Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise again in the House to speak to a piece of legislation that represents a major turning point in how Canada develops its vast resources.
After listening to the discussions over the past while, it is important that we come back to a sense of reality. This is legislation that strengthens investor confidence, restores public trust, advances indigenous reconciliation, and enhances environmental performance, all while ensuring that good resource projects get built in a timely, transparent, and responsible way. It is legislation that has also been improved by committee review, the input of its witnesses, and the advice of its members.
Today, we have an amended bill that not only reflects, but confirms, our belief that Canada works best when Canadians work together. It is an even better bill that delivers on our government's vision for Canada in this clean growth century, and one that supports our goal of making Canada a leader in the global transition to a low-carbon economy.
This is critical because the world is at a pivotal moment when climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our generation, and when marrying the strength of prosperity with the protection of our environment is the new imperative.
Bill C-69 would do that. It recognizes that Canada was built, in large measure, through investments and innovation in the natural resource sectors. It addresses our need for a new and more effective approach to environmental assessments and regulatory reviews. It helps to ensure Canada capitalizes on a new wave of resource development that could top $500 billion over the next 10 years.
Canadians get that. They told us so through our extensive pre-consultations on Bill C-69, in response to our discussion paper, and again in committee. They also stepped forward in unprecedented numbers to join Generation Energy, our national discussion on Canada's energy future that culminated in a two-day forum in the minister's home city of Winnipeg just last fall.
What did we hear? Hundreds of thousands of Canadians made it clear to us that they want a thriving, low-carbon economy. They want Canada to be a leader in clean technology and innovation. They want an affordable and reliable energy system, one that provides equal opportunities to Canadians without harming the environment. They want smart cities with integrated energy systems, increased energy efficiency, and low-carbon transportation. They want rural and remote communities to have better options than diesel for generating electricity or for heating their homes.
They also told us they want regulatory reform that includes increased transparency and more communication with Canadians to restore public confidence. They want regulatory reform that ensures indigenous peoples are part of the decision-making, and that they benefit from the opportunities that resource development creates. They want regulatory reform that supports a competitive and sustainable resource sector, one that creates good jobs and shared wealth. They want regulatory reform that takes the politics out of decision-making so that science, facts, and evidence carry the day. We agree with all of that.
This is why we created a 14-member Generation Energy council, which came out of the two-day forum, to maintain the momentum and develop recommendations on how best to move forward on everything we had heard. That council is due to report shortly, but much of the optimism of Generation Energy, and many of the ideas from it, have already found their way into Bill C-69.
The amended bill also reflects what committee heard from indigenous peoples, and includes an even clearer commitment to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by enshrining it in the bill's preamble and by providing greater transparency regarding the way indigenous knowledge is used and protected.
Other amendments respond to issues important to industry, including concerns that the length of a project review could cause uncertainty. The proposed amendments address this by establishing a baseline of 300 days for review panels involving federal regulators, and a timeline of 45 days to appoint panel members; by improving the transition provisions so that there are clear and objective measures to confirm our commitment that no project will go back to the starting line; by providing new incentives to encourage the proponents of existing projects to proceed under the new impact assessment regime; and by clarifying that final decisions on resource projects are based on, and do not just consider, the assessment report and other key factors set out in the legislation, including both positive and negative impacts.
As amended, Bill C-69 would also address concerns raised by environmental groups to strengthen public participation and transparency. These include placing additional emphasis on meaningful participation; ensuring opportunities for public comment are always part of the review process for projects on federal lands; posting a broader range of information online and for longer; fine-tuning the role of federal life cycle regulators on a review panel, while ensuring impact assessments continue to benefit from their expertise; and the list goes on.
The Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development has done excellent work, and its amendments only build on the legislation's strengths. The proposed changes capture the spirit of a bill that will not only improve the way Canada reviews major resource projects, but can ultimately redefine the way projects are even contemplate.
By providing project proponents with clearer rules, greater certainty, and more predictability, we also ensure local communities have more input and indigenous peoples have more opportunities in the resource sectors.
For example, Bill C-69 would help us ensure project proponents and their investors would know what was expected of them from the outset, by introducing an early engagement and planning phase to identify the priorities and concerns of each new project. This would allow resource companies to plan better, engage earlier, and develop smarter, all of which would bolster their competitiveness, enhance performance, and move Canada to the forefront of the clean growth economy.
At the same time, our new approach would rebuild public confidence by introducing greater transparency and stronger protections for the environment, while advancing reconciliation with indigenous peoples and giving Canadians a more meaningful say. Of course, none of this guarantees unanimity. We cannot legislate agreement with every decision a government makes. However, with Bill C-69 and its amendments, Canadians would always know their voices were heard, their evidence was considered, and the process was fair.
For Canadians tuning in for the first time, Bill C-69 would do all of this by taking a more comprehensive approach to resource development, starting with the principle of “one project, one assessment”. To support this, our legislation proposes the creation of a new government agency for impact assessments. The impact assessment agency of Canada would be responsible for a single integrated and consistent process that would include the specialized expertise of federal regulators, which is where our simultaneous creation of a new, modern, and world-class federal energy regulator would come in.
The Canadian energy regulator would replace the National Energy Board and would be given the required independence and proper accountability to oversee a strong, safe, and sustainable Canadian energy sector in this clean growth century, starting with five key changes: more modern and effective governance; increased certainty and timelier decisions for project proponents; enhanced public consultations; greater indigenous engagement and participation; and stronger safety and environmental protections. The amendments support these goals by proposing changes to respond to such things as the evolving landscape for indigenous rights and new technologies that promote greater transparency and broader public engagement.
Before I highlight some of the important ways the amended bill would do these things, it is useful to take a step back and talk about the motivations behind our plans for a new federal energy regulator.
When our government came to office, we started from the very simple premise that while the National Energy Board had served Canadians well, it needed modernization to reflect the fact that its structure, role, and mandate had remained relatively unchanged since the National Energy Board Act was first introduced in 1959.
That is what the Canadian energy regulator act would do. It proposes a new federal energy regulator with clearer responsibilities, greater independence, and more diversity. For example, we would separate the regulator's adjudicative function, which demands a high degree of independence, from its daily operations, where a high degree of accountability is required.
We would do this by creating a board of directors to provide oversight, strategic direction, and advice on operations, while a chief executive officer, separate from the board, would be responsible for day-to-day operations. In addition, there would be a group of independent commissioners responsible for timely, inclusive, and transparent project reviews and decision-making, the very things Canadians have been telling us and that witnesses told the committee.
The amended Bill C-69 also enhances the diversity and expertise of the new regulator's board of directors and commissioners, with a fair and transparent recruitment process to identify the most qualified candidates; a new emphasis on expertise in indigenous knowledge as well as municipal, engineering, and environmental issues; and a requirement for at least one member of the board of directors and one commissioner to be first nations, Métis, or Inuit.
The amended legislation proposes to restore investment certainty by making regulatory reviews more timely and predictable without compromising on public input, indigenous engagement, or environmental protection.
I have already touched on some of the key changes proposed by the committee: establishing a baseline of 300 days for review panels, ensuring panel members are appointed within 45 days, and confirming that no existing projects are sent back to the starting line.
These measures build on the bill's underlying principle of one project, one assessment and the new Impact Assessment Agency of Canada's responsibility for coordinating consultations with indigenous people.
Bill C-69 proposes that all of this work will be carried out in closer collaboration with the new Canadian energy regulator, making its reviews clearer, its powers more defined, and its timelines for decision shorter, more predictable, and better managed, with fewer opportunities to pause the ticking clock.
In addition, the new federal regulator would retain final decision-making authority for minor administrative functions such as certain certificate and licence variances, transfers, and the suspension of certificates or licences. The Canadian energy regulator act would also restore the regulators' 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 cabinet's right to ask commissioners to reconsider their decisions.
Other amendments in the bill would advance our commitments to greater public consultation and indigenous engagement. The CER act already featured more opportunities for Canadians to have their say including the elimination of the NEB's existing test for standing; explicit consideration of environmental, social, safety, health, and socio-economic issues, as well as gender-based impact on any effects on indigenous peoples; expanded participant funding is also extended to new activities; and more opportunities outside of the traditional hearing process for public debates and discussions.
The amendments to the Canadian energy regulatory act offer greater clarity.
On indigenous knowledge, for example, our new protections would be enhanced through a requirement for consultations before any details could be disclosed and the minister would be able to place conditions on their disclosure based on those consultations. The bill would now also require, rather than just provide, options for a committee to provide advice on enhancing indigenous peoples involvement under the Canadian energy regulator act. Other changes would ensure that public and indigenous participation is more meaningful and that Canadians have the information, tools, and capacity to contribute their perspectives and their expertise.
Finally, the amendments on Bill C-69 expand on our efforts to clarify ministerial discretion and ensure stronger safety and environmental protections. For example, through committee's proposed changes to the Canadian energy regulator act, the public decision statements would clearly demonstrate how a report formed the basis for the decision, and how key factors were considered. As well, future exemption orders would only be made to ensure safety and security, or for the protection of property or the environment.
These are in addition to existing provisions in the CER act, such as assigning new powers to federal inspection officers so they can act quickly and, if necessary, place a stop work order on any project that is operating unsafely or falling short of agreed to conditions, requiring that companies increase the protection of their infrastructure, clarifying the regulators oversight role to include enforcing standards related to cybersecurity, and authorizing the federal energy regulator to take action to safely cease the operation of pipelines in cases where the owner is in receivership, insolvent, or bankrupt.
Through Bill C-69 and its amendments, we see legislation designed for the Canada we have today and, indeed, the Canada we want tomorrow. The Canadian energy regulator act is an important piece of that, helping us to diversify Canada's energy markets, expand our energy infrastructure, and drive economic growth through timely decisions that reflect our common values as Canadians.
I hope all members of this House will support this important legislation as we seek to create the shared prosperity we all want, while protecting the planet we all cherish.