Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to stand this evening to talk to Bill C-17, an act to amend the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act and to make a consequential amendment to another act.
I want to note that I have only had the privilege once in my life of going to the Yukon, and what an incredibly beautiful part of our country. As we celebrate Canada's 150th, I encourage anyone who has the opportunity to go up there, to paddle the rivers, or just enjoy the beautiful history and scenery. It truly is a unique and wonderful part of our country.
I also want to note that as a British Columbian, when I went up there I really did appreciate how the Yukon seemed to have a very good, collaborative process in terms of having solved many of its outstanding land claims issues, having a comprehensive process in place. Contrast that to British Columbia, where we still have a lot of work to do to get to the same place.
It is interesting. I am hearing about four amendments, and I am hearing a lot of process concerns. We did not talk about it quite long enough. However, I am not really hearing good arguments about those four elements.
First, I want to make a special note. This was legislation that was enacted in the last Parliament. It has been in place for a couple of years now. I have not heard of any difficult stories coming out of the Yukon in terms of the way the legislation has been established. There has been unhappiness with elements of it, but I have not heard of any challenges in terms of what it has done to move projects forward.
I have heard of a lot of challenges with the uncertainty of the time frames and the fact that people do not know what the government is going to do. It is important to note that the government actually introduced this piece of legislation over a year ago. I think it was in June 2016. If we look at how much of a priority it is for the government, the legislation was introduced well over a year ago and here we are, in the final stages of 2017, before we rise for the summer, and all of a sudden there is now some kind of urgency to it.
We did not have the first debate in the House on this legislation until April. Again, what the government is trying to do in the final days of Parliament is to get legislation through the House, and through committee with hardly any witnesses and hardly any time. There is not really the opportunity for the due diligence that we are responsible for as parliamentarians.
The government is trying to move it through quickly. In terms of the time management and of its record for moving legislation through Parliament, the government has a strong majority and has moved fewer pieces of legislation forward than Conservatives did in a minority government.
I forgot to note at the start that I will be sharing my time with the member for Foothills. Although I would love to speak for 20 minutes, he has a lot of good things that he would like to say as well.
We have a government that is trying to rush things through at the end of Parliament, because it has actually had a bad time management, parliamentary management system in place. It is spending lots of time debating motions that could have been done through ministerial statements. It has been ineffective in terms of what the government says are priority pieces of legislation with important time frames.
The bill before us is going to do four things in terms of the environmental assessment process. I am going to talk a little about each one. I know there was a discussion for five years around the review of ESA. There was an agreement on 72 elements, and there were four elements that perhaps there was not consensus on. I think having consensus on 72 out of 76 elements is pretty darn good. Any municipal government would be pleased to have kind of consensus, in terms of moving forward.
If we had, in this House, agreement on 72 pieces of legislation out of 76, we would have a pretty darn good record. The fact that perhaps there was not as fulsome a discussion as some groups might have wanted on these few elements, I do not think necessarily means that there has not been an important process and good rationale.
First, with respect to time limits on the review process, I heard my colleague from the NDP say time limits do not matter. Time limits do matter because companies and capital investments travel, and they go where they are wanted. If there is uncertainty, or if they know they are going to have to potentially wait 20 or 30 years before getting a yes or a no on moving a project forward, they are going to take their capital and spend it in other places. Therefore, having certainty around time limits is an important and logical step. It has been done, and has been well received in most of the provinces in the rest of the country.
It is interesting that they are complaining about the time limits, but they say we are meeting those time limits anyway, so we do not need it in the legislation. However, in challenging projects, perhaps people might need a little push in terms of having a time limit. As with many people, when they know a paper is due and they have a time limit, it is easier for them to get the work done than when it is open ended and they can turn in the paper whenever they want.
On the concerns about the time limits, especially when they are meeting them anyway, especially when it is consistent across the country, I will use British Columbia again as an example. There is a start process. They might say it is 18 months, but lots of times they put a halt to the process because there is something they need to deal with. I know that even a process that might have an 18-month time frame from submission to when they are supposed to get an answer can often take three or four years because there are certain elements that can trigger a halt in the process. Therefore, it is really not a good argument to suggest that time limits would be inappropriate in this piece of legislation.
Second, on exemptions from reassessment when an authorization is renewed, unless there is significant change, there can be a very minor change in a project. To suggest that they have to go through a fulsome, robust environmental assessment process is simply red tape, time consuming, and inefficient in terms of dollars. I would suggest a very appropriate insertion that says when there are minor changes they do not have to do a major review. It is not an area that is particularly troublesome, nor do I think in general people should be troubled by that.
Third, regarding the ability for the federal minister to provide binding policy direction, I agree we could have some debate on that. Perhaps that is one area where I could argue on both sides. I will concede that although one and two are perfectly appropriate, perhaps we could have a discussion on three.
The fourth one is the ability of the federal minister to delegate powers and duties. That is what we are doing across the country. In the provinces, they are saying, “Get out of our business. You live a long way away. Let us take over. Let us be responsible for making our own decisions in our own communities.”
It is unfortunate that I had the one-minute warning, because I have lots more to say. On the process, we had full consensus on 72 out of 76 recommendations. We have three that are very rational and reasonable, and one on which perhaps there could have been different decisions. I look forward to any questions.