Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Chilliwack—Hope.
As always, I am honoured to represent the constituents of Saskatoon—Grasswood today in the House as we speak to Bill C-88.
As members may or may not know, I am a member of the indigenous and northern affairs committee, and on October 15 of this year, we undertook a study on northern infrastructure projects and strategies. At the meetings we have heard from federal government officials as well as from territorial and local government officials. We have also heard from indigenous groups and a variety of stakeholder groups. We have learned many interesting things, but the one common theme in all the testimony we have heard for months is that there is a real need for infrastructure in the north. People in the north do not need more rules. People in the north do not need more regulations, and people in the north do not need moratoriums. What they do need is infrastructure.
The members opposite will argue, and we have heard this all day, that Bill C-88 is a remake of a piece of Conservative legislation that received royal assent in 2014 and then faced a court challenge. Bill C-88 still incorporates many of the changes the Conservative legislation made with respect to new environmental enforcement powers and requiring project proponents to cover the cost of the review process. However, it did not carry the weight of a carbon tax, which the current government wants to bring to northern Canada.
The concern from industry, obviously, about the added carbon tax cost and all the new federal environmental red tape, combined with the lack of infrastructure, is that it already costs a lot more to develop a project in the north compared to any temperate location. With the new Liberal regulatory costs, the high business taxes, the carbon tax that is coming in and charging for the cost of the review process, we might as well take out an ad in Bloomberg News saying, “Canada's north is definitely closed for business.”
This is not an overreaction. Let me share some of the testimony from Brendan Marshall, vice-president of economic and northern affairs for the Mining Association of Canada. He said:
Currently, domestic legislative and regulatory processes with implications for project permitting and costs persist, while recent supply chain failures have damaged Canada's reputation as a reliable trade partner. Further, recent tax reform in the U.S. has significantly enhanced that jurisdiction's investment competitiveness over Canada's.
We certainly have echoed that for the past number of months. The tax changes made in the United States are eating corporate Canada. Mr. Marshall continued:
The impact of this uncertainty has been felt by Canada's mining industry, where investment has dropped more than 50%, or $68 billion, since 2014, amid a strong price rebound for many commodities over the last three years.
I will read a few more quotes from evidence at our committee meetings in the last month or two. The hon. Wally Schumann, Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment and Minister of Infrastructure for the Government of the Northwest Territories, said in our meeting:
The Northwest Territories is home to many of the minerals that will fuel the global green economy, including cobalt, gold, lithium...and rare earth elements. Alongside our mineral resources, our territory has significant energy power potential. As we continue our shift to low-carbon alternatives, our hydro development has the potential to meet market needs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions....
Despite our enormous economic potential and strong indigenous partners, the Northwest Territories is still hindered, in that we still require much of the basic infrastructure that already exists in southern jurisdictions. This includes roads to which many of our communities do not have access. In partnership with Canada, we need to continue to build territorial and community infrastructure to support healthy and prosperous communities and to lower the cost of living [that we are seeing today in northern Canada].
However, Bill C-88 would not provide any of that. Merven Gruben, the mayor of the hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk, said:
It's kind of déjà vu. In 2012, I was invited to come here and speak to a panel as well. I think it was just about the same people, or the same panel. We did such a good presentation in the fall of 2012, that in February 2013 our friend Mr. Flaherty—rest in peace—announced in the budget that we were going to get $199 million for our highway. That was the beginning of our Tuk-Inuvik highway. I don't know why we call it Tuk-Inuvik highway. I like to call it the highway to Tuk. It's just the finishing off of the Dempster Highway, the Diefenbaker highway. That's what it should be, the road to resources.
Anyway, we got this highway built, and unbelievably, this year we had 5,000 people come to Tuk—5,000 tourists. On a good year, we maybe get about 2,500....It's just a total game-changer.
Mr. Gruben went on to say:
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're not used to selling trinkets and T-shirts and that kind of stuff....We're sitting on trillions of cubic feet of natural gas. It's right under our feet, yet we're shipping diesel and gasoline from far away.
This just does not make any sense at all.
As I mentioned earlier, one of the more troubling aspects of the bill is, specifically, the proposed amendments to the CPRA, which will authorize the Governor in Council to issue an order when, in the national interest, prohibiting existing exploration licence and significant discovery licence holders from carrying out any oil and gas activities.
What company would invest its shareholders' money to develop an oil or gas deposit when there is a possibility that the government could come in at any time and shut it down? What exactly do we mean by the “national interest”? There is no explanation. Perhaps an example or two of what the Liberals mean by that would certainly clarify it.
The mandate letter of the sponsor of the bill reads in part:
As Minister of Intergovernmental and Northern Affairs and Internal Trade, your goal will be to implement national commitments and priorities that depend on strong relationships with other orders of government, creating good middle class jobs, growing the economy, and advocating for and achieving improved trade between provinces and territories. You will also work to address the needs and priorities of Northerners.
Bill C-88 certainly stifles the creation of good, middle-class jobs. It would not grow the economy at all. It certainly would not address the needs and priorities of northern Canadians. It is going to be very difficult for the residents of the north to attract resource development companies when they do not have the needed infrastructure, and the onerous tax burdens and regulatory hoops they have to jump through.
We have talked in committee about infrastructure in northern aboriginal communities. We have talked about transportation, energy and telecommunications. On transportation alone, due to the lack of efficient transportation systems, costly workarounds must be developed.
The government must know that it really cannot have it both ways. It cannot attract investment in Canada, in particular in the north, where its penchant for taxes and onerous rules and regulations live on. We have seen this time and again in the country. Now northern Canada is feeling the wrath of the Liberals.