might think about pipelines. Of course, it is quite legitimate for these people to have opinions about where a pipeline should or should not go, and they are welcome to express that opinion, but we do not live in a country where different jurisdictions can decide what infrastructure goes into and out of their province. These are not countries; these are provinces governed by a Constitution that defines what is and is not in their jurisdictions. It is the federal government's responsibility to consider and rule on these applications, hopefully to listen to the NEB, and to do so in a way that reflects the best science and information.
That is the context through which we should view a discussion of the process of pipeline approval.
I am very proud to remind members that the previous Conservative government built four pipelines and approved a fifth. These were the applications that were brought from the private sector during the Conservatives' time in government. Of course, we were very supportive of other applications. We were very supportive of energy east and Trans Mountain, but obviously there is a process these projects have to go through. While we are supportive of pipelines, we are also supportive and respectful of that process.
Conservatives also, though, reformed the consultation process. We made the case, and I think we were right to do so, that the consultation process for any development project should not be unlimited. People with a particular political perspective who are never going to change their minds should not be able to do everything possible to drag out for years, even decades, good projects that should be discussed, considered, and ultimately decided upon. If the decision is not to proceed, okay; if the decision is to proceed, okay.
A consultation process should be reasonably time-limited, should leave those who have an interest in the process, who are affected, as well as experts, the opportunity to present information, but that process of deliberation should lead to a conclusion.
This was a problem we had in the past with certain projects in Canada. That process of deliberation was not designed to allow for a reasonably timely conclusion, so we made changes to ensure that there was a full consultation where experts and affected people were heard but that ultimately led to, on the positive or on the negative, a conclusion that would allow some degree of certainty for the project proponents as well as for the communities.
Conservatives built the Alberta Clipper energy project, which carries 450,000 barrels per day; the TransCanada Keystone, which carries 435,000 barrels per day; the Kinder Morgan anchor loop, which increased capacity by 40,000 barrels per day; and the Enbridge Line 9B reversal, which carries 300,000 barrels per day.
I am very proud of those accomplishments, and of course we approved the northern gateway project. That is the record of the previous Conservative government with respect to pipelines: respecting the process, respecting expertise, and recognizing the value of the energy sector and the need to move forward.
What happened when this new Liberal government took power? The Liberals made certain changes that are very clearly bad for independent processes and bad for the energy sector. For example, they emphasized that they would be willing to reject projects that had been approved through the National Energy Board. They would not provide the certainty that after independent expert review, they would approve projects that were, through that process, found to be in the best interests of Canada.
What is striking is that members in the Liberal Party frequently talk about listening to the science and about evidence-based decision-making, but they have actually been very clear that their decisions with respect to pipelines will not be constrained by the facts and the evidence. They specifically said that. They said they will not be limited by the decisions of an independent process, but that instead cabinet may well choose to reject projects that are demonstrably in the best interests of the country.
That is what they said with respect to projects such as energy east, which is currently going through the process, but they have already done that with respect to the northern gateway pipeline. This was a pipeline that went through the process. It was a pipeline that was approved by the NEB with conditions, and then approved by the previous Conservative government with conditions, and then the government decided that it could not go ahead.
The Liberals have also gone further. They have legislation coming forward now that would exclude tanker traffic in northern B.C. I am very clearly in favour of tankers, because that is how oil gets from place to place. People here in this House in some corners talk about tankers as if they are a terrible thing, and frankly, they are living a little bit outside reality if they think that we should live in a world without tankers.
Not only am I pro-tankers, but I am particularly in favour of Canadian tankers, because off the coast of B.C. there are tankers from other countries, tankers coming from Alaska, and there is every indication that we will see expanded development and expanded tanker traffic from Alaska, and if there is a spill, unfortunately, it is not as if the Canadian coast would be immune.
Instead of saying that we will not have any part of it and leaving the opportunities for energy development in the Asia-Pacific for other countries, let us instead encourage Canadian energy development while putting the necessary safety regulations in place to protect ourselves.
The government has taken steps that are of great concern to our energy sector, and now we are having a debate on the Trans Mountain pipeline, a pipeline that the government has uniquely decided to approve. It is important to note that this pipeline went through the same process as the northern gateway pipeline and that the government has made an arbitrary decision, based on its analysis of the politics of the day, to approve one pipeline and not the other.
Meanwhile, the politics of the day have changed. There is now a new provincial government in B.C.—I should not say that. There is a proposal for a coalition of a number of parties that did not get the largest number of seats in the election. That is what seems to be a possibility.
It is important that the government stand firm on Trans Mountain, of course, and government members have said they will, but it is also important that they develop some coherence in their approach to pipelines.
Our approach was coherent. It was based on evidence. It was based on listening to the NEB. It was based on a fair process that understood how pipelines were built. The government's approach is more arbitrary, which puts it in a much weaker position when it comes to defending pipelines across the board.
On the issue of pipelines in general, we believe it is important to address climate change, and to do so mainly through a discussion of consumption. That is how we reduce emissions: we reduce the amount of consumption. In the meantime, we have to use energy, and besides energy, we use manufactured petroleum products, which include things like election signs—even NDP election signs come from petroleum products—and we all fly in airplanes.
In the meantime, while we are still using energy resources, it makes no sense to try to limit the transportation of supply. Let us look for efficiencies that allow us to reduce demand, but supply and the transportation that facilitates supply are important while we are still using energy resources.
The government needs to do better in supporting vital energy transportation products that are important for our national economy.