Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be speaking in today's debate in my new role as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources.
I am honoured by the trust that the Prime Minister has put in me. I am well aware that I have been entrusted with a critical portfolio. The member for Northumberland—Peterborough South set the bar very high.
I have learned some valuable lessons in my years representing the people of Sudbury. Thanks to them, I have a better understanding of the importance of natural resource development, the importance of doing things right, and the importance of making sure that everyone wins, including proponents, local communities and indigenous peoples, in the spirit of creating jobs while protecting the environment. The House committee came to the same conclusion two years ago in its report entitled “The Future of Canada's Oil and Gas Sector: Innovation, Sustainable Solutions and Economic Opportunities”.
I have always suspected that some people were a bit slow to grasp the importance of harmonizing environmental protection and economic prosperity. All the same, it is astonishing that we are only now debating a report that was released by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Natural Resources a full two years ago.
I want to take a moment to refresh the memories of those who may have forgotten what that report said and remind them of what our government has achieved.
The committee explored the future of Canada's oil and gas sectors by focusing on innovation, sustainable solutions and economic opportunities. After holding seven days of meetings and hearing from 33 witnesses, the committee produced its report, which contained a number of recommendations. Among other things, the report recommended that our government continue to support the viability and competitiveness of Canada's oil and gas sectors, foster investment and trade opportunities, promote a new era of indigenous engagement and public trust, establish a carbon pricing system, invest in technological innovation and establish the right policy framework.
Our government approved that report and we are responding to each of its recommendations.
Through Natural Resources Canada, we are investing in research and the demonstration of innovative technologies, including those aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Two specific initiatives are worth noting: first, the $50-million oil and gas clean tech program, which is helping to reduce the sector's greenhouse gas emissions; and second, the $25-million clean energy innovation program, which seeks to reduce emissions in a number of areas, including methane and volatile organic compounds in the oil and gas industry. Future work will focus on enhancing the environmental and economic performance by significantly reducing methane emissions.
Through mission innovation, our government has committed to doubling our investment in energy technology research and development. More broadly, NRCan is working with Canada's Oil Sands Innovation Alliance and other partners to maximize the innovative potential for the oil and gas sector.
As I mentioned, the committee report also calls on the government to rebuild public trust in resource development. Our government has done just that, including by restoring many lost environmental protections and introducing modern safeguards to the Fisheries Act and the Navigation Protection Act.
We announced a $1.5-billion oceans protection plan, the largest investment in Canada's coasts and oceans in our history.
We have introduced Bill C-69, the most comprehensive overhaul of the environmental review process in a generation.
The Prime Minister has said many times that no relationship is more important to our government than the one with indigenous peoples. In particular, we recognize that consultation with indigenous communities affected by resource projects is critical to renewing a nation-to-nation relationship. That is why, with respect to the Trans Mountain expansion project, we extended the timeline to allow for deeper, more meaningful engagement.
When concerns were expressed, we responded by committing nearly $65 million to establish an indigenous advisory and monitoring committee that would oversee environmental aspects through the entire life of that project. This was unprecedented. As Chief Ernie Crey of the Cheam First Nation said, “Indigenous people won't be on the outside looking in. We'll be at the table and on site to protect our lands and water.”
That said, we know that when it comes to indigenous engagement, a higher bar must still be met. Our government will be announcing how we intend to meet that bar in the coming days.
Finally, the committee recommended that we establish the right policy framework to ensure a competitive oil and gas industry. We agree, which is why we are continuing to work towards a Canadian energy strategy together with our indigenous, provincial and territorial colleagues. It is why, through the Vancouver declaration, Canada's first ministers committed to working on carbon sinks and other measures under the pan-Canadian framework on clean growth and climate change.
That is why we have done what 42 other countries and 25 subnational jurisdictions have done: put a price on pollution. It is something the United Nations has called a necessary and effective measure to tackle the climate change challenge.
Taken together, our actions constitute an unprecedented level of support for the oil and gas industry, all while demonstrating that economic development and environmental prosperity can indeed go hand in hand.
The opposition issued a dissenting report and I will address it directly.
The report calls, among other things, for clear timelines for assessments. I suggest that members opposite read Bill C-69, which provides predictable timelines and clear expectations. This would allow proponents to better plan and engage earlier, leading to stronger proposals and greater certainty. The opposition's report also recommends that we encourage our national regulators to “make evidence-based decisions independent of government politicization”.
This concern for evidence-based decision-making is a welcome change of pace in Canada.
I can guarantee my opposition colleagues that we truly value science, facts and evidence. I am also pleased to mention that the dissenting report calls on the government “to publicly and unequivocally support strategic energy infrastructure approved by the national regulators”. Of course, that is exactly what we did by approving the Line 3 replacement project.
Finally, the report calls on the government to promote Canada's regulatory framework by instilling “public confidence in our national regulators”. We agree, which is why we built on the work of the National Energy Board to create a modern, world-class regulatory body for the 21st century, an organization that has the independence and accountability needed to oversee a solid, safe and viable energy sector, an organization that includes new public engagement and indigenous reconciliation processes, all while ensuring that good projects get the green light.
I will conclude by saying that I am always happy to talk about everything our government is doing for the oil and gas industry. We know that it is a vital contributor to our economy and an important part of our future. The fact is that the recommendations in this report are already being implemented. Our government will continue to look forward, towards a very bright future for our oil and gas industry and towards the prosperity it will help ensure for all Canadians.