Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to continue my comments on part 2 of Bill C-69, the Canadian energy regulator act.
Last week I shared some concerns about the bill, especially in the context of the Liberals' constant denigration and undermining of confidence in the regulator and in Canada's reputation at home and internationally, especially since the 2015 election, with respect to responsible resource development.
The Liberals have imposed new hurdles, delays, rule changes, called for phasing out the oil sands, added costs and roadblocks to the oil and gas sector, which is already the most heavily-regulated industry in Canada by all levels of government. They have told the hundreds of thousands of unemployed energy workers in Canada to just hang in there.
Regulatory and fiscal policies are key factors in the economics and business decisions of multi-year, multi-billion dollar energy projects for private sector companies. Now the Liberals are adding more uncertainty with more processes and more details yet to be known. The risk is the acceleration of the already massive investment and job losses in Canada's natural resources development as a result of the Liberals' ideological and anti-energy-driven decisions.
I am concerned about the new preplanning phase in part 1 that would apply to major projects like pipelines. Put aside the fact that Canadian common best practice already is to undertake early pre-project engagement with stakeholders, indigenous communities, and scientific experts. According to Bill C-69, after the initial six-month process, the minister alone can deny projects before the assessment stage. So much for experts, transparency, objective evidence and clear measures.
The bill provides no assurances that clear and publicly-known rules will be applied consistently to all project applications or that the full rationale for a denial will be made public. This approach clearly allows for political and ideological decision-making behind closed doors. The only hope for energy developers is that if a project is politically risky, the minister might kill it at the outset, instead of forcing proponents to wade through years of expensive reviews, wasting time and billions of dollars of capital investment, risking jobs in the meantime.
I want to review the three key claims made by the Liberals.
First, the Liberals claim that public participation will increase in both volume and effectiveness because of the elimination of the standing test of the National Energy Board. That test set out the two-pronged consideration for those who can participate: first, anyone who was directly affected by the project; and, second, anyone who had sufficient expertise or relevant information may be heard. On the face of it, that is reasonable.
However, let us look at a concrete example, the Enbridge Line 9B reversal and Line 9 capacity expansion proposal, about how this test operated in practice.
After receiving 177 applications to participate, the NEB granted 158 applicants full participation rights, and asked 11 applicants to submit a letter of comment. The board only denied eight. One of them appealed, so the courts examined her application and the board's decision. Her application was aimed at the second prong of the standing test, to contribute based on her expertise.
The judicial decision stated:
She stated that she had a specified and detailed interest in the matter...based on her religious faith. In her view, a spill from a pipeline, even far away from her home, is “an insult to [her] sense of the holy.”
I think this case illustrates that the standing test worked reasonably, designed to keep the focus of the approval hearings on important issues and to weed out irrelevant information.
Now let us review the new standing provision. Section 183(3) states, “Any member of the public may, in a manner specified by the Commission, make representations with respect to an application for a certificate.”
I note this language excludes no one. Every person or organization, so long as they comply with the procedure, may submit comment and be heard. This means that a radical anti-resources activist organization from Europe or an American-funded group competing with Canadian companies for investment dollars has the same right to be heard at a hearing for a pipeline, mine, or an LNG project in Canada under Canadian regulations, in Canada's process, as local stakeholders, indigenous communities, industry representatives, experts, and concerned Canadian groups.
Therefore, the regulator will have two options. It might choose to allow everyone who asks to be heard to provide comment, which effectively eliminates any meaningful participation, because when everyone is heard in fact no one is heard. Or the regulator will establish a hierarchy where some participants have the right to give oral and written evidence, others will give written submissions, and the least helpful or relevant contributions will be relegated to some kind of participation prize category where they can contribute but no one will care.
This is fundamentally chaotic, unpredictable, and unclear. How can a proponent prepare for a hearing process where literally anyone can provide comments and questions? Why should decisions about Canadian projects in Canada be influenced by non-Canadians?
The second key claim the Liberals make is that Bill C-69 would create concrete timelines of 450 days for major projects and 300 days for minor projects, except it does not really.
First, the clock starts only when the commission says the applicant has submitted the complete application, but it is entirely discretionary. The bill gives no definition of what is “complete”. It does not prevent the regulator from continuously deciding that an application is incomplete for political reasons or otherwise.
The second problem is that the regulator may exclude any period of time from the time limit calculations, so long as reasons are provided. It is any amount of time and any number of times. Is a timeline that could have any part of it excluded from the calculation really a timeline at all?
The third problem is that the minister may extend the timeline indefinitely by issuing repeat orders granting new 300 or 450 day timeline resets. Stakeholders, like the Mining Association of Canada, are concerned that the proposed system for timelines could undermine the competitiveness and growth prospects of mining in Canada, a sector that is often the only or the major employer in northern, remote, and indigenous communities.
It is disingenuous of the Liberals to claim they have made timelines concrete when the bill clearly shows there is nothing concrete about them.
The Liberals third claim is that new factors for consideration will make the approval process more robust and produce better results for Canadians. Of course factors for consideration for a major pipeline project, for instance, are fundamental to its viability. For example, the Liberals interfered in the energy east hearings, and their appointed panel told the NEB that even though it was years and millions of dollars into the process, energy east should be reconsidered, based on upstream and, for the first time ever, downstream emissions. Making upstream and downstream emissions a condition for pipelines is a double standard to which no other major infrastructure, or any other sector or foreign oil, is held. It is already regulated provincially. The Liberals forced energy east to be abandoned.
On page 167, proposed subsection 183(1)(2), it states:
The Commission must make its recommendation taking into account...all considerations that appear to it to be relevant and directly related to the pipeline, including
(a) the environmental effects, including any cumulative environmental effects;
The term is not defined and may be designed to allow a project to be killed for political expediency.
Cumulative environmental impacts should be clearly defined here, not left broad and vague. Also, it is unfair to project proponents to account for impacts elsewhere in the value chain. For example, the approval of Trans Mountain should not hinge on Kinder Morgan accounting for emissions of planes flying out of Victoria and Vancouver. Imagine if that same standard applied to other vital infrastructure, like highways, airports, and rail.
On top of that, once a project gets through every single hurdle and even if approval is granted, the minister or the regulator can still issue a post-approval demand for further study and evaluation. This new measure almost guarantees delays after future approvals. Despite the Liberal rhetoric, that is exactly how the B.C. NDP is trying to kill Trans Mountain right now. Unfortunately, it is already clear that under the Liberals, federal approval of a national project in federal jurisdiction does not mean it still will not be stopped.
For every Liberal claim about the bill, the process is clearly designed for political influence and intervention. At any stage the minister can step in and kill the project. Even at the various stages where there is no formal ministerial approval required, the minister still could interfere, just as the Liberals did with energy east, and signal to the regulator that the project needs to be delayed or killed outright. It does not clarify or streamline an objective, evidence-based process where decisions will be made by experts.
What are the results? Suncor, the leading integrated oil and gas company in Canada, says that it will not invest in major projects in Canada in the future. Billions of investment dollars are leaving Canada for the U.S. and other energy-producing jurisdictions. The combined impact of additional regulations, higher taxes, and uncertainty makes Canada a more difficult place to invest capital.
There is another component of Bill C-69 that requires careful examination.
The government claims the bill would broadly enhance and expand consultations with indigenous communities, but the government should be more precise and accurate. Bill C-69 does not actually change the consultation rights for indigenous communities at all. Canada has developed, through laws, executive action, and court decisions, a framework within which meaningful indigenous consultation occurs. The crown has a duty, when it takes executive action, to examine if it would interfere with or infringe on a section 35-protected right of an indigenous community. If such a right is identified and the executive still intends on following that course of action, the indigenous community must be meaningfully consulted and compensated for any loss or infringement of the right.
Bill C-69 simply would not change this fundamental principle.
What I have heard from pro-energy and pro-natural resources indigenous groups is that the Liberals are interfering with their ability to responsibly manage their lands and to engage with industry in equity partnerships, which is a widespread practice. From the tanker and drilling bans to the northern gateway veto, the Liberals unilaterally destroyed immediate and future opportunities in responsible resource development for indigenous people, without consultation.
Canadian natural resource proponents have long worked with indigenous communities early to identify affected communities and establish relationships. In the case of Trans Mountain, literally any indigenous community that wanted to be involved was included in consultation. The project is supported by 40 aboriginal groups along the route and four of the six first nations in the area are equity partners.
The real question the House must consider about the legislation is this. What global oil market share should Canada own? As well, what will really be the future of natural resources development and all the jobs it provides across the country? The fact is that global demand for oil and gas is going to continue to increase. Countries that do not match Canada's environmental, human rights, labour and consultation standards, and transparency are ready to meet that demand.
If the Liberals continue to create more layers and uncertainty, it will only mean Canadian energy investment will continue to fall and energy resources will not be able to meet that increasing demand from Canada.
Energy is the number one private sector investor in the Canadian economy, and it is Canada's second biggest export. The importance of this sector cannot be understated. The responsible development and transportation of Canada's energy resources lifts that standard of living of every Canadian, reduces poverty, and funds important social programs in every community across the country.
Canada's economy needs a strong natural resources sector. It has sole ownership of 7% of GDP. It produces billions of dollars and a million jobs. It is Canada's opportunity to continue to be an environmental leader in the world.
Ramming this bill through is irresponsible. Industry is already pulling investment capital from Canada. It is warning about the impacts of this legislation. Hundreds of thousands of jobs have already been lost. If Bill C-69 passes, in one blow, the Liberals will have put at serious risk the immediate and long-term future of Canada's natural resources development.
I will oppose this bill and encourage my colleagues to do so. I hope, at the very least, the Liberals will allow us to represent the people who sent us here on their behalf to represent their interests and values, and to give this massive legislation the debate it deserves.