Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague, the member for Foothills for his most inspiring, factual, and authentic speech.
Bill C-69, part 2, is the part I want to expand on a bit further. It is the part of the bill that replaces the National Energy Board and proposes a Canadian energy regulator. The entire process is supposed to increase clarity, predictability, and transparency. However, it fails on all three counts.
Of course this does not come as much of a surprise since the Liberal government has an outstanding record when it comes to breaking its campaign promises. We have seen numerous commitments, both big and small, meet untimely ends before ever achieving the goals set forth by the Liberals. Bill C-69 offers the same failing formula. The Liberal platform claims to “make environmental assessments credible again.” For one to make that promise, one has to start with the premise that the entire environmental assessment process had lost credibility somewhere along the way.
We recognize that there are always room for improvements to be made to existing processes, ways of doing things more simply and more effectively. However, when I look back over these last two years of so-called Liberal improvements, I wonder how much differently things would look if the Liberals were intentionally trying to sabotage the process. It's probably not much. I do not think it could get much worse.
Far from making the process more credible, the Liberals have mismanaged this file to such an extent that nothing can get built in this country. In particular, the Liberals have pushed the view that by building social licence, somehow all of the roadblocks to responsible resource development will disappear. In reality, attempts to improve social trust and build social licence have not increased resource or national infrastructure development.
Before I go any further, I want to turn back the clock to consider what was being said about Canada's environmental review process several years ago. Before the lack of leadership that we are witnessing today, Canada had long been recognized internationally and by experts as the most responsible and transparent producer of oil and gas. A 2014 WorleyParsons report compared the environmental assessment processes and policies around oil and gas development across the globe. When it came to environmental assessments, the report concluded:
The results of the current review re-emphasized that Canada's [Environmental Assessment] Processes are among the best in the world. Canada [has] state of the art guidelines for consultation, [traditional knowledge], and cumulative effects assessment. Canadian practitioners are among the leaders in the areas of Indigenous involvement, and social and health impact assessment. Canada has the existing frameworks, the global sharing of best practices, the government institutions and the capable people to make improvements to [environmental assessment] for the benefit of the country and for the benefit of the environment, communities and the economy.
It goes on to state:
In summary, the review found that [environmental assessment] cannot be everything to everyone. In Canada, however, it is a state of the art, global best practice, with real opportunities for public input, transparency in both process and outcomes, and appeal processes involving independent scientists, stakeholders...and courts
That was in 2014. Looking back at 2014, Canada was considered a world leader in environmental assessment. We had the most stringent standards and most rigorous review process in the world. As I said earlier, no system is perfect, and just like with any other statute or regulation, there are always sections that could be improved. The regulatory system tries to strike a balance between projects and the environment, between predictability and social factors. It is not a perfect system. However, it is far better than the regime we are going to have under the imposement of Bill C-69. Instead of making the system better, the Liberals have simply made it worse. Under the Liberal government, the environmental assessment system lacks clarity, predictability, and transparency.
Let us look at what Bill C-69 does to clarity. The changes proposed in the bill would make the regulatory process more unclear. This does not serve anyone, whether we are talking about investors looking to participate in responsible resource development or Canadians who care deeply about this process. What is proposed is a move away from science-based decision-making processes.
For example, references to sustainability, identity, and gender-based analysis are difficult to quantify in a standardized test. This is, much like a great deal of Liberal policy, more of a virtue-signalling smokescreen to give the illusion of modernization to a bill that ultimately takes Canada backwards.
Furthermore, the proposed legislation makes a point of treating major and minor projects differently, but it provides no clear list of criteria which would make a project either a minor project or a major project. Leaving so much to guesswork is just plain irresponsible.
That leads me to my next point. Predictability will suffer under this legislation. The Liberals claim that Bill C-69 creates concrete timelines for review, saying that the process will take 450 days for major projects and 300 days for minor projects. However, the timer only begins when the Governor in Council determines that the applicant has submitted a complete application, which seems to be an entirely discretionary process. According to the proposed legislation at this time, that will be the criteria to set the clock in motion. Furthermore, the process may be stopped at a number of different points to add additional studies or submissions. Finally, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change may extend the timeline indefinitely with repeat orders.
The Liberals call the system more predictable. It is not more predictable. It is more uncertain. It is a process where the outcome rests entirely in the hands of the minister, one minister, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change. She will be the sole individual deciding which projects will go forward in the national interest. It seems that rather than making the process more open and democratic, the Liberals' proposed legislation has concentrated power in the minister's office. This does not lend itself to predictability in any way, shape, or form.
One of the difficulties that Canada faces is a decline in major capital investments in energy. The decline has occurred since the Liberals were elected in 2015 and it is directly related to the regulatory uncertainty created as a result of their poor leadership in this area. We are bound to see this sad trend continue as the Liberals try once again to fix a system that worked better before they took their tool box out. This again is a solution in search of a problem.
Energy investment has to be a priority. We are a natural resource country. These investments are directly and indirectly responsible for employment and revenue for all three levels of government, yet in just two short years, which actually seem very long, energy investment in Canada is lower than any other two-year period in the last 70 years. Ensuring a stable, predictable process has to be a priority in order to attract these essential investments.
Let us talk about transparency as well. Bill C-69 claims to change the framework of indigenous consultation. However, in reality, all it does is codify something that already exists. The practices are already in place which allow for indigenous consultation.
A significant change in the regulatory process would be the elimination of the standing test. This will affect the predictability of the process, as any individual would be able to challenge the process, whether or not they have a connection to the project. Under the proposed new regulations this would include non-Canadians. Bill C-69 would allow Canadian decisions made about Canadian resources in Canada to potentially be influenced by non-Canadians. That is not right.
The Liberal government talks about the importance of restoring public trust to the regulatory system, but allowing non-Canadians or foreign special interest groups to influence the outcome of Canadian energy projects does not inspire trust in the proposed new system. It will not inspire trust from potential applicants that are seeking to develop our resources further.
Bill C-69 is not clear, predictable, or transparent. It adds vague criteria to the process, more uncertainty to the process, and eliminates a standing test from the process. The Liberals are just adding more burden to the already heavily regulated energy sector, and the industry has taken notice. That is why we have seen, as I mentioned earlier, that investment in the energy sector over the last two years has been lower than any two-year period in the previous 70 years.
The Liberals took the existing Canadian system and managed to change it into a system which is discouraging capital investment in our country. Those capital dollars are now flowing into the United States, funding projects there. The United States has a competitive advantage over Canada, in terms of regulatory and tax regimes and access to markets. Investors are putting their dollars into the U.S. market, which is fast becoming a world leader in energy.
If Bill C-69 becomes law, Canada will continue its downward trend in global competitiveness rankings. Both foreign and domestic investors will find other countries for their investments.
While the bill certainly leaves much to be desired, I want to conclude on a positive note. The new process under the proposed Canadian energy regulator will not apply to projects already approved under the National Energy Board. That means the already approved energy projects which are in our national interest will go ahead. I hope that the Liberal government will make sure to follow through on its promise and build the Trans Mountain pipeline. Get it done.