Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-88, an act to amend the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act and the Canada Petroleum Resources Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts.
Before I get into the details of the bill, it is important to look at the context with respect to what has been happening over the past three years and what is starting to be a real pattern of the Liberal government. The decisions it makes consistently increase red tape and bureaucracy, and are mostly anti-resource development. This bill is no different.
I would like to talk about a few areas to show the context, which will then show that this follows a pattern that adds to what is becoming an increasing concern in the country, and that is the ability to move our natural resources forward.
When the Prime Minister took office, there were three private companies willing to invest more than $30 billion to build three nation-building pipelines that would have generated tens of thousands of jobs and billions in economic opportunity. The Prime Minister and his cabinet killed two and put the Trans Mountain expansion on life support. Bill C-69 would block all future pipelines.
In addition, the government has made a number of arbitrary decisions regarding natural resource development, with absolutely no consultation with those impacted. Today, we only need to look at what is happening in Alberta with the hundreds of thousands of job losses. Who has ever heard of a premier having to decrease the production of a needed resource throughout the country and the world because we simply cannot get resources to the market? This is because of the government's failure.
The northern gateway project was approved by the former government in June 2014. It had a number of conditions on it, just like the current Trans Mountain project does.
In November 2015, just one month after being elected, the Prime Minister killed the project without hesitation. It was subject to a court challenge. When we did finally hear what came out of that court challenge, to be frank, it was nothing that could not be overcome. We could have dealt with that.
The court decision told the Prime Minister to engage in consultation in a more appropriate and balanced way. The court really gave what I would call a recipe for perhaps fixing some problems with the process.
Did he wait for the court decision? No. He went out and killed it flat. With this approved pipeline, he did not wait for a court decision or wait to see how it could move forward. He decided that he did not want that one.
I think we are all pretty aware of the Trans Mountain pipeline. It has been moving along for many years. We know that many first nations support it and hope to see it go through, as they see enormous opportunities for their communities. Of course, others are against it.
What happened in this case? When the Liberals came to government, they decided they had to have an additional consultation process. However, did they follow the directions of the court in the northern gateway decision in which the court was very clear about what the government had to do to do consultations properly? Apparently not. When the court decision came down, we learned otherwise. To be frank, it was much to my surprise, because the Liberals talked about how well they were consulting and that they were putting this additional process in place. The court said that the Liberals did not do the job. What they did was send a note-taker and not a decision-maker.
The fact that the Liberals did not consult properly on the Trans Mountain pipeline is strictly on their laps, as they had very clear guidance from the northern gateway decision and they did not do what they needed to do. They should be ashamed of themselves. Had they done a proper process, they likely would not have had to buy the pipeline, the pipeline would be in construction right now and we would be in a lot better place as a country. With respect to the Trans Mountain pipeline, the blame for where we are on that pipeline lies strictly on the laps of the Liberals.
I also want to note, in spite of what people say, that the courts have said the process was okay, so it has nothing to do with environmental legislation by the previous government or with anything the Conservatives had put in place. It was the Liberals' execution of a flawed process.
Energy east was another one. The former Liberal MP who is now the mayor of Montreal was very opposed to it. I am not sure of all the pieces that went into the Liberals' decision-making, but all of a sudden, the downstream and upstream emissions of energy east had to be measured. As people have rightfully asked, has that happened for the tankers coming down the St. Lawrence from Saudi Arabia and Venezuela? Did that happen with the bailout for Bombardier?
The Liberals created regulatory barriers. Trans Mountain hung on for a long time before it finally said no go. I think Energy east saw the writing on the wall, knowing that the government was not going to be its friend and create an environment to get the work done. It could see the new rules coming into place, so it walked. What a double standard. Canadians who extract energy in an environmentally sound and environmentally friendly way have had standards applied to their ability to move oil through a pipeline that no other country in the world imposes on companies in terms of upstream and downstream emissions.
Next on the plate is Bill C-69. A number of former Liberals are very open about their concerns about Bill C-69. Martha Hall Findlay, a very respected former Liberal MP, said in a recent Globe and Mail article that the new environmental legislation, Bill C-69, “is the antithesis of what this regulatory reform effort hopes to achieve.... [I]n its 392 pages, the word 'competitiveness' appears only twice. Neither the word 'economy' nor the phrase 'economic growth' appear at all.” We have new environmental legislation that most people call the no-more-pipeline bill.
Martha Hall Findlay went on to note that this bill would create enormous uncertainty, more red tape and increased court challenges, and not only in the energy sector but in all other infrastructure in Canada for years to come. I do not know if members are starting to see a pattern: the Liberals have killed pipelines and put in legislation preventing new pipelines from being built. I am not sure why the process with Trans Mountain was not proper; it should have been. Everyone knew what they had to do, but they did not.
Another piece of legislation that is focused on killing opportunities in this country is the tanker moratorium, Bill C-48. The government loves to talk about how it consults, consults and consults, but it only consults to get the answer it wants. There was a large group of first nations that had a huge opportunity with the Eagle Spirit pipeline that would go through its territory. It had plans, it was moving along, everything was in place, and all a sudden Bill C-48, the tanker moratorium, put its dreams and hopes to rest for a while. The interesting thing is that there was no consultation at all. There was no notice about this tanker ban, so how can there be consultation when the government does not want to do something, but vice-versa when it wants to do something?
Now I will get into the details of Bill C-88. In 2016, there was an oil and gas moratorium in the Beaufort Sea, and the interesting thing about that announcement was that for most people in Canada, it came out of nowhere. The Prime Minister did not even have the respect to hold conversations with the territorial premiers and the people most impacted. He made the announcement down in Washington, D.C., along with an “Oh, by the way” phone call 20 minutes before announcing this measure that would impact those communities. That is absolutely shameful. The Prime Minister announced a moratorium on all oil and gas development in the Beaufort Sea when he was down in the United States with President Obama at the time.
I want to read a few quotes by the community leaders subsequently. The Northwest Territories premier Bob McLeod issued a “red alert...for urgent national debate on the future of the Northwest Territories”. He wrote:
The promise of the North is fading and the dreams of northerners are dying as we see a re-emergence of colonialism....
Whether it be ill conceived ways of funding social programs, or new and perplexing restrictions on our economic development, our spirit and energy are being sapped.
That is a very different from what we just heard from the parliamentary secretary when she talked about the previous government. It is her government. Did she hear those words from the premier? He said, “our spirit and our energy are being sapped”.
Mr. McLeod further wrote:
Staying in or trying to join the middle class will become a distant dream for many....
This means that northerners, through their democratically elected government, need to have the power to determine their own fates and the practice of decisions being made by bureaucrats and governments in Ottawa must come to an end. Decisions about the North should be made in the North. The unilateral decision by the federal government, made without consultation, to impose a moratorium on arctic offshore oil and gas development is but one example of our economic self-determination being thwarted by Ottawa.
Then Nunavut premier, Peter Taptuna, told the CBC on December 22, 2016:
We do want to be getting to a state where we can make our own determination of our priorities, and the way to do that is gain meaningful revenue from resource development. And at the same time, when one potential source of revenue is taken off the table, it puts us back at practically Square 1 where Ottawa will make the decisions for us.
Merven Gruben, the mayor of Tuktoyaktuk, told the indigenous and northern affairs committee on October 22, 2018:
I was talking to [the Liberal MP for the Northwest Territories]...and he said, “Yes, Merven, we should be doing something. We should be helping you guys.”
I agree the Liberals should be helping us. They shut down our offshore gasification and put a moratorium right across the whole freaking Arctic without even consulting us. They never said a word to us.
We're proud people who like to work for a living. We're not used to getting social assistance and that kind of stuff. Now we're getting tourists coming up, but that's small change compared to when you work in oil and gas and you're used to that kind of living. Our people are used to that. We [don't want to be just] selling trinkets and T-shirts.
To go to the actual bill, what we can see is that in spite of the lofty words by the parliamentary secretary, there has been a real lack of consultation on issues that are very important to northerners.
Part A would amend the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act to reverse provisions that would have consolidated the Mackenzie Valley land and water boards into one. These provisions, of course, were introduced by the former Conservative government with Bill C-15, the Northwest Territories devolution act. Part B, of course, would amend the the Canada Petroleum Resources Act.
As I have already noted, this is another anti-energy policy from the Liberal government that is driving investment out of Canada, costing Canadian workers their jobs and increasing poverty rates in the north. Like Bill C-69 before it, Bill C-88 would politicize oil and gas extraction by expanding the powers of cabinet to block economic development, and would add to increasing red tape that proponents must face before even getting shovels in the ground. Further, Bill C-88 reveals a full rejection of the calls by elected territorial leaders for much of the self-autonomy they desire.
We used to look at the north as being an opportunity to be a key economic driver for decades to come. Other Arctic nations, including China and Russia, are exploring possibilities. This could be something that is very important for our sovereignty.
Meanwhile, the Liberals are creating great swaths of protected land. I want to know why that change was originally made to the water and land boards.
In 2007, Neil McCrank was commissioned to write a report on improving the regulatory and environmental assessment regimes in Canada's north. As outlined in the McCrank report, entitled, “The Road to Improvement”, the current regulatory process in the Northwest Territories is complex, costly, unpredictable and time-consuming. The merging of the three boards into one was a key recommendation. Part of the report stated:
This approach would address the complexity and the capacity issues inherent to the current model by making more efficient use of expenditures and administrative resources. It would also allow for administrative practices to be understandable and consistent.
If these recommendations on restructuring and improvements are implemented, the regulatory systems in the North will be able to ensure orderly and responsible development of its resources.
Regarding the move to consolidate the boards, the report went on to state:
...is not meant to diminish or reduce the influence that Aboriginal people have on resource management in the North. Rather, it is meant as an attempt to allow for this influence in a practical way, while at the same time enabling responsible resource development...
I want to note that it was Bill C-15, which the Liberals and NDP voted for, that included that component. It was supported on all sides of the House. It was also included as an available option in the three modern land claim agreements. Bill C-15 looked to streamline the regulatory process and to place time limits on reviews and provide consistency. It was never meant to impact impact indigenous communities and their ability to make decisions. It was to streamline the regulatory process, place time limits on reviews and consolidate federal decision-making.
Certainly, I see this component of the bill as a move backward rather than forward. At this point, it would appear that all of the communities involved want to move in this direction. I believe that is unfortunate. The model I wish they would have worked toward would have been a much more positive one in doing the work they needed to do.
The final part is the drilling moratorium, which is perhaps the most troublesome. It would allow the federal cabinet to prohibit oil and gas activity in the Northwest Territories or offshore of Nunavut if it were in the national interest. This is a much broader power than currently exists in the act, which only allows Canada to prohibit that activity for safety or environmental reasons, or social problems of a serious nature.
I note that the licences set to expire during the five-year moratorium would not be affected, which is seen as somewhat positive by the people holding those licences. However, I suppose if we have a moratorium forever, it really does not matter if one's licence is on hold forever, because it would not be helpful in the long run.
In conclusion, what we have here is perhaps not on the scale of Bill C-69 or some of the other things the government has done, but it just adds to the government's habit, whenever it deals with the natural resource industry, of tending to make it more complicated and of driving businesses away rather than doing what Canada needs, especially right now, which is bringing business to us.