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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word is liberal.

Conservative MP for Abbotsford (B.C.)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 48% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Privilege February 26th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I bring before you today a matter of privilege that could more properly be characterized as an issue of contempt of this House. I accept that the complaint that I will present does not fall strictly within one of the specifically defined privileges or confines of a proceeding in the House of Commons, but it does constitute contempt of this House and its members by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and her staff.

At page 81 of the third edition of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, it states:

There are...other affronts against the dignity and authority of Parliament which may not fall within one of the specifically defined privileges. Thus, the House also claims the right to punish, as a contempt, any action which, though not a breach of a specific privilege, tends to obstruct or impede the House in the performance of its functions; obstructs or impedes any Member or officer of the House in the discharge of their duties; or is an offence against the authority or dignity of the House...its Members, or its officers.

On Thursday, February 8 of this year, the Liberal government tabled in the House Bill C-69, an act to enact the impact assessment act and the Canadian energy regulator act, to amend the Navigation Protection Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts. In short, these were the government's long-awaited amendments to Canada's environmental impact review process and took the form of an omnibus bill running some 370 pages long.

The Minister of Environment chose to table the bill at 10 o'clock on the morning of February 8, and 45 minutes later, proceeded to hold a formal briefing by her officials, to which only the media and select stakeholders were invited. It was only at 4 p.m., some five-plus hours later, that officials held a briefing for members of this House.

When I became aware of those proposed timelines and circumstances, my office immediately contacted the office of the minister to express my concerns and demand that I be provided access to the first briefing, which was supposed to take place at 10:45 in the morning, to which only the media and select stakeholders had been invited. My staff was told by the environment minister's office that the first briefing was for invited guests only and that neither I nor any of my staff had made the cut. We were not on that approved list.

I did attend the second briefing at four o'clock that afternoon, when I was given a brief opportunity to ask some questions of the departmental staff regarding Bill C-69. Of course, during the intervening period, between 10:45 a.m. and 4 p.m., members of the media were already filing their stories and sympathetic stakeholders were spinning theirs. Opposition MPs were left scrambling to play catch-up to understand the import and consequences of a 370-page bill. Mr. Speaker, you will have no difficulty understanding how challenging it would be for the opposition members of this House to opine intelligently and engage with the media on a bill of that length, especially in the absence of a timely briefing from the minister and/or her officials. The result was that members of Parliament could not adequately respond to inquiries from the media and the broader stakeholder community because we were kept in the dark by the minister and her officials.

There is no doubt in my mind that the briefing of media stakeholders hours before members of this House received one was done with forethought and mischief in mind, if not by the minister, then certainly by her officials. What other explanation can there be for a denial of my specific request to attend the earlier briefing? There is no other conclusion. In so doing, the minister impeded every single member of this House.

The conduct of the minister and her staff is exactly why the tone and tenor of debate in this House has declined. Someone tried to be clever and tried to withhold information from the House, even if temporarily. Someone obstructed our access to public servants who had important information to share, but granted preferential access to the media and sympathetic stakeholders as part of a plan to place a positive spin on legislation that is critically important to Canada's resource economy. Such shabby treatment of the members of this House is unworthy of the government.

Speaker Milliken explained it this way in his ruling on March 19, 2001:

To deny to members information concerning business that is about to come before the House, while at the same time providing such information to media that will likely be questioning members about that business, is a situation that the Chair cannot condone.

In the case Speaker Milliken is referring to, the government briefed the media before the bill was even introduced. In the case before us, the minister at least waited to introduce the bill, but the principle is the same.

I would argue that with a 367-page omnibus bill such as Bill C-69, the minister's responsibility to this House does not end with dumping the bill in the laps of members and running off to brief the media ahead of members. Providing the media with access to information about legislation before members of this House receive it is, as Speaker Milliken ruled, a situation that the Chair should not condone. The minister deliberately withheld information from members, while providing information to the media. As Speaker Milliken also pointed out, that same media will likely be questioning members of this House about the bill. That is exactly what happened to me, and I expect other members of this House.

On page 213 of Joseph Maingot's Parliamentary Privilege in Canada, he states:

There are actions which, while not directly...obstructing the House of Commons or the member, nevertheless obstruct the House in the performance of its functions by diminishing the respect due it. As in the case of a court of law, the House of Commons is entitled to the utmost respect....

I could not agree more. We in opposition and the members of the Liberal backbench deserve more respect from the minister. We, not the media, are the ones tasked with reviewing and shepherding this bill through Parliament. It is not the media that does that.

Mr. Speaker, I would now like to draw your attention to the direction the Prime Minister gave to his ministers after the last election. In releasing these directions, the Prime Minister said:

The documents we are releasing today provide guidance on how we must go about our responsibilities as Ministers, and I encourage Canadians to read them and to hold us accountable for delivering these commitments.

What did the Prime Minister direct his ministers to do? In the Prime Minister's guide to ministers, which is entitled “Open and Accountable Government”, it states:

Clear ministerial accountability to Parliament is fundamental to responsible government, and requires that Ministers provide Parliament with the information it needs to fulfill its roles of legislating, approving the appropriation of funds and holding the government to account.

Did the Minister of Environment forget to read the Prime Minister's direction? Her actions clearly demonstrate that she believes that journalists take priority over members of this House. Someone should point out to her that journalists, although they play an important role in our democracy, are not the ones who will review and process her bill through Parliament. Effectively, she has failed to respect and support parliamentary process.

The Prime Minister also issued a mandate letter to the environment minister, which is public. In it he states:

We have also committed to set a higher bar for openness and transparency in government. It is time to shine more light on government to ensure it remains focused on the people it serves.... It is important that we acknowledge mistakes when we make them.

Just over a week ago, when the minister was in the House, opening debate on Bill C-69, I had the chance to bring this breach of privilege to the minister's attention. I reminded her that she and her officials had scheduled a briefing for the media well before MPs received theirs. I asked her in the House to acknowledge that her actions were wrong and to apologize to the House for those actions. The minister refused to do so, and in fact bridged into a completely unrelated answer, compounding the disrespect she had already shown toward the House.

She clearly has not taken seriously her mandate letter which says, “It is important that we acknowledge mistakes when we make them.” She certainly made one.

The mandate letter goes on to say:

As Minister, you will be held accountable for our commitment to bring a different style of leadership to government. This will include: close collaboration with your colleagues; meaningful engagement with Opposition Members of Parliament....and identifying ways to find solutions and avoid escalating conflicts unnecessarily.

Again, the minister and her government clearly have shown no intention of upholding the purported higher standards that the Prime Minister claimed he would uphold. Sadly, quite to the contrary, he and the Minister of the Environment have regularly flouted the higher standards that the Prime Minister had set for himself and his cabinet.

Each day it becomes more and more obvious that the Minister of the Environment has very little regard for Parliament and its members. Providing the media and select stakeholders with confidential briefings that have priority over those given to members of the House is a profound act of disrespect for this institution, in fact obstructs and impedes the work of the House, and has in fact obstructed and impeded the members of the House in the discharge of their duties, especially as it relates to Bill C-69.

To that end, I believe, Mr. Speaker, you will find the minister's actions to have been within the meaning of contempt as defined as defined on page 81 of the third edition of House of Commons Procedure and Practice.

Mr. Speaker, I am sure you will agree with Joseph Maingot that this institution, Parliament, the House of Commons “is entitled to the utmost respect.”

As I mentioned earlier, this matter could have been disposed of with a simple, heartfelt apology from the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and a commitment to treat her colleagues with greater respect. Clearly, she did not see fit to do so.

Therefore, Mr. Speaker, should you find that there is a prima facie case of contempt or privilege, I am prepared to move the necessary motion to refer the matter to committee.

Impact Assessment Act February 14th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I am going to have to ask her to withdraw a comment.

The 2012 legislation, as I mentioned, was focused exclusively on streamlining the process without, in any way, undermining the environmental rigour of our system, those very legislators who supported it and all the people who fed into the process, and she calls the end of that process garbage. A member of Parliament is calling our work in the House garbage. That is offensive to Canadians, and she needs to apologize.

Impact Assessment Act February 14th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, my friend from Peace River country has it right. There is a lot of hypocrisy in the environmental movement. I think Canadians have taken note of that. The irony is not lost on me that on the polluting jets that fly us between Ottawa, Vancouver, and back are the very members in the House who rail against the fossil fuel sector but gladly accept the taxpayer-supported flights to and from their towns.

For some Canadians, the only process they will accept is one that ends in no. We have people in this chamber who believe that. That is an unacceptable way for Canada to move forward. There is no win in that because we desperately need to maximize the value of our resources in the ground, get the maximum dollar for them, which will drive prosperity for future generations.

Impact Assessment Act February 14th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the member that the legislation is full of discretion and uncertainty. Yes, it is more like a framework than legislation that gets things done. It leaves much to the discretion of the government through orders in council, the cabinet, and minister to make up the rules as they go along. What does that do to people who work in the resource industry? They lose faith in the system.

However, I disagree with the member that the Conservative Party eviscerated the environmental assessment legislation that was in place before the Conservative government was elected in 2006. The Conservative government saw that the legislation of the day was handling resource development without, in any way, contributing to a better environment. Therefore, we streamlined the process and the regulations. We ensured we restored confidence in the resource sector to attract investment from abroad so critical resource products could be built to drive long-term prosperity for the country.

On one last note, I regularly disagree with my colleague at committee, but we have also issued a couple of consensus reports. Consensus means unanimity and everybody agrees. There is some good work coming out of the committee, and I applaud my colleague for her contribution to that effort.

Impact Assessment Act February 14th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, the part where I can concur with my colleague is that we do need a safe, secure, and sound environment, a pristine environment that we can leave for future generations. However, I disagree with the suggestion that a majority of Canadians support this legislation. Really? It was tabled only last Thursday, 370 pages of omnibus bill, and the member is suggesting that Canadians have somehow read this and support it.

I can assure the member that Canadians do not have a clue what is in here, because the Liberal government has not communicated to Canadians what is really in the bill. The Liberals are hiding all kinds of stuff in here. I have highlighted some of it, and my colleagues will highlight other pieces. This legislation is toxic to our long-term prosperity.

Impact Assessment Act February 14th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, here we are with Bill C-69, all 370 pages of it, full of mind-numbing reading and rhetoric. Do members remember when the Liberals, during the last election, and the Prime Minister, when he was in opposition, lamented, decried the fact, actually, that the occasional omnibus bill was tabled by the previous government? They railed against omnibus bills. What do we have today from the Prime Minister, his government, and the minister? It is an omnibus bill. It covers the enactment of the impact assessment act and the Canadian energy regulator act, amending the Navigation Protection Act, and consequential amendments to other acts. Talk about omnibus. In fact, we are calling it the “ominous omnibus bill.” It is ominous because of what it means to our economy and our resource sector.

The bill is toxic to Canada's future development. It is toxic to our efforts to take the resources entrusted to us and to extract them in an environmentally sensitive way to make sure that future Canadians have a pristine environment and long-term prosperity. The omnibus bill, this ominous bill, does not do that. It does quite the opposite. It undermines our ability to have long-term prosperity.

Let me start off by talking about the bill itself. There are three main parts and a fourth one. The first three parts of the bill are effectively about a new environmental assessment process, a new Canadian energy regulator, and a new navigable waters act, which, by the way, would not be about the environment. The navigable waters act would be about navigation. Those are the three parts covered in the bill itself.

Earlier last week we also saw tabled the Fisheries Act, which contains further amendments that would make it more difficult for Canadians to realize the full value of our economy and our resource sector. It would put more hurdles and obstacles in the way of extracting our natural resources and building critical infrastructure across the country, which is so important to our national prosperity.

Effectively, what would happen is this. We have the National Energy Board. The first thing that would happen is that the board would be stripped of its impact assessment functions, the ones that are used to review resource projects that come forward. I believe that every Canadian and every member of this House understands how important it is to protect the environment for future generations. We disagree on how we go about doing that. However, the impact assessment function addresses the review process that resource projects, such as pipelines, mines, and oil and gas projects, have to go through to get an approval that proves that they are environmentally sustainable and not harmful in the long term to our environment.

The second part that would be stripped from the National Energy Board would be its regulatory functions. Once projects are built, we want to make sure that they are carried on and managed sustainably. Effectively, the regulatory function ensures, through the life cycle of the project, that we protect our environment.

The third part is the navigable waters protection piece, which is all about ensuring that on waters used for navigation, we do not impose impediments to navigation and do not undertake infrastructure projects that would impede navigation.

It is interesting. Navigable water is defined as a water body in which a canoe or a kayak can float. In fact, when our former Conservative government first undertook amendments to the Navigable Waters Protection Act, we did so because it had not been reformed for close to 150 years. Imagine, Mr. Speaker, a piece of legislation floating around that has not been really reviewed for 150 years, and that has definitions like that of navigable water being a body of water on which a canoe or a kayak can float.

Under the Liberal amendments, the navigable waters protection piece would introduce further obstacles that are not environment-related but navigation-related, and that would impair Canada's ability to build and implement critical infrastructure that drives the prosperity of this country.

Let me focus my comments on the environmental review process, the impact assessment process. This legislation would create a whole new body, called the impact assessment agency, which would oversee reviews of resource projects such as pipelines and mines. The promise we received from the minister, with which she went public, was that the process the Liberals have introduced would shorten the timelines under which a project gets reviewed, to provide better certainty for project proponents and to make sure that these projects, if they are environmentally sustainable, can get passed more quickly. Therefore, it would reduce the timeline of the assessment piece by, say, 60, 70, or 80 days.

However, what the minister did not tell Canadians is that at the beginning of the whole process there is a whole new process, called the planning phase, and that process is 180 days, so effectively the Liberals would add another 100 days onto the total process for getting any project reviewed in Canada. This is unconscionable, as investment in our resource sector is fleeing the country. As we know, over the last two years we have had incredible investment flight to places like the United States and elsewhere around the world, where there is more predictability and a more inviting investment environment. We are seeing this play out in front of our eyes, and the minister introduced a bill that would lengthen the process even more. It is shameful.

Here is the kicker. Within that 180-day planning phase, the proponent has to undertake all kinds of activities, many of them new activities, including consultations with the public. The public has a chance to share its opinions on a project that has not even gone through a science-based review. At the end of the 180 days, if the minister feels like it, usually on political grounds, she can simply kill the project right there. Can members imagine proponents coming forward with a billion-dollar proposal to develop a resource in Canada and being told that they are going to have to go through a 180-day process where they are going to have to consult with all kinds of people?

By the way, we are not opposed to consultations. What we are opposed to is consultations that unnecessarily extend the process beyond what Canadians would consider reasonable and common sense. Can members imagine a proponent facing the 180 days and dealing with all this preplanning process, and then, before the proponent has ever had a chance to have a regulatory body, the impact assessment agency, review the application based on science and evidence, the proponent is told, “Sorry, go away. We are killing the project. We do not want your investment in Canada”? Can members imagine that? That is what this bill would do.

The minister has a veto right, at the end of the planning phase, and then, if the project gets to the impact assessment process and goes through that, through all the new criteria that the minister has established, at the end it goes back to the minister and cabinet for a decision, which invariably becomes a political decision.

Anybody looking from afar, with $1 billion to invest and wondering whether to invest in Canada, would say, “At the end of the day, the Liberals are going to make a political decision, so we have no certainty at all that our project will be assessed on its merits, on the science, on the evidence.”

This legislation would also codify the duty to consult with first nations, which is already established in our laws in Canada. The Supreme Court of Canada has spent decades trying to frame exactly what the duty to consult is. There is a lot of case law that provides companies with a clearer idea of the standard they have to meet in order to properly consult with first nations. Conservatives do not have a problem with that. We believe that first nations need to be partners in our prosperity and they need to be consulted, and that has been enshrined in this legislation.

The legislation would also require indigenous traditional knowledge to be considered in the review. Conservatives believe that this provision reflects what Canadians expect when a project proponent wants to move forward with a resource proposal. We believe it is in Canada's best interest to consult with indigenous Canadians and take into account, during the assessment process, the traditional knowledge they can offer to that process.

I mentioned additional criteria that proponents would now have to take into account. Historically, proponents have had to apply certain criteria to ensure that no environmental damage occurs as a result of a project being built, but now my Liberal friends across the way have inserted a requirement that the applicants have to take into account both upstream and downstream effects, and the impacts a project would have on Canada's climate change targets: new hurdles, new criteria, new discouragement for investment in Canada. We should not for a minute think that investors are not paying attention to the debate we are having in the House today and the legislation that is before us. As I mentioned earlier, this legislation is toxic to our long-term prosperity.

Another thing included in this legislation is a broad discretion for the minister to extend, and even suspend, timelines. People think they have 180 days, and then another 300 days for certain projects, and another 450 days for other projects. No, the minister can step in at any point along the timeline and say he is suspending the timelines and that other things are going to be done, removing predictability, which is what investors in the resource sector covet most.

The bottom line is that additional uncertainty has been injected into our investment environment. The resource sector in Canada is responsible for some 16% of our economy. Imagine, Mr. Speaker, 16%. Two million jobs are either directly or indirectly related to our resource sector. Two million Canadians rely on us, as legislators, to get this right, to make sure we balance the environment and the economy.

The minister often talks about the environment and the economy going hand in hand. The problem is that she has no idea what that appropriate balance is, and more and more the Liberal government is leaning to the left, toward the environment, to the detriment of our economy and long-term prosperity. Do not get me wrong, Mr. Speaker. The environment, as I mentioned at the beginning of my speech, is critically important because we are leaving a legacy for our children and grandchildren, for future generations. We need to ensure that we leave them a pristine environment. Quite frankly, if we try to do that in the absence of prosperity, it is never going to happen.

Why do I say that? If we look around the world, which countries have the highest environmental standards? They are also the most prosperous countries in the world. Prosperity and the environment go together.

The intentions of the Liberal government, of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Environment, may be good, but unfortunately they have it all wrong. They have not been listening to the concerns of those who make a living from our resource sector, those who know the millions of jobs generated by that sector. No one should be surprised that we completely disagree with this legislation, and some of my colleagues in the Conservative Party will continue to highlight that in future speeches.

Earlier today, the minister said her goal was to basically develop a policy and introduce legislation where there would be no surprises and no drama. Unfortunately, she missed one piece: no surprises, no drama, no development. Our prosperity is at risk here, and I encourage my colleagues on the other side who are listening to this debate to please give their heads a shake. The more barriers we place in the way of extracting our resources in a sustainable way, the more we undermine the future prosperity of our children and grandchildren, of future generations.

Let me close by saying that there is one bottom line. The legislation ensures more uncertainty, longer timelines, and less investment in our resource sector, which equals less prosperity for Canada. That really is a shame, because we are cheating future generations out of the value that has been left to us as a legacy.

Impact Assessment Act February 14th, 2018

That is shameful, Mr. Speaker. What happened to transparency in government?

Could the minister tell us if this is the new style of government her government promised to deliver for Canadians? Does she stand behind the decision to provide the media with access to a government briefing five or six hours before MPs themselves received that briefing?

Impact Assessment Act February 14th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague, the minister, for her intervention. Even though we profoundly disagree with this legislation, I know the minister's heart is in the right place. She and I both share a deep respect for the environment, and we all want to do right by the environment, because we have future generations that depend on us to get it right.

I want to point the minister to the mandate letter from her Prime Minister, directed to her. It says:

We have also committed to set a higher bar for openness and transparency in government. It is time to shine more light on government

It goes on to say,

As Minister, you will be held accountable for our commitment to bring a different style of leadership to government. This will include: close collaboration with your colleagues;

That is presumably in this House. It will also include:

meaningful engagement with Opposition Members of Parliament,

That is me, members of the Conservative Party, the NDP, the Bloc, and the Greens.

This legislation, all 370 pages of it, an omnibus bill, was tabled last Thursday, at 10 o'clock in the morning. At 10:45 in the morning, the minister and her staff had arranged for a briefing from environment officials. Who was included in that briefing? It was the media and stakeholders. Who was excluded? It was members of Parliament, who were not given a briefing until five to six hours later.

Fisheries Act February 13th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, what I would say to them and what I would say to that member, who I respect, is that his suggestion that we gutted the Fisheries Act is not borne out by evidence.

In my earlier comments, I mentioned that the fisheries committee studied the changes we made to the Fisheries Act. Committee members specifically asked the witnesses if there was any evidence that the changes made to the Fisheries Act to make it more responsive to the needs of the Canadian economy, while at the same time protecting our fish and fish habitat, put fish habitat at risk. There was not one piece of evidence brought forward at committee.

I am an evidence-based guy. I am a lawyer. In courtrooms, they alway talk about evidence. I believe in science. I believe in evidence. That evidence could have been presented at committee. Any of the members of that committee, representing all the parties in the House, had the opportunity to ask if those changes the former Conservative government made harmed fish or fish habitat, and not one person came forward.

The suggestion that the Fisheries Act was gutted in 2012 is patently false.

Fisheries Act February 13th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, what I would say in response is that the legislation we have before us is not about restoring lost protections. Those protections were never lost.

In 2012, we brought amendments to the Fisheries Act that streamlined the act to make sure, as the member has said, that the economy and the environment went hand in hand. This is what the Minister of Environment always preaches but actually never delivers on, because she has never found that beautiful balance between the environment and the economy.

We cannot have a healthy environment without having prosperity. If we look around the world, the countries with the highest environmental standards are those that are the most prosperous. The two go hand in hand.

When the Liberals introduce legislation like that before us, what they are doing is undermining Canada's ability to build infrastructure, to build pipelines, and to develop resources. They are undermining our long-term prosperity as a country.