Mr. Speaker, I am glad to rise today to discuss Bill C-69. I would like to hold up a copy of it. This bill is so thick that the super staplers could not drill a hole through it. It had to be put into two packages to make it presentable to us.
The government has decided, after two hours of debate, that it is going to bring time allocation on this bill, that it needs to limit debate on it.
As my colleague just pointed out, it is not a simple bill. It is 400 pages. The index alone is 27 pages. The summary takes up two of them. We need to spend a little more time discussing it than the government is prepared to let us spend. This bill is going to have more impact on Canada, particularly on western Canada, my area in particular, than the budget today will have. It will take a little longer for the effects to show, but it is going to be very damaging to a large part of this country. My colleague just talked about some of the impacts that this bill will have on small communities.
I believe that as we do in small things, so we will do in large things. Therefore, I want to tell a story about the current government and the way it has approached an environmental issue in my riding. We can probably extrapolate from that how it is going to use this bill across the rest of the country.
A few years ago, our government made a decision that we were going to turn the PFRA pastures in western Canada back to the provinces, which previously had ownership of the land. The land had been turned over to the federal government in the 1930s when the provinces could not manage it, and the federal government had managed it since then. We made a decision to turn it back to either the local communities that wanted to buy it or the provincial government, and that process carried itself out.
There is a small pasture in the southwest corner of Saskatchewan called Govenlock. It has been federal land for 100 years. There was a discussion about how to handle this piece of property that was federal land. The decision was made that it was going to be transferred from Agriculture Canada to Environment Canada, and hopefully would be managed in a responsible fashion over the coming decades.
Our government made a decision that we were going to try something a bit different. We went to the local community. The minister's chief of staff went there to listen to the local community, to talk to the ranchers, and said, “You folks have been basically managing this property for the last 80 or 100 years. What would you like to see from the federal government in terms of being able to manage this pasture over the next few decades?”
The invitation was there, and she went. She sat down at a meeting with the community and talked about what they would like to see. There was an agreement that whatever happened, the community should benefit from the project. There was an agreement made, but this was not formalized at the time, unfortunately. There was an agreement that the committee would have some control over management of the pasture and the research money that was going to be spent in that pasture. They could bring people in, perhaps university students in the summertime, and assign them to do research. The community and the people living in the community would benefit from taking some of that money that was going to be spent on the project.
It was a unique pilot project, and that is probably the best way to label it. It was based around co-operation between the government and the local community. It would provide a benefit to the local community. There was going to be good long-term management. The government had decided it was going to trust the people who had managed that environment for so long that they could continue to do it in an effective way.
It has been a very different situation in the two years since the current government was elected. Basically, all elements of community control have been thrown out. It is interesting. There have been top Environment Canada officials come out to the community to tour around in a cavalcade of vehicles, yet they have refused to stop and talk to the local people. They came out, drove around, and took a look at the pasture land, but they would not stop to talk to the locals about what they might want to see or provisions for the future management of the pasture. They have basically come back to the community and said, “Here are the provisions we are laying out for you over the next few decades if you want to have access to this pasture.” They have told them the way they think the ground will be managed.
In my part of the world, every time that either an environmental organization or the government has come in to take over land that ranchers have managed, it has usually taken about 30 years to learn how to manage it. Interestingly, they typically end up managing it in the way the ranchers did in order to be successful. They removed any funding control from the local community. Basically, there is no commitment at all in any fashion to that. Certainly, any research that has taken place has been removed from the local community and will come out somewhere, maybe out of some environmental group that the government favours or a university somewhere, but the local community is not going to benefit.
The Liberals basically have set up a management system where the ranchers are the servants or slaves of government.
The only interest from Environment Canada seems to be in completely controlling the situation rather than co-operating. There has been a big loss to one small community, the small community of Consul in my riding. If that is how one small community has been approached, can we extrapolate that into how the bill will approach and deal with small communities across the country? I think we can.
Bill C-69 is 400 pages. As I mentioned, it is not so much concerned about improving the environment as it is about basically controlling the economy, controlling the environment, and trying to have the government tell people across the rest of the country how it is going to manage their affairs and the resources in their part of the world.
Now we have time allocation. That is the biggest insult in some time. We have a 400-page bill and now we are told we have two hours to debate it. The Liberals are rushing the bill through. Clearly, if people read this and see what the provisions are, the Liberals know they will get concerns. They are getting concerns from both ends of the spectrum. We know that. No one sees this as being adequate and the government, in its usual commitment to mediocrity, probably thinks that is okay.
In the past, we have had the highest standards in the world on energy development. When I drive through my riding and I see the energy development going on there, the wells that are being drilled, the environmental standards are extremely high. I would invite anybody to come out, walk onto one of those well sites and try to find any place where there has been any kind of a spill or pollution. People would have difficulty finding that because of our high standards. They have been high in the past as well. We are environmentally responsible. In the world in which I live, there is more wildlife now than there has ever been and the air is cleaner than it has ever been. We believe we did a good job of managing environmental issues around resource development, and that needs to be continued.
I want to talk specifically about the approval process around Bill C-69. I am trying to run through this quickly and it is only one part of the stream. People may get confused. If they do, it would not be the least bit surprising because it has taken a lot of people a lot of time to even try to figure out what the approval process looks like.
There is a preplanning section to the projects of 180 days. The minister would have the discretion to designate how that would proceed. We do not know how limited the minister's discretion will be because it is not in the bill. The minister can extend that process by 90 days before it goes to cabinet. The cabinet can extend that process indefinitely. Then it goes to an impact assessment of 300 days and two different streams, a short one and a long one. With both of them, we do not have any clarity right now about how that will be determined. With the short ones, the agency will handle it.
All major projects will end up in this long stream of a 450-day commitment. All life cycle regulatory projects will go through that one. That 450 days starts when a panel is appointed, not from the beginning of the application, and it will stop when the minister gets the report.
The short or long process can be extended 90 days and the cabinet can extend those timelines indefinitely. The minister will have the authority to ask for any information along this whole cycle and then the minister can come back and say that he or she needs new information, and a whole new process needs to happen. That is just one small part of one stream of the bill and the approval process that the Liberal will put in place.
As the minister pointed out to us, all of these decisions are political decisions. These decisions should be made based on science, based on whether it will impact the environment in the area. The government is clearly saying that it wants every one of those decisions to be political and it is happy to manage them. We know what will happen, and that is the economy in my part of the world, the economy in western Canada, will be severely impacted, It will do nothing to protect the environment beyond what has already been done.