Mr. Speaker, the province of Saskatchewan is currently struggling with a weak economy and a lagging job market. Earlier this week, Statistics Canada reported that over the past year, Saskatchewan was the only province other than Newfoundland and Labrador to suffer from a drop in wholesale trade. A major component of wholesale trade in Saskatchewan and of employment in Regina is steel production.
Since being elected, I have advocated strongly for the use of Canadian-made steel in public infrastructure projects as well as in pipeline projects over which the federal government has regulatory authority. Canadian-made steel is much cleaner and safer than steel imported from offshore.
Thanks in part to political pressure, Kinder Morgan decided to build most of the Trans Mountain expansion using steel pipe manufactured in Regina. Of course, that project is now in doubt, which has put in doubt the largest contract that would keep Regina's steel mill operating for the coming months and years.
The federal government has tried to support that project by offering an indemnity for the Trans Mountain expansion, not just to Kinder Morgan but also to other potential investors in the project. A concern I have is that those other investors might try to cut costs and corners by instead building the Trans Mountain expansion with pipe imported from offshore. This would, of course, increase safety concerns about the project. It is also the case that manufacturing a tonne of steel and shipping it here from China emits five times as much carbon as manufacturing it in Regina.
For those environmental and safety reasons, as well as to support Canadian jobs, I have suggested that the federal government make its indemnity for the Trans Mountain expansion conditional upon any potential investor in the project honouring the existing commitment to use Canadian-made steel. When I put that question to the Minister of Natural Resources earlier this week, his response was to say, “Well, the contract for steel has already been signed, and that's a good thing for Regina.”
That answer certainly is correct if Kinder Morgan continues to complete the Trans Mountain expansion, but that answer does not address the scenario that the government itself has raised of other investors coming in and taking over the project. It is for that reason that I would like to see the federal government use its indemnity as leverage to try to ensure that any prospective investor in the Trans Mountain expansion would honour the existing contract with Evraz to build the pipeline expansion using steel manufactured in Canada, which of course supports Canadian jobs, gives us assurance about safety, and also emits far less carbon than bringing in the material from offshore.
I and the people of Regina are very curious to hear from the Minister of Natural Resources as to whether, in fact, he is prepared to use the indemnity in that way.