Madam Speaker, I am proud to rise today to support the legislation before us.
Canada was built largely on investment and innovation in our abundant natural resources, from our oil and natural gas to our minerals, like gold, silver, copper, nickel, and zinc, to our vast and diverse forests. Canadians know that investment and innovation in all of our natural resource sectors must continue so that we can get our resources to global markets and use the revenues they generate to invest in a clean energy future, a healthier future, for those who will follow us.
Bill C-69 recognizes that the only way to achieve this success is by creating a modern environmental and regulatory review system that is truly open and inclusive and that can get good resource projects built. This proposed legislation would restore investor and public trust, invite the full participation of indigenous people, and be grounded in science, evidence, and traditional indigenous knowledge. It would also be an important piece of a larger picture and a broader plan, one that responds with the global transition to a clean energy future. Canadians know that we are in the midst of that transition.
Last April, we invited Canadians to imagine Canada's energy future and to be part of the largest and most important conversation of its kind ever held in our nation. We invited Canadians to be respondent, joining in the conversation online by the hundreds of thousands, with hundreds more descending on my home city of Winnipeg for the two-day Generation Energy Forum last fall.
People came to Winnipeg from across the country and around the globe, from Norway, France, Mexico, and the United States. They came from every sector of the energy industry, oil and gas, wind, solar, nuclear, electricity. Indigenous leaders, youth leaders, community leaders, academics were all there. Several members opposite joined us as well, from every party except the Conservative Party. That speaks volumes about how much the official opposition cares about the future of the energy industry in this country. There was not one individual in a group of 650 from every region in our country who represented the official opposition. Had any of the members opposite felt it worth their time to join us, they would have found people who may never have spoken to each other before, in the same room challenging each other and themselves.
Suddenly, the questions became ever more pressing: What happens now? What if our individual choices could add up to transformative changes? Generation Energy tapped into something unexpected and special. Years from now, Canadians may very well look back and say that Generation Energy was a turning point, that it marked our emergence as a global leader in the transition to a low-carbon economy.
Our government is building a Canadian energy strategy, working with the provinces and territories to expand on what they have already done, leveraging the fossil fuel resources we have today to deliver clean energy solutions for tomorrow, leaning on shared priorities such as energy efficiency, clean technologies, and green infrastructure, and linking those provinces who have an abundance of clean electricity with those who are trying to get it.
Until this proposed legislation was introduced, we had been missing an important piece of this vision. We were missing an environmental and regulatory system that commands the confidence of Canadians, a system that ensures we can mine the minerals and metals that will go into tomorrow's clean technology, that we can tap our abundant natural gas as a transitional fuel, and that we can get our resources to market. Those resources, by the way, include Canadian oil.
One of the clear messages from Generation Energy was that Canadians want a thriving low-carbon economy, but they also know that we are not there yet. They understand that while we need to prepare for the future, we must also deal with the present, by providing energy that they can count on when they flick on a light switch, or fill up their gas tanks, or plug in their electric cars. This means we must continue to support our oil and gas industry even as we develop alternatives, including solar, biomass, wind, and tidal.
We do not share the view of those who would simply pump as much oil as we can as fast as we can, nor do we agree with those who say we should leave all of the oil in the ground and never build another pipeline. Both miss the larger goal of balancing economic prosperity and environmental protection. How do we do both?
We do it by promoting resource development while putting a hard cap on greenhouse gas emissions, including Alberta's 100-megatonne limit on the oil sands. We do it by putting a price on carbon, implementing a $1.5 billion oceans protection plan, and enforcing new environmental safeguards, such as those in the Pipeline Safety Act. We do it by recognizing that a strong and sustainable oil and gas industry represents an enormous opportunity to fund the transition to a low-carbon economy.
Here are a few quick statistics. In 2016, the oil and gas industry directly employed 190,000 Canadians, producing $75 billion in exports and accounting for almost 5% of our GDP. It also generated billions of dollars in government revenues, revenues that pay for our hospitals and schools, for the social programs that make us who we are, and for the clean energy and new technologies that represent our future.
The Harper government took the approach of ignoring indigenous rights, climate change, and the environment in favour of economic development at all costs. This resulted in Canadians losing trust in the way major resource projects were being assessed.
That is why, when we formed government, we introduced a set of interim principles to get environmental assessments and regulatory reviews moving on those projects already in the queue, principles that reflected our priorities: maintaining certainty for investors, expanding public consultations, enhancing indigenous engagement, and including greenhouse gas emissions in our project assessments.
The benefits of these interim principles were felt right away. Major projects, such as the Trans Mountain expansion and the Line 3 replacement pipelines were approved, while the northern gateway project was not. Each one was the right decision based on good jobs, sound science, and the national interest.
Our goal has always been a permanent fix to Canada's environmental assessments. Just seven months into our mandate, we launched a comprehensive review that included modernizing the National Energy Board, protecting our fish, and preserving our waterways. We appointed expert panels, enlisted parliamentarians, released a discussion paper, and at every step of the way consulted Canadians, listening more than we spoke.
What emerged from these efforts were the same messages we heard through Generation Energy. Canadians are engaged. They are well-informed. They know the economy and the environment can and must go hand in hand. They agree that Canada works best when Canadians work together.
Those are the hallmarks of Bill C-69, a new and inclusive approach to protect the environment and build a stronger economy, creating good jobs and a sustainable future. It is an approach based on restoring public trust, renewing Canada's relationship with indigenous peoples, collaborating with the provinces and territories, protecting our environment, fish and waterways, and encouraging more investments in Canada's natural resource sector: better rules to build a better Canada.
It all starts with our proposal for an early engagement and planning phase that would help resource companies with new projects identify the priorities of local communities and indigenous peoples. This would create immediate benefits. First, the proponents and their investors would have a clear lay of the land before they spend a lot of money advancing their proposals. Second, by identifying the key issues early, the ensuing project reviews would be shorter and more focused. In other words, by engaging earlier, companies would be better able to plan and develop smarter, all of which would help them to attract investment, maintain competitiveness, and enhance bottom lines.
Bill C-69 also proposes to integrate project reviews within a single, consistent impact assessment, which Canadians have been calling for for years: one project, one assessment. Our legislation would do this by creating a new federal agency for impact assessments, the impact assessment agency of Canada, that would be responsible for coordinating indigenous consultations and collaborating with federal regulators who provide specialized expertise.
We are also proposing to establish a new federal energy regulator to replace the National Energy Board. Called the Canadian energy regulator, or CER, it would have the required independence and the proper accountability to oversee a strong, safe, and sustainable Canadian energy sector in the 21st century. Located in Calgary where much of the country's energy expertise is located, the CER would help restore investor confidence, renew Canada's relationship with indigenous peoples, and rebuild trust through open and inclusive public participation, all while ensuring good projects go ahead and our energy resources get to markets.
This new energy regulator would be specifically designed to deal with the shifting global energy markets of the 21st century, to respond to the evolving legal landscape for indigenous rights, and to adopt new technology that can support greater transparency and broader public engagement.
Let me outline how the new Canadian energy regulator would do this in five key ways.
First, it would have a more modern and effective governance. While the National Energy Board has served Canadians well, its structure, role, and mandate have remained relatively unchanged since the National Energy Board Act was first introduced in 1959. The Canadian energy regulator act clarifies the new regulator's responsibilities and operations, while strengthening its independence and its diversity. This includes separating the regulator's adjudicative function, which demands a high degree of independence, from its daily operations where a high degree of accountability is what we need. This would be achieved through a board of directors that would provide oversight, strategic direction, and advice on operations, while the chief executive officer, separate from the board, would be responsible for day-to-day operations.
The new regulator would also include a group of independent commissioners who would be responsible for timely, inclusive, and transparent project reviews and decision-making. The act would enhance the diversity of the new regulator's board of directors and commissioners, requiring the regulator's expert panels to include expertise in traditional indigenous knowledge, as well as municipal, engineering, and environmental issues, and ensuring that at least one member of the board of directors and one commissioner are indigenous.
Second, the act proposes to strengthen investment certainty and deliver timelier decisions. The energy sector's future success depends on a predictable process and timely regulatory decisions for major new projects, without compromising on public consultations, indigenous reconciliation, or environmental stewardship. The principle of “one project, one assessment” directly addresses those concerns.
Under the legislation, the Canadian energy regulator would work closely with the new impact assessment agency for new projects requiring a full impact assessment. With smaller projects, the new regulator would conduct the reviews and have final decision-making authority for minor administrative functions, such as certain certificate and licence variances, transfers, and the suspension of certificates or licences. Under our plan, project reviews would not exceed two years for major new projects and not more than 300 days for smaller ones. The Canadian energy regulator act would also restore the regulator's pre-2012 decision-making authority to issue a certificate for major projects, subject to cabinet approval. This change is important because it removes the federal cabinet's ability to overturn a negative decision from the CER, but maintains the cabinet's right to ask commissioners to reconsider a decision.
The third key change is an emphasis on more inclusive public engagement. Our new approach would create more opportunities for Canadians to have their say on resource development. This would include more avenues outside of the traditional hearing process so that Canadians could debate pressing issues that are beyond the scope of the regulator's project reviews. The new Canadian energy regulator would also be more open and transparent, making more information public in a language that is easier to understand.
Here are a few examples. The NEB's existing “test for standing” would be eliminated to ensure every Canadian has an opportunity to express his or her views during project reviews. The new regulator would also accept comments from the public on a draft list of issues and factors. These would include explicit consideration of environmental, social, safety, health, and socioeconomic issues, as well as gender-based impacts and effects on indigenous peoples. As well, the CER's participant funding program would be expanded to support new activities.
Fourth, the new Canadian energy regulator would help advance reconciliation through greater indigenous participation. No relationship is more important to Canada than the one with indigenous peoples. Our government is committed to renewing that relationship based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership. Our government's new rights and recognition framework represents a historic step in that direction, replacing confrontation with collaboration, but we know we cannot do this on our own.
Canada's energy sector has been playing a key role in building indigenous partnerships through benefit agreements, indigenous advisory and monitoring committees for new pipelines, and indigenous-led assessments. Our legislation would complement those efforts by recognizing indigenous rights up front and confirming the government's duty to consult, requiring consideration of traditional indigenous knowledge, building capacity and enhanced funding for indigenous participation, and aiming to secure free, prior, and informed consent.
Fifth and finally, the new federal energy regulator would oversee stronger safety and environmental protection. The Canadian energy regulator act would strengthen the federal energy regulator's powers to protect Canadians and the environment in a number of important ways, such as assigning new powers to federal inspection officers, clarifying the regulator's role in enforcing standards related to cybersecurity, and authorizing the CER to safely cease the operation of pipelines in cases where the owner is in receivership, insolvent, or bankrupt.
In all of these ways, through modern and effective governance, enhanced certainty and timelier decisions, wider public engagement and greater indigenous participation, and strengthened safety and environmental protections, the Canadian energy regulator would help create the new environmental and regulatory system we want, one that promotes common values and ensures shared benefits. Our legislation is for the Canada we have today and the Canada we want tomorrow, a Canada that uses the resources of its land and the resourcefulness of its people to lead in this clean-growth century, a Canada that not only imagines the future but creates it for generations to come.