Mr. Speaker, as the member of Parliament for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, a predominantly small community in a rural riding of eastern Ontario with a significant number of jobs that rely on the land, I chose to participate in today's debate as someone who can empathize with the people of Yukon on how bad federal policy impacts rural people. In addition to representing the people of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, I am pleased to represent the people of northern Ontario as the Conservative Party critic for economic development for that region.
Like my riding in eastern Ontario and like Yukon, northern Ontario shares many of the challenges faced by residents north of the 60th parallel. Bill C-17, an act to amend the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act and to make a consequential amendment to another act, would directly undermine the economic well-being of people living in Yukon, but it should set off alarm bells for every Canadian about what kind of Liberals were elected in Ottawa. Canadians were pitched a story about a new warm and fuzzy, centrist Liberal Party. Instead, they got the old Liberal power brokers, trading votes and money for policies infused with the radical left-wing ideology of paternalist progressivism. It is like Frankenstein's monster. It is alive, and it has the brains of Dalton McGuinty bolted onto the body of a Chrétien-Martin money machine.
Bill C-17 is just the latest example of the horror story that is the current government. It is a story that can be told in three chapters: from cynical vote buying, to an arrogant Ottawa-knows-best attitude, and ending in despair and economic destruction. Let us start at the very beginning, a very good place to start, with chapter 1, entitled, “power brokers, or how I learned to stop stressing and fight the Liberal vote-buying machine”.
Bill C-17 comes straight out of the Liberals' campaign platform, so it is important that we look at how it was developed. Unlike our Conservative Party's grassroots approach to policy development, the Liberals outsourced to their pollsters, ad agencies, and special interest groups to cobble together “a chicken in every pot”. The pollsters, ad agencies, and focus groups wrote the headline promises the Liberals would promptly break, like Chrétien's promise to scrap the GST, or the current government's promise on electoral reform, or the promise of tiny deficits, or the promise of using deficits for infrastructure, or the promise of eventually ending deficits.
For the rest of the Liberal platform, they hit control c to copy and paste lists of demands from various special interests who promise to deliver cash and votes. Those big promises test well but quickly get forgotten while the government gets to work delivering for its friends.
For the big promises the Liberals have not broken yet, the only reason is that, like legal weed, they made the promise having no clue of how they would make it happen. Therefore, they have to commission consultations—which is Liberal code-speak for hire their friends at taxpayer expense—to tell them how to do their job.
The promises in the platform they made to their lobbyist friends is the stuff that gets fast-tracked into legislation, which brings us back to Bill C-17. The government is rushing forward with a blunt instrument to enact a copy-and-past election promise. Instead, it should have worked with all the parties to ensure any amendments protected everyone's interests.
Let us take the section of the bill that would repeal time limits on the review process. The government claims the time limits are unnecessary because the review board already exceeds the current time limits in law. However, time limits provide certainty. That certainty is how we balance the interests of the environment and the interests of the economy. The environmental review is not the economic cost; it might even save the company from an expensive future cleanup. What costs the economy is the uncertainty and its invisible cost. We cannot see the jobs not created by the investments not made because of the uncertainty the government seeks to create. If the time limits are too short for a thorough review to protect the environment, we should lengthen the times or add additional resources.
The costs of review are recovered from the companies and they will be happy to pay the costs. They just want some certainty about what those costs will be and how long they have to pay for them. That seems like a pretty reasonable compromise. The environment gets protected and Canadians get economic certainty.
Therefore, why is the government being so unreasonable? Removing the time limits means reviews can be indefinitely delayed to satisfy the government's radical left-wing agenda.
That brings us to chapter two: paternalistic progressivism or how to shut up and do what Ottawa says.
Bill C-17 is symbolic of the government's approach to resource development and environmental protection. That approach is to dictate to the provinces and territories. The bill would remove the ability of federal governments to transfer powers, duties, or functions to the Yukon government. It would be one thing if the Liberal government just thought Ottawa knew best and just never used the power under the current law to transfer any power to the Yukon government. However, to repeal that section, to make it so no future government has the legal authority to transfer powers to the territory, shows Ottawa knows best. It is more than just a little attitude; it is part of a larger agenda.
The government clearly seeks to expand its powers and simply order the provinces and territories to do what it says. Look at how it imposed a carbon tax on the provinces. It does not matter if different regions have different economies; Ottawa has ordered a carbon tax, so a carbon tax it will be. Already Canadians living in rural and remote communities like the Yukon pay higher costs for food and energy. Now the government wants these Canadians to pay more for a regressive agenda.
At the very same time it is increasing the cost of doing business in Canada with carbon taxes, it wants to repeal time limits on environmental review. Its agenda is clear. It wants to phase out natural resource development by strangling the industry with higher costs and longer reviews. This is not about carbon emissions or protecting the environment. Nothing in Bill C-17 actually improves environmental protection. All it does is inject uncertainty into the Yukon economy, which is the point: create enough uncertainty and investors will look elsewhere. Of course, the government hopes those investor dollars will flow into one of its super-duper clusters located in urban centres.
That brings us to the final chapter of the Liberal horror story. If this chapter needs a title, it would be, “How the Liberals plan to spread their anti-development agenda across Canada”. Bill C-17 is like a Liberal test tube. It makes these changes in Yukon like an experiment to see how well they can strangle development. If they are successful in creating economic uncertainty up north, they will replicate it across the country. In fact, one of the government's very arguments for repeal of the time limits on environmental review is the claim they will be reviewed across Canada, so they might as well do away with Yukon's. This is not a hidden agenda; it just an under-reported agenda.
Bill C-17 is just one part of that agenda. Eliminating the exploration tax credit in the recent budget is another part of that agenda. Removing time limits on environment review is another part. A punishing country-wide carbon tax is just part of the same agenda. Higher taxes, fewer credits, more regulation, and longer reviews are all part of the same Liberal agenda to eliminate our natural resources industries. They will scoff and claim how much they support rural and remote Canada, but actions speak louder than the PMO's scripted talking points.
With every action the government takes, it injects uncertainty into the economy. Even worse, with the government's love of picking industrial winners and losers, we will soon see the hollowing out of many industries in rural and remote parts of Canada. This will force even more Canadians to migrate to the cities, leaving rural Canada even further depopulated. Across Canada, we will see more and more ghost towns.
This is truly a Liberal horror story, but it does not have to end this way. For one, those sitting on the government side could speak up in caucus and call on the government to reconsider. Perhaps there is a compromise that can be found on setting time limits rather than unilaterally repealing them. Did they even try to find one? Sadly, I doubt Canadians can rely on a common-sense revolution within the Liberal back bench.
The only chance will likely be in replacing this incompetent government with one that takes campaign promises seriously, one that takes protecting the environment seriously, one that takes growing our economy seriously. Fortunately for Canadians, we have a Conservative Party with a better story to tell.
For example, we created the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency in 2009, a new stand-alone agency that not only benefited the development of the entire Canadian north, but directly benefited local businesses and entrepreneurs by providing them with better access to lines of credit, loan guarantees, and other things to foster growth.
Bill S-6, passed in 2015, amended the YESSA and granted further autonomy to Yukon by giving the federal minister the power to delegate federal powers to the Yukon government, or establishing timelines for environmental assessments so the process could be completed in a timely manner, without forgetting the importance of environmental sustainability.
That is just some of what we did for Yukon, which was part of a larger strategy to responsibly develop Canada's natural resources. We can protect the environment and develop our natural resources. It is not even a question of picking between the two. However, the Liberals have decided they will pick. Bill C-17 shows they pick. They picked more uncertainty. They picked less investment. They picked fewer jobs.
Hopefully, when Canadians next go to the polls, they will pick a different government. Hopefully, they will pick the one like they had before. Prior to the last federal election, with a Conservative government in place, Canada was successfully working to secure a position as the world's superpower in energy production. We were ensuring that Canada's precious natural resources were being developed in a way that respected the economy, by creating jobs and respecting the environment, without pitting one against the other.
Unlike the current government, with its policy of burdening future generations with its high deficit policy and the spectre of huge tax increases to pay for out of control spending today, the Conservatives believe a healthy environment and a job should be our legacy for our children's children to enjoy. It was in that context that we brought forth legislation to benefit northerners in the last Parliament.
Bill C-17, in stark contrast to the Conservative policy of job creation and a balanced budget, is symbolic of the government's approach to resource development and environmental protection. The Liberal Party is committed to a policy of fostering a lack of public trust in any environmental process. It is called “delay, delay, delay until the project collapses”. It demonstrates to Canadians, and to the world, that confusing environmental regulations and a weak economy go hand in hand, which is the Liberal government's policy on the economy and the environment.
With Bill C-17, Yukon's economic development is in jeopardy. It is an attack on natural resource development. The bill would remove provisions that would limit the length of time for environmental review. This action adds a barrier for investment, as companies are now uncertain as to when a decision will be made. There will be an immediate increase in the regulatory burden on proponents. The mining industry will face the largest impact, and it is a major employer in Yukon.
Bill C-17 would further worsen the economic situation in the north by putting thousands of Canadians out of work, while denying the opportunity of future Canadians to find employment in that region.
The proposed legislation removes northern independence. It is a proven fact that government undermines economic opportunity, in this case Yukon, by adding unnecessary red tape to the environmental review process. It threatens jobs in the private sector and investment.
The Liberal government is taking power away from the people of Yukon and not allowing them to make decisions that concern the development of their communities. Part of the policy interference when it comes to natural resource development is to create uncertainty in the review process. Our Conservative government worked hard to strengthen environmental protections and streamline the regulatory process in order to promote northern development while protecting the unique relationship between northerners and the land.
The removal of time limits and option for exempting renewals fits well with the ongoing narrative that Liberals use a false concern for the environment to introduce unnecessary delays and uncertainty into our regulatory processes. This will impact on the economy, similar in the manner that was used by Gerald Butts, the Prime Minister's principal adviser, and how he directed the Toronto Liberal Party to use the pretext of saving the environment to jack electricity prices to unaffordably high rates in order to shut down tens of thousands of jobs in the manufacturing sector in Ontario.
The Liberals' promise to repeal certain sections of previous Conservative government legislation is just another example of how green ideology over there trumps common sense. This change puts Yukon at a competitive disadvantage with the rest of Canada for attracting private investment. Yukon has huge jobs potential that only comes with development. The Liberal government is intent on adding stress to an already troubled industry through the addition of extra red tape, an unclear, unpredictable evaluation system, and the politicization of the final determination of projects.
This legislation hurts workers in Yukon and it hurts the heavily taxed middle class across Canada. Not only do the Prime Minister and his closest Toronto advisers not understand that northern development creates jobs, they prefer to create a patchwork of regulatory regimes across the country with no regard for cross-Canada economic development. There are many other examples of the bad practice of only listening to Toronto-based advisers with under-reported agendas on the environment, agendas that are based on junk science.
This is an intervention where no intervention is necessary. Yukon is already suffering from the federal 2016 budget measure to unfairly tax family campgrounds. It is absolutely ironic when I hear the Liberals claim they will replace lost resource jobs when the legislation we are discussing today goes into effect. They claim that jobs can be replaced by developing tourism. Promote the environment by promoting tourism. It sounds catchy. The reality is the Liberal Party brought in legislation that unfairly targets family-owned campgrounds in its 2016 budget. They reason that some slick city accountants have found a way to create a tax loophole using campgrounds.
The Liberal Party responds by attacking all campgrounds without taking into consideration private, family-run campgrounds. That attack is an insult to every husband and wife team working 18 hours a day in a seasonal business. The Minister of Finance could care less about family campgrounds. He has a vacation property, a holiday villa in the south of France. The Prime Minister uses the taxpayer dime to party in the Caribbean on a friend's private island in the Bahamas, someone who just happens to benefit from receiving millions of dollars in taxpayer handouts from the federal government.
Campgrounds offer an opportunity for families to spend time together, create lifelong memories, and discover Canada's natural landscape. It is an activity dominated by the middle class as their form of rest, relaxation, and entertainment. Camping creates a sense of community that is unique to this form of travel accommodation.
In Yukon, of the 60 campgrounds that operate over 2,000 campsites, there is one federal campground and it has all of 39 sites. Unlike the private campgrounds that are serviced, all the sites at the federal park are unserviced. In addition to providing services like water and sewer hook-up and electrical plug-ins, private campgrounds on average stay open one month longer. Taking away privately owned family campgrounds takes away local tourism in that industry and the jobs that go with it.