Mr. Speaker, I am pleased today to speak to Bill C-225. The bill touches upon intergovernmental relations, federalism and the paramountcy principle: matters that have been debated in both Houses of Parliament on a wide range of subjects. In essence, this bill seeks to subordinate the exercise of federal power in certain areas of provincial law and to allow provincial governments to impose restrictions on environmental protection activities and land use for projects the federal government undertakes across the country.
These same topics came up when this bill was discussed in the House on June 19, 2018, when Bill C-392 proposed similar amendments during the last Parliament. At the time, Bill C-392 sought to strengthen environmental protection and scrutiny of land use. Since then, Bill C-69, introduced by this government, positively strengthened consultation mechanisms and consideration of the environmental impact of projects under federal jurisdiction.
I congratulate the hon. member for his initiative to heighten the consideration given to land use and development, as well as to environmental protection, when projects and activities under federal jurisdiction are being considered. The government is also invested in protecting Canada's environment, and in ensuring effective consultation that accounts for local concerns related to land use and development and the environment. Canadians should know that all levels of government work in the interests of their well-being.
Every day, millions of Canadians go about their lives in an orderly and predictable way. They routinely use safe roads, drink clean water, consume food free of contaminants, rely on safe transportation systems and know that their safety and security are guarded by police, fire departments, paramedics and military personnel. Even today, while the world is facing COVID-19, Canadians can count on federal, provincial and municipal governments to continue to collaborate until the end of this challenging time so they can maintain as many of their routines as possible.
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.
Over the last several years, the Liberal government has sought to promote co-operative federalism as a way to face challenges concerning more than one level of government. 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 a local concern. For this reason, taking a co-operative approach achieves the best possible outcome for 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 our environment.
There have been, and will continue to be, times when differences arise despite our best efforts to work together. However, there are already numerous federal statutes, particularly those implicated in Bill C-225, and regulations that accommodate provincial laws concerning land use and development and environmental protection. Efforts are ongoing to encourage co-operative federalism in ways that do not restrict core federal operation.
In order to build on its desire for co-operative federalism, the Liberal government demonstrated its commitment to consulting Canadians when it introduced Bill C-69, which strengthens Canada's environmental assessments and regulatory reviews through legislative changes and amendments. This bill explicitly reflects the consideration of environmental, social, safety, health and socio-economic issues, including gender-based impacts and economics as well as impacts on indigenous peoples. Bill C-69 also includes several provisions that enhance public participation and transparency, which provides members of the public with an opportunity to express their views during the review process.
The changes we made in Bill C-69 exceed the amendments proposed in Bill C-225. As we know, the division of powers in Canada is defined by the Constitution Act, but we also know that the division presents some ambiguity.
There are many areas and many issues where interests cross jurisdictional lines. Two or even three levels of government have stakes in issues such as the environment, health, safety and employment. Our different levels of government need to work together to discuss problems, develop strategies, leverage resources and find solutions.
To reinforce the importance of collaboration, the Supreme Court of Canada encourages all levels of government to work co-operatively. In recent decisions, the Court has indicated that provincial and municipal legislation cannot impair core matters of federal jurisdiction over aeronautics or radio communication infrastructure.
In addition, where possible, it prefers to allow valid provincial laws to apply, if they are not in conflict. While these decisions quite clearly establish federal authority on matters such as aerodromes and cellphone towers, the federal government does not rely on court decisions to impose projects on Canadian communities. Instead, it chooses to use processes for consultation, and the consideration of environmental laws and land use, to ensure that local concerns are taken into consideration regarding activities and projects that fall under federal jurisdiction. A division of powers is essential to maintaining order and predictability in our society and ensures that we avoid the scenario of too many leaders in one situation, or a leadership void when no one 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.
I would like to provide the House with examples of three areas of federal jurisdiction in which a co-operative approach and consultations play an essential role. First, in January of 2017, following a regulatory consultation process, Transport Canada implemented a new regulation requiring proponents of certain aerodrome projects to consult with the municipalities, citizens or other concerned stakeholders before starting work, so that local concerns could be identified and mitigated. I add that many of these projects do not move forward if there are serious doubts expressed regarding the quality of the consultations carried out by their proponents, or if these projects are deemed not to be in the public interest.
Another example under the Canada Marine Act is that there currently exist provisions for the Governor in Council to make regulations situated on a port, whether a Canadian port authority or public port facility, or on use of the seaway and its property. These provisions include development, use and environmental protections that incorporate provincial legislation by reference.
My third and final example is the Canada Infrastructure Bank, which acts as a partner in delivering federal support to infrastructure projects in the public interest alongside co-investment by the private sector, institutional investors and sponsoring governments. Projects supported by the infrastructure bank must respect all applicable laws in their relevant jurisdictions, including any applicable environmental or labour laws. Project sponsors provide assurance to the bank and other investors that applicable laws in a province have been respected.
These three specific examples were chosen because these initiatives all require consultation and consideration of local issues related to land use and the environment. These would be taken away from the very acts the private member's bill seeks to amend. There are countless other examples, in the same act and elsewhere, that demonstrate the government's commitment to hearing the concerns of Canadians, and advancing the health, safety and economic well-being of our citizens and the stewardship of our natural resources, such as our forests and waters. These duties are the responsibility of all governments, whether municipal, federal or provincial. Our best successes occur when we come together, listen to one another and work together to support policy development, new programs and effective enforcement that serves all Canadians. We have every intention of continuing to listen to and work with other levels of government.
The federal government has worked effectively with provinces, territories and municipalities over many years in response to the requirements of the communities they serve and to the needs of the country as a whole. Like our provincial and municipal partners, we take that responsibility very seriously. The Liberal government will continue to prioritize co-operative federalism and consultation with its citizens. Bill C-225 would represent a major shift in federal-provincial dynamics in Canada and would undermine the co-operative federal relationship we worked so hard to establish.
It is for these reasons the government strongly opposes Bill C-225.