Madam Speaker, it is critical for members of the House of Commons in November of 2018 to be holding this emergency debate on Canada's energy sector. We are in the midst of dealing with serious headwinds facing the industry, highlighted by unprecedented price differentials on western Canadian oil.
As the Prime Minister has said, it is a crisis and it is taking its toll not just in Alberta but across the country. It is weighing heavily on hard-working Canadians and their anxious families, hurting communities, costing governments, including this one and the Government of Alberta, much-needed revenues, and dashing opportunities and dreams.
Unfortunately, this situation is born out of a perfect storm: a million barrels of U.S. refining capacity shut down due to maintenance just as new projects have been coming online in the Alberta oil sands, something we want to see more of, but which has created a high supply of crude at a time when there is less capacity to refine and, without a doubt, lack of pipeline capacity for export. The result is a price differential that is causing great uncertainty, great angst and deep frustration on the heels of several difficult years of low oil prices. As the caucus chair for Alberta on the government side, I know this pain, I feel this pain. It is in my own family.
There are 50,000 engineers out of work in Calgary. There are 12 million square feet of vacant downtown office space in Calgary. That is more than all of the office space in Vancouver. It will take 15 years for the city to recover from that. That is pain that we feel as Albertans and we feel on this side of the House.
It has left many families feeling unsure about their futures, unsure how they will make ends meet, including members of my own immediate and extended family. People who I talk to at their doors wonder what their next job will look like, where it will be and what they will have to do to hold that job.
This is not some abstract matter that I read about in the news. This affects me personally in a profound way, as it does my colleagues on this side of the House. Communities are gripped by anxiety. It is affecting Alberta, local businesses and the entire country. We continue to feel the effects of this slowdown and the consequences of our inability to benefit fully from our resources.
Just as world prices are beginning to recover, Alberta finds itself facing an unacceptable increased discount on our oil resources. Albertans are angry and worried. We are fed up. I am fed up and so are my colleagues on this side of the House. Our message is clear tonight. The status quo cannot continue. We cannot stand idly by while oil that belongs to Canadians is being sold at bargain basement prices.
Nobody wants their commodity to be sold at 15% to 25% of its value and that is what we are experiencing right now, today, in this country because we have one market and this country was locked into one market through 10 years of failure of the Conservative government under Stephen Harper. That is why our government is working with Alberta and Saskatchewan through our working group to review options that could help relieve the pain being felt by so many. We are seized by this issue and looking at every single possible option on the table, including solutions to get this situation resolved. However, make no mistake, our ultimate goal is to make sure that every barrel of Alberta oil receives its full value.
There is some good news on the horizon. We know that next year Line 3 pipeline, approved by our government, will add 370,000 barrels per day in capacity.
We know that the four U.S. refineries that had been closed since October have now reopened.
That will start to ease the differential. It is why our government has given such priority to this issue and to making sure that market forces prevail.
The good news is that we are not starting from scratch with these efforts; in fact, just the opposite. When our government came into office, we understood there was an issue of market access. We recognized that, after 10 years of the Harper government, nothing had changed.
When the Conservatives started in government in 2006, 99% of Canadian oil went to the United States. When they finished in government in 2015, 99% of Canadian oil was still heading to our greatest and best customer, until it was no longer our greatest and best customer. We realized we had to start getting pipelines built to tidewater. We also realized that their plan, which failed to take into account indigenous needs, failed to take into the environment and failed to consult properly, would not be a plan to follow.
Members will remember that standing in our way as Canadians was a waning public confidence in the way major resource projects were being reviewed. Canadians knew that the Conservatives brought in a new system that cut corners, shirked our responsibility to meaningfully consult with indigenous peoples and short-circuited steps required to protect the environment. Therefore, we set about rebuilding Canadians' trust in the impact assessments, improving transparency and enhancing public participation throughout the review process.
We started with extensive public consultations. We appointed two expert panels and we reviewed findings from two parliamentary studies. We listened to Canadians, we heard them and we acted. Why did we have to do this? It was because of 10 years of inaction by the Harper government. The Conservatives' approach failed through disregarding indigenous needs, they were quashed in the courts and they failed to take into account the basic protections for our environment.
The Conservatives had 10 years to expand to markets other than the United States, and they failed for 10 years. Our government will ensure that we are moving forward on expanding to global markets by building pipeline capacity in the right way. That is why the decision to invest $4.5 billion in the Trans Mountain pipeline was the right one.
I can tell members that one of the proudest moments I have had as an Edmonton Liberal in this government was the day that this government, led by the Prime Minister, decided that making a $4.5-billion investment was the right decision for the future of Albertans and Canadians, and a strategic and sound investment in our collective future. It was the right decision to find a cost-effective and safe way for us to get resources to international markets then and it still is today.
I will take this opportunity to take out a few myths that are very convenient and very pervasive on the Conservative side of the House and bust them.
Let us talk about the northern gateway pipeline. The Federal Court of Appeal overturned that government's approval of that Enbridge pipeline on the grounds that the Crown failed to properly consult first nations communities. It said that:
We find that Canada offered only a brief, hurried and inadequate opportunity…to exchange and discuss information and to dialogue...It would have taken [Canada] little time and little...effort to engage in meaningful dialogue...But this did not happen.
It is simply shocking, but that is how we got to being no closer to international markets after 10 years of Harper policies.
The second myth is that the decision of TransCanada to pull the energy east pipeline was something other than a business decision based on pure economics that are very simple for people to understand. How do I know this? I met the CEO of TransCanada Corporation on May 27, 2017, in this very building, upstairs in the dining room. The then minister of infrastructure and communities, the member of Parliament for Edmonton Mill Woods, was at the same dinner.
During coffee, I looked at Russ Girling and said, “Mr. Girling, what happens if the United States administration approves Keystone XL?” He looked at me and said, “Randy, if that happens I have to shutter energy east”. I said, “Tell me why?” He said, “Because there isn't enough supply in Canada to properly run two pipelines”. I said, “So what does that mean?” He said, “I have to make sure energy east never goes to the NEB. I have to get my shippers to remove their oil contracts with energy east and get them over to Keystone XL, because the company will not be able to cash flow energy east”.
What happened within three months of that conversation? The U.S. administration approved Keystone XL.
Energy east was never sent to the National Energy Board. In fact, within a month, he was asking the Alberta government and all of his other suppliers to move capacity from the energy east project to the Keystone XL pipeline. Let us make no mistake about it, our government was prepared to work with TCPL every step of the way, through the interim principles, to see its project. We did not pull the project from the NEB; the corporation did, for pure and simple economics.
The Conservatives may not like to play from an economic playbook. In fact, if we look at their debt ratio and we look at their horrible management of the economy for 10 years, I can understand why a simple economics lesson is lost on that side of the House. However, on our side, simple economics, complex economics make sense. It is why this government has invested $4.5 billion in a pipeline to get us to new markets.