Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill , an act to amend the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act and the Canada Petroleum Resources Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts.
The bill would make two amendments to the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act of 1998, and I will refer to this in my speech going forward as MVRMA. Part A reverses provisions that would have consolidated the Mackenzie Valley land and water boards into one. These provisions were introduced by the former Conservative government within Bill , Northwest Territories Devolution Act of 2014.
Part B would amend the Canada Petroleum Resources Act to allow the Governor in Council to issue orders, when in the national interest, to prohibit oil and gas activities, and freezes the terms of existing licences to prevent them from expiring during a moratorium.
Bill is yet another Liberal anti-energy policy in a long list of policies from the government that are driving energy investments out of Canada, costing Canadian workers their jobs and increasing poverty rates in the north.
First, I will speak to part A of the bill, the section that reverses the previous government's initiative to consolidate for the devolution of governance of the Northwest Territories, wherein the federal government transferred control of the territories' land and resources to the Northwest Territories government.
Part of that plan sought to restructure the four Mackenzie Valley land and water boards into a single consolidated superboard, with the intent to streamline regulatory processes and enable responsible resource development. For the reasons why this was proposed under Bill , we have to turn back the clock nearly seven years earlier when, in 2007, then-minister of Indian affairs and northern development, the hon. Chuck Strahl commissioned a report on improving regulatory and environmental assessment regimes in Canada's north.
The consolidation of the Mackenzie Valley land and water boards into one entity was a key recommendation, which would address the complexity and capacity issues by making more efficient use of expenditures and administrative resources, and allow for administrative practices to be understandable and consistent.
Furthermore, during debates in the House in 2013 and 2014, the then-minister of aboriginal affairs and northern development, Bernard Valcourt and the member for , or as it was known back then, Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, pointed out that the restructured board was included in the final version of the modern land claim agreements.
The proposed changes were not acceptable to everyone, and two indigenous groups, the Tlicho Government and Sahtu Secretariat, filed for an injunction with the Northwest Territories' Supreme Court to suspend the related provisions.
They argued that the federal government did not have the authority to abolish the Mackenzie Valley regulatory regime without consultation with affected indigenous communities. I should point out that, at the time, Liberal members of Parliament voted in favour of Bill when it was debated in Parliament, including the .
The report commissioned by the then-minister of Indian affairs and northern development was never meant to diminish the influence that indigenous people have on resource management in the north. Rather, it was meant to allow for this influence in a practical way, while at the same time enabling responsible resource development through an effective regulatory system.
This brings us back to today and the bill currently before us. As previously mentioned Bill would repeal the restructuring of the four land and water boards but also reintroduce regulatory provisions that were included in the previous Conservative government's Bill .
These provisions have been redrafted to function under the current four-board structure and provide for the following: an administrative monetary penalty scheme that will provide inspectors with additional tools to enforce compliance with permits and licences under the MVRMA; an enforceable development certificate scheme following environmental assessments and environmental impact reviews; the development of regulations respecting consultation, which are intended to help clarify the procedural roles and responsibilities respecting indigenous consultation; clarification of requirements for equal proportions of nominees from government and indigenous governments and organizations; a 10-day pause period between a board's preliminary screening decision and the issuance of an authorization to allow for other bodies under the MVRMA to refer a project to an environmental assessment; regional studies that provide the minister with the discretion to appoint committees or individuals to study the effects of existing and future development on a regional basis; the authority to develop cost-recovery regulations that would provide the federal government with the ability to recover costs associated with proceedings; and the extension of a board member's term during a proceeding to ensure board quorum is maintained until the conclusion of an application decision.
These are good regulations and I am glad to see that the current government is continuing on with that and did not throw away these provisions.
The Liberals will say that Bill is about consultation, however, under part 2 is where the real motivation for Bill C-88 becomes evident.
Part 2 is simply the Liberals' plan to further politicize the regulatory and environmental processes for resource extraction in Canada's north by giving cabinet sweeping powers to stop projects based on its so-called national interest. So much for the comments from the parliamentary secretary to the minister of indigenous and northern affairs, who, on speaking to the Conservatives' Bill on February 11, 2014, said:
As Liberals, we want to see the Northwest Territories have the kind of independence it has sought. We want it to have the ability to make decisions regarding the environment, resource development, business management, growth, and opportunity, which arise within their own lands.
I would agree with that.
Bill exposes the Liberals' full rejection of calls from elected territorial leaders for increased control of their natural resources. The Liberals have demonstrated disregard for those who speak truth to power, they have demonstrated contempt for indigenous peoples advocating for the health and welfare of their children and now they are adding indifference for northern Canadians' interests to their long litany of groups marginalized by the Liberal government.
The Conservatives strongly criticized the Liberals for a moratorium on offshore oil and gas development in the Beaufort Sea, an announcement made in December 2016, in Washington, D.C. by the prime minister, an announcement, I might add, where territorial leaders were given less than an hour's notice. The Liberal government's top-down maternalistic approach to northerners must end. It does nothing to reduce poverty in remote and northern regions of Canada.
Like Bill , the no-more pipelines bill before it, Bill politicizes oil and gas extraction by expanding the powers of cabinet to block economic development and adds to the increasing levels of red tape proponents must face before they can get shovels into the ground. Like Bill , the convoluted navigable waters bill before it, Bill C-88 adds ambiguity and massive uncertainty in an already turbulent investment climate. Like Bill , the tanker ban bill before it, Bill C-88 aims to kill high-quality, high-paying jobs for Canadians and their families who work in the oil and gas-related industries.
We know the 's real motivation. He spelled it out for us at a Peterborough, Ontario town hall in January 2017, when he clearly stated that he and his government needed to phase out the oil and gas industry in Canada. The Prime Minister's plan to phase out the energy industry has been carried out with surgical precision to date.
The Liberals' job-killing carbon tax is already costing Canadian jobs. Companies repeatedly mention that the carbon tax is the reason they are investing in jobs and projects in the United States over Canada. The Liberals new methane regulations could end refining in Canada by adding tens of billions of dollars of cost to an industry that is already in crisis.
The Liberals introduced their interim review process for oil and gas projects in January 2016, which killed energy east, the 15,000 middle-class jobs it would have created and the nearly $55 billion it would have injected into the New Brunswick and Canadian economies, a review process which delayed the Trans Mountain expansion reviews by six months and added upstream admissions to the review process.
The Liberal cabinet imposed a B.C. north shore tanker ban within months of forming government, with no consultation or scientific evidence to support it. The Liberals cancelled the oil and gas exploration drilling tax credits during a major downturn in the oil and gas sector, which caused the complete collapse of drilling in Canada. The Liberals' proposed fuel standard will equate to a carbon tax of $228 per tonne of fuel according to their own analysis.
When the vetoed the northern gateway pipeline, he killed benefit agreements between the project and 31 first nations, worth about $2 billion. The unprecedented policy will apply not to just transportation fuels but to all industries, including steel production, heating for commercial buildings and home heating fuels like natural gas.
All this is destroying energy jobs and investment from coast to coast to coast. Now, with Bill , we add another coast, the northern coast.
The Liberals love to champion the 's personal commitment to a new relationship with indigenous people through new disclosure and friendly policies. They will, no doubt, due so again with Bill .
This is what some organizations and people have to say, with respect to the 's so-called commitment:
Stephen Buffalo, the president and CEO of the Indian Resource Council, in the National Post, October 19, 2018 stated:
...the government of Canada appears to consult primarily with people and organizations that share its views...It pays much less attention to other Indigenous groups, equally concerned about environmental sustainability, who seek a more balanced approach to resource development.
Here is another quote from that article:
The policies of the [Prime Minister's] government are systematically constraining the freedom and economic opportunities of the oil- and gas-producing Indigenous peoples of Canada. We are not asking for more from government. We are actually asking for less government intervention
Roy Fox, chief of the Kainaiwa first nation, in The Globe and Mail, December 10, 2018 stated:
While the Kainaiwa [nation] continue to fight against high unemployment, as well as the social destructiveness and health challenges such as addiction and other issues that often accompany poverty, my band’s royalties have recently been cut by more than half. Furthermore, all drilling has been cancelled because of high price differentials—the enormous gap between what we get on a barrel of oil in comparison to the benchmark price—which has limited employment opportunities on our lands.
Chief Fox continued:
...it’d be an understatement to say the policies proposed within Bills C-69 and C-48 are damaging our position by restricting access and reducing our ability to survive as a community.... I and the majority of Treaty 7 chiefs strongly oppose the bill for its likely devastating impact on our ability to support our community members, as it would make it virtually impossible for my nation to fully benefit from the development of our energy resources.
I can continue to read quotes. However, we here on this side of the aisle are deeply disappointed that the , who campaigned on a promise of reconciliation with indigenous communities, blatantly would allow and choose to deny our 31 first nations and Métis communities their constitutionally-protected right to economic development.
This is from the Aboriginal Equity Partners:
We see today's announcement as evidence of the government's unwillingness to follow through on the Prime Minister's promise.
The Government of Canada could have demonstrated its commitment by working with us as environmental stewards of the land and water to enhance marine safety. All 31 AEP plus the other affected communities should have been consulted directly and individually in order to meet the Federal Government's duty to consult.
I have said this many times in my speech. It is time to stop politicizing these projects. Bill politicizes oil and gas development in the far north by providing the cabinet in Ottawa the unilateral power to shut down oil and gas development without consulting the people it affects directly.
I want to point to a few “key facts” from NRCAN's website. It states that in 2017, Canada’s energy sector directly employed more than 276,000 people and indirectly supported over 624,000 jobs; Canada’s energy sector accounts for almost 11% of nominal Gross Domestic Product (GDP); government revenues from energy were $10.3 billion in 2016; more than $650 million was spent on energy research, development, and deployment by governments in 2016-17; and Canada is the sixth largest energy producer, the fifth largest net exporter, and the eighth largest consumer
Just last week, in The Globe and Mail, David McKay, the president and CEO of the Royal Bank of Canada, stated:
History has placed Canada at a crossroads.
No other country of 37 million people has access to more natural resources – and the brainpower to convert those resources into sustainable growth for a stronger society.
And yet, Canada is at risk of taking the wrong turn at the crossroads because some believe there are only two paths: one for economic growth, and the other for environment.
We’re seeing this dilemma play out in Canada’s energy transition as we struggle to reconcile competing ideas.
We aspire to help the world meet its energy needs and move to ever-cleaner fuel sources. We aim to reduce our carbon footprint. We want Indigenous reconciliation and long-term partnership. And we hope to maintain the standard of living we have come to enjoy.
But without a balanced approach to harnessing our energy future, all of this is at risk.
We need to take a third path--one that will help us develop our natural resources, invest in clean technologies and ensure a prosperous Canada....
But we’re reaching a critical time in our country’s history.
As our resources sector copes with a growing crisis, we worry that Canada is not setting up our energy industry for growth and success in a changing world.
When I travel abroad, and proudly talk up our country, too many investors tell me they feel Canada's door is closed when it comes to energy. We need to change that impression immediately, because these investors are backing up their words with action.
According to a recent study from the C.D. Howe Institute, Canada has lost $100-billion in potential investment in oil and gas in the past two years.
We can’t forget that energy is not only part of the economic fabric of Canada, it also funds our social needs. The sector has contributed $90-billion to government revenues over the past five years, which covers about 10 per cent of what the country spends on health care, according to RBC Economics.
And if we squander our huge advantage and cede the dividends to other countries, we’ll also risk losing the opportunity to help combat the most daunting challenge of all – climate change.
The article ends with the following charge to government:
We can’t stay at a crossroads.
It’s time for Canada to pull together on a plan – one that re-energizes our place in the world.
The Conservatives have long viewed the north as a key driver of economic activity for Canada for decades to come. The Liberals, however, view the north as a place to create huge swaths of protected land and shut down economic activity.
Bill appears to be based in a desire to win votes in major urban centres rather than reduce poverty in remote regions of Canada. Northerners face the unique challenges of living in the north with resilience and fortitude. They want to create jobs and economic opportunities for their families. They deserve a government that has their backs.
We are at a crossroads and it is time for Canada to pull together a plan. The Conservatives are up to that challenge. We look forward to unveiling our plan and growing the economy in the next election for voters to decide for themselves who really has the best interests of Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time this afternoon with the member for , but first let me acknowledge that we are here on the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin people.
I stand in support of Bill .
The proposed legislation now before us would modernize the regulatory regime that governs resource development in the Northwest Territories.
The central goal of Canada's approach to regulating resource development in the north has been to realize a project's full potential value while minimizing and mitigating any negative environmental, social and economic impacts. To achieve this goal, regulatory regimes across Canada include measures to assess proposed projects and to track the progress and performance of approved projects.
Environmental impact is a key consideration throughout all phases. In general, and particularly in the north, environmental impact is defined as any effect on land, water, air or any other component of the environment, as well as on wildlife harvesting.
The assessment includes any effect on the social and cultural environment or on heritage resources.
The northern regime has long been ahead of the southern environmental assessment regime in this respect. In the north, regulatory regimes are notably different from those in the rest of Canada, for several reasons. The most significant reason is that many northern indigenous people have concluded land claim agreements with the Government of Canada, and these agreements have created a robust system through which indigenous governments have a meaningful role in processes to review and license proposed resource development projects, have representation on boards, and have a strong voice in the process from the beginning to the end. This is reconciliation in action.
The Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act is part of the legal framework for resource development in the north. The act authorizes a unique regulatory regime that references a series of comprehensive land claim and self-government agreements with indigenous groups, including the Gwich'in, Sahtu Dene and Tlicho.
The regime features an integrated and coordinated system of boards and ensures indigenous representation. The result is co-management. The Government of Canada, the Government of the Northwest Territories and indigenous governments all participate in reviews of and final decisions about proposed projects.
In recent decades, the north has experienced unprecedented change, and the pace of change continues to accelerate. Territorial governments have acquired new authorities under devolution, for example, and diamond mining has generated billions of dollars in revenues and created thousands of jobs. As well, the impacts of climate change have been greater in the north and have accelerated more quickly there than anywhere else in the world. Given these realities, the regulatory regime governing resource development in the north must evolve to keep pace, and this is the main impetus for Bill .
About eight years ago, the Government of Canada began a process to modernize the regulatory regime at the same time as it moved to devolve greater authorities to the Northwest Territories. In 2014, Canada enacted the Northwest Territories Devolution Act. Along with authorizing devolution, this act also made important changes to the regulatory regime. One of these changes was the amalgamation of four existing boards into a single entity, the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board.
Almost immediately, the Tlicho government and Sahtu Secretariat Incorporated launched court actions against Canada. The lawsuits claimed that amalgamation violated land claim agreements. The Supreme Court of the Northwest Territories granted an injunction, which effectively halted amalgamation and prevented the implementation of several elements of the regulatory regime. Bill proposes to repeal amalgamation, which would resolve the litigation and support Canada's commitment to reconciliation with indigenous peoples.
Bill would also authorize a series of policy elements that the court injunction also blocked. These elements include development certificates and an enforcement scheme for part 5 of the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act. They also include regional studies, extensions of the terms of board members, regulation-making authorities related to consultations, a 10-day pause in the environmental impact assessment process, and a requirement to give proper notice of government inspections of Gwich'in- and Sahtu-owned land.
Together the changes proposed in the legislation now before us would significantly strengthen the regulatory regime in the north. They would ensure that the assessment of environmental impacts would remain paramount in both the review of proposed projects and the monitoring of approved projects. The changes would also ensure that any contravention of a regulation could result in a stiff penalty, such as a large fine, and possibly, incarceration. Bill would also ensure that indigenous governments would continue to participate meaningfully in reviews of and decisions about development projects in the north.
Another aspect of Bill aims to further strengthen environmental protection in the Arctic through the Canada Petroleum Resources Act. As my hon. colleagues can appreciate, Canada's Arctic features some of the most fragile ecosystems in the world. Two years ago, the committed to stepping up Canada's efforts to protect Arctic ecosystems. In particular, he called for a ban on any new Arctic offshore resource exploration and extraction. Rather than set a deadline for the moratorium, the Government of Canada committed to reviewing it every five years. The review will focus on an assessment of the latest climate and marine sciences.
Along with imposing a moratorium, the Government of Canada began a series of consultations with territorial and northern indigenous governments and the holders of offshore oil and gas rights in Arctic waters to discuss their interests. A central focus of these consultations was how best to balance environmental and economic concerns and how to protect the offshore environment while pursuing safe, responsible activities that create jobs and economic opportunities in northern indigenous economies. The result of these consultations are the proposed amendments before us in Bill .
First, to complement the moratorium on new licences, the amendments would allow the Government of Canada to ban any oil and gas exploration or development activities under 11 existing exploration and significant discovery licences in the Beaufort Sea.
The amendments would also fix a problem that came to light regarding the plan for a science-based review every five years. Some oil and gas rights in the Arctic offshore will begin to expire before the completion of the next review period. With a ban on activity in the Arctic offshore, these rights suddenly lost all their value. The discussions identified a solution, that being a freeze on the terms of existing rights for the duration of the moratorium. Bill would authorize this solution.
Canada's regulatory regime is among the best in the world, because it continually seeks to strike an appropriate balance between economic, environmental and social concerns. Key to this ability is the careful and thorough assessment of potential project impacts. An effective regulatory regime makes it possible to foster both economic activity and environmental protection.
The legislation now before us aims to achieve this goal in the north, and I urge my hon. colleagues to endorse Bill at second reading.
[Member spoke in Cree as follows:]
ᓂ ᐚᐦᑰᒫᑲᓇᐠ ᑖᓂᓯ ᓂ ᒥᔦᐧᔨᐦᑌᐣ ᑳ ᐋᐧᐸᒥᑕᑲᐧᐤ
[Cree text translated as follows:]
Mr. Speaker, to all my relations, I say hello. I am very proud to be here.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to express my support for Bill . I also acknowledge that we are here on the traditional territory of the Algonquin people.
This important bill proposes to improve the regulatory regime that governs resource development in the Northwest Territories. Equally important, in my view, is the contribution Bill would make to reconciliation with indigenous peoples.
Throughout much of this country's history, indigenous peoples have been actively prevented from contributing fully to and benefiting equally from the social and economic prosperity that so many of us take for granted. Reconciliation and a renewed relationship with indigenous peoples will help create the conditions needed to close the socio-economic gap that persists between indigenous and non-indigenous Canadians.
Today we have an opportunity to right some of the wrongs of the past and to unlock economic growth for indigenous peoples and all Canadians. We have a chance to create an environment that supports self-determination. This will not only be good for indigenous peoples but will be good for all of Canada.
The National Indigenous Economic Development Board has estimated that engaging indigenous people in the economy at the same rate as non-indigenous people would boost Canada's GDP by 1.5% and create almost $28 billion in economic growth. Several others have suggested that the number is actually much higher.
Reconciliation is a multi-faceted undertaking that ultimately must involve and engage all people in Canada, indigenous and non-indigenous alike. At the personal level, it involves confronting and erasing all prejudice, embracing fresh ideas and throwing out those racist ideas of the past. For the Government of Canada, it involves sweeping changes to legislation, policies and how we approach policy.
Allow me to quote the 's description of the challenge facing Canada. He stated:
Reconciliation calls upon us all to confront our past and commit to charting a brighter, more inclusive future. We must acknowledge that centuries of colonial practices have denied the inherent rights of Indigenous Peoples. The recognition and implementation of Indigenous rights will chart a new way forward for our Government to work with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Peoples and to undo decades of mistrust, poverty, broken promises, and injustices.
The legislation now before us would support reconciliation in a clear and unequivocal way by re-establishing the land and water boards in a manner requested by indigenous communities themselves. The boards would enable three indigenous communities in the Northwest Territories, the Gwich'in, the Sahtu and the Tlicho, to influence resource development in their traditional territories in a direct and meaningful way.
Four years ago, Parliament endorsed legislation to restructure the regulatory regime governing resource development in the Northwest Territories. Part of this plan involved the amalgamation of four boards into a single entity, the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board.
Soon after the plan became law, the Tlicho Government and the Sahtu Secretariat Incorporated launched court actions against the Government of Canada. Both indigenous governments challenged Canada's authority to unilaterally eliminate boards that had been legally authorized years earlier. A 1992 comprehensive land claims agreement had established the Gwich'in Land and Water Board, which was given effect by the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act in 1998, for instance. In 2003, the Tlicho land claims and self-government agreement had authorized the creation of the Wek'èezhìi Land and Water Board.
The court challenges effectively put a halt to some of the restructuring measures included in the 2014 legislation under the Harper regime. The new Government of Canada agreed to work in co-operation with northern indigenous communities, including the plaintiffs in the court actions, to resolve the impasse and to restructure the regulatory regime in a way that would meet the needs of all concerned.
Representatives of indigenous groups, the Government of Northwest Territories and industry met with federal officials. The meetings inspired the Government of Canada to draft a legislative proposal and to share the draft with all interested parties.
This collaborative effort not only exemplifies the spirit of reconciliation but also illustrates reconciliation in action. It is “reconciliaction”, and it abides by the principles respecting the Government of Canada's relationship with indigenous peoples established last year. For instance, principle 1 states, “The Government of Canada recognizes that all relations with Indigenous peoples need to be based on the recognition and implementation of their right to self-determination, including the inherent right of self-government.”
Principle 5 states, “The Government of Canada recognizes that treaties, agreements, and other constructive arrangements between Indigenous peoples and the Crown have been and are intended to be acts of reconciliation based on mutual recognition and respect.”
Following this approach soon produced a negotiated solution. We sat down and we negotiated. It is a solution articulated today in Bill . However, to fully appreciate the value of the solution requires an understanding of how it came into being. This was not a case of the Government of Canada imposing its will on others. In fact, the bill before us incorporates the suggestions made by the negotiators representing other groups, including indigenous governments. They were central to this.
One change to the original draft legislation proposal relates to court jurisdiction for judicial reviews of administrative monetary penalties imposed under the regulatory regime. The change ensures consistency with exclusive jurisdiction of the Northwest Territories' Supreme Court under section 32 of the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act. A second modification to the original draft legislation aims to ensure consistency with comprehensive land claims agreements. New language was added to clarify consultation obligations related to administrative monetary penalties.
Is it not exciting to talk about administrative monetary penalties? These changes came about because the parties negotiated as equals in an atmosphere of mutual respect and mutual recognition of rights and responsibilities.
Should Bill become law, if it can make its way through this Parliament, its effects would also foster reconciliation. This is because co-management is central to the regulatory regime envisioned in the legislation now before us. Boards comprised of members nominated by northern indigenous governments and the governments of the Northwest Territories and Canada would render decisions about proposed development projects. Board decisions are legally binding on all parties, including developers. This means that northern indigenous governments would be fully able to exercise their right to self-determination.
The onus has long been on indigenous peoples to prove that their rights exist. For too long, indigenous communities have had to fight to exercise their rights. This is why reconciliation absolutely requires the Government of Canada, on behalf of all Canadians, to base all of its relations with indigenous peoples on the recognition and the implementation of existing rights.
On one level, Bill would repeal the amalgamation of land and water boards in the Northwest Territories. It would also modernize the regulatory regime governing resource development in the region. On a higher level, Bill would foster reconciliation with indigenous peoples across Canada. It would demonstrate to indigenous communities across the country that the Government of Canada is committed to reconciliation.
Hon. members of this chamber, the people's House, have an opportunity to show their commitment to reconciliation, and I encourage all of them to join me in supporting Bill .
[Member spoke in Cree as follows:]
ᒫᕒᓰ ᑳᐦ ᑮᐦᑖᐧᒼ ᐁᑯᓯ
[Cree text translated as follows:]
Thank you again, that is all.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill , another Liberal anti-resource development policy that is driving investment and businesses out of Canada, costing Canadian workers their jobs, costing indigenous people jobs and undermining their aspirations, work and their hopes for self-sufficiency, and increasing poverty rates in the north and in rural and remote regions.
Like the Liberals' no more pipelines Bill , their Arctic offshore drilling ban, and their oil shipping ban bills, Bill and Bill , Bill would further politicize resource development by expanding the powers of the cabinet to unilaterally block economic development and would add to the mountain of red tape proponents must overcome before they can get shovels in the ground.
The bill is also a full rejection of calls from elected territorial leaders for increased control over the development of natural resources in their territories and would cede more power and control to the federal government. Bill would reverse Conservative measures to devolve power to the territories and puts new powers in the hands of the federal cabinet. The Liberals clearly believe that Ottawa knows best.
At the AME Roundup in Vancouver in January, I was in a room full of northerners who were unanimous in their opposition to the Liberal government's “one big park” agenda for the north. There were elected officials, Inuit business leaders and corporate executives with decades of experience working with first nations in resource development in the north.
In Canada, it can take 20 years to get from the discovery of a mineral deposit to a functioning mine. The challenge in the north is that most of the mines are in the final decade of production and no new mines are in the approvals process. Resource projects and communities and residents in the north have to overcome big challenges: geography, climate, distance, access to land and a lack of services and infrastructure in the many remote and rural regions in which these projects are located. The north will pay for the Liberals' mistakes with the loss of an entire generation's economic advancement as mining completely leaves the region.
The previous Conservative government rightly viewed the north as essential to Canada's sovereignty, as a key area at stake in global security and as a place of real potential for significant economic activities today and for decades to come. Conservatives know resource development is often the only source of jobs and business potential in remote and northern regions where they are already scarce.
The Liberals meanwhile are arbitrarily creating huge swaths of protected land with little consultation. The regulatory uncertainty caused by their many bills and policies is making capital harder to access. These actions are challenging meaningful engagement and relationships with first nations in the north, including the Inuit, indigenous people and Métis communities. The Liberals' top-down paternalistic actions rob northerners of opportunities and of decision-making authority and do nothing to reduce poverty in remote northern regions of Canada.
Conservatives, by contrast, have sought to devolve power over and ownership of natural resources to the territories, enabling and empowering their abilities and their authority to manage and benefit from their rich and diverse natural resource opportunities.
In 2007, Neil McCrank was commissioned to write a report on improving the regulatory and environmental assessment regimes in Canada's north. That report, “Road to Improvement”, found the regulatory process in the Northwest Territories at the time was complex, costly, unpredictable and time-consuming. The merging of the three boards into one was a key recommendation. The report said that this approach would address the complexity and the capacity issues inherent to the current model by making more efficient use of expenditures and administrative resources.
Importantly, the report also said that this was not meant to diminish or reduce the influence that aboriginal people have on resource management in the north; rather, it was meant as an attempt to allow for this influence in a practical way, while at the same time enabling responsible resource development.
The option to merge the three separate indigenous boards into the single unified board was also included as an available option in the three modern land claim agreements signed with the first nations in the Northwest Territories.
In 2013, the previous Conservative government introduced Bill to implement that approach. That bill received overwhelming support in the House. We would not know it from the heckling across the aisle, but including from the Liberal Party. The Liberals and the NDP voted for the bill at the final stage in the House of Commons, but now the Liberals have decided to reverse it, to return to the job-killing overly complex and disjointed “Ottawa knows best” approach, setting back the hopes and aspirations of northern communities that are desperate for natural resource jobs.
It is a myth that indigenous communities, particularly in the north, are opposed to natural resource development. This myth is perpetuated by the Liberal left and elected politicians even in this House of Commons. Indigenous leaders are speaking out against anti-resource activists and in favour of the many benefits and potential for their communities. Bob McLeod, premier of the Northwest Territories, said:
All too often...[indigenous people] are only valued as responsible stewards of their land if they choose not to touch it. This is eco-colonialism.
He went on to say:
...it is oppressive and irresponsible to assume that Indigenous northerners do not support resource development.
PJ Akeeagok of Qikiqtani Inuit Association said, “Absolutely we want to participate in these industries. There’s some real exciting benefits that are out there.” Lee Qammaniq, a heavy equipment operator at Baffinland's Mary River mine, says, “I'm doing it so [my son] can have a better life.”
That ideological and heavy-handed “one big park” agenda in the north is being implemented often without consulting northerners on the use of the land around them. It is threatening the way of life of many Inuit and indigenous communities.
A little farther south, Isaac Laboucan-Avirom, chief of the Woodland Cree First Nation, says:
It frustrates me, as a first nations individual, when I have to almost beg for monies when we're living in one of the most resource-rich countries in the world. Why should our people be living in third-class or second-class communities when we are surrounded by natural resources that go into paving our roads, putting in rec centres, and so on?
In northern Saskatchewan, English River chief Marie Black, speaks about mining for many across the country in her direct assessment, saying, “It is very, very important that we go ahead and work with industry. This is for jobs.”
So many indigenous leaders are speaking out. They are leading the fight, really, about the importance of resource development to their communities to meet their needs right now and for future generations. They are fighting against the layers of Liberal anti-resource development policies and laws that violate their abilities to make decisions about their resources on and around their lands and about which they were not consulted by the Liberals in the first place.
Indigenous communities support sustainable and responsible natural resources development in their territories because it offers a real path to self-sufficiency and a real opportunity for actual economic reconciliation. It damages reconciliation when politicians make promises they do not keep, set expectations and then do not deliver, or pass laws in the apparent best interests of indigenous Canadians without actually fully consulting them.
There is no stronger example of the patriarchal, patronizing and quite frankly colonial approach of the current Liberals than their treatment of first nations who want to develop, provide services, and supply and transport oil and gas. When this Liberal vetoed the northern gateway pipeline, he killed benefit agreements between the project and 31 first nations that were worth $2 billion. Those 31 first nations said:
We are deeply disappointed that a Prime Minister who campaigned on a promise of reconciliation with Indigenous communities would now blatantly choose to deny our 31 First Nations and Métis communities of our constitutionally protected right to economic development.
The Liberals' shipping ban, Bill , is opposed by more than 30 first nations in B.C. and in Alberta because it would kill economic opportunities for their communities. Chief Isaac Laboucan-Avirom says, “What I don't understand about this tanker moratorium is that there's no other tanker moratorium on other coastlines in Canada. You have oil coming in from Saudi Arabia, up and down the St. Lawrence River right now.”
Gary Alexcee, deputy chief of Eagle Spirit Energy Holding Ltd., said:
With no consultation, the B.C. first nations groups have been cut off economically with no opportunity to even sit down with the government to further negotiate Bill C-48. If that's going to be passed, then I would say we might as well throw up our hands and let the government come and put blankets on us that are infected with smallpox so we can go away. That's what this bill means to us.
He went on to say:
Today, the way it sits, we have nothing but handouts that are not even enough to have the future growth of first nations in our communities of British Columbia.
Then, there is the targeted northern offshore drilling ban, incredibly announced in southern Canada by this without any real consultation with the most directly impacted indigenous communities, their elected leaders or indigenous-owned businesses.
Duane Smith, chair and CEO of the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, says:
We are sitting on nine trillion cubic feet of gas and it doesn't make sense for the community to truck in its energy source from 2,000 kilometres away when we should be developing these.
Northwest Territories premier, Bob McLeod, said, “It feels like a step backward.” He went on:
We spent a lot of time negotiating a devolution agreement, and we thought the days were gone when we'd have unilateral decisions made about the North in some faraway place like Ottawa, and that northerners would be making the decisions about issues that affected northerners.
He confirmed that this only informed him about the decision two hours before he made the announcement.
Nunavut's former premier, Peter Taptuna, has said, “We have been promised by Ottawa that they would consult and make decisions based on meaningful discussion. So far that hasn't happened.”
Even Liberal Yukon Premier Sandy Silver, whose territory is not affected by the bans, sided with his northern counterparts, saying, “When you have unilateral decisions being made in any topic on considerations that affect the North, you need to have northerners in those conversations.”
There was also, of course, the announcement made in Washington, D.C. that a large portion of Canada's territories will be prohibited from development, again with minimal or no consultation with actual northerners.
The mayor of Tuktoyaktuk recently said at a House of Commons committee:
We're proud people who like to work for a living. We're not used to getting social assistance and that kind of stuff. Now we're getting tourists coming up, but that's small change compared to when you work in oil and gas and you're used to that kind of living. Our people are used to that. We're not used to selling trinkets and T-shirts and that kind of stuff.
He specifically took issue with matters addressed by the bill, saying, “the Liberals should be helping us. They shut down our offshore gasification and put a moratorium right across the whole freaking Arctic without even consulting us. They never said a word to us.”
The Liberal approach to the north is not empowering first nations. It is trapping the Inuit and indigenous people of the north in poverty by blocking their best opportunities for jobs, for government revenues and for social services to deal with all the needs that colleagues here are raising in this debate, for healthy living and to help make life more affordable.
Northerners know that Bill would add another roadblock to resource development on top of the Liberals' “no more pipelines” Bill .
While co-management of the assessment process limits some of the damage of Bill , this legislation would still have a significant impact on resource development in the north. Whether it is changes to the navigable waters act, falling investment dollars in natural resource projects across Canada or limited essential services, equipment and expertise to develop projects in the north, this flawed legislation would damage the north.
Dozens of indigenous communities, along with the National Coalition of Chiefs, the Indian Resource Council, the Eagle Spirit Chiefs Council, Alberta's Assembly of Treaty Chiefs and the majority of Treaty 7 first nations, as well as hundreds of indigenous companies, are joining premiers and industry leaders in opposing Bill .
Experts in indigenous law and rights are clear. Bill does nothing concrete to improve indigenous consultation, either by expanding the scope of indigenous rights or by practically increasing the measures, expectations and standards for the Crown's duty to consult. In fact, it actually weakens indigenous voices in the assessment process by removing the standing test and opening up project reviews to literally anyone, anywhere, instead of focusing on input from locally impacted Canadian citizens, indigenous communities, and subject matter and technical experts.
Mark Wittrup, vice-president of environmental and regulatory affairs at Clifton Associates, has said, “The proposed [impact assessment] process will create significant delays, missed opportunities and likely impact those that need that economic development the most: northern and Indigenous communities.”
Indigenous leaders have also noticed. Roy Fox, chief of the Blood Tribe first nation and a former CEO of the Indian Resource Council, has said, “I don't have any confidence in Bill . I am fearful, and I am confident, that it will keep my people in poverty.”
Stephen Buffalo, the president and CEO of the Indian Resource Council, which currently represents more than 100 indigenous oil and gas developers, has said, “Indigenous communities are on the verge of a major economic breakthrough, one that finally allows Indigenous people to share in Canada's economic prosperity. Bill will stop this progress in its tracks.”
The more than 30 first nations in the Eagle Spirit Chiefs Council say they will take the government to court over , because the bill could make it “impossible to complete a project” and because the removal of the standing test could lead to foreign interests “overriding the interests of aboriginal title holders” in Canada.
Bill is yet another example of the Liberals' pattern of adding red tape and roadblocks to resource development, which is something a Conservative government will reverse to help northern indigenous communities, all northerners and all Canadians get ahead.
The future of mining in Canada is very much related to opening up the north. Conservatives know how crucial infrastructure is to this ambition, as it can cost up to six times more to explore, and two and a half times more to build mines in remote regions. The Liberal-imposed carbon tax will hike the already expensive cost of living and cost of operations in the north even higher.
The Conservative Party has long believed that this means giving northerners the autonomy to make decisions based on their priorities and to benefit from those decisions the same way the provinces do.
In natural resources, mining is one of the areas where first nations are the most active, having secured 455 agreements in the sector between 2000 and 2017, often including priority training, hiring and subcontracting commitments. In 2016, indigenous people working in the mining sector had a median income twice as high as workers in their communities overall and nearly twice as high as that of non-indigenous people as a whole.
The problem is that mines are currently in the later years of their productive life, and there are no new mines in the approvals process. By reverting to the old, convoluted impact assessment and approvals process, the Liberals are reintroducing a major barrier to proposing and then actually completing projects in the Northwest Territories. Therefore, as I said before, the north will pay for Liberal mistakes with the loss of an entire generation's economic advancement as mining completely leaves the north.
However, there is hope. Conservatives will work to cut unnecessary red tape to bring investment and jobs back to Canada, while maintaining, enhancing and protecting Canada's reputation. Our reputation is second to none as a global leader in environmental standards, performance, and community and indigenous consultation for responsible resource development.
Conservatives know the reality is that when a resource project gets shut down in Canada, the most regulated and environmentally responsible major resource producer in the world, all it means is that the money, the businesses and the jobs go to countries with lower environmental, civil and human rights protections and standards.
The world needs more Canadian resource development, not less of it. Canada can and must still protect the environment while getting to a “yes” on major projects. When approval is given, the projects must be able to get built. Instead of turning the north into one big park, the Liberals should listen to northern first nations and hear their call for empowerment to develop their natural resources in a responsible and sustainable way.
This bill represents a major regression in the ability of northerners to manage their own natural resources to the benefit of their communities and in the best interests of the entire country. This legislation is yet another example of the Liberal government believing it knows better than local communities, indigenous communities, regions and provinces, resource developers and private sector proponents.
Conservatives will work to reverse these damaging legislative changes, eliminate the roadblocks that the Liberals are putting in the path of northern resource projects and of indigenous communities, and help northern Canadians and all Canadians get ahead.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today on the traditional territory of the Algonquin people in support of a bill that proposes to strike a more appropriate balance between environmental protection, social responsibility and economic development in Canada's north. As my hon. colleagues recognize, Canada is blessed with an abundance of natural resources, and throughout Canada's history these resources have been a cornerstone of the economy.
While the national economy grows ever more diverse thanks to the rise of other sectors, resource development remains crucial to our national prosperity. Resource development projects create jobs and export sales and stimulate technological innovation. Tempering these benefits, however, are the environmental and social impacts of resource extraction and development. These include pollution, destruction of ecosystems and changes in the fabric of communities and traditional indigenous ways.
Throughout much of our nation's history, while we relied on resource development for prosperity and growth, we often failed to appreciate and take into account its long-term environmental and social consequences. To strike a better balance between economic and environmental concerns, Canada has developed a unique regulatory regime that governs resource development projects in the north, a regime that is co-managed with indigenous partners.
The regime requires that proposed projects undergo stringent reviews of anticipated impacts. This regulatory regime helps to ensure that resource projects maximize potential economic benefits and minimize potential environmental impacts. In this way, the regime restores public confidence and creates certainty and predictability, which are so important in industry, and it sets the foundation for a sustainable and long-term natural resource industry in the north.
I am going to take the opportunity now to advise that I will be splitting my time with the parliamentary secretary, the member for .
To maintain an appropriate balance between these concerns, the regulatory regime evolves continually as Canada evolves and as our understanding of the environment and of resource development deepens. In the north in particular, the settlement of modern land claims has enabled the creation of unique systems of governance in co-operation with our indigenous partners.
Through the amendments proposed in Bill , our government has established a clear path forward in managing land, water and natural resources in the Mackenzie Valley, one that respects indigenous inhabitants and is fair and equitable to industry. These amendments strengthen trust and provide certainty, and they provide an effective approach to natural resource co-management. They also support a modern regulatory regime that is stable, predictable, coordinated and balanced.
Bill responds to the concerns raised by indigenous governments and organizations in the Mackenzie Valley about the provisions of the 2014 Northwest Territories Devolution Act. That act devolved the administration and control of public lands and waters to the Government of the Northwest Territories and also made other amendments to the Mackenzie Valley Resources Management Act.
Those 2014 amendments to the Mackenzie Valley Resources Management Act included provisions to amalgamate the regional land and water boards in the Mackenzie Valley into a single board. While the government of the day argued that an amalgamated board structure would provide clarity and certainty to the regulatory regime in the Mackenzie Valley, the opposite occurred.
Instead of bringing certainty, the proposed amalgamated boards led to court challenges by indigenous organizations. Indigenous groups argued that their authorities in land and water management, guaranteed by their land claims and self-government agreements, were not being respected, and that their land and water boards could not be unilaterally abolished by the federal government.
A court injunction in February of 2015 halted the provisions of section 253(2) of the Northwest Territories Devolution Act, the section that included restructuring of the land and water boards. The injunction also affected important policy measures that are central to the regulatory regime, such as the use of development certificates and their enforcement scheme and inspection notice requirements on Gwich'in and Sahtu lands.
So much for bringing certainty to the regulatory regime. Stakeholders agree that the 2014 legislation has done the opposite; it creates a climate of uncertainty and discourages the responsible development of the Mackenzie Valley's natural resources.
The Government of Canada is committed to exploring ways to fix the restructuring provisions, resolve the legal proceedings and renew the government's relationship with indigenous peoples in the Northwest Territories.
Bill is the product of productive discussions with indigenous governments and organizations, the Government of the Northwest Territories, resource co-management boards, industry and other stakeholders. Input received has been carefully considered and helped shape the bill.
If passed, Bill will undo the controversial land restructuring provisions and reintroduce important regulatory improvement provisions from the Northwest Territories Devolution Act that did not come into force due to the court injunctions. Bill provides certainty to proponents, and it supports a modern-day regime that balances environmental, social and economic well-being.
My understanding is that the Government of the Northwest Territories supports the amendments proposed in Bill , contrary to what the opposition has said. Indigenous governments and organizations in the Northwest Territories also want these amendments. The mining industry that conducts its business in the territory is not opposed to the board restructuring amendments, and supports anything that provides greater clarity and certainty in the regulatory process and gets us through these injunctions.
Companies with commercial interests in the north also understand the importance of protecting the unique arctic environment, while pursuing safe, responsible development, which creates jobs and economic growth right in the northern communities from whence the resources come.
Bill proposes to improve the regulatory regime in the north through a series of amendments informed by several important developments. These include the court challenges I mentioned earlier, as well as the accelerated impacts of climate change in the Arctic and the Government of Canada's commitment to foster reconciliation between indigenous peoples and the Crown.
The amendments proposed in Bill would increase predictability, consistency and timeliness of regulatory reviews in the north, while strengthening environmental protections. Northerners deserve a fully functional, modernized regulatory regime that meets their particular needs, the kind of regime that promotes growth and prosperity while at the same time safeguards the fragile northern ecosystem, the kind of regime that strikes the appropriate balance between economic and environmental concerns.
Bill would provide the clarity and certainty that the regulatory process needs in order to encourage industry investment in resource development in the Mackenzie River valley. I call upon all members of the House to support Bill , which will enable us to balance the development of untapped economic potential in the north with strong partnerships and sound environmental stewardship.
One of the main issues that has arisen in my conversations with oil and gas companies around uncertainty, and I know the opposition shadow minister raised this point, actually relates to the uncertainty that arises out of the courts. The biggest fear of companies that have proposed to invest billions of dollars in resource development and extraction is that the courts will impose some type of an injunction late into their process, creating a great amount of uncertainty as to whether or not their capital can be effectively deployed. This is exactly what happened with TMX. It is exactly what happened with the previous 2014 legislation that this bill hopes to amend. It is the greatest source of risk that our government is trying to fend off.
Although some members of the House suggest that these injunctions occurred on our watch and, therefore, must be our fault, the exact opposite is the case. The injunction arose in the cases that I just mentioned from decisions that were made by the previous government and its failure to properly consult, to take indigenous concerns into account, to abide by our constitutional commitments and to abide by the duty to accommodate.
This is what so much of our focus has been on for the last four years, to get our environmental regulatory regime back in line with our constitutional and economic commitments, to help make sure indigenous communities thrive. In this particular instance, we have the right balance and we know we do because the groups that have brought forward the injunction are in favour of the changes.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in support of Bill .
The Government of Canada, our government, is taking a new approach. We are currently conducting extensive consultations with indigenous governments and organizations as well as other key stakeholders on issues that will affect them. By working directly with indigenous governments and stakeholders on developing this bill, we can respond to concerns that are raised and ensure that the rights of indigenous peoples are respected. This process has helped create a law that will benefit all Canadians.
Bill amends the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act in direct response to comments from key stakeholders, as well as concerns expressed to the Government of Canada by indigenous groups affected by the previous piece of legislation.
Our indigenous partners have made their views quite clear. The Tlicho government and the Sahtu Secretariat Incorporated applied to the courts in 2014 and 2015 respectively for protection of their rights in accordance with their individual land claim and self-government agreements. The bill we are debating today corrects those problems and responds directly to the concerns expressed by indigenous governments and organizations.
As part of the ongoing reconciliation process, the asked departmental officials to initiate an ongoing dialogue with indigenous organizations and governments in the Northwest Territories to address their concerns.
On September 23, 2016, the minister sent letters to indigenous groups and stakeholders launching consultations on the draft bill to amend the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act in order to address these issues.
Bill is the result of consultations with indigenous organizations and governments in the Mackenzie Valley, transboundary indigenous organizations and governments, resource co-management boards, and oil and gas industry organizations.
In addition to indigenous organizations and governments, Canada consulted the Government of the Northwest Territories. Our government also consulted members of the mining and gas and oil industries, including the NWT & Nunavut Chamber of Mines, the Mining Association of Canada, the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. The text of the bill was communicated to these groups to get their feedback, and several meetings were held to respond to their concerns.
Ongoing consultations over the long term with key stakeholders have provided Canada with invaluable insight into the practical nature of the bill before us today. The comments from our partners provided unique perspectives and useful guidance which, in the end, led to the drafting of this bill.
Canada recognizes that the previous legislation was drafted without enough consultation. This is why the government of Canada ensured that the voices of indigenous groups, the government of the Northwest Territories and industry representatives were heard at every stage of the process.
Bringing together stakeholders is the key to developing effective policies and practices. Our government is holding extensive consultations in order to create processes that satisfy the needs of all parties. That ensures that the final product serves everyone in a positive manner and gets rid of any possible uncertainty regarding natural resources.
In March 2018, the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations met with industry groups to better understand their opinion on developing and co-managing resources in the north. Industry plays a major role in creating a stronger and better relationship with governments and indigenous organizations when it comes to protecting, managing and developing Canada's natural resources. In order to truly make progress on the path to reconciliation with indigenous peoples, industry must be taken into consideration as a key strategic partner alongside all levels of governments.
Consultation and engagement with stakeholders on Bill began in February 2017. A draft bill was distributed to participants for an eight-week review, during which two meetings were held in Yellowknife. At these meetings, departmental representatives from the former department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada explained the content of the proposal and the accommodation measures in response to the participants' comments.
Throughout the consultation process, changes to the draft bill were clearly communicated to give stakeholders the opportunity to express their opinion.
By engaging stakeholders, we were able to address all concerns as they were raised. With our innovative approach to drafting this bill, we are improving how our government makes decisions, gathers information, and engages with different stakeholders. Today's bill reflects that process.
If passed, the proposed amendments would contribute to the efficient, predictable and coherent management and use of land, water and natural resources in the Mackenzie Valley. By charting a clearer course for governments and organizations with respect to natural resource management, industry will no longer have to contend with potential uncertainty that hinders its ability to invest in northern Canada.
This legislation will enhance economic opportunities and growth while protecting the environment for future generations. It addresses concerns expressed by indigenous organizations and governments and is consistent with constitutionally protected land claim and self-government agreements. It recognizes the importance of indigenous peoples' active participation in the co-management of natural resources and protects their right to oversee the future of their lands.
The environment, the economy and reconciliation go hand in hand. We need to create a more effective system for everyone, and that is exactly what Bill accomplishes. I invite my hon. colleagues to support it.
We will achieve reconciliation with indigenous peoples. We will work closely with indigenous peoples and all other stakeholders, whether from industry or other levels of government. It is a priority for our government, always has been, and we will stay the course and continue our work.
Mr. Speaker, I want to be very clear about the government's instincts. When it comes to many pieces of legislation, the Liberals' instincts are wrong. Their instinct is to manage to bureaucrats and to the wealthiest few in this country.
I want to walk people who are watching through Bill as an example of why this is the case and also compare it to something that just happened in the last 24 hours that proves that the government really does not care about the environment but does care about bettering the interests of the Liberals' corporate donors and the wealthy companies in this country.
Part 2 of bill would amend the Canada Petroleum Resources Act to allow the Governor in Council to issue orders, when in the national interest, to prohibit oil and gas activities and freeze the terms of existing licences to prevent them from expanding during a moratorium. For those who are watching, what that means is that like Bill , the no more pipelines act, the government is introducing yet another piece of legislation that would allow the cabinet or the Liberal Party of Canada to interfere politically in the review process, or essentially in the economy, in a way that is not positive.
What do I mean by that? Part of what we have seen in terms of the economic downturn in Canada, when it comes to the natural resources sector, and what we will hear from anyone who wants to look at Canada as a potential place to invest, is that the Liberal government, led by the , has made it uncertain and unstable for people to invest in Canada because of pieces of legislation like this.
If we were sitting around a board table or were a small business trying to decide whether to make an investment, one of the questions we would ask is what the government was going to do with regard to regulations or whether a project was going to go forward. What the government has done with bills like part 2 of Bill , which we are discussing today, and Bill is say that it would politically interfere in their decision and make a decision that would be in the Liberals' best interests politically, whatever they might be. That would not help investment in Canada. That would not help protect the environment.
Liberals might say that this would help protect the environment, but it would not. All it would do is create an environment of uncertainty so that people could not and would not invest in natural resources projects in Canada. It is a convenient way for them to kick the can down the road.
Rather than standing up and saying that as a government, as a political party, this is what the Liberals' vision is for natural resource development in Canada, they are saying, “Maybe we will do something at some point. Why don't you invest? However, we may pull that football away through legal provisions” such as the one they are introducing in the bill. That is why it is important for Canadians to pay attention to this.
With regard to protecting the environment and perhaps protecting average Canadians, we saw something remarkable happen yesterday. The not only signed off on $12 million worth of taxpayer money going to one of the wealthiest companies in Canada, Loblaws, to buy new fridges, she also staged a taxpayer-funded announcement at a Loblaws store. Twelve million dollars of taxpayer funds went to a company that makes hundreds of millions of dollars a year to buy fridges, and then tax dollars were used for the minister to get a photo opportunity for doing that.
One could argue that Loblaws is a very successful company. If everyone is so committed to protecting the environment, why could Loblaws not just buy those fridges itself? Why was the government's policy instinct not to incent the company, either through regulations or tax credits or something that would be better for everyone in the country and would put everyone on a level playing field? Why was the Liberals' instinct to give money to this company, which can afford lobbyists to fill out very complicated grant applications? Why was it the Liberals' instinct to give money to a wealthy company that could have done this itself instead of something that would have evened the playing field for all Canadians and incentivized business?
I like to call it “reverse Robin Hood”. The has a really great track record of doing everything possible to take money away from Canadians. It includes this announcement and the SNC-Lavalin scandal and things like the carbon tax, which will never reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as well as giving opportunities to wealthy companies that have lobbyists.
I believe in the economy. I believe that we should create an opportunity for companies to thrive. What I do not believe is that the government should be using tax dollars to pay for fridges for a company that has done three things that I will describe.
First, it makes hundreds of millions of dollars of net profit every year. It made about $3 billion in net revenue and $800 million in net profit last year. It is doing okay. I think can afford a few fridges.
Then this company was involved for years in a price-fixing scheme on bread that by all accounts impacted poor people in Canada the most.
Also, early last year, reports broke that this company was involved in a fight with the Canada Revenue Agency over $400 million in claims over a bogus offshore account. That was a CBC headline.
What was the thinking? I know what she was thinking. I would like to chalk it up to incompetence, but when we look at SNC-Lavalin and this announcement, it is not as if she signed this accidentally. It was not, “Oh, no; I accidentally signed this.” She scheduled a funding announcement for it. She took pictures with somebody.
When I talked about this issue yesterday, somebody named Amanda from Lundar, Manitoba, wrote to my office to say that the dairy cooler in the family grocery store she owns in her community had broken and that she cannot afford to replace it. She said she just cannot afford it. She asked why the government is so out of touch that it thinks the right thing to do is to give $12 million to a big company that makes hundreds of millions of dollars and then increase her taxes to pay for it. That shows how out of touch the government is.
The government has no desire to fix the environment. It is like the saying he is a feminist. Now he is saying he is fixing the environment, but he is finding ways to give money to Loblaws.
Loblaws should be concerned. Loblaws should know better. In terms of any brand credit that Loblaws gets from this, I know the company is managing profit and loss for their shareholders, but did the board members think this was a good idea? Come on. There is $12 million for new freezers when that company made $800 million in profit. Why should Amanda have to go without a dairy freezer—