Mr. Speaker, Bill C-69 has some interesting aspects, but it also raises questions and does not do much at all for Quebec.
For example, the government wants to put science back into decisions on the environment. That is great, especially after our experience with the Harper government, which saw science as the enemy. Obviously, this is a vast improvement. It shows there is an intention to protect the environment, but as always with the Liberals, intentions are more talking points than anything else. That does not amount to much unless it is written in black and white in legislation.
I will provide some examples. Do members remember the electoral reform promise that was dropped like a hot potato, or the promise to defend supply management at any cost?
The Liberals did not even want to renegotiate the transpacific partnership to defend our farmers. The government has not even changed its greenhouse gas reduction targets. Instead, it adopted the Conservatives' targets, which are well below those of all other countries.
I cannot get into every one of these issues in the few minutes that I have, but I will raise a few points that are important for Quebec.
In its current form, this bill is the opposite of what Quebeckers want. I firmly believe that instead of imposing these requirements on Quebec, the government should be doing the opposite, that is, it should let Quebeckers decide how to manage their province and protect their environment.
That was the reason why on February 1st I introduced Bill C-392, which goes in the opposite direction of Bill C-69. We have a very simple vision: what happens within our borders should be decided by us.
We firmly believe that citizens must have a say on projects that can negatively impact their health and their environment. I am definitely thinking of energy east.
The federal government is being pressured by companies that have interests in these projects. The government must balance the competing interests of provinces. I am thinking of the interests of Quebec as opposed to those of oil producing provinces. I am also thinking of British Columbia, which is in a dispute with Alberta over the Trans Mountain pipeline.
In both cases, one province assumes all the risks without reaping any of the benefits, while the opposite is true for the other province. It is unfair that citizens must suffer the consequences.
I will give another example. In 2016, IMTT-Quebec Inc. moved to the Port of Québec and polluted the entire neighbourhood of Limoilou with red dust. The residents of Limoilou found this dust on their balconies and clotheslines.
The Superior Court ruled that since the company was located in the Port of Québec, which is a federal jurisdiction, Quebec's environmental quality act did not apply. That was ridiculous. The air pollution was a nuisance for everyone in Limoilou and also compromised their health. We are talking about the health of parents and our children, not an administrative technicality. Not at all.
It is really quite simple, it is the provinces that have the expertise. Quebec must manage its health services. It is Quebec that pays the price for pollution and, even worse, it is the people who suffer the consequences. That is why Quebec must have the final say.
The complete opposite would be happening with Bill C-69. The federal government always has the final say. Even if a project is rejected by the Bureau d'audiences publiques sur l'environnement du Québec, or BAPE, the new impact assessment agency of Canada and the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change can always ignore our experts' findings and approve the project anyway, all under the guise of the national interest. I think we can all agree that this term is a little vague. It means nothing and can be invoked at any time, in any way, and for any project.
To us, national interest means the health and safety of our citizens. To others, it may mean corporate profits. The government will be able to make its decisions based on its own interests and the interests of its friends, as we have seen in other cases.
I am not the only one who is concerned about this arbitrary aspect of the bill. Greenpeace contacted me to say it is concerned about the vague assessment criteria that the government will use. The problem is that the government is creating an agency that ultimately serves no purpose, since the minister will reserve the right to override it.
The government claims that Bill C-69 will fix existing problems and help the environment, but with a little lobbying from wealthy corporations, destructive and polluting projects may still be allowed to move forward. The bill really emphasizes consulting the public, scientists, and indigenous peoples, but the minister will be able to approve a project even if the public is against it. Even if the entire province of Quebec opposes a project, the minister will still be able to move forward with it, invoking the national interest.
On another note, the bill missed the opportunity to remove a provision in the current act that makes Hydro-Québec subject to Ottawa. In the current legislation, Hydro-Québec must go through the National Energy Board to build international and interprovincial lines. Hydro-Québec must also have a permit to export electricity, and the Canadian government reserves the right to prevent Quebec from exporting its electricity surpluses.
The future Canadian energy commission will decide whether Quebec can export its surpluses after considering the impact those exports will have on the provinces, verifying whether anyone else has shown an interest in that electricity, and determining whether Hydro-Québec is making an effort to offer its electricity to Canadian buyers. Ottawa also reserves the right to refuse for other reasons. In short, Hydro-Québec is under federal control.
I have to say that the government has never abused that law in the past, but it could well decide to use the legislation to its advantage, thus harming Quebec. The minister could have taken the opportunity presented by this reform to remove all of those provisions. Unfortunately, she did not do so.
In short, this bill takes the wrong approach for Quebeckers. By giving herself the right to approve a project regardless of the results of the agency's assessment, the minister is negating any positive effects this bill might have had. The government could impose projects such as energy east on Quebeckers and they would have no way of preventing it. That is unacceptable. It is Quebec that has all the expertise and is assuming all the risks. The government needs to listen to Quebec and respect its choices. It is simple. This is simple, and I will repeat: what happens within our borders should be decided by us.
I would point out that the government did not even change its greenhouse gas reduction targets, which are the same as the Harper government's. That is why this bill is just an empty shell in our opinion, and that is why we will be voting against it. I encourage all my colleagues to vote in favour of my Bill C-392, which will give Quebec and the other provinces their say on projects that could have an impact on their environment and their people.