Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to outline my position and the position of the NDP on the bill put forward by my colleague from Repentigny.
I think her bill has many interesting elements with regard to respecting the jurisdictions of Quebec and the other provinces, municipal officials, and certain acts and regulations Quebec or other provinces have passed to protect ecosystems, public health, or local residents. Legal and constitutional matters are being raised. There is also the matter of respecting the Quebec nation, as well as respecting the concept known as social licence. Today, no government of any kind can just barge in like in the old days and try to impose its projects in spite of misgivings or fierce opposition from local, regional, or indigenous communities.
I found it hilarious, but at the same time kind of tragic, to hear the Liberal member say earlier that this bill would undermine her party's efforts to promote co-operative federalism.
That takes some nerve. I do not know whether Kinder Morgan, health transfers, or marijuana mean anything to them in terms of co-operative federalism. That is the type of approach they promised to take during the election, but since they took office, the Liberals have been all about unilateralism, federal imperialism, bulldozing, and charging ahead. I think that is absolutely shameful.
In fact, I would like to point something out to the member for Winnipeg North, the parliamentary secretary. He asked a question earlier and I remembered it. I would simply like to tell him that Quebec is not a region. It is a nation. It was not the National Assembly that said that. That was recognized here in the House of Commons and by the Parliament of Canada. I think the member should do his homework and find out exactly what motions have already been adopted here.
The bill introduced by the member for Repentigny has to do with Quebec, of course, but it also has to do with all of the provinces. It seeks to establish a balanced approach that respects the different jurisdictions of the provinces, the federal government, the municipalities, and first nations.
I would like to remind members of the NPD's approach. A few years ago, we had a leader named Jack Layton. He believed that the recognition of the Quebec nation should have implications and consequences, and he took that very seriously. That resulted in a very interesting document entitled the Sherbrooke declaration, drawn up by Pierre Ducasse. The Sherbrooke declaration, which was historically adopted by the NDP, recognizes the Quebec nation and asymmetrical federalism. For years, we have been accused of being a centralist party, but all of the Canada-wide programs that the NDP has proposed have had a Quebec clause that would allow the province to opt out with financial compensation if it was not interested in the program or if it already had an equivalent program. That is what I mean by asymmetrical federalism.
In terms of co-operative federalism, the bill is a step in the right direction. That is why the NDP will proudly support this bill so that it may be studied in committee. We have questions about the mechanics of the bill and how the courts will interpret the fact that we are restoring balance between various jurisdictions and, if possible, those with the best environmental assessments and the strongest social licence. However, I think that this is worth studying. We agree in principle. Second reading is a vote on the principle. We want to refer the bill to committee to be studied. We have some questions, but we think that the spirit of the bill is consistent with our vision. It is also a step in the right direction toward better understanding, to better protect our communities and the people who want to protect their lakes, rivers, farmland, and simply their peace and quiet. They can protect their creek from one end to the other as well. I am sure that if we can sit down and talk about this we will come to an agreement at some point.
The member for Repentigny introduced a bill that will amend eight federal acts, forcing Ottawa to respect applicable provincial laws and municipal regulations governing land use and development.
That is very important because land development is key here and the government has to do a better job of respecting that. This bill will affect wharves, ports, airports, telecommunications infrastructure, federal properties, interprovincial pipelines, and more.
This bill does not explicitly state how it changes the status quo, and that is what we have questions about. The bill simply says that the exercise of the powers in question must comply with provincial laws.
I believe my colleague from Repentigny mentioned an example to do with the Canada National Parks Act, which already takes certain provincial jurisdictions and regulations into consideration. In many cases, the exercise of powers under federal law is already subordinate to provincial laws, including those that govern land development and environmental protection. We do not see this as an inapplicable precedent or something unprecedented. This is the natural extension of a principle we agree with. Remains to be seen how it will apply in real life.
The bill's purpose is to give the governments of Quebec and the other provinces more power over land development within their borders. The bill would require the federal government to recognize agricultural zoning regulations, for example, and to respect more exacting environmental assessments, such as those carried out by the BAPE, Quebec's environmental assessment agency. We can talk more about that.
As the Green Party leader said, the Liberal government's Bill C-69 does not inspire confidence in the seriousness of the government's new environmental assessment processes. In some ways, this bill is full of holes. We do not even know if it will be enforced or if the Minister of Environment and Climate Change will abide by these recommendations. After all, her discretionary power is absolute.
In accordance with the division of powers under the Constitution, the laws affected by this bill are a matter of federal jurisdiction. According to the Library of Parliament analysis that we requested, it is impossible to determine the legislation's exact scope from its current wording. It is possible that the courts will interpret the provisions of Bill C-392 as an incorporation by reference of provincial laws, meaning that it incorporates, for the purposes of the eight laws amended, the rules set out by the provinces. If it turns out that the courts consider that the provisions of Bill C-392 incorporate by reference the provincial laws related to the eight laws amended, these provincial laws, for the purposes of these eight laws, will be considered to be federal laws. This is a common legislative technique that has a great deal of precedent. However, the real effects remain unknown for the time being. It will be important to examine these points and questions when the bill is studied in committee.
We also consulted David Robitaille, tenured professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of Ottawa. He thinks this bill is interesting and could result in a better division of the responsibilities and decision-making powers between the federal government and provincial governments, or the Government of Quebec in this particular instance.
There are a number of examples in which this could have made a difference if the bill introduced by the member for Repentigny had already been applied. For example, there is the private developer operating near Shawinigan that had the right to operate a small airport on private land or to fly a float plane on a lake, even though it was prohibited by a municipal zoning bylaw or provincial law, such as the Act Respecting the Preservation of Agricultural Land and Agricultural Activities. This is the kind of situation we must stop from happening.
I think it is important to be open, show common sense, and send this bill to committee, so that we can respect Quebec laws, provincial laws, and municipalities.
The current Liberal government violated the rights of indigenous peoples and of British Columbia. It barged in and bought a 65-year-old pipeline for $4.5 billion. It completely disregarded all of the orders from the Government of British Columbia. As a Quebecker, I would be particularly concerned that it might manage to revive a pipeline project like energy east, which had massive opposition throughout Quebec, in Montreal, in the metropolitan area, in towns, and in the regions. Energy east would have crossed 800 rivers in Quebec, including the St. Lawrence. The government needs to understand that it must sit down with Quebec, the provinces, and municipalities to talk things over, like a respectful partner.