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  • His favourite word is liberal.

NDP MP for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 49% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Impact Assessment Act June 12th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, again, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-69 on a new impact assessment and environmental assessment process.

I must begin by saying a few words about the approach to adopting this new process. Cloaked in righteousness, the Liberal government set to defending democratic institutions. It sought to give MPs their power and their voice back, respect the work of Parliament, and break from the Conservatives' despicable practice of cutting debates short. The Liberals said they wanted to give MPs time to do their work in order to represent their constituents well.

However, bad habits die hard, and closure has been imposed more than 40 times already. These are what we call time allocation motions that seek to limit the time for debate.

It seems that this bill is important to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change. However, the Liberals imposed closure at every stage. At first reading, at report stage, and now at third reading, they gave parliamentarians a maximum of four or five hours before closing debate. We were promised, hand on heart, that a Liberal government would never do such despicable, undemocratic things. It has now become routine.

My Conservative colleague, who is a member of the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development, said that the government was bragging about having collaborated, studied amendments in committee, and listened to the opposition. It also brags about the fact that about 100 amendments were adopted in committee to improve the bill. Congratulations. I just want to point out that 99% of the amendments adopted were Liberal amendments. I have no doubt that that makes things easier.

It is mind-boggling to think that the bill was so poorly drafted and cobbled together, right from the start, that the Liberals were forced to present about 100 amendments in committee to try to patch it up and repair the damage. The bill lacked clarity and was poorly crafted, so it needed a lot of clarifications. That gives you an idea of the process, since government members are almost never required to fix a lousy job from the minister's office.

I would now like to talk about timeframes. It took the government 28 months to come up with a bill for a new environmental impact assessment process. During the campaign, the Liberals said that it was a priority because Canadians lost confidence in the process when it was destroyed and dismantled in the previous Parliament. They claimed that the Conservatives' process turned away from science and that we urgently needed to restore a transparent, valid, and scientific process that people could rely on. It took 28 months to come up with this bill.

During these 28 months, the government continued to sit back and to use the previous Parliament's process, a process that was supposed to be terrible.

What did the government do in the meantime? For one thing, it authorized the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline, which was Kinder Morgan's priority. How convenient that is for the government. When it wants a project to go ahead, it holds off on establishing a more serious, more credible, more scientific, and more rigorous process. The government used the tool left behind by the Conservatives, a means of fast-tracking and rubber-stamping projects, and was thus able to approve everything and anything.

The Liberals go through the motions of sticking a few bandaids on so it appears different, but they are not fooling anyone. Once again, the government used what it once criticized. This is more proof of the Liberals' hypocrisy.

The Trans Mountain expansion was approved in November 2016. It is now June 2018, and we are once again discussing the new environmental assessment process. Halfway through their mandate, the Liberals still have not passed a bill because they keep dragging their feet, citing consultations. The Liberals had no problem speeding some things through; a more rigorous process would have gotten in their way.

They broke their promise to assess the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion under a new environmental assessment process. While in British Columbia during the election campaign, the Prime Minister swore that the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion would never be assessed under the Conservatives' rules, yet that is exactly what happened. He also promised to change the voting system and institute democratic reform. It seems to be a bad habit of his. When he solemnly swears something, look out because he is about to flip-flop.

We have a new agency that is based on the old environmental assessment agency, but with more powers and a bigger role. It will be above certain commissions, like the National Energy Board, which will become a commission. That is a step in the right direction we had been waiting for, but we are still concerned about the fact that two organizations we have heard little about, which will exist alongside the new impact assessment agency of Canada, will be getting much more authority and a bigger role. I am referring to the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board and the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board.

These two boards are separate, independent assessment committees that are responsible for assessing any drilling that may occur in marine environments, in the oceans, in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, potentially, or off the coast of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador. That troubles us, because the mission of these two boards is to promote offshore oil and gas development. Their job is not to protect the environment, the seabed, ecosystems, or endangered species. It is to promote oil and gas development off the coast of certain provinces.

This flies in the face of everything the government says about how much it cares about the environment and its claims that it is here to protect our oceans, our natural resources, and our ecosystems. In itself, that is a total contradiction. We in the NDP find this really troubling, and I doubt we are the only ones, judging by the spontaneous reaction of the Green Party leader, who is just behind me.

When you tell a story, there is a beginning, a middle, and an end. It is not complicated. That is what kids learn in school. I want to talk about those three stages in the context of Bill C-69. In the beginning, a decision has to be made as to which projects will be submitted to the new agency for assessment, because all of this has to be good for something. If it is decided that the project will not be assessed because it is not worth it, everything in Bill C-69 and everything that was said about public consultations, indigenous consultations, and considering reports from climate change experts—all of that goes out the window.

As things now stand, and the minister confirmed it in her speech, Bill C-69 does not establish a list of projects. It also does not set out any clear, definitive, and verifiable criteria that would allow us to determine which projects require an environmental assessment. There is nothing about that at all.

From the start, there has been a very serious grey area. The agency can arbitrarily decide for itself what it considers to be important or unimportant.

It is all well and good to have a good process, which as we will see is not as good as all that, but if that process is never used, then it does not do anything more to protect us as Canadians, as people who are concerned about the environment, ecosystems, and global warming.

Take the following oddity, for example. The bill states that if the project is deemed to be a major project, it will fall under the responsibility of the new assessment agency. If it is deemed minor, then it can be reviewed by a commission, such as the National Energy Board. What is the difference between major and minor? There is nothing in the bill about that, so we do not know.

There are things like the steam-based oil sands development technology called “in situ”, which has been completely left out of the scope of the bill and any new environmental assessment. The government says it will not look at it even though it is an increasingly common technology that could have serious impacts. Those impacts could be relatively minor, but for the people living in the indigenous community or the town involved, it does not necessarily take a thousand-litre spill or a huge amount of pollution to jeopardize their health, pollute their environment, or cause a public health issue.

There is no clear explanation for why in situ bitumen extraction was excluded. Knowing what gets assessed and what does not is just the beginning. There are a lot of vague and arbitrary elements. There is very little clarity, and that is what worries us. That is the first problem.

The second problem is with the middle part, the public consultations, the dialogue with indigenous communities, and the appointment of review panels to do the scientific environmental assessment.

Consultations are another novelty of the Liberal process, and on that topic, assessment timeframes are being shortened. Depending on the size of the project, they will drop from 365 days to 300 days. That means that we will lose 65 assessment days. For major projects, the process will drop from 720 days to 600 days, for a loss of 120 days. This Liberal decision was taken in direct response to the demands from investors and private companies.

The decision worried many environmental, indigenous, and citizen groups. They do not understand, if we want a credible, serious process we can trust, why the government is adopting an attitude where it seems to want to expedite things as quickly as possible and satisfy the desires and needs of the industry first and foremost.

The Liberal government is also saying that first nations will have a greater role to play in the assessment process. Connect the dots to what I just said. If we greatly shorten the timeframes of a project and process, it is rather unlikely that there will be enough time to conduct extensive consultations with first nations. Again, they say one thing, but in fact there is a good chance that nothing will come of it or that the process will be flawed or absolutely incomplete.

That is what we know about the duration, the timeframe of the process.

The second aspect is the appointment of these experts we have been talking about to the panels that will carry out these ostensibly scientific, environmental impact assessments. There are many groups, including the Quebec Environmental Law Centre, that are concerned about the fact that the Liberal plan has no mechanisms to ensure that these will not be partisan appointments, that Liberals will not appoint their cronies, and that panel members will not be prone to making recommendations or a report that merely reflects what the government wanted from the start.

It is a simple process that is already in place in other jurisdictions. I am thinking of BAPE in Quebec, which is well regarded and credible, and has this type of mechanism. Here, we get the feeling that the Liberal government would allow the appointment of people who will not really care or who will listen to what the government says and wants.

It is really not that surprising. If I have time, I will come back to Kinder Morgan and the absolutely ridiculous purchase made recently.

While public consultations were being held on the Trans Mountain expansion, while first nations were being told that they were being listened to, that it was important, that they really wanted to hear their perspective, it became apparent that a decision had already been made. The government was already looking for excuses and reasons to legally say that the decision was made and that it would be approved.

Phony consultations were held very recently, and I believe that people should be concerned about the possibility of these partisan appointments to the expert panel.

After the beginning and the middle, we get to the end. Let us say the project has been assessed. Let us say the consultations lasted long enough and were sufficiently credible, although perhaps a bit limited. Let us say the experts really were independent, they did their job diligently, and they prepared a report with recommendations based on science, social licence, the impact on climate change, our ecosystems, and so on. After all that, it is completely up to the minister if he or she wants to dismiss all the recommendations of the impact assessment agency. All of that good work, even if it is perfect—and we already have some misgivings about that—could very well be taken and tossed into the trash, and the project could be deemed in the national interest and approved.

The national interest is being tossed around a lot these days. It can be made to mean pretty much anything. A majority government can simply declare something to be in the national interest since it knows that it can force it through the House either way, and everyone else will have to deal with it. I think it would be in the national interest to listen to experts, scientists, Canadians, and first nations. When the minister of the day has all of this discretionary power, the process can become arbitrary. Say that you like the current Liberal government, and that you trust its environment minister. That is fine, and I am sure there are people out there who feel that way, but once a bill passes, it will not change with every cabinet shuffle, with every federal election, or with every change in government. Things could turn pretty quickly under someone who has a different style or vision of development. I am really being very kind to the sitting minister, who has the instincts of an industry minister rather than those of an environment and climate change minister. Incidentally, anyone claiming to champion environmental protection and the fight against climate change should not go out and buy a 65-year-old pipeline that is already leaking everywhere.

I would like our Liberal colleagues to take out their 2015 electoral platform and show me the part where they told voters they wanted a pipeline so badly that they were prepared to spend billions of taxpayer dollars to buy one if necessary and that Canadians would have to assume all the risks associated with such a project. Let us be clear, Kinder Morgan deemed the project was too high risk. The current Prime Minister even acknowledged that no private company wanted to take on these risks because legal challenges have been filed by British Columbia and many of its first nations.

There are difficulties and challenges with respect to our international commitments under the Paris Agreement and our greenhouse gas reduction targets. The project simply does not make sense. We will be spending at least $12 billion on infrastructure that might be worthless in 25 or 30 years. On top of taking a huge financial hit, we will have invested in the energy source and jobs of the past, when we could have been investing in renewable energy. Those types of investments create six to eight times more jobs. The Prime Minister would have become a leader with a vision for the environment and for sustainable development. Sadly, that will never happen.

Impact Assessment Act June 12th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech, his energy, and his passion.

I also really liked that he explained all the details of the amendments. The members of the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development worked so hard, and the government is willing to accept some amendments—yes, but only Liberal amendments. When it comes to opposition party amendments, however, the government turns a deaf ear and loses all interest.

Our position is perhaps a little different with respect to the minister's decision, as the minister will be able to turn down any new project. For our part, we have a problem with the fact that the minister could accept any new project, regardless of the recommendations. I would like to hear my colleague's thoughts on the discretionary power the Liberals are giving the minister who happens to be in office and the fact that the minister is not bound by the recommendations made by the impact assessment agency.

Really now, what is the point of having an assessment process if, at the end of the day, the minister can do as he or she pleases anyway?

Impact Assessment Act June 12th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for her speech. Sometimes I have trouble following the Liberals' logic. The minister just reminded us that previous Conservative governments gutted the environmental assessment process, that they broke the trust of Canadians, and that they removed science from the process. Then, all of a sudden, as soon as they took office the Liberals used the very environmental assessment process they are criticizing to approve the Trans Mountain expansion.

The Liberals will say that they tried to fix it up, but no one believes them. It was the same thing. Bill C-69 was introduced a year and a half later, after the Trans Mountain project was approved using the Conservative approach that the Liberals are criticizing. That makes no sense whatsoever.

The question I would like to ask the minister is this. Let's say I give the Liberals the benefit of the doubt and that the process really is better than it was before, even though we have our doubts. How is it that Bill C-69 does not include a list of projects that will be assessed and does not contain any clear and definitive criteria for determining which projects will be assessed? Why do we not know how that will be decided?

It is all well and good to have a good process, but if no projects are ever assessed, then it is useless.

Natural Resources June 12th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, saying that the environment and the economy go hand in hand while buying a pipeline is like saying that exercise and good nutrition are important while stuffing oneself with donuts and cake.

Why are the Liberals refusing to invest in a fair energy transition? The corporate sector is ready, and so are the workers. They need training to create the jobs of tomorrow.

How can the Liberals justify throwing $4.5 billion of our money at an old, leaky pipe instead of investing in clean energy?

Business of Supply June 12th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her kind words and the principles she touched on. I just wish her government's actions were consistent with those principles. I have a specific question for her.

In its 2015 platform, the Liberal government made a clear commitment to ending fossil fuel subsidies, a commitment Canada had made at the G7 and again at the G20. Unfortunately, the Liberal government has not yet responded to Argentina's invitation to participate in the peer review process for the phased reduction of fossil fuel subsidies.

The Auditor General also reported that my colleague's government had not even defined oil company subsidies yet. The Liberals have been in power for nearly three years, and they still have not defined what constitutes a subsidy, which makes me wonder when they are going to start reducing those subsidies.

Not only are the Liberals not keeping their promises, but they are also behind on their deliverables and are not honouring the G20 process.

How can they say they will eliminate oil company subsidies and then turn around and say they are going to use $4.5 billion in public money to give the fossil fuel industry the biggest subsidy ever?

Business of Supply June 12th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I thank the parliamentary secretary for his question. I hope the Liberal Party members will support this motion. I do not see why they would not. Public transit certainly is very important. I am just asking the government to restore the tax credit for people who buy metro tickets.

Business of Supply June 12th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Edmonton Strathcona for her highly relevant question.

Our deliberations in the House today will serve as a values test for the Liberal government. We will see whether it can be consistent and take action in line with the principles and values it presented to voters in the last election. Many people support a fair energy transition.

I recently attended a summit in Montreal organized by people in the Quebec labour movement, including the FTQ and the CSN. Also in attendance were the Conseil du patronat du Québec, environmental groups, investment companies, the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, and the Mouvement des caisses Desjardins. They are all well aware of the need to work together to make the energy transition, protect and create good jobs for workers, and invest in skills training so people can continue having an income while they take training courses to learn how to manufacture new products, such as wind turbines and solar panels.

Quite a lot could be done with $12 billion. I will let my colleagues dream about what we could do with that, but I think everyone in our society realizes that we have a responsibility. Unfortunately, the Liberal government is not listening at the moment.

Business of Supply June 12th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. I know his party really cares about this issue, a topic that he raises regularly.

What matters to us is taking action on the environment so that we can meet our international obligations, particularly with regard to reducing greenhouse gases. We think pollution should have a price. We should be using market instruments to encourage businesses and consumers to make different, more responsible choices so that we can become leaders. Let us encourage companies to innovate, invest in the energy of the future, and create good jobs.

Business of Supply June 12th, 2018

moved:

That, in the opinion of the House, being a global climate change leader and building a clean energy economy means: (a) investing in clean, renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, and geothermal as well as investing in energy efficient technologies that create good quality, long-lasting jobs for today's workers and future generations; (b) putting workers and skills training at the heart of the transition to a clean energy economy so workers don't have to choose between a good job and a healthy environment for themselves and their families; and (c) not spending billions of public dollars on increasingly obsolete fossil fuel infrastructure and subsidies that increase greenhouse gas emissions and pollution and put Canadians' health and Canada's environment, coastlines, waterways, and wildlife, as well as Canada's marine and tourism jobs at risk.

Mr. Speaker, let me begin by saying that I will be sharing my time with my hon. colleague from Edmonton Strathcona. I look forward to hearing her remarks.

I join all my colleagues in the NDP caucus in being extremely proud of dedicating our time today to a fundamental debate and to a crucial societal choice that will have an effect on future generations for years to come. This debate cannot be taken lightly. I cannot stress enough what a big responsibility we have. I really want to emphasize the word “responsibility”. We have a responsibility to the world and to humankind with respect to our actions on environmental protections, global warming, and climate change in general.

Like many progressives and environmentalists, I believe that future generations will judge us on what we did or did not do to combat climate change, in order to prevent natural disasters, the emergence of climate migrants, and the destruction of a large part of our ecosystems and environment. It is our responsibility, and this the most important thing we can bequeath to our children and grandchildren.

For this reason, our debate must be sensible, reasonable, and calm, and we must all recognize the scope of the actions and decisions we may or may not take today and consider whether we are doing enough.

Our country engaged in a vital process to control our greenhouse gas emissions and prevent global warming. An increase of more than two degrees above the 1990 mean temperature would lead to extremely detrimental—and irreversible—situations for many countries, and quite likely for the entire planet.

That is why this motion moved by the NDP is asking all parliamentarians in the House to take action and send a message that we have to start engaging in this green shift now and creating jobs for today and for the future. We have to start right now and make appropriate and massive investments in training workers to ensure that they will have a good job in the future, perhaps not in the same energy sector as before, but in another energy sector or maybe in another industry. We must ensure they can continue to earn good wages, pay their rent, buy their groceries, and send their children to university. This is a comprehensive motion because it mentions the environment and also good jobs and the investments required.

I come back to the investments because there have been a few recently. Unfortunately, they are way off track from what the rest of the planet is doing to begin a green shift consistent with the objectives set at various summits held around the world, the last one being in Paris. Unfortunately, every independent observer sees that the Liberal government is clearly veering away from the targets set in the Paris Agreement. We will be unable to do our part to control or limit greenhouse gas emissions. It is our responsibility. I want to stress that.

I do not understand how the Liberal government can say one thing and do another, when there is so much at stake both for the Pacific peoples, whose entire countries, islands, could be swallowed up by the sea, and for us, who could see climate extremes that would cost us billions of dollars due to droughts, forest fires, and floods. These phenomena are on the rise and will become increasingly frequent if we do nothing. It will be very costly.

When it comes to the process, I come back to the Liberal government buying the old Trans Mountain pipeline that belonged to Kinder Morgan not so long ago. On the issue of process alone, there was no public debate to determine whether Canadians agreed, or not, with investing $4.5 billion to buy a 65-year old pipeline that is already leaking.

That is without counting the $7.4 billion that Kinder Morgan expected it would cost to triple its capacity to produce and transport raw bitumen, which is extremely hazardous to the environment and hard to recover in the event of a spill in a river or the ocean. There was no public debate, no commitments or promises from the Liberal government, or even any debate in the House. We, the 338 parliamentarians, were not consulted in any way, shape, or form about the merits of this investment.

I talked a little bit about our responsibility to our environment, our planet, and our ecosystems. I just want to come back to the business case of buying out oil sector infrastructure when just last weekend, a very interesting study was published by the Cambridge Centre for Climate Change Mitigation Research, which is affiliated with the University of Cambridge in England. According to the study's findings, we are living in a carbon bubble right now, similar to the housing bubble of the past few years or the tech bubble in the stock market. We are in a carbon bubble right now because a decline in global demand for oil is inevitable. It is coming. From that point on, the value of oil-related infrastructure will crumble completely. The University of Cambridge study predicts that this carbon bubble will probably burst between 2030 and 2050. The resulting loss of investment would amount to trillions of dollars, a figure that is unfathomable to me and, I suspect, to most of us.

Is it reasonable to make an investment of at least $12 billion in public funds knowing that our purchase will be completely worthless in 10, 15, or 20 years? That pales in comparison to the more productive, job-creating investments that could be made in renewable energy, in a just transition for workers, and in skills training that would make our country a world leader. We are currently lagging behind. When we look at the global energy markets and the production of renewable energy, Canada is lagging behind the other OECD countries, and that gap is getting bigger and bigger. This investment, which goes against everything the Liberal Party said it would do during the election campaign, will widen that gap even further and increase our greenhouse gas emissions. Making this investment is tantamount to putting 3 million more cars on the road, and it will be practically worthless one generation from now.

When the world demand for oil plummets—and it will, because countries all over the world, including Germany, Spain, and Denmark, are making increased investments in renewable energy—there will be other options. There will be other more environmentally responsible options. When the demand drops and the demand for oil on the global market is very low, people will obviously go looking for the cheapest oil available. That is Saudi Arabia's oil or Venezuela's, not ours. Canadian oil is likely some of the priciest oil in the world. This investment does not many any sense. It does not hep to protect the environment. It does not help to protect British Columbia's Pacific coast. It does not constitute good use of public funds, and it is not a responsible vision for the future. It does not ensure that we are among the countries that can produce renewable energy and create good jobs in that field.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns June 11th, 2018

With regard to all types of subsidies and all types of loans to the gas, oil and coal industry: (a) what was the dollar value of the grants provided to natural gas, oil and coal industry companies, in Canada and abroad, between 2015 and 2018 inclusive, broken down by (i) year, (ii) type of industry (oil, gas, coal), (iii) company name, (iv) amount provided; (b) what was the dollar value of the loans provided to natural gas, oil and coal industry companies, in Canada and abroad, between 2015 and 2018 inclusive, broken down by (i) year, (ii) type of industry (oil, gas, coal), (iii) company name, (iv) amount provided; (c) what was the dollar value of the tax relief provided to natural gas, oil and coal industry companies, in Canada and abroad, between 2011 and 2018 inclusive, broken down by (i) year, (ii) type of tax relief used, (iii) type of industry (oil, gas, coal), (iv) dollar value of the tax relief; and (d) according to the government’s estimates, when does it expect to completely eliminate subsidies for fossil fuels such as natural gas, oil and coal, in Canada and abroad?