Mr. Speaker, here we are with Bill C-69, all 370 pages of it, full of mind-numbing reading and rhetoric. Do members remember when the Liberals, during the last election, and the Prime Minister, when he was in opposition, lamented, decried the fact, actually, that the occasional omnibus bill was tabled by the previous government? They railed against omnibus bills. What do we have today from the Prime Minister, his government, and the minister? It is an omnibus bill. It covers the enactment of the impact assessment act and the Canadian energy regulator act, amending the Navigation Protection Act, and consequential amendments to other acts. Talk about omnibus. In fact, we are calling it the “ominous omnibus bill.” It is ominous because of what it means to our economy and our resource sector.
The bill is toxic to Canada's future development. It is toxic to our efforts to take the resources entrusted to us and to extract them in an environmentally sensitive way to make sure that future Canadians have a pristine environment and long-term prosperity. The omnibus bill, this ominous bill, does not do that. It does quite the opposite. It undermines our ability to have long-term prosperity.
Let me start off by talking about the bill itself. There are three main parts and a fourth one. The first three parts of the bill are effectively about a new environmental assessment process, a new Canadian energy regulator, and a new navigable waters act, which, by the way, would not be about the environment. The navigable waters act would be about navigation. Those are the three parts covered in the bill itself.
Earlier last week we also saw tabled the Fisheries Act, which contains further amendments that would make it more difficult for Canadians to realize the full value of our economy and our resource sector. It would put more hurdles and obstacles in the way of extracting our natural resources and building critical infrastructure across the country, which is so important to our national prosperity.
Effectively, what would happen is this. We have the National Energy Board. The first thing that would happen is that the board would be stripped of its impact assessment functions, the ones that are used to review resource projects that come forward. I believe that every Canadian and every member of this House understands how important it is to protect the environment for future generations. We disagree on how we go about doing that. However, the impact assessment function addresses the review process that resource projects, such as pipelines, mines, and oil and gas projects, have to go through to get an approval that proves that they are environmentally sustainable and not harmful in the long term to our environment.
The second part that would be stripped from the National Energy Board would be its regulatory functions. Once projects are built, we want to make sure that they are carried on and managed sustainably. Effectively, the regulatory function ensures, through the life cycle of the project, that we protect our environment.
The third part is the navigable waters protection piece, which is all about ensuring that on waters used for navigation, we do not impose impediments to navigation and do not undertake infrastructure projects that would impede navigation.
It is interesting. Navigable water is defined as a water body in which a canoe or a kayak can float. In fact, when our former Conservative government first undertook amendments to the Navigable Waters Protection Act, we did so because it had not been reformed for close to 150 years. Imagine, Mr. Speaker, a piece of legislation floating around that has not been really reviewed for 150 years, and that has definitions like that of navigable water being a body of water on which a canoe or a kayak can float.
Under the Liberal amendments, the navigable waters protection piece would introduce further obstacles that are not environment-related but navigation-related, and that would impair Canada's ability to build and implement critical infrastructure that drives the prosperity of this country.
Let me focus my comments on the environmental review process, the impact assessment process. This legislation would create a whole new body, called the impact assessment agency, which would oversee reviews of resource projects such as pipelines and mines. The promise we received from the minister, with which she went public, was that the process the Liberals have introduced would shorten the timelines under which a project gets reviewed, to provide better certainty for project proponents and to make sure that these projects, if they are environmentally sustainable, can get passed more quickly. Therefore, it would reduce the timeline of the assessment piece by, say, 60, 70, or 80 days.
However, what the minister did not tell Canadians is that at the beginning of the whole process there is a whole new process, called the planning phase, and that process is 180 days, so effectively the Liberals would add another 100 days onto the total process for getting any project reviewed in Canada. This is unconscionable, as investment in our resource sector is fleeing the country. As we know, over the last two years we have had incredible investment flight to places like the United States and elsewhere around the world, where there is more predictability and a more inviting investment environment. We are seeing this play out in front of our eyes, and the minister introduced a bill that would lengthen the process even more. It is shameful.
Here is the kicker. Within that 180-day planning phase, the proponent has to undertake all kinds of activities, many of them new activities, including consultations with the public. The public has a chance to share its opinions on a project that has not even gone through a science-based review. At the end of the 180 days, if the minister feels like it, usually on political grounds, she can simply kill the project right there. Can members imagine proponents coming forward with a billion-dollar proposal to develop a resource in Canada and being told that they are going to have to go through a 180-day process where they are going to have to consult with all kinds of people?
By the way, we are not opposed to consultations. What we are opposed to is consultations that unnecessarily extend the process beyond what Canadians would consider reasonable and common sense. Can members imagine a proponent facing the 180 days and dealing with all this preplanning process, and then, before the proponent has ever had a chance to have a regulatory body, the impact assessment agency, review the application based on science and evidence, the proponent is told, “Sorry, go away. We are killing the project. We do not want your investment in Canada”? Can members imagine that? That is what this bill would do.
The minister has a veto right, at the end of the planning phase, and then, if the project gets to the impact assessment process and goes through that, through all the new criteria that the minister has established, at the end it goes back to the minister and cabinet for a decision, which invariably becomes a political decision.
Anybody looking from afar, with $1 billion to invest and wondering whether to invest in Canada, would say, “At the end of the day, the Liberals are going to make a political decision, so we have no certainty at all that our project will be assessed on its merits, on the science, on the evidence.”
This legislation would also codify the duty to consult with first nations, which is already established in our laws in Canada. The Supreme Court of Canada has spent decades trying to frame exactly what the duty to consult is. There is a lot of case law that provides companies with a clearer idea of the standard they have to meet in order to properly consult with first nations. Conservatives do not have a problem with that. We believe that first nations need to be partners in our prosperity and they need to be consulted, and that has been enshrined in this legislation.
The legislation would also require indigenous traditional knowledge to be considered in the review. Conservatives believe that this provision reflects what Canadians expect when a project proponent wants to move forward with a resource proposal. We believe it is in Canada's best interest to consult with indigenous Canadians and take into account, during the assessment process, the traditional knowledge they can offer to that process.
I mentioned additional criteria that proponents would now have to take into account. Historically, proponents have had to apply certain criteria to ensure that no environmental damage occurs as a result of a project being built, but now my Liberal friends across the way have inserted a requirement that the applicants have to take into account both upstream and downstream effects, and the impacts a project would have on Canada's climate change targets: new hurdles, new criteria, new discouragement for investment in Canada. We should not for a minute think that investors are not paying attention to the debate we are having in the House today and the legislation that is before us. As I mentioned earlier, this legislation is toxic to our long-term prosperity.
Another thing included in this legislation is a broad discretion for the minister to extend, and even suspend, timelines. People think they have 180 days, and then another 300 days for certain projects, and another 450 days for other projects. No, the minister can step in at any point along the timeline and say he is suspending the timelines and that other things are going to be done, removing predictability, which is what investors in the resource sector covet most.
The bottom line is that additional uncertainty has been injected into our investment environment. The resource sector in Canada is responsible for some 16% of our economy. Imagine, Mr. Speaker, 16%. Two million jobs are either directly or indirectly related to our resource sector. Two million Canadians rely on us, as legislators, to get this right, to make sure we balance the environment and the economy.
The minister often talks about the environment and the economy going hand in hand. The problem is that she has no idea what that appropriate balance is, and more and more the Liberal government is leaning to the left, toward the environment, to the detriment of our economy and long-term prosperity. Do not get me wrong, Mr. Speaker. The environment, as I mentioned at the beginning of my speech, is critically important because we are leaving a legacy for our children and grandchildren, for future generations. We need to ensure that we leave them a pristine environment. Quite frankly, if we try to do that in the absence of prosperity, it is never going to happen.
Why do I say that? If we look around the world, which countries have the highest environmental standards? They are also the most prosperous countries in the world. Prosperity and the environment go together.
The intentions of the Liberal government, of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Environment, may be good, but unfortunately they have it all wrong. They have not been listening to the concerns of those who make a living from our resource sector, those who know the millions of jobs generated by that sector. No one should be surprised that we completely disagree with this legislation, and some of my colleagues in the Conservative Party will continue to highlight that in future speeches.
Earlier today, the minister said her goal was to basically develop a policy and introduce legislation where there would be no surprises and no drama. Unfortunately, she missed one piece: no surprises, no drama, no development. Our prosperity is at risk here, and I encourage my colleagues on the other side who are listening to this debate to please give their heads a shake. The more barriers we place in the way of extracting our resources in a sustainable way, the more we undermine the future prosperity of our children and grandchildren, of future generations.
Let me close by saying that there is one bottom line. The legislation ensures more uncertainty, longer timelines, and less investment in our resource sector, which equals less prosperity for Canada. That really is a shame, because we are cheating future generations out of the value that has been left to us as a legacy.