Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to speak to 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. My remarks this afternoon will focus on part 3 of this misguided bill.
Part 3 is the section of the bill that makes amendments to the Navigation Protection Act. This section of the bill continues the Prime Minister and the Liberals' assault on common sense laws and regulations that promote jobs and economic growth. The only people calling for the changes proposed in the bill are those opposed to resource projects that create economic development and jobs. They are representatives of the same people who have been protesting the Trans Mountain pipeline, the pipeline the Liberals recently purchased for $4.5 billion in taxpayers' money.
It is rather ironic that the Liberals are burning the bridge, so to speak, with the very voter pool they had hoped to pacify with the bill.
Bill C-69 proposes to change the name of the Navigation Protection Act to the Canadian navigable waters act. While seemingly cosmetic, this change reflects a substantial refocusing of the act on the protection of waters rather than the protection of navigation.
Canada is a large country, the second largest in the world. In the 1800s, waterways were often the primary means of transporting goods across our vast geography. The legislative forerunners of the Navigation Protection Act were designed to protect the navigability of waterways for the sake of our economy.
With the advent of Canada's rail and road systems, as well as our transportation system, Canada's transportation system has become less reliant on water navigation. However, that said, waterways remain an important element of our transportation system in many regions of the country.
As I said a moment ago, the changes in Bill C-69, including changing the act's name, demonstrate the Liberals' complete disregard for the original intent of the Navigation Protection Act, and instead reflect their misguided attempt to virtue signal in order to obtain the obscure idea of social licence. Without definition or boundaries, social licence is no more real than a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.
The Liberals' fixation on this abstract idea is costing Canadians dearly. Again, just consider the $4.5 billion, and counting, that the Liberals have spent to buy the old Trans Mountain pipeline. Now consider the substantial changes to the Navigation Protection Act contained within this bill.
The current Navigation Protection Act includes a schedule of waters to which the act applies. This schedule was created by the previous Conservative government because we realized that not every seasonal creek, tiny river, or stream was used for the purpose of commercial navigation. We also realized that these seasonal creeks or tiny rivers were already protected by other environmental legislation and that when economic development was planned on or near them, it was duplicative and redundant to make these projects subject to the NPA when in fact these small bodies of water were not used for navigation.
Our changes were strongly supported by a broad range of stakeholders and organizations across Canada. They ranged from the construction industry, to the resource development industry, to municipalities and their associations. These organizations recognized that Canada needed prudent, careful environmental laws and regulations, but not duplicative ones. They realized that applying the NPA to projects where navigation was not a consideration was a waste of time and money and led to increased project costs.
On this point, the opposition by municipal organizations and the construction industry was highlighted to parliamentarians at the Standing Committee on Transportation, Infrastructure and Communities when we undertook a study in 2016 of the former Conservative government's changes to the NPA. The genesis of that study by the committee was very interesting and should be noted.
What prompted the committee's study of the NPA was twofold. First, I believe there was a misguided eagerness on the part of Liberal and NDP MPs to do the bidding of the Prime Minister, rather than focusing on the real issues, which would have had a more meaningful and positive impact on Canadians and our economy. The committee's study of the NPA was a case of the legislative branch taking its marching orders from the executive branch.
Second, and connected to my first point, the transport, infrastructure and communities committee undertook the study of the NPA as a result of an inadvisable letter from the Minister of Transport, co-authored by the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, which was sent to the chair of the transportation committee. In this letter, the Minister of Transport, in effect, directed the committee to undertake this study to provide political cover for introducing changes to the previous Conservative government's legislation. Add to that the fact that the instructions contained within the Minister of Transport's ministerial mandate letter directed him to reverse the changes that were made when the NPA became law.
By directing the committee to undertake the study, the minister was foisting upon a parliamentary committee an instruction that he, himself, had been given. It is no wonder, then, that the conclusions of the committee study were pre-determined. To this day, I find this invasion by the executive branch into the workings of a committee of the legislative body to be a very egregious act on the part of the Minister of Transport and this Prime Minister.
Getting back to Bill C-69 and the new provisions it contains, if passed, the bill will maintain the schedule of waters to be covered by the bill, but it will change the rules and regulations for any work on any navigable water listed in the schedule. Additionally, the bill will create new rules and regulations that will apply to all navigable waters, not just those listed in the schedule.
When I say “navigable water”, it is important to note that this term is code for any body of water or seasonal stream that can float a petroleum-produced canoe or kayak. These new rules include providing an opportunity for the public to express concerns over a work's impact on navigation.
While noble in concept, we all know that this new provision has the potential to be abused by individuals and organizations ideologically opposed to certain projects. This bill is about undoing the good work of our previous Conservative government for spite, rather than implementing policy for the good of the country.
In conclusion, I believe that Bill C-69 is a bad bill and completely unnecessary. While I have only touched on a small part of this bill, I know that its other elements, which my colleague, the member for Abbotsford and others have articulated, will have an equally damaging effect on the Canadian economy and the investment environment in Canada as a whole. This damaging bill is just another piece of bad policy that is causing investment and job creators to look at other countries and/or leave Canada.
It is my sincere hope that the Liberals will reconsider what they are doing to Canada's economy and reputation with misguided pieces of legislation like this one.