Madam Speaker, tonight I would like to focus my attention on the detrimental effects Bill C-68 would have on development. Before I do so, I want to point out to those listening at home that the government has once again moved time allocation.
When the Liberals were in opposition, they absolutely railed at the thought. They used every tactic in the book to disrupt and to stall debate. Now, however, it seems that every time the Liberal government House leader has a chance, she moves time allocation in an effort to limit our free speech.
This bill is completely unnecessary and, as the House has heard from my colleagues, this matter was studied in depth at the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. In fact, it was the minister himself, in 2016, who asked the committee to examine the lost protections in the Fisheries Act.
After months of debate, do members know how many witnesses testified on lost protections? It was none. Zero. Not a single one. Now the Liberals have brought forward this unnecessary legislation, which is already expected to cost close to $300 million to implement. I want to clarify that as part of our previous government's economic action plan of 2012 and in support of the responsible resource development plan, changes to the Fisheries Act were introduced and received royal assent in November of 2013.
The legislative changes we, on this side of the House, made to the fisheries protection provisions of the act supported a shift from managing impacts to all fish habitats to focusing on the act's regulatory regime on managing threats to the sustainability and ongoing productivity of Canada's commercial, recreational, and aboriginal fisheries.
Prior to these sensible amendments, all fish, and consequently all potential fish habitat, regardless of economic or social value, were covered under the Fisheries Act. This created a system that was impossible to manage, and created impediments to the most minor work on ditches, flood prevention etc. This creates an incredible amount of red tape for towns and municipalities, and means completely unnecessary hardship for Canadians trying to simply go about their business, and protect their property, a fundamental Canadian right.
The Liberals' approach to the legislative, regulatory, and policy framework governing infrastructure projects would cause a competitive disadvantage for all Canadian companies and would be felt by local governments across the country. I would also like to point out that the Liberal strategy of layering broad policy considerations into environmental regulations, such as Bill C-68 and Bill C-69, would lead to a marked decrease in investment and competitiveness for Canada's energy sector, as though it could possibly get any worse. This threatens the sector's sustainability and its contribution to Canada's future social, economic, and development objectives.
What the Liberals have done is put forward a piece of legislation with a bunch of “fill in the blanks” or “to be considered” slots, and asked Canadians to trust them. Unfortunately for business, this approach does not work and only serves to undermine industry.
In relation to the authorizations pursuant to the Fisheries Act, it is uncertain as to the types of projects that would require approval and potentially trigger an impact assessment pursuant to Bill C-69. Depending on forthcoming codes of practices and regulations, there could also be the need for additional approvals for low-impact activities, and the result would be a longer process with no different outcome than is achieved under the current legislation.
The unknown of the project specifics that would trigger approvals pursuant to the Fisheries Act is most concerning since it has a strong likelihood to impact all project development, not just those projects requiring assessment by the proposed impact assessment agency.
Former Liberal cabinet minister, the Hon. Sergio Marchi, who is now the president and CEO of the Canadian Electricity Association, has made it clear that he sees Bill C-68 as a missed opportunity. In its press release, the CEA stated:
...Bill C-68 represents one step forward but two steps back.
CEA is particularly concerned that the government has chosen to return to pre-2012 provisions of the Fisheries Act that address ‘activity other than fishing that results in the death of fish, and the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction (HADD) of fish habitat’. In practical terms, this means that virtually any action, without prior authorization, could be construed as being in contravention of this Act. Consequently, the reinstatement of these measures will result in greater uncertainties for existing and new facilities, and unduly delay and/or discourage investment in energy projects that directly support Canada’s clean growth agenda and realize its climate change objectives.
Bill C-68 is a missed opportunity for the federal government to anchor the Fisheries Act on a reasonable, population-based approach rather than focusing on individual fish, and to clearly define fisheries management objectives.
Regarding criteria for project designation, the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans heard from the Pembina Pipeline Corporation and were told of a number of alternative measures that could be used to lessen any environmental impact. Unfortunately, it seems any suggestions fell on deaf ears as the committee refused all 20 amendments put forward by my colleagues.
Pembina is a Calgary-based pipeline corporation that has provided transportation and midstream services to North America's industry for over 60 years. Sixty years is not a small amount of time in the span of Canadian history. In fact, it has one of the best integrated pipeline systems in the entire world and transport hydrocarbon liquids, natural gas, and natural gas products all over Alberta.
In its brief to the committee, it highlighted that pipeline associated watercourse crossing construction practices and technology had in fact come a long way over the last few decades. These processes are state-of-the-art, and horizontal directional drilling is a perfect example of a technology that is widely used and eliminates environmental impacts of a pipeline crossing waterways.
I will not go into the complete detail on the briefing submitted by Pembina, but I will say that this bill is unnecessary. It would create more bureaucratic red tape and would only serve to hinder development. In fact, the legislation is so very ambiguous that Pembina cautions that the Liberal government is virtually ensuring future conflict among indigenous communities because it has not considered the complexity of overlapping traditional territories.
On this side of the House, we support the protection of our oceans and fisheries. Our previous changes to the Fisheries Act were enacted to support transparency in the decision-making process and provide a level of certainty to those invested in the act.
The Liberals have done the exact opposite with Bill C-68. As usual, what they say is not actually what they do. They have said that they are restoring harmful alteration or disruption or the destruction of fish habitat. However, they sidestep any obligation to uphold the HADD regulations in the legislation by providing the minister with the ability to exempt certain provisions.
I want to reiterate also that Bill C-68 seems to undermine transparency and due process by allowing the minister to withhold critical information from interested proponents, and this goes against the Prime Minister's commitment to openness and transparency.
There is no way the Conservative Party of Canada will support this burdensome bill that serves no purpose other than to check off an election promise from the Liberals' 2015 red book.