|| That, in the opinion of the House, the Budget legislation guts the environmental assessment and fisheries laws, leaving Canada’s lakes, rivers, oceans, ecosystems, and fisheries at risk while unfairly downloading federal environmental responsibilities and their associated costs to the provinces, territories, and future generations.
She said: Mr. Speaker, I would like to share my time with the hon. member for .
My colleagues and I are hearing every day from Canadians who are rallying against the Conservative government's decision to table a Trojan Horse budget bill that contains measures that will do irreversible harm to our environment. It will affect the health, livelihood and future of Canadians, and it will leave an unacceptable and unequal burden on generations to come.
Canadians know intuitively that this cowardly attempt to avoid real debate on such significant legislation is undemocratic. It is another example of the government's penchant for avoiding accountability and scrutiny while it placates its industry bigwig buddies at the expense of the best interests of our communities.
There will not be sufficient public oversight or consultation on the bill. Communities that are relying on the very protections that are being gutted are being silenced. It is happening because the government knows that if Canadians were given the opportunity to examine this legislation fully, as they should be allowed to do in a democratic nation, they would reject the proposed changes because they recklessly gut environmental protection in this country.
New Democrats know and understand the importance of public participation in a democracy. That is why the NDP is holding a series of hearings in Ottawa and across the country that will allow experts and the public to engage in the policy areas of Bill , such as the anti-environment provisions, in a meaningful way, which the government is trying to avoid.
The latest attempt by the government to hide from the public is yet another blot on the Conservative government's environmental record. From muzzling scientists, to withdrawing from international protocols that included mandatory greenhouse gas emission audits, to killing independent research bodies like the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy and cancelling funding for environmental groups like the Canadian Environmental Network, the government shows time and time again that its number one policy is to stifle as much information and evidence as it can because that evidence flies in the face of the Conservative agenda.
The Conservatives keep forgetting one key thing and that is that Canadians from coast to coast to coast see these actions for what they really are: blindly partisan, incredibly short-sighted and devoid of any evidentiary framework or base.
One of the worst themes of Bill is the total lack of clarity and understanding on what impact these changes will have on the environmental protections we do have. For me, that is what makes this Trojan Horse bill so alarming. Canadians cannot be sure what the government is actually forcing upon this country.
We see in many different places where this legislation aims to give unparalleled discretion and powers to government and ministers, allowing them to override the best interests of Canadians in affected communities without really defining the scope of powers or important tests that would determine, for example, who could participate in a hearing.
Decisions will be made in the absence of an accountable framework. Make no mistake, these decisions of the future will be politicized and they will be partisan. This again flies in the face of good environmental stewardship.
I would like to talk about some of the proposed changes in the bill. In some of the cases we do not know what the outcome will be. We can see how the legislation is being changed, but we do not know what the impacts will be in the long run. That is all the more reason that we need to have a fulsome debate in the House and at committee on all aspects of the bill.
The entire Environmental Assessment Act is going to be replaced, and it is based on recommendations coming from the environment committee. That might sound like a positive thing, except that the review was the result of a very flawed legislative review at committee. It failed to meet any acceptable standard for a study of such an important piece of legislation.
I would like to talk about a couple of the changes to CEAA that are being proposed.
The bill would limit who could testify at environmental assessment hearings. It would limit that discussion to affected parties. Who is an affected party? Is it someone who lives in a place where a pipeline is going through the backyard? Is it someone who is five kilometres away or twenty kilometres away, or fifty kilometres? Think about Fukushima. How far away did that actually impact? Would people in that radius be able to participate?
What if people fish, but they fish very far downstream from a spawning bed, and there is an action taking place on a spawning bed? Are they an affected party if they live in southern Manitoba and the spawning bed is in northern Manitoba? Where do we draw the lines here? How do we know who gets to participate? What if they are scientists based out of Vancouver and they have good information about what could happen in northern British Columbia, or perhaps even in another province? Are they considered to be an affected party?
It is absolutely not clear what is being done here in limiting who can testify and who can participate. I am very worried that we are not going to get the good information that we need from the experts and from people on the ground who actually are directly affected, whether or not the government wants to believe they are.
This bill would also allow the federal cabinet to approve a project, even if the reviewing body has determined that there would be adverse environmental effects. In other words, if an arm's-length, non-partisan body says that a project should not go ahead—or yes, it should go ahead, but maybe with these changes—ultimately it is the cabinet that gets to make the decisions about whether that project goes ahead.
We also have a shift of moving from list versus trigger. This is a technical aspect of the bill, but right now an environmental assessment can be triggered because, for example, a navigable waterway is crossed or migratory birds may be impacted. We would switch to a list of what is included and what is not in an environmental assessment.
On its face, this might sound like a good idea, but we heard very good testimony at committee that asked this question: if lists are what is in and what is out, what do we do with projects that we cannot even conceive of right now? For example, if the list had been drawn up 50 years ago, would oil sands exploration have been on that list? Probably not. Do we think there should be environmental assessments of oil sands exploration? Yes.
This change would really limit what gets assessed and how the assessments are done, and it would not follow the evidence that we heard at committee, which is very unfortunate.
I will touch lightly on the fisheries provisions, and I am sure my colleague will also touch on them.
One really important aspect is that under the Fisheries Act provisions, we would change the focus from impacts on fish habitat to impacts causing “serious harm to fish”. What is “serious harm”? Well, let us imagine that a fish is maimed, deformed or has its growth stunted. Maybe its habitat is even destroyed. Maybe a future generation of fish is destroyed. As long as that fish is not killed, it seems it is okay under this legislation. That is absolutely impossible for me to wrap my head around, and it flies in the face of testimony we are hearing from people on the ground, who say that we need to protect fish habitat if we are going to protect the next generation of fish.
I will remind the government that allowing the degradation of our environment has long-term economic costs. The budget bill is not good financial management.The budget bill is not responsible governing. It is, plain and simple, an attack on our environment by a government that lacks the maturity or the common sense to see the long-term risks that it is engaging in.
How will my colleagues opposite explain to their constituents, their friends and their families why they are choosing to reject a path of innovation, environmental stewardship, sustainable development and intergenerational equity? I wonder how they will answer that question to their constituents, their families and their friends.
This legislation would be bad for our air, our water and our soil, and it is bad for humans and animals alike. I ask all members of this place to support our motion today in its denunciation of the government's environmental proposals.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of the NDP opposition day motion.
One-third of the budget implementation act is dedicated to gutting environmental laws that protect Canada's fisheries, rivers, oceans and ecosystems. With the stroke of a pen the government would eliminate decades of progress and condemn future generations to deal with its mess. The biggest theme I drew from the budget is the government's focus on mega-industrial projects at the expense of Canada's environment.
Behind the guise of words such as “streamlining” and “modernization”, the government would strip away long-standing regulations that protect our environment from short-sighted unsustainable development.
I would like to speak about the changes to the Fisheries Act that the Conservative government is attempting to sneak in through its Trojan Horse budget bill. These changes are an undemocratic and egregious abuse of power that would do permanent harm to the ecosystem and to Canada's fisheries. Make no mistake, these are radical and dangerous changes. Rather than prohibiting the harmful alteration, disruption and destruction of fish habitat, it would narrow habitat protection to apply to those activities that would harm fish that are part of a commercial, recreational or aboriginal fishery, or the fish that support such a fishery.
The government introduced the concept of “serious harm”, which talks about killing fish and permanently altering habitat. The question that a judge would now be faced with is to determine what constitutes “permanent”. Is that two years? Is that 10 years? Or is that 100 years?
What the Conservative government does not seem to understand is the concept of ecosystem health or biodiversity. If it did, it would know that one cannot protect one species of fish and forsake others.
Looking at the budget implementation act, it becomes even more evident that the Conservative government is not governing based upon fact or science. It certainly did not listen to the 625 scientists who wrote a letter to the , outlining their concerns with the removal of habitat protection from the Fisheries Act.
In March, a group of Canadian scientists, including many of Canada's most senior ecologists and aquatic scientists, stated:
|| Habitat is the water or land necessary for the survival of all species, including fish. All species, including humans, require functioning ecosystems based on healthy habitats. The number of animals and plants of any species that can be supported is in direct proportion to availability of habitat, which supplies food and shelter. Habitat destruction is the most common reason for species decline. All ecologists and fisheries scientists around the world agree on these fundamental points, and the Fisheries Act has been essential to protecting fish habitats and the fisheries they support in Canada.
The scientists called for a strengthening of the Fisheries Act, as well as the Species at Risk Act, and the Migratory Birds Convention Act. Yet the Conservative government is doing the exact opposite and sneaking it through, in a most undemocratic way, I might add, its budget implementation act.
The government is also not listening to the Association of Professional Biology, which said:
|| It is well documented that protection of habitat is the most effective means to avoid species decline and extinction and ensure populations remain resilient to future and ongoing impacts, such as climate change and the cumulative effects on human activities.... The removal of habitat from the Act risks narrowing its focus onto only a limited number of species or stocks...
The government's refusal to listen to science is nothing new. The government has, in the past, muzzled scientists and completely cut programs that it does not agree with.
However, it is not even listening to the wisdom of its own former ministers of fisheries and oceans. Tom Siddon, a former Conservative minister of fisheries and oceans and the architect of the modern-day Fisheries Act, has blasted the government over the changes. He said, “This is a covert attempt to gut the Fisheries Act and it's appalling that they should be attempting to do this under the radar.”
I completely agree.
It is not just Mr. Siddon who is raising the alarm. Another former Conservative minister of fisheries, John Fraser, had this to say:
|| To take habitat out of the Fisheries Act is a very serious error because you can't save fish if you don't save habitat, and I say this as a lifelong conservative. People who want to eliminate the appropriate safeguards that should be made in the public interest, these people aren't conservatives at all.... They are ideological right-wingers with very, very limited understanding, intelligence or wisdom.
That is a pretty damning indictment of the current Conservative regime and very strong words.
Recently, former member of Parliament and current leader of the B.C. Conservative Party, John Cummins, stated:
|| There is that potential for serious damage to the fisheries resource if we move in the way that's proscribed.
He further stated:
|| I expect that there will be justly deserved widespread criticism as the effect of these amendments becomes known in recreational and commercial fishing communities across Canada.
There is already widespread concern in the commercial and recreational fishing communities. I have been hearing from Canadians across the country who are concerned about these changes.
The natural environment is a part of the Canadian fabric. We take pride in the bounty of amazing nature that we have been blessed with. As a British Columbian, I am proud to live in one of the most beautiful regions in the world, but I am concerned, as are many people, that the Conservatives' oil pipeline and tanker agenda will alter our environment permanently.
British Columbians are concerned in particular about the plans to ship raw bitumen off B.C.'s rugged and wild north coast. They are worried about the two proposed pipelines that would traverse our land with the potential to leak particularly in the over 800 streams they would cross.
We know that the weakening of the Fisheries Act will help make the short-sighted pipeline project a reality. British Columbians and other Canadians will not even be given an opportunity to comment on this bill. This is the real travesty of this legislation; the lack of public consultation is undemocratic and wrong.
First nations, provinces, territories, municipalities, fishermen, and all those Canadians who are concerned about fish, fish habitat and the environment have not been consulted on these changes. Many Canadians enjoy recreational fishing with their families and camping in the summer. This bill will affect their ability to enjoy nature. It has a major impact on the natural environment, yet they will not be given a say. It is truly atrocious.
The budget implementation act allows the government to ram through changes to the Fisheries Act without scrutiny, study, oversight or input from Canadians. Because these changes have not been studied, it is impossible to know their full economic, social and environmental implications.
Canadians are rightly angry that the current government is content with downloading major environmental costs to future generations.
Trevor Greene, a retired captain who went to war in Afghanistan, wrote a scathing op-ed this past weekend in the Toronto Star. He said:
|With determination, we can overcome all manner of adversity, and reclaim who we are both as individuals and as a people. We face this challenge now with Ottawa, with a government that is taking our country in the wrong direction, undermining the values that make us who we are. I am loath to have to admit to my children that the irreversible degradation of their planet continued on my watch.
Those are strong words.
As a member of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, I am disappointed that I will not have the ability to meet with stakeholders, experts and others to discuss these fundamental changes to the Fisheries Act. If we are unable to study this bill at the committee, it begs the question as to the purpose of this committee.
As the deputy fisheries and oceans critic for the west coast, I see a continuing trend of contempt and neglect that the Conservative government has for coastal communities and nature in Canada. Whether it is pursuing its pipeline agenda on the west coast or corporatizing the fishery on the east coast, it has become clear the government has turned its back on the marine ecosystem and coastal communities in favour of their big-oil-at-all-costs agenda.
I really hope that all members of the House will support this motion.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
I want to thank the member for for the opportunity to set the record straight about our government's plan for responsible resource development. As members have heard from countless witnesses at the natural resources committee, our current regulatory system is a patchwork of overlap, duplication and unpredictable delays.
When our government announced economic action plan 2012, we promised to try to untangle the complex web of rules and procedures with a review of major resource projects in Canada. We know that all Canadians will benefit if our natural resources are developed reasonably, responsibly and efficiently.
Over the next decade, more than 500 major resource projects worth $500 billion are expected to come online. These projects will create literally hundreds of thousands of good highly skilled jobs and will generate economic growth right across this country.
Canada's natural resource sector already directly employs more than 750,000 Canadians. Mining and energy account for more than 10% of Canada's $1.5 trillion economy and more than 40% of our exports. It is clear that we need to do more to tap into the tremendous appetite for resources in the world's dynamic emerging economies, resources that we have in abundance.
We need to find new ways to prevent the long delays in reviewing major projects that kill potential jobs and stall economic growth, putting those valuable investments at risk. That is what our plan for responsible resource development actually does.
Our plan would make project reviews more predictable and timely. It would reduce unnecessary duplication and regulatory burden. It would strengthen environmental protection and it would enhance consultations with aboriginal peoples.
This legislation has already received broad support from a wide cross-section of business, government and labour leaders across the land. They are welcoming this government's leadership on regulatory reform.
I realize that members of the no development party across the way may not listen to what I have to say, but I wonder if they will listen to some other folks. I wonder if they will listen to the unions who speak on behalf of Canadian workers.
Christopher Smillie from Canada's building trades union, which represents 200,000 trade workers in our energy sector, said:
||--we support changes to the system to facilitate large projects....
|| What we do not support is a 12-year or 15-year regulatory dance that impedes economic development and employment for our members.
By the way, he also said, “The NDP would be very bad for workers and the entire Canadian economy”.
How about the manufacturers and exporters? Jayson Myers, the president and CEO of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters said:
|| Greater predictability and a more timely review process will encourage business investment - an important driver of economic growth at a time when governments and consumers face major spending constraints.
I wonder if the party opposite will listen to Canadian municipalities. Berry Vrbanovic, president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, is on record as saying:
|| We are encouraged by the government's commitment to reduce duplication between federal and provincial regulations, especially in the case of smaller community projects.
Will the party opposite listen to those who are working to develop the Ring of Fire in northern Ontario which will bring a great potential for jobs and economic opportunities to that region? William Boor of Cliffs Natural Resources, one of the main players in the Ring of Fire, told our committee:
|| One of the main things I'd like to dispel is the concept that longer equals more rigorous or more thorough.
Will the no development party listen to aboriginal Canadians? John Cheechoo from the ITK said that if the process were “a lot more streamlined, it would still reflect and respect those land claim agreements. I don't see any problem with it being done that way.”
Will those members listen to clean energy associations such as the Canadian Hydropower Association? Its president said:
|| We need to eliminate regulatory duplication, encourage the substitution of provincial processes over federal processes where possible, improve coordination among federal agencies, and establish functional timelines for assessments.
Maybe those members will listen to Ronald Coombes, the president of White Tiger Mining Corporation, who said:
||--we want to thank [the Prime Minister] and both the federal and provincial governments of Canada for committing to working with first nations and for recognizing that the resource sector and national interests should not be held captive to long-overdue legislative changes.
My guess is that members of the no development party are not listening. If they were listening, they would know that Canadians strongly back our government's plan to streamline the review process for major economic projects. Canadians understand that we do not have to choose between the environment and economic development. It is not an either/or proposal.
The NDP is putting forward a false choice and a misleading argument, and Canadians know that. A new poll conducted by Ipsos Reid showed that two-thirds of Canadians believe it is possible to develop our economy while respecting the environment. That is what responsible resource development does. In the words of Alberta Premier Alison Redford, “it sends an important signal in terms of the fact that we can have both economic development and environmental sustainability”.
In the words of Alberta Premier Alison Redford, “it sends an important signal in terms of the fact that we can have both economic development and environmental sustainability”.
Canadians understand that the need for regulatory reform is long overdue. Every year the regulatory roster is filling up with thousands of small projects, even things such as expanding a maple syrup operation or the construction of a building where blueberries will be washed, that are required to undergo an environmental assessment.
In my own riding, when the RCMP musical ride came to Fort Walsh, it was required to do an environmental assessment on the parade grounds in front the fort before it allowed the ride to proceed.
Too often, investors and Canadians have to jump through endless hoops of rules and procedures for approval of any projects. That tangle of red tape is putting billions of dollars of investment and tens of thousands of potential jobs at risk.
We need to refocus our efforts on reviewing major projects that may actually pose a risk to the environment. Our plan will ensure that time and energy is spent where it can make the most difference, where it can do the most good for Canadians.
Canadians know that our government not only maintains Canada's world-class environmental protection programs, but we will strengthen them. Make no mistake, more timely reviews will not mean easier reviews.
Our government will continue to have a rigorous environmental review process. For example, we will be providing enforcement of environmental assessment conditions under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. We will be strengthening environmental safeguards, including pipeline and tanker safety. We will be authorizing new monetary penalties for violations of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the Nuclear Safety and Control Act and the National Energy Board Act.
In short, we will ensure that we will continue to have a rigorous environmental process that will serve Canadians well in the years ahead. Canadians know that we must make the most of our abundant natural resources and the opportunities found in the global markets.
That takes me to comments that were made last week by the when he talked about Dutch disease, when he criticized the thriving industries, particularly in western Canada, saying that they were destroying the economy across the country. We all know that is foolishness. The premiers of Alberta, B.C. and Saskatchewan all addressed that issue.
It is unfortunate that the opposition leader did not then apologize for the comments he made. He decided he would raise the ante up one more step, and today he addressed it again. It is unfortunate. It seems that the NDP just does not understand that its policies will do nothing but cost Canadians their jobs.
I want to read what he said today about Dutch disease. He said, “The Dutch disease is setting in Canada. We are losing hundreds of thousands of good-paying manufacturing jobs because we're not internalizing environmental costs”. That does not mean much to the average Canadian until it is actually defined. When he says “internalizing environmental costs”, he is talking about a carbon tax. Canadians need to know that.
We know the NDP supports a carbon tax. We know that is what he means, but he will not just come out and say it. We need to understand, from testimony we have heard at the natural resources committee, that if a carbon tax is applied across the country, it will have to be so high that it will impact the life of every Canadian.
That is what the NDP's intent is in saying that we need to internalize environmental costs. The NDP is saying that we need a carbon tax, and we need to set that carbon tax so high that Canadians will have to pay the price until they change their behaviour.
Canadians need to understand that this is in fact what the NDP means when it talks about user pay.
Our government is committed to responsible resource development. We have brought forward a responsible plan in the budget. The NDP should support it. It has used a lot of cliches and exaggerated arguments and illustrations to try to scare Canadians. It needs to do better than that. It should join with us in protecting the economy and the environment and moving ahead, creating jobs, a stronger economy and prosperity for Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleagues who have debated and engaged in this today. I particularly appreciated my close colleague, the , for his remarks.
I welcome this opportunity to speak about our government's plan for responsible resource development. I do that not just as a member of Parliament who represents a region of Saskatchewan, both urban and rural, which depends heavily on resource development, but as someone who has worked in these industries over the years.
As have many Canadians, I paid my way through university by planting trees in our forestry sector, a good physical job that paid well, rewarded initiative and paid not per hour but per tree, something which many university students could appreciate. At the end of the day, the harder we worked, the more effort we put in, the more we appreciated our university education. That university education allowed me to become a geophysicist, someone who got to practise in northern Quebec, in Nunavut, in Yukon, in the Northwest Territories, in Manitoba and in my beloved home province of Saskatchewan. Therefore, I had the privilege of understanding, not just in the theoretical or the abstract but actually very practical to my own bottom line, the bottom line of my constituents and my personal life, the value of natural resources to us as a country.
Our government's top priority has always been to support jobs and growth and to sustain the Canadian economy. Since we introduced the economic action plan to respond to the global recession, Canada has recovered all of the jobs lost during the recession. In fact, in less than three years since 2009, employment has increased by more than three-quarters of a million, achieving the strongest job growth among the G7 countries, and our natural resource sector is a large part of that extraordinary job growth.
The natural resources sectors have supported the development of communities large and small throughout our nation and they have helped us to build a quality of life that is second to none in the world. Today, Canada's natural resource sector employs 760,000 Canadians. Furthermore, the resources sectors also generate billions of dollars worth of tax revenues and royalties annually to help pay for government programs and services for Canadians. We can see this future wealth being capitalized and becoming a reality now.
Over the next decade, Canada could have as many as 500 new projects and $500 billion in investments in energy and mining sectors alone. I will give just one basic example of how this can affect our country.
In my constituency a potash mine is being developed. When it is developed, as looks very likely to happen, it will be the world's largest potash mine. This project in and of itself is worth over $10 billion.
We see that resource development is not just isolated in Canada to Fort McMurray, to the oil sands, to the region up north. This is something that affects all Canadians. The development of this mine does not just boost economic activity in the riding of Saskatoon—Humboldt in the city of Saskatoon. Much of the engineering for this project is being done in Ontario and Quebec, employing highly skilled engineers in the service industry in eastern Canada. With these projects creating an estimated 700,000 jobs across Canada, they will continue to increase our country's economic prosperity.
However, we have seen, via the leader of the party, the NDP disagrees. Its leader said that the natural resources were a disease that would destroy the manufacturing sector. In the NDP's world, all of economic growth is a zero-sum game. Good high-paying jobs are all at the expense of the east. Instead of embracing economic growth, the leader of the NDP has chosen to pit one region of the country against another.
To be perfectly fair, that is not completely accurate because natural resources are an integral part of the entire Canadian economy and when people begin to attack natural resources as damaging other parts of the Canadian economy and other regions of the economy, they attack natural resources industries all across the country. I think of the diamond mines in the Northwest Territories and in Ontario, oil production off the east coast of Newfoundland and Labrador. I think of the Plan Nord going forward in northern Quebec. When they attack natural resources, they attack northern Quebec, Newfoundland, the Northwest Territories, the entirety of the prairie regions and in effect they attack one of the largest economic growth engines of Canada for all 10 provinces.
As has been stated earlier, economic growth in one region, the west, does not disadvantage another region, eastern Canada. It is quite the opposite. The economic growth of the west requires manufactured products of all types, from machinery to pipelines to construction material.
Hundreds of companies in the east are benefiting in a large way from resource development, not just in the west, but in Canada in its entirety. Just listen to what Jayson Meyers, CEO and president of the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, said about resource development:
|| In total, CME estimates that energy and resource companies invested more than $85 billion in major capital projects in 2011, and is expecting investments to double over the next three years.... These investments in major capital projects will drive new business for Canadian manufacturers in a variety of sectors ranging from equipment, structural steel, and metal fabricating to construction materials and parts suppliers. They will provide opportunities for engineering and construction companies, processing and environmental technology companies, and services ranging from accommodation, food, environmental, and resource services, through to land management, trucking, and distribution as well.
Far from destroying our manufacturing sector, our resource sector is helping to provide jobs to the manufacturing sector.
Canadians understand full well what the government is trying to achieve here. They understand the massive economic potential of our resources. They also know that when it comes to resource development and the environment, it is not an either/or situation. Canadians realize that it is possible to have both. We can responsibly develop Canada's resources and protect the environment as we modernize the regulatory system. In fact, a recent public opinion survey from the chamber of commerce showed 65% of the people asked agreed that it is possible to increase energy production while protecting the environment. This is very true.
With responsible resource development, we will not only maintain Canada's world-class environmental protection programs, we also intend to strengthen them. This would be achieved by focusing federal environmental assessment efforts on major projects that can have adverse effects on the environment.
Let me add a personal note here. I have worked in mining resource exploration. The people of Canada need to know that companies themselves take a very tough line on environmental standards.
When I did exploration in the north, we actually left behind less of an ecological imprint than most of the tour organizers and tourists who were going through northern Canada. Mining exploration was less of an impact than canoe trips and people going through the north. That is not to say that they were causing a major negative ecological impact on northern Canada. It just shows how absolutely serious we were. We picked up everything we put down. Absolutely everything that flew in, flew out. We were very strict on environmental standards.
Our government will take steps to strengthen compliance and introduce stronger enforcement tools. We will do this in several ways: by introducing new, enforceable environmental assessment decisions that ensure project proponents comply with required environmental protection measures; by introducing new penalties for contraventions of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act; by authorizing the use of administrative monetary penalties for violations of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the Nuclear Safety and Control Act and the National Energy Board Act. We will also strengthen compliance by making conditions attached to the Fisheries Act authorizations enforceable.
These are not the actions of a government that is scared to stand up for the environment, but a government that cares greatly about the environment and understands that the environment and natural resources work together.
I spent much of my career before arriving in Parliament travelling across Canada seeing how our natural resources create jobs and prosperity in every region of the country.
Canadians from coast to coast realize how important resource sectors are to their communities, livelihood and well-being. The natural resources industry is our endowment. It is a high-tech industry. It is something we need to unleash, this resource potential, to create jobs, not just in western Canada, not just in northern Canada, not just in eastern Canada, but in Canada in its entirety. There is vast potential for all regions of our country to benefit from the responsible development of our resources.
I entirely reject the NDP premise that what is good for one part of the country is bad for the rest. All of Canada can prosper as a united, free country.
Mr. Speaker, last night I was honoured to participate in the committee of the whole regarding the environment. It was extremely unfortunate, however, that the minister kept telling parliamentarians that he did not have answers. Sometimes he simply refused to answer, even though his officials were sitting right in front of him with the information.
For example, the minister failed to answer my questions on the cost of liabilities that would arise under the new environmental assessment process, how the government compares it to the cost of liabilities under the old assessment process and whether he would table said analysis.
He failed to answer how many of the 10 ozonesonde stations would be supported under the new budget. This matters because ozone is critical life on earth and it protects us from the sun's harmful radiation.
He failed to specify what is in the budget to address the concerns of the environment commissioner.
He failed to answer whether there were any disruptions in service at the World Ozone and Ultraviolet Radiation Data Centre.
He failed to list the organizations he has accused of money laundering. These were only a few of my questions that he failed or refused to answer.
Let me provide some facts about the Conservative government's repeated failing grades on the environment. The 2008 climate change performance index ranked Canada 56th of 57 countries in terms of tackling emissions. In 2009, The Conference Board of Canada ranked Canada 15th of 17 wealthy industrialized nations on environmental performance. In 2010, Simon Fraser University ranked Canada 24th of 25 OECD nations on environmental performance. Most recently, Columbia and Yale's environmental performance index ranked Canada 102nd of 132 countries on climate change.
This profoundly sad time for the environment under the Conservatives continues. The government is now gutting 50 years of environmental oversight and threatening the health and safety of Canadians, our communities, our economy, our livelihoods and our future generations.
We need to be very clear that when the government came to power it inherited a legacy of balanced budgets but soon plunged us into deficit before the recession ever hit. It is absolutely negligent and shameful that the government would gut environmental safeguards to fast-track development rather than promote sustainable development that meets the needs of today without compromising those of the future. The government did not campaign in the last election on gutting environmental protections.
Canadians should therefore rise up, have their voices heard and stop the destruction of laws that protect the environment and health and safety of Canadians.
Maurice Strong, a prominent Canadian who spearheaded the Rio earth summit in 1992, has urged people who are concerned about the future of the environment to do an end run around the federal government. He urged grassroots groups to mobilize and make full use of social media, saying there was still time to bring the pressure of people power.
Instead of understanding the gravity of the situation and standing up for the environment, the Conservative government returns to tired talking points, trying to score political points by attacking the former Liberal leader, saying that the Liberals took no action on climate change when it knows this is absolutely false. The Liberals implemented project green, which would have taken us 80% of the way to meeting our Kyoto targets. The Conservatives killed project green, reduced our greenhouse gas emission targets by an astonishing 90%, spent over $9 billion of taxpayers' hard-earned money and achieved little, walked away from Kyoto, are in the process of repealing the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act, and continue to ignore the fact that failing to take action on climate change will cost Canadians $21 billion to $43 billion annually by 2050.
Last week the environment commissioner reported what we have known for a very long time, that the government is not on track to make its 2020 emissions targets. Environment Canada's own forecast shows that in 2020 Canada's emissions will be 7% above 2005 levels, not the promised 17% below.
The so-called law and order government has yet again violated the rule of law. According to the environment commissioner, the federal government did not comply with the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act passed by Parliament in 2007. Does the minister think it is okay to break the law, and going forward, what accountability measures would he put in place to ensure transparency when reporting greenhouse gas emissions to Canadians?
Maurice Strong says that the government may be totally negative when it comes to being a constructive force in mitigating climate change. For example, the continues to rail against Kyoto. Is she aware, however, that her own minister has, for the second time, said that Kyoto was a good idea in its time? He first said it to The Huffington Post and he has now said it to the BBC.
Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, Norway's former prime minister and the former chair of the World Commission on Environment and Development and former director general of the World Health Organization, recently said that Canada was moving backward on the issue of climate change and warned Canada not to be naive on the issue. She recently told delegates in Canada that despite the weaknesses of the Kyoto protocol, the world could not afford to push it aside without an alternative, as emissions are continually rising.
When questioned about the link between human activity and climate change, she said, “Politicians and others that question the science, that's not the right thing to do. We have to base ourselves on evidence.”
When will the minister deliver the plans and regulations for the six remaining sectors, and particularly for one of the most important sectors, the oil and gas industry, as the oil sands are the fastest-growing source of emissions in Canada?
Last night I asked the minister how many of Environment Canada's climate impacts adaptation group, many of them Nobel prize-winning scientists, would be supported to undertake adaptation work for Canada, as the cost of adaptation will, once again, be $21 billion to $43 billion annually by 2050. I was asked to repeat the question.
On asking the question a third time, I received the ridiculous answer that the adaptation research group is, like climate change, an evolving organization.
While the Conservatives claim a balanced approach to protecting the environment and promoting economic growth, when has the parliamentary secretary or the minister actually ever stood up for the environment? Was it through cuts to Environment Canada, cuts to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, or cuts to ozone monitoring?
The list of cuts goes on and on.
Canadians should not be fooled by mere snippets of environmental protection but should pay attention to the government's budget reductions to Environment Canada and to other investments on environmental protection and research by hundreds of millions of dollars, while maintaining several tax incentives for the oil and gas sector that the 's department recommended eliminating in his secret memo.
After we vote against this kitchen sink budget, a budget that devotes 150 of its 425 pages to environmental gutting, the Conservative government will stand and say that the opposition voted against some good things for the environment. However, the government gives us absolutely no choice, as we simply cannot vote for the wholesale destruction of environmental legislation and 50 years of safeguards.
If the parliamentary secretary, the and the really believe that Bill , the kitchen sink bill, is good for the environment, they should have the courage to hive off the sections on environmental protection, send them to the relevant committees for clause-by-clause study under public scrutiny and end the affront to democracy.
I have a list of cuts to Environment Canada and just some of the changes on the environment to be found in Bill .
There are cuts of 200 positions at Environment Canada.
Last summer the government announced cuts of 700 positions and a 43% cut to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.
There are cuts to research and monitoring initiatives, air pollution, industrial emissions, water equality, waste water and partnerships for a greener economy. There are cuts of $3.8 million for emergency disaster response.
As well, the government is consolidating the unit that responds to oil spill emergencies to central Canada, namely Gatineau and Montreal, far from where emergencies, including those involving diluted bitumen, might occur on the Pacific and Atlantic coasts and along the proposed route of the northern gateway pipeline project.
What are the numbers and percentages of the slashes to the new central Canada unit that will have to respond to oil spill emergencies? When will the minister table the scientific analysis that backs up his claims that there will be no negative impact?
Last week Environment Canada released its report on plans and priorities, signed by the minister. I will quote from the report:
|| Skills: Due to transition alignment challenges, the Department risks being unable to stay current with advances in science and technology. In addition...knowledge required to support programs and internal services could pose difficulties...
Environment Canada is a science-based department. The above passage suggests the government is doing Environment Canada serious damage. The minister has previously misled Canadians by saying there would be no compromise of programs.
Given the recognition that there is a problem at Environment Canada, I would like to know what new funds the has specifically allocated to bring his department up to date with advances in science and technology in order to protect the environment, the health and safety of Canadians, and evidence-based decision making.
The government has repealed the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act. It has repealed the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, which allows the federal government to avoid environmental reviews of many potentially harmful projects and to do less comprehensive reviews when they do occur.
Canada's environment commissioner says that the changes are among the most significant policy development in 30 or 40 years and that there will be a significant narrowing of public participation.
|| Unfortunately, our inefficient, duplicative and unpredictable regulatory system is an impediment. It is complex, slow-moving and wasteful. It subjects major projects to unpredictable and potentially endless delays.
but Premier Jean Charest says:
|| In Quebec, we've very well mastered the ability of doing joint assessments.... I have learned, through my experiences, that trying to short circuit to reduce the process will only make it longer, and it is better to have a rigorous, solid process. It gives a better outcome, and for those who are promoting projects, it will give them more predictability than if not.
There are more changes: the weakening of several environmental laws, including species at risk and water; the near-elimination of fish habitat in the Fisheries Act, putting species from coast to coast to coast at increased risk of habitat flaws and population decline; placing the authority of the federal cabinet to approve new pipeline projects above the National Energy Board; and the elimination of the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, the independent think tank with a direct mandate from Parliament.
The has never said what will replace it, despite my asking twice in Parliament. The head of NRT does not know either, as what it does is unique.
This week the said the closure of the round table had more to do with the content of the research itself, namely promotion of a carbon tax as a means of addressing climate change. He said:
|| Why should taxpayers have to pay for more than 10 reports promoting a carbon tax, something which the people of Canada have repeatedly rejected?
The confirms what we have known for a very long time, namely that the government puts ideology above evidence.
The NRT issued economic and science-based reports, which did not agree with Conservative ideology. The national round table has been a well-respected, unbiased, independent organization for over two decades. It was started by the Mulroney government, our present Governor General was its founding chair and the government should know how important it is.
The foreign minister's remarks two days ago had nothing to do with the carbon tax—after all, the himself has promised a price on carbon of $65 per tonne by 2016 to 2018—but were the government's attempt to change the channel, as it was coming under harsh criticism for gutting environmental protection. It was also the government's attempt to silence its critics. The government is practising 1940s-style McCarthyism: shut down any independent voice, and bully and intimidate those who cannot be shut down.
We are also seeing the silencing of government critics through changes to the Canada Revenue Agency and the attempts to seize control of the university research agenda. The government should be able to stand on its own merits and should be able to withstand criticism, but instead of making its arguments, it is just looking to eliminate dissent.
The criticism of Bill is extensive. For example, the Ottawa Citizen reports, under the heading “Something's fishy with Bill C-38...”:
|| There was no need for great chunks of legislation to be retrofitted into a 420-page omnibus budget bill that looks to have been intended to confound every effort by the House of Commons to scrutinize its contents intelligently.
Under the heading “Omnibus bill threatens fish...”, The Vancouver Sun reported:
|| A new front in the battle against the federal government's omnibus budget bill opened up Monday when B.C. Conservative Party leader John Cummins sent a letter to [the] Prime Minister...warning of major threats to fishing communities and the environment if major Fisheries Act amendments are passed.
For decades, Canadians have depended on the federal government to safeguard our families and nature from pollution, toxic contamination and other environmental problems through a safety net of environmental laws. This bill shreds this environmental safety net to fast-track development at the expense of all Canadians.
Instead the government could have implemented my Motions Nos. 322, 323 and 325, which focused on Canada's commitment to sustainable development, recognizing that it was not a choice between saving the economy and the environment and therefore working with the provinces, territories and stakeholders to develop a green economy strategy and a national sustainable energy strategy to build the jobs of the future for our communities and for Canada.
When we compromise the air, the water, the soil, the variety of life, we steal from the endless future to serve the fleeting present.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to support the excellent motion moved by the hon. member for . This motion states that the budget legislation guts the environmental assessment and fisheries laws. The measures included in Bill will leave Canada’s lakes, rivers, oceans, ecosystems, and fisheries at risk.
The disastrous report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development tabled on May 8 clearly shows that the Conservatives' track record on the environment has been very consistent—it is one of bad faith, mismanagement and contempt for statistics and common sense. What is more, the Conservatives have also acted undemocratically.
The admitted this week that when the government is not happy with something, it just gets rid of it. That is what the Conservatives did with the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy. They decided to abolish it because the panel of experts dared to discuss a carbon tax. The round table will soon issue a report that shows that the government's lack of action to combat greenhouse gas emissions will be very costly for Canada, much more so than if it were to try right away to establish infrastructure and rules to decrease such emissions.
Because the government seems to be incapable of costing its current reduction plan or the Kyoto plan, I imagine that it will be very interested in this report by the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, unless it decides to muzzle the scientists once again, as it is so inclined to do.
This is 2012, the 21st century. The Conservatives are playing with the health and safety of Canadians. This government must immediately assume its responsibilities. Is it a question of greed, Nimbyism, incompetence, or all of the above?
Yesterday, in committee of the whole, the could not tell us which programs would be abolished by his department and what impact this would have on environmental protection. He was even unable to tell us the type of work that would be eliminated, the work of these thousands of public servants who will be let go.
If the minister himself cannot give us the answers, who else in this government can? Yesterday, we grilled the for four hours without obtaining concise, concrete and clear answers. That is rather disturbing, especially since the people want answers. Canadians want to be consulted, but everything about this government makes it impossible.
Why is this government refusing to do anything tangible about this? Examples, statistics, science all point to how serious this is. We have to act now. All the experts agree on that. Even the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development said so a number of times on Tuesday.
This government has responded by introducing a 431-page omnibus bill that is being decried by every environmental organization and even by former Conservative MPs who were responsible for some of the files. We have a 431-page bill that has a devastating effect on our cultural heritage, among other things.
The Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development and experts will not even get the chance to take a critical look at these changes. This is an insult to Canadians and to democracy. It almost feels like we are living in a dictatorship.
Although I could go on about the countless irresponsible and reckless aspects of this bill, I will focus on those concerning the environment, which is the subject of today's motion. Unfortunately, the only thing this government is trying to do is to destroy the environment and destroy progress. Soon it will destroy the economy with all of its destructive measures.
Instead of gutting all of our environmental protection measures and erasing all the progress that has been made over the past few decades—including with regard to the fisheries and the environmental assessments that have taken years to set up—this government should be showing leadership and enhancing environmental protection measures because we are running out of time. There are deadlines to be met.
Even the Commissioner of the Environment said last week that given the Conservatives' efforts or lack thereof, he doubted that the very minimal targets set by this government will be met at the rate we are going today. Is that any way to build a 21st century country? Is that any way to stimulate the economy and boost innovation in the private sector? This is truly quite alarming.
I can think of many positive examples. Consider Germany, for instance, where stricter environmental regulations have led to the growth of the renewable energy sector and helped create thousands of jobs, making the country a world leader in the area of sustainable development. The situation there is much more positive than it is here in Canada right now. Canada has become the black sheep at international conferences on the environment. And Canada ranks third among OECD countries that are the world's worst polluters per capita, right behind Australia and the United States. Congratulations to the Government of Canada.
As the commissioner's report clearly demonstrates, the government needs to stop its archaic way of seeing things. The Conservatives need to wake up. The preventive measures suggested by environmental groups, the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy and a number of experts will not cost anything; in fact, they will save money.
The initial cost of implementing environmental regulations quickly generates savings if we consider the short- and long-term social benefits, as good managers should. We do not have to look far to find a good example of this. The White House's Office of Management and Budget compared the costs and benefits of environmental protection. The United States, our closest neighbour, which the Conservatives so frequently turn to as a policy model, found that the combined cost of all U.S. federal air and water protection regulations is approximately $26 billion per year, yet they save up to $533 billion because of a lower incidence of smog-related respiratory diseases and fewer problems associated with contaminated sites.
It is clear that Canadians' health and safety is closely related to environmental factors such as the quality of the air we breathe, the impact of global warming on food security, the safety of the food we eat and water quality, to name but a few.
The Conservative budget is a perfect illustration of that party's vision, or I should say, lack of vision. In fact, it shows the short-sighted and irresponsible vision of a government that would rather give in to pressure from its friends in the oil lobbies than protect our natural heritage and the health of future generations.
Once again, this government is showing just how willing it is to circumvent democracy and science to concentrate power in the hands of cabinet. The government is grouping measures that fall under the jurisdiction of a dozen committees into a single bill to ensure that these measures will be examined by as few experts as possible.
This week, when the government invoked closure for the 21st time on a bill jam-packed with as many measures as possible, Canadians were denied a fair and thorough debate on issues that will affect their health, their safety and their environment. The government is on a witch hunt, and environmental groups are the target. This is reminiscent of 1950s McCarthyism.
Canadians want the government to prioritize sustainable, responsible development, but this budget undermines—nay, eliminates—all of the environmental safeguards that protect our coasts, our rivers, our wildlife and our food.
Unfortunately, this government puts economic interests, particularly those of large foreign oil companies, before the health of Canadians, long-term energy security, and the protection of Canada's natural heritage.
By eliminating the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, arbitrarily shortening environmental assessments and scaling back experts' and scientists' role in the process, the Conservative government is clearly showing that the environment is not a priority. In fact, the government is showing that the environment is no longer even on its radar.
The Conservatives even have the audacity to believe that cabinet has more expertise to make decisions about major pipeline projects than scientists and experts do. Let us not forget that the Conservatives' estimate for the purchase of the F-35s was out by $10 billion and they responded by saying, “Oops. Sorry.” What will happen if a Northern Gateway spill destroys the magnificent coast of British Columbia near Kitimat, pollutes the drinking water of several hundred first nations communities and threatens the health of our most beautiful forest? Is the government just going to again say, “Oops. Sorry.”?
For all these reasons, I support the motion. The budget is an absolute affront to democracy, and Canadians deserve much better. They deserve principles of responsible and sustainable development to make this budget viable.