Mr. Speaker, before I begin my remarks, I would be remiss if I did not mention a great man who has been mentioned many times today in this House, former prime minister Stephen Harper, who is enjoying his 59th birthday today, so I wish Prime Minister Harper a happy birthday.
I rise today to speak to Bill C-48, which aims to ban oil tanker traffic on the northern coastline of British Columbia. This legislation is yet another blatant attack on Canada's energy sector, along with all the high-paying and high-quality jobs that go with it.
The current government can talk about balancing the environment and the economy, but this proposed legislation is not balanced, and it is a direct threat to the viability of Canada's energy sector. This bill not only threatens jobs and the prosperity of Canada but also the solvency of our governments. Furthermore, it fails to respect our commitment to first nations, because the Liberals failed to consult and are discriminating against first nations who support energy development.
This legislation sends a clear message that our country is closing up for business, and industry leaders are listening. Energy giants are already beginning to move their operations to Texas, taking jobs with them. Where will the wealth creation and tax revenues that are needed to finance our transition go? They will go straight south of the border, leaving Canada in a vulnerable position, with few resources, as we seek to embrace change and innovation.
The failure of our energy industry is simply not an option. Although oil prices have doubled over the last two years, governments in Edmonton and Ottawa continue to run substantial deficits. I would like to see the government start trimming these deficits. However, the Liberals cannot seem to kick the habit of spending more than they take in, even with significant tax hikes on small businesses. How is the government ever going to balance the budget while it campaigns actively to phase out the very industry responsible for those revenues? This does not square. Budgets simply do not balance themselves. The government must either raise taxes, cut spending, or, as we propose on this side of the House, grow the economy, not as the Prime Minister suggests, “from the heart outwards”, but by embracing the real opportunities in the energy sector.
The Minister of the Environment recently said in an interview, “Hard things are hard”, and they certainly are. However, the government has made things harder on the families that rely on the energy sector because of its ideological approach to energy development. Take, for example, that the current Liberal Prime Minister ran in the election on a promise to cancel the northern gateway pipeline. He did not run on a promise to review the science or to act in the national interest. No. He made a promise because it was politically expedient to do so. That is the easy thing to do. The problem with taking the easy way out is that someday one has to pay the price, and today, as we watch the dying throes of Canada's last, best hope of getting energy to tidewater, we have only the Liberals to blame. They are now doubling down on their mistakes. They are not content to just cancel northern gateway; they are legislating for future generations to ensure that no pipeline will even be considered for the northwest coast.
Actions have consequences, and those consequences are hard. The families of my constituents know that all too well. The reason for their hardship is that the current Liberal government made rash promises not founded on reason or science but on political calculation. Rather than recognizing that fact, the Liberals are closing their minds and hearts to the hardships of Canadians.
The bill before us today is an attempt to dig up the corpse of northern gateway and put it on trial. It is a declaration to the world that never again will a pipeline be considered to our north. This moratorium is not based on science. It is not even based on the national interest of Canada. It is a political exercise to try to appease those who oppose the Trans Mountain pipeline and who will oppose any energy infrastructure the Liberals' foreign masters will pay them to oppose. When will these Liberals show some backbone, stop caving in to foreign interests and radical activists, and instead stand up for science and stand up for Canadians?
If the Liberal government were to extrapolate its logic and apply it consistently across the country, it would severely hurt our economy. Oil tankers enter Canada daily through the Port of Vancouver, on the east coast, and through the St. Lawrence River without incident. The sad thing is that for the most part, these vessels have circumnavigated the globe to bring Canada energy from other countries, energy that we have ample reserves of ourselves. In ports like Saint John, New Brunswick, millions of tonnes of energy products have been shipped and provide jobs necessary for the prosperity of our eastern provinces. If Bill C-48 passes, the government will be setting a precedent for our entire coastline that will reverberate across our country, killing jobs and opportunities for Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
Let me talk about the hypocrisy of the Liberal government, a government that stands every day in the House to malign the reputation of former Prime Minister Harper, a man they accuse of not consulting with first nations on energy development. Let us talk about the Lax Kw' alaams first nation and the nine tribes whose traditional territory lies within the zone that this moratorium would apply to. Did the government consult with the Lax Kw' alaams, or does it only negotiate with first nations who oppose energy development?
The nine tribes on the west coast have issued a legal challenge to this moratorium and this legislation. I wonder whether the Liberal government will respect aboriginal sovereignty, and will it fulfill its duty to consult? Evidently, it has not. The Lax Kw' alaams are fighting them in court. They are fighting for their economic future, the future of their children, and the Liberal government is disrespecting them and discriminating against them with this legislation. It is shameful, not only because it is the wrong thing to do, but because it flies in the face of everything the Liberal government claims to believe in.
For those who are reasonably concerned about environmental impact of oil tankers on our coast, let us look at some facts. In 2011, the Conservative government undertook the development and implementation of a world-class tanker safety system. This included modernization of navigation systems, enhanced area response planning, and ensuring that polluters pay for the spills and damages caused by accidents in their operations. As a result of this legislation, on top of Canada's sterling record of environmental safety, there has never been a major oil spill on our west coast.
Now the Liberals are pouring more resources into ocean protection, but for what purpose if they are not allowing development to proceed? Why are we spending taxpayer dollars to the tune of $1.5 billion, if they are going to ban the tankers in the first place? It is another example of the government's absolute incompetence when it comes to responsible development and environmental protection.
In the best-case scenario, even if this legislation only leads to preventing tankers from operating on the northwest coast, it would be an act of supreme unfairness for those communities on the coast. If there is a lack of infrastructure to protect from or mitigate a possible spill, then perhaps some of the Liberal money should be going toward that solution. Surely if this legislation is their solution, then it should be sufficient to protect our northwest coast. If oil tankers are as big a threat as the Liberals claim, why have they not invested in better ocean protection on every coast? Why are they not speaking in Halifax, St. John's, or other Atlantic city on the importance of protecting against oil spills with new funding?
The fact is that they are not. They know full well that there is no clear threat of a catastrophic oil spill. They are merely trying to score political points by shutting down an entire coast from any development, hurting communities like the Lax Kw' alaams in the process. It is a shameful state of affairs when a government chooses to put its own political self-interest ahead of the interests of all Canadians.