Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure, as always, to speak to this important motion today, and I am proud to be speaking on behalf of Saskatoon West.
Saskatoon is the economic engine of Saskatchewan. For example, in January, there were 6,000 jobs in Saskatchewan and 4,000 of those were created in Saskatoon. My riding is west of the river in Saskatoon and includes the downtown commercial district with all the high rises. It has industrial parks for our oil and gas sector, the energy sector. There is much manufacturing and food processing. For agriculture, we have grain elevators and farm equipment manufacturing in my riding. Of course, it is also a transportation hub. We have highways going in all directions, there is an airport and of course there are trains. About 75,000 individuals live in my riding, from multi-generation Canadians to new immigrants, and we have the fourth-highest urban indigenous population in Canada.
What I do here in Parliament matters to the people in Saskatoon West, and what the Prime Minister and the leader of the NDP do also matters to the people of Saskatoon West. Today's motion is about the most fundamental bedrock that this country is built on. Today, we are debating Canada's Constitution and Saskatchewan's part in it.
The motion would rewrite the Saskatchewan Act, which is the legislation that brought our great province into Confederation. Currently, Canadian Pacific Railway may have an exemption under the act that excludes it from paying taxes to the province. This is a concession that was granted to the railway well over 100 years ago in exchange for its role in building the infrastructure of our province. This point is in dispute and is before the courts, with over $300 million in taxes to the Saskatchewan government at stake. Our motion would amend the Saskatchewan Act to remove any ambiguity about this issue to ensure that CP, like its counterpart CN, pays its taxes like all corporations are required to do. It would also settle the $300 million-plus tax question hanging over the provincial treasury.
I want the people of Saskatoon West to know that today I worked with my colleagues throughout Saskatchewan and throughout the House to get this done for them. As MPs, we can get great things done as Canadians when we work together.
For a little context, the economy, of course, is critical in Saskatchewan, and energy is 26% of the economic activity in the province. We produce an average of 13 million barrels of oil per month, which is about 500,000 barrels a day. For context, Canada as a whole consumes about 2.5 million barrels a day. Saskatchewan has another 1.2 billion barrels of oil in reserve. According to the City of Saskatoon, there are almost 40 businesses in my riding that are directly involved in primary energy production, and hundreds more in secondary manufacturing and service-sector jobs that service the energy sector. Of course, many workers who live in my riding drive to drilling locations all over western Canada.
As I mentioned earlier, Saskatoon has the fourth-largest urban indigenous population in the country. Our companies want to work with indigenous communities on energy and other projects, and many are.
I want to highlight the work of the Saskatoon Tribal Council and what it does in our city. Its website says:
STC Economic Development creates business and industry partnerships to promote sustainable wealth creation for our First Nation Communities. Industry Partnerships are collaborative agreements between key industrial stakeholders in Saskatchewan and the Tribal Council that are participation driven rather than profit driven.
STC's Industry Engagement Strategy was developed in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's (TRC) Call to Action, # 92-ii which calls for, 1) equal access to jobs, training, and education opportunities in the corporate sector and, 2) long-term sustainable benefits from economic development projects.
While I am talking about the Saskatoon Tribal Council, I want to give it a shout-out for the great work it is doing with its temporary shelter in Saskatoon. Saskatoon faced a housing crisis this winter, and on very short notice back in November, various stakeholders came together. Within weeks, the STC put together a plan to create a shelter facility with 50 beds for the winter. I visited this facility about three weeks after it opened, and it was a very smooth-running operation, which is amazing considering they had such a short period of time to get it going. They are providing such a critical service in Saskatoon. This is a great example of different organizations and different levels of government working together to creatively solve a problem in a very short period of time. I congratulate Tribal Chief Mark Arcand and all the staff who are working in the shelter to look after Saskatoon's people to make Saskatoon a better place.
STC has multiple business partnerships with companies such as SaskEnergy, the largest energy company in the province; Saskatchewan's largest construction firm, KPCL; and Nutrien, the biggest developer of fertilizer on the planet.
Let us talk about Nutrien a bit. Nutrien is a Saskatoon success story. It is the single largest fertilizer manufacturer on the planet with over 20,000 employees worldwide. Where are its corporate headquarters? They are in Saskatoon West, in my riding. Everybody must be fed and to feed those people takes a lot of plants or animals that eat plants. All plants require four elements: oxygen, nitrogen, carbon and potassium. Nutrien extracts potash from the ground and potash is the potassium component of that equation.
The areas around Saskatoon have some of the highest naturally occurring potash reservoirs on the planet and PotashCorp, the Saskatoon-based predecessor to Nutrien, merged with Agrium three years ago to form this new company. Today, no matter what we eat, it has been grown with fertilizer supplied by this company based in my riding.
That brings me to agriculture in general. The lush cropland surrounding Saskatoon makes my riding the perfect hub for all that product to come into. Wheat, canola, pulse and speciality crops, beef, pork, dairy, chicken, it all has to move through my riding to its destination. If it is cattle or pigs, the animals are on trucks for hours until they reach slaughterhouses in Alberta or Manitoba. The grains and crops make their way to Asia, Europe, Africa and throughout the Americas. For that, they need to go to Chicago if it is going south, west to tidewater or east to Thunder Bay for the Great Lakes.
All of this takes trains. CN's largest switching yard between Winnipeg and Kamloops is on the edge of Montgomery in Saskatoon West. CP has its track that runs through the core of the city, right by my constituency office. Farmers, manufacturers and energy companies all depend on these railways to get their products to market.
Canada was built on these two railways. CN was an amalgamation of a bunch of railways that made up the Yellowhead route between Winnipeg and Kamloops in B.C. These railways helped develop the farms and settlements that made up Saskatoon in northern Saskatchewan. CP, of course, traces its roots back to Confederation. The colony of British Columbia joined Confederation on a promise of CP Rail and Sir John A. Macdonald won and lost his government over the CP Rail scandal.
The railways are so critical to our country that they have their own section of the British North America Act. Standing Order 130 of the House of Commons lays out a special procedure to deal specifically with railway legislation, separate from regular government business, and today we are debating a motion that deals directly with Canada's Constitution and the requirement of CP to either pay taxes or not in the province of Saskatchewan.
Now 116 years ago, the Saskatchewan Act created my home province and CP was granted an exemption related to its land concessions exempting it from provincial taxes. CP has been a good corporate citizen and has been paying taxes regardless, but now the railway is seeking $341 million in damages from the province in relation to those taxes.
The province argues that CP gave up the right not to pay the taxes over 60 years ago and is not owed that money back. That brings us to the caboose. Where is the train today? Just three months ago, the Saskatchewan government introduced a constitutional motion to clear up this issue and all MLAs supported it. There was perfect unanimity in the Saskatchewan legislature and that is rare.
In that spirit, I will quote NDP MLA Trent Wotherspoon who spoke on behalf of the official opposition in the provincial legislature. He said:
This is an important action for us as a province. And it represents history in the making because if this motion succeeds, it would be the first time the Saskatchewan Act and our Constitution has been amended with a motion that originates from the Saskatchewan legislature.
He is right. The process for amending the Constitution of the province under the Constitution Act is, first, that the motion has to be passed in the legislature of the affected province, and in this case it was. Second is that the motion has to pass both chambers of Parliament, and third, once it is approved, it then goes to be published under the Great Seal of Her Majesty. Step one is done. Hopefully, step two can happen today in the chamber and then the motion in the Senate can pass soon after.
Given that we are in Her Majesty's 70th jubilee year, this would be the perfect present for her to bequeath the people of Saskatchewan with this motion under her Great Seal.
These are weighty issues. We are talking about a constitutional issue with real economic consequences for my riding. The energy sector, the agriculture sector, corporate headquarters, jobs and indigenous development are all tied together with the growth of the railways. Saskatchewan and Saskatoon West need the railways to remain strong and healthy. They also need the railways to remember they serve the economic good of the people. Without our people thriving, the railways cannot survive.
It is time for CP, the province and the House to turn the page. I encourage MPs from every party to stand up and support this motion.