Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
I certainly appreciate the opportunity to speak today about this important piece of legislation, and I really appreciate the hard work of all the committee members.
The legislation we introduced earlier this year aims to restore public trust in how the federal government makes decisions about such major projects as mines, pipelines, and hydro dams. These better rules are designed to protect our environment, improve investor confidence, strengthen our economy, and create good middle-class jobs. They will also make the Canadian energy and resource sectors more competitive.
With these better rules, we are working to build on Canada's strong economic growth and historic job numbers.
Together with my ministerial colleagues, I have been working very hard to deliver this government's promise to regain public trust in environmental assessment and regulatory processes to help get resources to market in a sustainable way and introduce new, fair processes. As a first step, in January 2016 we introduced an interim approach and principles that will guide decision-making for projects that were already in the system.
These interim principles clearly show the following.
First, decisions will be based on scientific and probative data as well as on sound traditional indigenous knowledge.
Second, we are going to listen to the opinion of Canadians and of their communities.
Third, indigenous people will be consulted in a significant and respectful way.
Fourth, decisions will consider the effects of the various projects on the climate.
Fifth, no project that has already been assessed will have to start the process from scratch.
Our government did not stop at interim principles. In June 2016, we launched a comprehensive process to review existing laws and seek Canadians' input on how to improve our environmental and regulatory system. This review was guided by two expert panels, two parliamentary committees, as well as extensive consultations with indigenous peoples, industry, provinces and territories, and the public.
The expert panel established in August 2016 and tasked with examining environmental assessment processes, travelled for four months to consult Canadians across the country. After that, the committee submitted to me a report that included a summary of the comments received and the way in which they had been examined, together with recommendations to improve federal environmental assessment processes.
The government then held a public comment period on that report and engaged with stakeholders and indigenous peoples. Over 1,000 online comments and 160 submissions were received, and over 100 in-person meetings were held with thousands of Canadians from across the country.
We then took all the information and input that we heard and released a discussion paper that outlined the government's proposed path forward, based on the feedback from the expert report and the submissions provided. This too was the subject of extensive consultations, both online and in person.
On February 8, I introduced Bill , which is the culmination of all that input. The proposed legislation responds to what we heard from provinces and territories, indigenous peoples, industry stakeholders, environmental groups, and the public, addressing what matters to Canadians. Bill C-69 will introduce a modern assessment process that protects the environment, supports reconciliation with indigenous peoples, attracts investment, and ensures that good projects go ahead in a timely way to create new jobs and economic opportunities.
First, assessments will consider not just environmental impacts of projects, but also the social, health, and economic impacts they may cause. When making decisions, we will consider whether companies are using the best available technologies and practices to reduce impacts on the environment, and a gender-based analysis will ensure any potential impacts unique to women, men, or gender-diverse people are identified and addressed.
Under the proposed framework, decisions will be based on whether a project with adverse effects is in the public interest. A public interest determination will be guided by several factors, including the project's contribution to sustainability, impacts on indigenous peoples and their rights, and mitigation measures that are proposed to reduce the project's impacts on Canada's ability to meet its environmental obligations and climate change commitments.
Proactive strategic and regional assessments will allow the potential cumulative effects of development projects to be evaluated. In addition, the decision-making process will be more enlightened.
We also heard that project reviews need to be predictable, provide regulatory certainty, and work across multiple jurisdictions. The new legislation proposes to have one agency, the impact assessment agency of Canada, lead all major project reviews and coordinate with indigenous peoples. One project, one assessment, is a guiding principle to drive co-operative reviews and avoid duplication.
New tools are available for the impact assessment agency to work collaboratively with jurisdictions and with life-cycle regulators such as the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and the proposed Canadian energy regulator to ensure this principle is met.
A new early planning phase will engage jurisdictions, potentially affected indigenous peoples and communities, to ensure that key issues are raised early so that project proponents know at the outset what is expected from them.
Thanks to this early planning and participation stage, we will also be able to encourage the public on the front lines to participate in the dialogue. That stage will also allow us to simplify the process, something that is positive for everyone.
For the first time, there will now be a legislated timeline for decision-making for assessment. These timelines will ultimately shorten project assessments, allowing proponents to spend more time investing in project development to build the Canadian economy.
Indigenous peoples are leaders in conservation. They've long been stewards of the environment and have rights related to the management of land, waters, and wildlife. They have knowledge of the land that spans generations. We will advance Canada's commitment to reconciliation and get to better project decisions by recognizing indigenous rights and working in partnership from the start.
We will require traditional indigenous knowledge to be considered, as well as available scientific and other data.
Indigenous governing bodies will have more opportunities to exercise their powers and responsibilities under the Act to enact the Impact Assessment Act.
In addition, we will increase funding to the Participant Funding Program to support indigenous participation and to strengthen capacities linked to impact assessments.
We also heard that Canadians want to ensure that assessments are grounded in science and that the process is transparent and accessible. The bill proposes a number of measures to address these issues. Greater public participation opportunities will be provided, including during the early planning phase and during the impact assessment process. All Canadians will be assured the ability to participate.
An online registry will provide access to information on specific environmental assessments of projects, including the scientific data used in the impact assessment.
Summaries of the facts supporting the assessments, written in plain language, will be made available in order to ensure strong participation.
Assessments and decisions will be informed by the best available science, evidence, and indigenous traditional knowledge. Scientific evidence will be tested, and where findings are uncertain, third party reviews will be available.
The bill also proposes to increase transparency by requiring that decisions, with detailed reasons, are made public so that Canadians can better understand the rationale behind the decisions.
As you know, the proposed impact assessment act was informed by extensive consultation, and I am committed to continuing the dialogue.
Since the bill was tabled in the House of Commons, I have met with stakeholders from industry and from environmental groups, with representatives of indigenous peoples, and with my provincial counterparts in order to obtain their reactions on what has been proposed in the bill.
The better rules we announced this year reflect what we have heard overwhelmingly and consistently from Canadians over the past year and a half.
They want a modern environmental and regulatory system that protects the environment, supports reconciliation with indigenous peoples, attracts investment, and ensures that good projects can go ahead, which creates good, middle-class jobs and grows our economy. As we always say, the environment and the economy go together.
Thank you, Madam Chair, for the opportunity to speak to the committee today. I would like to thank the committee for the collaborative approach that you have taken in your work around this table to date, and I look forward to the outcome of your review of this important piece of legislation.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Good morning, everybody.
Let me begin by thanking you for your work. Really, the work of committees is at the heart of our democracy. The fact that it's in the centre of this building is a metaphor for how important it is.
I want to say that for ministers to come together and be accountable in front of members of Parliament from all parties is one of the most important things that we ever do. I look forward to the exchange, which I am sure might have its spirited moments, and that's the way it should be.
I also want to begin by picking up on something that Minister McKenna said, right at the end of her remarks. That's the importance of Bill , to ensure that the economy and the environment continue to go hand in hand.
It makes sense for us to appear together. I'm sure both Conservative and Liberal members will remember that it wasn't always this way. There was a time when ministers of the environment and natural resources would probably not sit at the same table. When they sat around even their own partisan tables, things were always a bit tense. We believe in 2018 that there is one conversation.
Also, the minister and I were together in Vancouver last week at the GLOBE conference, giving keynote addresses and participating in panel discussions during round tables with indigenous people, with environmentalists, with leaders of industry and clean technology. It didn't matter in front of what audience, our message was always the same, the message that we're delivering this morning.
I think it is a powerful message that Canadians see the Minister of Natural Resources and the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change sharing the same table, demonstrating that the economy and the environment are not competing interests, but equal components of a single engine that drives innovation, jobs, and economic growth. That has been our government's vision from day one, and the results speak for themselves.
Last year, Canada added more than 420,000 jobs, most of them full-time positions, and many of them in our resource sectors.
Alberta, a province hit hard by three years of low oil and gas prices, is among those posting large job gains, adding 55,000 new positions. Its economic output per capita is again leading the country.
As one University of Calgary professor told the Canadian Press last month, Alberta's economy is recovering faster than almost anyone could have expected. On the other side of the country, Quebec is essentially at full employment, with labour shortages reported in some parts of the province.
It's not surprising, then, that Canada led all G7 countries with 3% growth last year and that our unemployment rate has been hovering around 40-year lows. Such robust growth is difficult to duplicate year after year; we know that. We also know that governments are a part of it; job creation is really due to the actions of individual Canadians.
Economies have their cycles, but the message is clear: we can create good jobs for the middle class and those working hard to join it, with a future built on the three pillars of economic prosperity, environmental protection, and indigenous participation.
is a big part of our vision. It has the potential to transform our natural resources sector by providing project proponents with clearer rules and greater certainty, by allowing local communities to have more input, and by ensuring indigenous people have more opportunities in the development and oversight of our nation's vast resources.
That includes our energy sector, which is why we are proposing a new Canadian energy regulator, or CER, to replace the existing National Energy Board. We want to create a new federal energy regulator with the necessary independence and the proper accountability to oversee a strong, safe, and sustainable Canadian energy sector in the 21st century.
It would be a federal regulator with a modern, effective governance structure, one that includes a chief executive officer who would be separate from the chair; a board of directors that would provide strategic direction, distinct from a group of independent commissioners responsible for adjudication; and at least one member of both the board and the commissioners who would be first nation, Inuit, or Métis.
That's what the Canadian energy regulator act proposes to do.
Under our plan, timelines for reviews would also be shorter, more predictable, and better managed. Project reviews would not exceed two years for major new projects, and not more than 300 days for smaller ones, all the while continuing to recognize the expertise of the offshore boards and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.
At the same time, the CER act would make public engagement more inclusive. For example, the NEB's existing “test for standing” would be eliminated to ensure every Canadian has an opportunity to express his or her views during project reviews. Participant funding programs would be expanded to support new activities.
We also want to advance reconciliation by building and funding the capacity of indigenous peoples to participate more meaningfully in project reviews, as well as recognizing indigenous rights up front, confirming the government's duty to consult, requiring consideration of traditional indigenous knowledge, and aiming to secure free, prior, and informed consent.
The new CER would have more powers to enforce stronger safety and environmental protections, including new powers for federal inspection officers.
All of these enhancements would ensure that good projects can proceed without compromising the environment or engagement, allowing our energy resources to get to markets in responsible, timely, and transparent ways.
Canadians have painted a similar picture for our country in this clean growth century through the hundreds of thousands who joined our ongoing Generation Energy discussion to imagine Canada's energy future, the hundreds more who travelled to Winnipeg last fall for our two-day Generation Energy forum, and the thousands who participated in 14 months of public consultation to draft this legislation. Canadians have told us that they want a thriving, low-carbon economy. They want us to be a leader in clean technology, and they want an energy system that provides equal opportunities to Canadians, while minimizing harm to the environment. They also understand that we're not there yet. We need to prepare for the future, but we must also deal with the present by providing energy that they can count on when they flick on a light or fill up their cars.
A modern energy regulator is essential to that, and to ensuring all Canadians have continued access to a safe, affordable, and reliable supply of energy. That has been the role of the National Energy Board since 1959. Under its almost 60-year-old mandate, the NEB has been responsible for making recommendations and decisions on projects, overseeing the safety and environmental performance of facilities, and engaging Canadians.
Today the NEB regulates approximately 73,000 kilometres of international and interprovincial pipelines and another 1,400 kilometres of international power lines, as well as all of our Canadian imports and exports of energy.
Unfortunately, the NEB's structure, role and mandate have remained relatively unchanged since the National Energy Board Act was first introduced in 1959.
That has created some challenges at a time when energy regulation should be evolving and adapting with the changing times, and when a modern energy regulator is central to integrating Canada's energy, economic, and climate goals. The new CER would help to address all of that.
For example, it would introduce a more inclusive approach to reviewing energy projects by incorporating a full impact assessment of key factors. As well, the CER's mandate would cover emerging energy developments such as the regulation of offshore renewable energy, and with legislative timelines, the new CER would significantly strengthen investment certainty. So will the new transition period that is based on clear rules, the earlier engagement to identify public priorities, the clearer direction on indigenous consultations, the coordinated activities between the CER and the new impact assessment agency, and the continued government responsibility for final decisions.
Bill is ambitious, but achievable. It is legislation designed for the Canada we know today, and the Canada we want for tomorrow, a Canada where we create the growing middle class we all want, while protecting the planet we all cherish for generations to come.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you very much. I also want to thank my deputy, Stephen Lucas, and also Ron Hallman, the president of CEAA. They've done an amazing job.
We knew when we came in as a government that we needed to rebuild trust in our environmental assessment system. We heard that from environmentalists and from indigenous peoples and from Canadians. We also heard that from industry, because it was impeding trust, which meant that it was much more challenging for good projects to go ahead, so that's exactly what we've done in the proposed legislation—rebuilt trust. Rebuilding trust means that we have made clear that the views of Canadians and the views of communities will be heard. There will be no standing test so that if you have concerns, you will have your opportunity to make them clear.
Reconciliation is a top priority for our government. We need to be working in partnership with indigenous peoples, and that starts at the very beginning. That starts in a new early engagement phase and it goes all the way through monitoring of projects. Indigenous traditional knowledge is a must-have, not just a nice-to-have.
We've moved from looking at just the environmental factors to doing a broader impact assessment test that will look at factors like the social impacts, the health impacts, and the economic impacts of projects, as well as, of course, the environmental impacts. We realize this is actually going to be better, because when we do this, we will be able to build trust in Canadians that we are making decisions based on robust science, that we are listening to communities, that we are working in partnership with indigenous peoples, and at the same time that we are making sure that good projects go ahead in a timely way.
As part of that, we've also looked at how we can ensure that we do more work in the front end, where we will give more certainty to businesses by looking at how we work with provinces so that we aren't duplicating efforts and making it more difficult for proponents, and also that we're giving them guidance about how to consult with indigenous peoples and about the permitting process.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Can you let me know when I have one minute left in my time? I am going to share the time with Mrs. Stubbs.
Madam Minister, Mr. Minister, and the senior officials, my thanks for being part of this morning's exercise.
I was pleased to hear the Minister of Natural Resources say that he was happy to sit down with the Minister of Environment and Climate Change. I completely agree with that approach. Now, beyond the approach and the image, we must work together to attain concrete results.
Madam Minister, in your presentation, you said that Bill is intended to ensure that scientific data are considered, that indigenous people are consulted to find out their interests and their opinions, that public opinion will be able to be expressed, that groups that want to provide information to the process can do so, and so on.
Let me lead by example. Following a request from the Department of Environment, I led a consultation in my constituency of Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier. I have sent you the information.
I am having a hard time assessing the consistency of the entire process. At second reading in the House, there is a time allocation motion. You want to hold consultations and make everyone happy. But here you are actually limiting the participation of parliamentarians in the debate.
Madam Minister, can we hear your comments on the paradox that is jumping out at us?