Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today about Bill C-392.
Bill C-392 touches upon several subjects, including intergovernmental relations, federalism, and the paramountcy principle, matters that have been debated in both houses of Parliament in relation to a wide range of subjects. In essence, this bill seeks to allow provincial governments to impose restrictions on environmental protection activities and land use for projects which the federal government undertakes across the country.
I applaud the member for Repentigny's initiative to give more prominent consideration to the environment and land use when projects and activities that fall under federal jurisdiction are being considered.
The government also believes that the environment is worth protecting. Canadians should know that their governments, at all levels, are working together to achieve economic and environmental objectives and are acting in the interests of their safety and security.
Every day millions of Canadians can go about their lives in an orderly and predictable way. They get into their cars that start and stop as they should; drive on roads where people follow the rules; buy groceries that are free from contaminants; land in airplanes at airports that are safe; drink water that is clean; and sleep well at night, knowing that our police, fire departments, paramedics, and military personnel are on guard for our security.
Our society depends on laws and rules to function, and each level of government is responsible for those things that fall into its jurisdiction. Education, building codes and highways, for example, are primarily provincial responsibilities. Matters such as defence, aeronautics, and radio communications, for example, extend beyond provincial borders and impact the country as a whole. In these areas, it falls to the federal government to implement a nationally consistent approach that serves Canada and its people.
As we all know, the division of powers in Canada has been defined in the Constitution Act, but we also know that this division is not black and white. There are many areas and many issues where interests will cross jurisdictional lines, where two or even three levels of government have a stake in an issue, like the environment, like health, like safety, like employment.
The Government of Canada works with the provinces on matters such as education, health, and employment. Likewise, the provinces work with the Government of Canada on matters that fall under federal jurisdiction.
This division of power is essential to maintaining order and predictability in our society. It ensures that we avoid the scenario of too many leaders in one situation or a leadership void when no one else wants to take responsibility in another. In Canada, all jurisdictions must work together on certain issues to promote and protect the interests of all Canadians. Even when we agree to work together, we must still respect jurisdictional boundaries.
Recent Supreme Court decisions on the doctrine of interjurisdictional immunity have stated that provincial and municipal legislation cannot impair core matters of federal jurisdiction over aeronautics or radio communication infrastructure.
While these decisions quite clearly establish federal authority on matters such as aerodromes and cell phone towers, the government does not hide behind interjurisdictional immunity to run roughshod over communities.
In fact, to ensure that local concerns are taken into consideration for activities and projects that fall under federal jurisdiction, the government puts processes in place for consultation and the consideration of environmental laws and land use.
I would like to illustrate this point with a few examples.
First, in January 2017, following a regulatory consultation process, Transport Canada implemented a new regulation called Canadian aviation regulation 307–aerodromes–consultations. The regulation was specifically established to require proponents of certain aerodrome projects to consult with affected stakeholders before starting work so local concerns could be identified and mitigated.
As another example, under the Canada Marine Act, Canada port authorities are charged with the management of federal real property and marine assets as well as navigable waters within the ports. In addition to abiding by all federal legislation and regulations, the Canada Marine Act provides for the incorporation of provincial legislation by reference to address specific issues when the need arises. As a result, British Columbia's liquefied natural gas regulation is being applied to the federal lands being managed by the Prince Rupert Port Authority.
My third and final example is the Canada Infrastructure Bank funding program. The Canada Infrastructure Bank acts as a minority partner in delivering federal support to infrastructure projects, alongside co-investment by private sector and institutional investors and sponsoring governments. Projects supported by the bank must respect all applicable laws in the relevant jurisdiction, including any applicable environmental or labour laws. Project sponsors are required to provide assurance to the bank and other investors that all applicable laws in a province have been respected.
The reason these specific examples were chosen is because these initiatives, all of which require consultation and consideration of local issues related to land use and the environment, are taken from the very acts that the private member's bill seeks to amend. There are countless other examples in the same acts and elsewhere that demonstrate the government's commitment to hearing the concerns of Canadians.
Because the government is not above listening and improving, it is constantly looking for ways to demonstrate this commitment.
Recently, it introduced Bill C-69, an act to enact the impact assessment act and the Canadian energy regulator act, to amend the Navigation Protection Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts. Bill C-69 exceeds the amendments proposed in Bill C-392 and would explicitly reflect the consideration of environmental, social, safety, health, socio-economic issues, including gender-based impacts, economics, and impacts on indigenous peoples.
Bill C-69 will also provide the public an opportunity to express their views during review processes.
As we all know, there are many issues that transcend municipal and provincial boundaries, and many others where the federal government may be unaware of local concerns. For this reason, taking a co-operative approach achieves the best possible outcome for all Canadians. With a country as large and diverse as Canada, we must all act in good faith and work together to achieve the best possible results for our economy and the environment and for our citizens.
Co-operation is a fine balance. There have been, and will continue to be, times when differences arise despite our best efforts to work together. Even the strongest relationships will experience disagreements.
Bill C-392 would represent a major shift in federal-provincial dynamics in Canada and would undermine the co-operative relationship that we have worked so hard to establish.