Madam Speaker, here we are again with another anti-energy policy from the current Liberal government that is driving energy investment out of Canada, costing Canadian workers their jobs and significantly increasing poverty in certain regions, especially in the north.
I am speaking to Bill C-88, because I am concerned that the changes it would make would politicize oil and gas extraction by expanding the powers of this Liberal government to block economic development. It would take local control and environmental stewardship away from the aboriginal people of the region and would inhibit local, territorial governments from doing what is best for the people of the area. I am speaking of the Mackenzie Delta.
I see that my friend across the way is smiling, because he is very proud of the region he has grown up in.
Bill C-88 is not just another Liberal anti-energy bill, like Bill C-48, Bill C-69 and Bill C-86. These bills could block all future pipelines, giving the government the authority to unilaterally shut down natural resource development. It is now systematically going after the Northwest Territories, as it has done with our western provinces.
Only a few people get to visit the Mackenzie Delta or travel the pristine waters of the Mackenzie River. Those who do find it breathtaking, due to its vast biological and ecological formations.
When Sir Alexander Mackenzie travelled the Mackenzie River in 1789, he was astonished by its sparse population and the pristine beauty of the region. As members may know, the river was named after him. That is for a few of my Liberal colleagues across the way, except for the member for the Northwest Territories.
I count myself fortunate, no, I should say I count myself blessed and lucky, to have been able to travel from the start of the Peace and Athabasca rivers, which are the headwaters of the Mackenzie River, and I have followed it as it flows, leading to the Beaufort Sea in the north. This pristine area, rich in ecological wealth, covers an area of just under two million square kilometres, and its drainage basin encompasses one-fifth of Canada. This is the second-largest river in North America, next to the Mississippi River.
Oil and gas have been part of this region since 1921. There are also mines of uranium, gold, diamond, lead and zinc in the area. During World War II, a pipeline was built from Norman Wells to Whitehorse, in Yukon. It carried crucial petroleum products needed during World War II and helped Canada and the United States build the Alaska Highway, which significantly helped Canada during the war. It is called the Canol Pipeline, and it still exists today.
At a very young age, I personally met and was inspired by one of Canada's great leaders. That was Mr. John Diefenbaker, whose statue sits at the rear of this building. He was a leader of great wisdom and vision who led our country to where it is today. I remember he once said, “I see a new Canada—a Canada of the North.” This is what he thought of and envisioned. He spoke of giving the people of northern Canada the right to develop their resources, protect their environment and maintain and develop strong economies in the region. Diefenbaker saw the need for the people of the north to do this, not the Government of Canada.
One of Canada's leading novelists of the same era, Hugh MacLennan, a Liberal visionary, noted at the time that by 2061, the Mackenzie Delta would have three million people living along the banks and shores of the river and that people's pockets would be full of money from the wealth of the region. He said there would be at least two universities built in the Mackenzie Delta area.
That Liberal's prediction was wrong, and the actions of my Liberal friends across the way from me are also wrong.
There are roughly 10,000 people living along the Mackenzie River Delta, in places like Wrigley, Tulita, Norman Wells, Fort Good Hope, Fort McPherson, Inuvik, Aklavik and Tuktoyaktuk. I have been to those communities and I know the people.
There are 68 aboriginal groups that also live in this region. I have had the pleasure and honour of gathering and socializing with them to discuss their issues. We used to gather at the Petitot River. I have been there a number of times. To me, they are the real stewards of the land, not organizations like CPAWS, the David Suzuki Foundation or others that have the ear of the environment minister. The aboriginal groups are the real Canadian environmentalists and the real stewards of the land.
Recently, Merven Gruben, the mayor of Tuktoyaktuk, testified at the committee on indigenous and northern affairs. He said that the Liberal government should be helping northern communities. Instead, it shut down the offshore gasification and put a moratorium right across the whole Arctic without even consulting communities. He also said that people in his town like to work for a living and are not used to getting social assistance. Now, all they are getting are the few tourists coming up the new highway. That makes for small change compared to when they worked in the oil and gas sector.
They are the people of the Mackenzie River Delta. Our Conservative government gave them the power to manage their resources in a true, healthy and respectful manner that only the people of the region can do. This was done through Bill C-15, which created the Northwest Territories Devolution Act of 2014.
Our former Conservative government viewed the north as a key driver of economic activity for decades to come, but this Liberal government is arbitrarily creating huge swaths of protected land with little or no consultation with aboriginal communities, while other Arctic nations are exploring possibilities within their respective areas.
Bill C-88 reveals a full rejection of calls from elected territorial leaders for the increased control of their natural resources. It consists of two parts. Part A would amend the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act of 1998. Part B would amend the Canada Petroleum Resources Act to allow the Governor in Council to issue orders. That scares me.
What about the provisions that were introduced by the former Conservative government within Bill C-15's Northwest Territories Devolution Act? Bill C-88 would reverse these changes, even though Liberal MPs voted in favour of Bill C-15 when it was debated in Parliament, including the Prime Minister.
Now the Liberals want to reverse the former government's proposal to consolidate the four land and water boards in the Mackenzie Valley into one. I believe this is so that they can take control. The creation of a single board was a key recommendation that would address “complexity and capacity issues by making more efficient use of expenditures and administrative resources” and would allow for administrative practices to be “understandable and consistent”. When Bill C-15 was debated in the House of Commons in 2013 and 2014, the restructured board was included in the final version of the modern land claim agreements.
The Liberals would further politicize the regulatory and environmental processes for resource extraction in Canada's north by giving cabinet sweeping powers to stop projects on the basis of “national interest”. This reveals a rejection of calls from northerners for increased control of their national resources.
The Liberal government should leave the people of northern Canada with their resources and let them be their own environmentalists and stewards of the land. They know it the best.