Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-88, an act to amend the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act and the Canada Petroleum Resources Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts.
The bill would make two amendments to the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act of 1998, and I will refer to this in my speech going forward as MVRMA. Part A reverses provisions that would have consolidated the Mackenzie Valley land and water boards into one. These provisions were introduced by the former Conservative government within Bill C-15, Northwest Territories Devolution Act of 2014.
Part B would amend the Canada Petroleum Resources Act to allow the Governor in Council to issue orders, when in the national interest, to prohibit oil and gas activities, and freezes the terms of existing licences to prevent them from expiring during a moratorium.
Bill C-88 is yet another Liberal anti-energy policy in a long list of policies from the government that are driving energy investments out of Canada, costing Canadian workers their jobs and increasing poverty rates in the north.
First, I will speak to part A of the bill, the section that reverses the previous government's initiative to consolidate for the devolution of governance of the Northwest Territories, wherein the federal government transferred control of the territories' land and resources to the Northwest Territories government.
Part of that plan sought to restructure the four Mackenzie Valley land and water boards into a single consolidated superboard, with the intent to streamline regulatory processes and enable responsible resource development. For the reasons why this was proposed under Bill C-15, we have to turn back the clock nearly seven years earlier when, in 2007, then-minister of Indian affairs and northern development, the hon. Chuck Strahl commissioned a report on improving regulatory and environmental assessment regimes in Canada's north.
The consolidation of the Mackenzie Valley land and water boards into one entity was a key recommendation, which would address the complexity and capacity issues by making more efficient use of expenditures and administrative resources, and allow for administrative practices to be understandable and consistent.
Furthermore, during debates in the House in 2013 and 2014, the then-minister of aboriginal affairs and northern development, Bernard Valcourt and the member for Chilliwack—Hope, or as it was known back then, Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, pointed out that the restructured board was included in the final version of the modern land claim agreements.
The proposed changes were not acceptable to everyone, and two indigenous groups, the Tlicho Government and Sahtu Secretariat, filed for an injunction with the Northwest Territories' Supreme Court to suspend the related provisions.
They argued that the federal government did not have the authority to abolish the Mackenzie Valley regulatory regime without consultation with affected indigenous communities. I should point out that, at the time, Liberal members of Parliament voted in favour of Bill C-15 when it was debated in Parliament, including the Prime Minister.
The report commissioned by the then-minister of Indian affairs and northern development was never meant to diminish the influence that indigenous people have on resource management in the north. Rather, it was meant to allow for this influence in a practical way, while at the same time enabling responsible resource development through an effective regulatory system.
This brings us back to today and the bill currently before us. As previously mentioned Bill C-88 would repeal the restructuring of the four land and water boards but also reintroduce regulatory provisions that were included in the previous Conservative government's Bill C-15.
These provisions have been redrafted to function under the current four-board structure and provide for the following: an administrative monetary penalty scheme that will provide inspectors with additional tools to enforce compliance with permits and licences under the MVRMA; an enforceable development certificate scheme following environmental assessments and environmental impact reviews; the development of regulations respecting consultation, which are intended to help clarify the procedural roles and responsibilities respecting indigenous consultation; clarification of requirements for equal proportions of nominees from government and indigenous governments and organizations; a 10-day pause period between a board's preliminary screening decision and the issuance of an authorization to allow for other bodies under the MVRMA to refer a project to an environmental assessment; regional studies that provide the minister with the discretion to appoint committees or individuals to study the effects of existing and future development on a regional basis; the authority to develop cost-recovery regulations that would provide the federal government with the ability to recover costs associated with proceedings; and the extension of a board member's term during a proceeding to ensure board quorum is maintained until the conclusion of an application decision.
These are good regulations and I am glad to see that the current government is continuing on with that and did not throw away these provisions.
The Liberals will say that Bill C-88 is about consultation, however, under part 2 is where the real motivation for Bill C-88 becomes evident.
Part 2 is simply the Liberals' plan to further politicize the regulatory and environmental processes for resource extraction in Canada's north by giving cabinet sweeping powers to stop projects based on its so-called national interest. So much for the comments from the parliamentary secretary to the minister of indigenous and northern affairs, who, on speaking to the Conservatives' Bill C-15 on February 11, 2014, said:
As Liberals, we want to see the Northwest Territories have the kind of independence it has sought. We want it to have the ability to make decisions regarding the environment, resource development, business management, growth, and opportunity, which arise within their own lands.
I would agree with that.
Bill C-88 exposes the Liberals' full rejection of calls from elected territorial leaders for increased control of their natural resources. The Liberals have demonstrated disregard for those who speak truth to power, they have demonstrated contempt for indigenous peoples advocating for the health and welfare of their children and now they are adding indifference for northern Canadians' interests to their long litany of groups marginalized by the Liberal government.
The Conservatives strongly criticized the Liberals for a moratorium on offshore oil and gas development in the Beaufort Sea, an announcement made in December 2016, in Washington, D.C. by the prime minister, an announcement, I might add, where territorial leaders were given less than an hour's notice. The Liberal government's top-down maternalistic approach to northerners must end. It does nothing to reduce poverty in remote and northern regions of Canada.
Like Bill C-69, the no-more pipelines bill before it, Bill C-88 politicizes oil and gas extraction by expanding the powers of cabinet to block economic development and adds to the increasing levels of red tape proponents must face before they can get shovels into the ground. Like Bill C-68, the convoluted navigable waters bill before it, Bill C-88 adds ambiguity and massive uncertainty in an already turbulent investment climate. Like Bill C-48, the tanker ban bill before it, Bill C-88 aims to kill high-quality, high-paying jobs for Canadians and their families who work in the oil and gas-related industries.
We know the Prime Minister's real motivation. He spelled it out for us at a Peterborough, Ontario town hall in January 2017, when he clearly stated that he and his government needed to phase out the oil and gas industry in Canada. The Prime Minister's plan to phase out the energy industry has been carried out with surgical precision to date.
The Liberals' job-killing carbon tax is already costing Canadian jobs. Companies repeatedly mention that the carbon tax is the reason they are investing in jobs and projects in the United States over Canada. The Liberals new methane regulations could end refining in Canada by adding tens of billions of dollars of cost to an industry that is already in crisis.
The Liberals introduced their interim review process for oil and gas projects in January 2016, which killed energy east, the 15,000 middle-class jobs it would have created and the nearly $55 billion it would have injected into the New Brunswick and Canadian economies, a review process which delayed the Trans Mountain expansion reviews by six months and added upstream admissions to the review process.
The Liberal cabinet imposed a B.C. north shore tanker ban within months of forming government, with no consultation or scientific evidence to support it. The Liberals cancelled the oil and gas exploration drilling tax credits during a major downturn in the oil and gas sector, which caused the complete collapse of drilling in Canada. The Liberals' proposed fuel standard will equate to a carbon tax of $228 per tonne of fuel according to their own analysis.
When the Prime Minister vetoed the northern gateway pipeline, he killed benefit agreements between the project and 31 first nations, worth about $2 billion. The unprecedented policy will apply not to just transportation fuels but to all industries, including steel production, heating for commercial buildings and home heating fuels like natural gas.
All this is destroying energy jobs and investment from coast to coast to coast. Now, with Bill C-88, we add another coast, the northern coast.
The Liberals love to champion the Prime Minister's personal commitment to a new relationship with indigenous people through new disclosure and friendly policies. They will, no doubt, due so again with Bill C-88.
This is what some organizations and people have to say, with respect to the Prime Minister's so-called commitment:
Stephen Buffalo, the president and CEO of the Indian Resource Council, in the National Post, October 19, 2018 stated:
...the government of Canada appears to consult primarily with people and organizations that share its views...It pays much less attention to other Indigenous groups, equally concerned about environmental sustainability, who seek a more balanced approach to resource development.
Here is another quote from that article:
The policies of the [Prime Minister's] government are systematically constraining the freedom and economic opportunities of the oil- and gas-producing Indigenous peoples of Canada. We are not asking for more from government. We are actually asking for less government intervention
Roy Fox, chief of the Kainaiwa first nation, in The Globe and Mail, December 10, 2018 stated:
While the Kainaiwa [nation] continue to fight against high unemployment, as well as the social destructiveness and health challenges such as addiction and other issues that often accompany poverty, my band’s royalties have recently been cut by more than half. Furthermore, all drilling has been cancelled because of high price differentials – the enormous gap between what we get on a barrel of oil in comparison to the benchmark price – which has limited employment opportunities on our lands.
Chief Fox continued:
...it’d be an understatement to say the policies proposed within Bills C-69 and C-48 are damaging our position by restricting access and reducing our ability to survive as a community....I and the majority of Treaty 7 chiefs strongly oppose the bill for its likely devastating impact on our ability to support our community members, as it would make it virtually impossible for my nation to fully benefit from the development of our energy resources.
I can continue to read quotes. However, we here on this side of the aisle are deeply disappointed that the Prime Minister, who campaigned on a promise of reconciliation with indigenous communities, blatantly would allow and choose to deny our 31 first nations and Métis communities their constitutionally-protected right to economic development.
This is from the Aboriginal Equity Partners:
We see today's announcement as evidence of the government's unwillingness to follow through on the Prime Minister's promise.
The Government of Canada could have demonstrated its commitment by working with us as environmental stewards of the land and water to enhance marine safety. All 31 AEP plus the other affected communities should have been consulted directly and individually in order to meet the Federal Government's duty to consult.
I have said this many times in my speech. It is time to stop politicizing these projects. Bill C-88 politicizes oil and gas development in the far north by providing the cabinet in Ottawa the unilateral power to shut down oil and gas development without consulting the people it affects directly.
I want to point to a few “key facts” from NRCAN's website. It states that in 2017, Canada’s energy sector directly employed more than 276,000 people and indirectly supported over 624,000 jobs; Canada’s energy sector accounts for almost 11% of nominal Gross Domestic Product (GDP); government revenues from energy were $10.3 billion in 2016; more than $650 million was spent on energy research, development, and deployment by governments in 2016-17; and Canada is the sixth largest energy producer, the fifth largest net exporter, and the eighth largest consumer
Just last week, in The Globe and Mail, David McKay, the president and CEO of the Royal Bank of Canada, stated:
History has placed Canada at a crossroads. No other country of 37 million people has access to more natural resources – and the brainpower to convert those resources into sustainable growth for a stronger society.
And yet, Canada is at risk of taking the wrong turn at the crossroads because some believe there are only two paths: one for economic growth, and the other for environment.
We’re seeing this dilemma play out in Canada’s energy transition as we struggle to reconcile competing ideas.
We aspire to help the world meet its energy needs and move to ever-cleaner fuel sources. We aim to reduce our carbon footprint. We want Indigenous reconciliation and long-term partnership. And we hope to maintain the standard of living we have come to enjoy.
But without a balanced approach to harnessing our energy future, all of this is at risk.
We need to take a third path--one that will help us develop our natural resources, invest in clean technologies and ensure a prosperous Canada....
But we’re reaching a critical time in our country’s history.
As our resources sector copes with a growing crisis, we worry that Canada is not setting up our energy industry for growth and success in a changing world.
When I travel abroad, and proudly talk up our country, too many investors tell me they feel Canada's door is closed when it comes to energy. We need to change that impression immediately, because these investors are backing up their words with action.
According to a recent study from the C.D. Howe Institute, Canada has lost $100-billion in potential investment in oil and gas in the past two years.
We can’t forget that energy is not only part of the economic fabric of Canada, it also funds our social needs. The sector has contributed $90-billion to government revenues over the past five years, which covers about 10 per cent of what the country spends on health care, according to RBC Economics.
And if we squander our huge advantage and cede the dividends to other countries, we’ll also risk losing the opportunity to help combat the most daunting challenge of all – climate change.
The article ends with the following charge to government:
We can’t stay at a crossroads.
It’s time for Canada to pull together on a plan – one that re-energizes our place in the world.
The Conservatives have long viewed the north as a key driver of economic activity for Canada for decades to come. The Liberals, however, view the north as a place to create huge swaths of protected land and shut down economic activity.
Bill C-88 appears to be based in a desire to win votes in major urban centres rather than reduce poverty in remote regions of Canada. Northerners face the unique challenges of living in the north with resilience and fortitude. They want to create jobs and economic opportunities for their families. They deserve a government that has their backs.
We are at a crossroads and it is time for Canada to pull together a plan. The Conservatives are up to that challenge. We look forward to unveiling our plan and growing the economy in the next election for voters to decide for themselves who really has the best interests of Canadians.