Mr. Speaker, I am glad to have this opportunity to join the debate on Bill C-69. It is an opportunity that unfortunately many colleagues in the House will not be able to have. We are currently debating it under time allocation, so we have a limit of five hours to debate it.
I want to walk the House through a little history lesson.
If we go back to the 2015 election, the Liberals, particularly the Prime Minister, made a lot of promises during that campaign. One of them was a repeated promise that if the Liberals were elected, they would immediately restore a strengthened federal environmental assessment process. They made a commitment that they would not approve any projects without first enacting that strengthened assessment process to ensure decisions were based on science, facts, and evidence, and that they would serve the public interest.
In fact, the Prime Minister made a visit to British Columbia. He came to Vancouver Island to the community of Esquimalt on August 20, 2015. People will know Esquimalt, because that is the home of the main Pacific naval base for Canada. He was asked specifically about the promise in the context of Kinder Morgan. He said, quite clearly, that the Kinder Morgan pipeline review process would have to be redone under stronger and more credible rules.
However, what we have before us today, with Bill C-69, is a gargantuan bill, clocking in at 364 pages. It is too little too late, because we are now debating a bill after the government has approved Kinder Morgan and after it has announced the purchase of the pipeline.
The bill comes to us roughly 28 months since the Liberals were elected. I have heard other members of Parliament express in this place that the bill should have gone to three separate committees. It should have gone to the transport committee, the natural resources committee, and the environment committee so each of those collective bodies, with the experience and knowledge that members attain while working on them, could have studied the constituent parts and called forth the appropriate witnesses.
Instead, one committee was entrusted to this monumental task, this herculean task. I know the efforts of the member for Edmonton Strathcona in listening to the evidence and in trying to put forward amendments to see that the bill lived up to the promises the Liberal government had made. Unfortunately, due to the time constraints and the Liberal members on the committee not really listening to her, most of those amendments were defeated, and here we are at the report stage of the bill.
I also want to go back to the time before Bill C-69 was introduced. The Liberals keep on saying that Kinder Morgan did go through a renewed review process. Well, let us just examine what they in fact set up.
The Liberals had set up what was known as a “ministerial review panel”. In fact, that panel admitted that it lacked the time, the technical expertise, and the resources to fill the gaps in the National Energy Board process. It ended up with little more than questions that remained unanswered. They kept no public records of hearings, admitted that the meetings were hastily organized, and confirmed that they had a serious lack of public confidence in the National Energy Board and its recommendations.
I attended one of those meetings when it came to Victoria. I remember the room unanimously coming out against Kinder Morgan. It was kind of a slapdash piece of work.
Despite all of the setbacks of the ministerial review panel, its members still came out and acknowledged that Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline proposals could not proceed without a serious reassessment of its impacts on climate change commitments, indigenous rights, and marine mammal safety. Therefore, they, in a sense, were acknowledging the huge problems that existed with this project.
The Liberals keep on openly wondering why there is such passionate opposition to this project, specifically in British Columbia where the risks are very much concentrated. It is because people did not have faith in the previous process. Many of them were lured to vote Liberal. They had hoped that the new Liberal government would actually live up to its promises.
Instead what they got was a ministerial review panel, judgment passed by the Liberal government before the facts, and now this bill, Bill C-69, which still has many problematic elements. One of the big ones is that the Minister of Environment will still have an arbitrary right to monitor environmental projects. It leaves them open to political influences instead of scientific evidence.
Governments come and go. We may have an environment minister in one government whom the public can trust and know that the person's heart is in the right place, but if a new government comes in that has completely different leanings and gives that kind of power to ministers, it can sway its decisions according to which way the political winds blow. That is not the way to enact strong, scientific, consensus-based decision-making.
I want to start framing this debate a bit more in the context of Kinder Morgan and the very fact that the government has made promises to get rid of subsidies to the oil and gas sector, that we are now last in the G7, and that the government has tried to strive to a 2025 goal.
The Liberals have paid $4.5 billion for a 65-year-old pipeline, one that exports diluted bitumen, and this is just the cost of the existing infrastructure and not of anything that will come from it. I hear members from all sides talking about a national energy strategy, but this pipeline serves foreign interests. It is not accumulating the best value for our product.
Diluted bitumen is the lowest grade of crude we can export. That is why it fetches the lowest prices. Expanding Kinder Morgan's capacity will not change the price. I see no incentive and I have seen no evidence that customers will be willing to pay more for the same product just because we can ship more volume. The existing pipeline exports 99% of it to California, so I would like to see evidence of all the buyers from Asia lining up at the door. They are currently not buying what Kinder Morgan is exporting today.
The Liberals like to use a favourite phrase that the environment and the economy go hand in hand. There are a few things that are wrong with this. It supposes that the environment and the economy are equal partners. That is not the case. I would argue that there is a relationship, but the economy is very much the junior partner. When we start affecting our environment, when we start polluting the waterways, and we see the effects of climate change, the economic ravages that can have far outweigh any of the benefits we can get.
There are economic opportunities in keeping in line with our environmental goals if we start to make the right investments into renewable energy. We have to see the way the world is going. This is 2018, and there is a trend. I want our country to take advantage of the economic opportunities of the 21st century economy, not invest in something that rightfully belongs in the 20th century.
Along the way, we have to be speaking to current energy workers. We have to ensure they come along with us. Everyone acknowledges that the oil sands will not stop production tomorrow, but we need to have a plan where we talk about the just transition of those workers to bring them with us into the new energy economy, so Canada is best placed for the 21st century.
I also want to talk about the Liberals' vote for Bill C-262 last week and how little those commitments mean this week.
The member for Edmonton Strathcona tried repeatedly, both at committee and now at report stage, to insert language into Bill C-69 that would live up to what Bill C-262 would do. Bill C-262 seeks to bring the laws of Canada into harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. If we look at all the report stage motions, we can see that the member for Edmonton Strathcona has tried to insert language in there that acknowledges the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and acknowledges the Constitution Act, 1982 and all of our commitments. I have been questioning Liberals repeatedly on this. Will they at least have some consistency and vote in support of those amendments, following their support for Bill C-262?
This bill is too little too late. There are gaps in it that we could drive a bus through. While we appreciate some elements of the bill, we have to look at the whole thing.
When it is this large, there are just far too many negatives. They outweigh the positives. That is why the NDP is going to withhold its support for the bill. We were hoping for a lot more, and frankly, so were the Canadian people.