Madam Speaker, today, as we begin second reading debate on 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, I will use my time to focus on the proposed amendments to the Canada Petroleum Resources Act.
The north is seeing the effects of climate change in a more significant and faster way than the rest of Canada. In fact, climate change in the north is occurring at twice the global rate. Scientists now predict that the north will be ice-free by 2040, rather than the previous prediction of 2100.
Climate change is having a profound impact on Canada's Arctic, as well as northern and indigenous peoples and communities. While some of the impacts of climate change, such as melting sea ice, are creating economic opportunities, they are also creating new health and safety risks for northerners and negatively affecting core traditional northern lifestyles, such as hunting and fishing. These changes are reframing Canada's approach to future development of Arctic offshore oil and gas in three ways.
First, climate change is changing the ecology and distribution of marine species, which requires us to have a better understanding of what the risks are.
Second, climate change is altering the northern environment, with more unpredictability in weather and ice and ocean behaviour, and we need a better understanding of all the factors influencing risks for workers and wildlife.
Third, we have to be sure that activities will be pursued responsibly. We want to strike the appropriate balance between economic opportunities and environmental protection. Development must be done in a way that respects and strengthens reconciliation with indigenous peoples in the north.
I am aware of the importance of oil and gas activities to economic prosperity and social well-being in Canada. We recognize the important potential these activities have to strengthen Canada's northern economy. However, acting in haste would be irresponsible and could cause permanent damage to our oceans and communities.
In 2016, the Prime Minister affirmed that commercial activities in the Arctic would occur only if the highest safety and environmental standards were met and if these were consistent with our climate and environmental goals. These are important principles. As a government, by strengthening and modernizing our regulatory regime, we can ensure that these principles underpin resource development in the north.
The bill's proposed amendments to the Canada Petroleum Resources Act and to the Mackenzie Valley Resources Management Act are part of this modernization.
This is not the first time we have come to this chamber with legislation to help northerners. In the late fall of 2017, we brought forward Bill C-17, an act to amend the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Act. During third reading debate, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs said that we needed a robust process in place to protect our rich natural environment, respect the rights and interests of indigenous peoples and support a strong Canadian natural resources sector.
The bill before the House today aims to do the same thing, namely, to protect the environment, respect indigenous rights, and support the natural resources economy. The bill would also provide the foundation for partnership and future collaboration. We know we can do all of these things, if we take the right approach.
I will now speak more specifically to the Canada Petroleum Resources Act and what the proposed amendments in the bill would do to it. In short, the amendments would allow us to carefully assess the prospects of Arctic offshore resource development in the context of a changing environment. They would enable the government to freeze existing licences held by companies wanting to explore for oil and gas in the Beaufort Sea. This change complements the halt to the issuance of new licenses announced in 2016. This would allow for a thorough evaluation of the current science around climate change and effects on oceans so that we can best determine the next steps for Arctic offshore oil and gas.
The Government of Canada will undertake this review with our northern partners, including Arctic indigenous groups and territorial governments. This means that any decisions will be steered by those most affected.
This approach supports seven-generation thinking. This indigenous principle means that actions should only be taken when we have thought through the consequences for people seven generations into the future. This is critical in the context of climate change and the kind of planet we are going to leave to our grandchildren.
On that note, I want to take a moment and reaffirm our government's commitment to the pan-Canadian framework on clean growth and climate change. This means our government will support and collaborate with indigenous and northern communities and territorial governments as they take action on climate change.
Budget 2016 and budget 2017 provided over $220 million for new programs under the pan-Canadian framework. To date, these investments have supported hundreds of projects in the north and indigenous communities for marine life monitoring studies, coastal erosion and glacial melt impact assessments and initiatives for communities to explore wind and solar power alternatives to offset the use of diesel fuel. The funding is also being used to help indigenous people participate in policy discussions on climate change.
The bill is consistent with these critical efforts to understand, mitigate and adapt to climate change. It is a question of deepening our understanding of the Arctic ecosystem and of the people who call the Arctic home.
Sheila Watt-Cloutier, former international chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Council, has pointed out the importance of seeing the human aspect of effects of climate change in the north. In her book, aptly named The Right to Be Cold, she writes that she has been struck by the tight focus on wildlife instead of human life in the Arctic. She goes on to describe watching a montage about climate change in the Arctic produced by non-northerners. She relates that the photographs were impersonal, showing images of droughts, melting glaciers, coastal erosion and polar bears. She said that there was not a human face in sight.
The point is that when dealing with the Arctic, we are dealing with societies as well as ecosystems. Taking a step back, the proposed amendments in the bill enable us to look at the big picture, including our interconnectedness and vulnerability as humans in a rapidly changing world.
That is why I support Bill C-88 as it relates to the Canada Petroleum Resources Act and encourage all members to do the same.