Mr. Speaker, I move that the first report of the Special Committee on the Economic Relationship between Canada and the United States, presented on Thursday, April 15, be concurred in.
I will be splitting my time today with the member for .
Today is May 10. In two days, on May 12, the Governor of the State of Michigan has stated that she will shut down Enbridge Line 5, which provides 540,000 barrels of oil per day to Canadian refineries in Sarnia in southern Ontario, and further feeds facilities in Quebec. It is estimated that 30,000 jobs depend on this important international infrastructure in southern Ontario alone. Today, we are debating concurrence of the report of the Special Committee on the Economic Relationship between Canada and the United States, which was presented to this House on April 15. That was 25 days ago and still there are no signs that the is engaged on this file.
How much of Canada's petroleum needs will be disrupted? In fact, 540,000 barrels per day equates to about 25% of Canada's daily consumption of oil. That shortage will fall on the backs of two provinces, Ontario and Quebec, as it will represent approximately half of the supply of this vital energy feedstock to its economic output as the products refine into inputs for petrochemicals, plastics and textiles, and much more that is at the heart of Canada's manufacturing sector, to heating homes, driving cars and getting goods like food and supplies to markets efficiently and quickly.
In short, cutting off this infrastructure will result in a disastrous outcome for Canada. Tens of thousands of jobs in the supply chain that feeds our economy and a manufacturing sector that has been built on and depends on this critical infrastructure, all waiting, with their fingers crossed, for the outcome. It is safe to say that the closure of this energy infrastructure represents a national energy security emergency. Two days away, yet Line 5 has been threatened with closure since November 13, 2020. Six months have passed. I spoke about this matter needing resolution quickly at that time, but the government frittered its time away.
Enbridge, one of Canada's great companies, has actively engaged with the governor's office, and moved the matter to the U.S. federal court where it seems to belong, yet the governor wants the matter heard in a state court. Nevertheless, the federal court did instruct the parties to enter into mediation discussions, which have been ongoing. It should be noted that the governor would not even return calls from Enbridge on the matter prior to the federal court judge's instructions. Although seemingly a productive exercise, the governor has insisted during mediation talks that she would be shutting down Line 5 on May 12, whatever the process, timing or outcome of mediation discussions. This is hardly a productive or a mediatory stance.
Why is the Governor of Michigan taking on this posture, as unreasonable as it seems to a friendly trading partner, international security partner, energy security partner and environmental progress partner for a line that is an energy lifeblood for her state and other neighbouring states, as well as Canada? Ostensibly, for the safety of water in the Great Lakes Basin, they will shut down a pipeline that has never leaked, in which the company operating it is actively going through state regulatory processes to make it even more secure with an underground concrete tunnel.
The outcome of this misguided approach will move that product to trucks, railcars and barges on the Great Lakes. All of those outcomes have larger environmental footprints and greater environmental risks, even to the Great Lakes, than the intrinsically safe pipeline option. By clear analysis, there are other reasons. The governor is a politician, so it must be politics. For whose benefit, we can speculate, but at whose cost it is clear: Those parties dependent upon this energy infrastructure for their livelihood, their jobs, their farms, the goods they produce, and the heat for homes and barns, so that our food supply is safe; and an international trade relationship between two of the world's most friendly trading nations. This is the fallout of what is really at stake.
The economies of our two countries, Canada and the U.S., have prospered over decades, better than economies elsewhere in the developed world because of our strong trade links and the rule of law that governs our institutions, including our trading relationships. The backbone of this mutually beneficial trade relationship is our infrastructure and the fundamentally most important part of that infrastructure is our energy infrastructure. Previous governments, of all stripes in Canada and the U.S., have recognized this importance.
In 1977, our two governments signed the Transit Pipelines Treaty to ensure that the energy transportation and trade between our two nations did not suffer because of political whims or short-term self-interest at the expense of our joint long-term prosperity and security and, yet, here we are. A state government is acting unilaterally, seemingly in direct contravention of our international treaty. It begs the question as to whether there is any meaning behind the words in that treaty or we have a trade partner that recognizes a Canadian government that either does not want to stand up for Canada's energy security or perhaps does not know how. Surely it cannot be because the Government of Canada does not recognize the importance of the infrastructure and the associated energy security.
It follows on our country's disastrous showing in renegotiating the new NAFTA, CUSMA, and a negotiating strategy where Canada did not show up with the real issues to be discussed for our benefit until too late. At one point, we were excluded from the trade discussions because the other parties did not take us seriously. No one was there to solve the emerging issues between our countries. In the end, we ended up with far less in the trade agreement than we had in the previous agreement, and our elected officials were relieved to sign it because it could have been so much worse. A victory is now defined by the current government as doing worse, but not losing completely. The bar is being lowered.
Since then, the U.S. has continued to ignore the trade treaty's terms on steel and aluminum and now is pursuing a buy America policy in which Canada is an outsider. So much for preferential access to our markets. So much for free trade. So much for trade treaties. So much for Canada's standing up for the terms it negotiates in these agreements. The current government will roll over on any trade issue. We need to get serious.
Canada's standing in the world, economically and diplomatically, has declined precipitously in the past six years. We are viewed as a non-serious world player more concerned with virtuous statements than fulfilling any objectives or standing for any principles. The ranking of our competitiveness has fallen from fifth in the world to 13th, between 2015 and 2019. In foreign affairs, we have moved to a status where trade disputes are handled by our trade partners with hostage diplomacy.
It is as if we can foresee the headlines for 2030: When did Canada lose its relevance in the world? The world will point to this period, a period when an aimless, disinterested, non-serious government spoke virtuous words of all it stood for and then delivered no tangible results. It failed to recognize Canada's strengths, its role in the world and its ability to add value to world events. It lost sight of getting things done. It could not build domestic pipelines after cancelling some of its most promising ones, delaying others and making the process for approving infrastructure opaque, adding years to regulatory process. Accountability and oversight disappeared and Canadians were not paying attention to the incompetence. Canada was, is, led by a government intent on staying in power at all costs, including the future of the country itself. Then a foreign government, our most important trading partner and ally, ignored a treaty between our two countries and allowed the shutdown of a key piece of infrastructure on which Canada's energy security depends. Why did the Government of Canada not engage adequately with the U.S. government? Perhaps it was because the interest groups that supported the Governor of Michigan were the same ones on which the Government of Canada relied for its own virtue signalling; or, perhaps it was just an incompetent who did not know that international engagement meant getting involved in personal diplomacy with his U.S. counterpart when Canada's interests were at grave risk.
Line 5 is recognized as a critical piece of international infrastructure, and its regulation is overseen by PHMSA in the United States. The Canadian equivalent would be the Department of Transport. Other critical departments that should be actively involved in this file include foreign affairs, international trade and energy. This issue requires a whole-of-government approach and the leader of that effort should be the . Delegating this matter to the does not accord it the importance it requires. We need to do better. The Prime Minister needs—
Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to share time with the member for , who did an excellent of job laying out the Conservative Party's frustration with this situation.
The potential shutdown of Line 5 has been on our radar since November of 2020 and, once again, the government has ignored a deadline or failed to manage to a deadline. We are now two days away from that deadline and we have not heard much from the government.
I find it quite interesting that the has declared a discussion on Line 5 and the tens of thousands of jobs that will be lost in Sarnia and other places, where workers are anxious, quite frankly, as to what is going to happen with Line 5, a waste of time. For him to declare that as a waste of time and for him to declare that the House should not consider this issue at every possible opportunity just shows the entire government's approach on this issue. The Liberals do not want to talk about it and they have not talked about it. As a result of their ignoring the issue and not pursuing it as a priority, we have a situation where we are two days away from a deadline imposed by the Governor of Michigan and we still do not have a resolution to this matter.
I am the vice-chair of the special committee, the committee that was created because of an initiative by the Conservative opposition. We saw Line 5 as a priority, we saw buy America as a potential threat to our country, so we took action and proposed that this committee be created to specifically hear from witnesses on this issue. We did, and every witness we heard from agreed that the pipeline should continue to operate and that the only way this would be resolved outside of a lengthy and drawn out court process was for the of Canada to get directly involved and elevate this to the level of President Biden. We have not seen that happen. We have not seen the Prime Minister take this up directly with the President. We have not seen this become a priority. We have not seen him making any noise on it, so we will make noise on it.
As the official opposition, we will continue to draw attention to the fact that the government is failing the workers in Sarnia and elsewhere along this route. This is an unacceptable dereliction of duty for the to have simply allowed this to go on. This is exactly the same approach we saw with the Keystone XL pipeline. The Prime Minister made some token efforts and said some token words about support for the Keystone XL pipeline, but when President Biden cancelled it and cancelled the tens of thousands of high-paying union jobs, the Prime Minister simply said that President made campaign promise so what could they do about it.
If only the of Canada placed the same weight on his own campaign promises, but he does not seem to care much for those. However, when President Biden says he will shut down a pipeline and kill thousands of jobs, the Prime Minister of Canada just simply walks away from the fight and the tens and thousands of jobs that have been lost.
That is, quite frankly, what our concern is. The has some token words. He said that he would like it to keep running, but no one believes that if he were in the position of the Governor of Michigan, that he would not have the same approach. The Prime Minister has shut down and cancelled approved pipeline projects on the flimsiest of evidence. He cancelled the northern gateway pipeline, which had gone through a massive approvals process, had met all the environmental reviews, had buy-in, a $2 billion stake for indigenous communities along the way. They would all be a key part of that pipeline and he killed it because he said, “the Great Bear Rainforest is no place for a pipeline.”
That is the level of engagement, that is the level of scientific rigour that the will put on cancelling a pipeline. It is no wonder that he sits idly by while the Governor of Michigan threatens the pipeline. It supposedly threatens the Great Lakes even though, as my colleague from has said, this thing has operated for decades without threatening the Great Lakes. The biggest threat to the Great Lakes would be additional rail, truck and barge traffic carrying that same 550,000 barrels a day from a safe pipeline onto those less safe, more emission intensive modes of transportation
I want to take a moment to thank the member for for standing up for her constituents. Today, the NDP have declared this debate to be a waste of time. The Liberals have declared this debate is a waste of time. The member for Sarnia—Lambton has been standing up for her community and the tens of thousands of jobs that are at risk.
We have heard from union leaders for whom supposedly the stands up. I guess he does not care too much for their jobs, but he likes their votes. They were very upset that the Keystone XL pipeline had been cancelled along with the jobs. They issued a direct request to the , a challenge.
Scott Archer from UA Local 663 in Sarnia said, “I'd like to issue a challenge to...[the Prime Minister] and the federal government. This is a call to action. [As Canadians, this] is non-negotiable. You need to take a stand to protect Canadian families, businesses and industry.”
I would submit that the has absolutely failed to take up that challenge. He has failed to make this issue a priority. He likes to go to the summits. He likes to give speeches with Selena Gomez. He likes to do all the high-profile stuff that brings him positive headlines. However, when it comes to actually getting down to business and standing up for Canadian workers who will be impacted not only in Sarnia but also in Alberta, we know exactly what the thinks about that industry.
He has said before that he wants to phase out the oil sands. He has said before that he is opposed to these types of pipelines. Albertans and Western Canadians know exactly what kind of advocate they have in the for their jobs, which is none. He has shown before that for political gain he is willing to sacrifice them and the industry they represent.
One would hope that the would take this up more effectively and more publicly, quite frankly, with President Biden instead of simply saying now that the bad man President Trump is gone everything is back to normal. There are still immediate threats on the horizon.
However, we hear nothing from the on those. He seems content to let President Biden do whatever he wants when it comes to the relationship with Canada. It does not matter how many well-paying union jobs will be killed. It does not matter how our energy sovereignty is threatened. It does not matter that tens of thousands of jobs in Sarnia alone will be impacted or that tens of thousands more trucks will come across places like Windsor and Essex, jamming up those crucial crossings and bringing petrochemicals onto our highways. It does not matter. The cannot be bothered to pick up the phone and make this into a matter that President Biden will take seriously.
We know Governor Whitmer was on the short list for vice-president. She has a strong relationship with President Biden and it is time for the to take advantage of that. It is time he take advantage of the supposed new-found friendship and relationship with President Biden and escalate this matter. All we have heard so far are pretty words and good intentions, but we have seen no action and no results.
The people who depend on this pipeline for their family supporting jobs cannot rely on the saying he has it under control when he has shown time and time again that he will fail to stand up for energy sector workers, that he will fail to stand up for Canadian pipelines, the safest way to transport petroleum products in the world. He will not stand up for those jobs. He will not stand up for that industry. He has failed them time and time before, and he is failing them right now.
The official opposition does not think that talking about Line 5 and the jobs it supports is a waste of time. We say shame on those in the other parties who have said this is a waste of time and shame on the for his failure to get this matter resolved diplomatically.
Madam Speaker, to say whether I am surprised or disappointed, the short answer would be no. I am not surprised that the Conservatives would move a motion of concurrence on a particular report. They have demonstrated in the recent months that they have really lost focus on the pandemic. I am trying to be nice in my criticism here, but I do believe at times that I need to be bold and to say what I believe the Conservatives are actually doing, which is not focusing at all or giving the attention that should be there from the official opposition in dealing with what is a very important issue to all Canadians.
The Conservatives continue to want to play partisan politics, and that is why I am not surprised, because they have been doing this for a while now. I am disappointed. I am disappointed again, and ongoing, because as the Conservatives insist on playing games on the floor of the House of Commons, they are filibustering whenever they can in an attempt to encourage a dysfunctional House of Commons and discourage important legislation from being debated so they can ultimately say that the government cannot even get its legislation through. If we look at the behaviour of the Conservative Party, it does not take a genius in a group of 12 to cause a lot of frustration on the floor of the House of Commons, and we get the official opposition choosing to do that.
Today is an excellent example. Earlier today, I was on a Zoom call with the , my Manitoba colleagues and a hundred nurses in the province of Manitoba. We were listening to what nurses in Manitoba had to say. That is the priority, and has been the priority, of this government from day one. I contrast that to what we have witnessed day in and day out over the last number of months coming from the Conservative Party of Canada. They should be ashamed of themselves.
The member for tries to give the impression that I do not care about Line 5 or the jobs and the other indirect and direct things related to Line 5 and that is why I do not support having us debate this motion we are debating today, the concurrence on the report. That is balderdash. It is just not true. Like all Liberals in the House of Commons, I am very much concerned about Line 5 and the impact it is having, not only on Canada, but also on the U.S. We understand and appreciate the importance of the issue. The , whether in question period or other debates, including the emergency debate, has been very clear on the issue.
The Conservative Party, surely to goodness, would recognize that we just had an emergency debate on the issue, just last Thursday. Members should listen and read in terms of what was actually said then. It started off with Conservatives just bashing Ottawa and saying how bad we are in regard to Alberta, to try to perpetuate more misinformation, as if this and this government do not care about the province of Alberta. Members can look and see what kind of ideas came from the Conservative Party in the emergency debate. There was not one Liberal who said “no” to having an emergency debate.
I had a chance to speak during that debate, and I am going to share some of the comments I made on Thursday night, but even with the emergency debate that took place, the Conservatives came up with this concurrence motion on a report that has absolutely nothing to do with Line 5 or a relationship between Canada and the U.S. For those who are listening or participating, or who care about what is taking place in the House, that is not the real motivation here. The Conservatives can say whatever they want and try to come across as meaningful as they want, but at the end of the day, it has more to do with frustrating the government's legislative agenda, the things we want to accomplish in the House of Commons.
They continue to push, saying that the House of Commons is dysfunctional. The Conservatives try to do two things. The first is character assassinations, and I understand I was one of them earlier today in an S.O. 31. The second is the ongoing filibustering taking place in the House of Commons so that important legislation cannot get through.
We should look at some of the debates and frustrations that have been sensed on the floor of the House of Commons because of the irresponsible official opposition. Those who might be sympathetic to their terrible behaviour should look at Bill , as an example, and the hours and hours of debate on the education and training of judges in the future on sexual assault and so forth. It was a Conservative bill. It passed everything and is coming back. We introduced it as a government bill so we could put it in place. Everyone agreed to it, even in the Senate. It got royal assent very recently. The Conservatives debated that for hours and hours on the floor of the House of Commons. Was that really necessary? No.
What about Bill ? The economic statement was released in November, and the legislation was brought forward in December. No matter when we called it up, the Conservatives attempted to filibuster that through concurrence motions, too. In that legislation, there were important things to subsidize and support Canadians, individuals, families and small businesses. One would think the Conservative Party would have cared, but it had no problem filibustering that one, too.
We just had to bring in time allocation on Bill . It is a minority government. We have to ensure, as much as possible, that Elections Canada is best prepared, enabling it to do a little more on a temporary basis. However, the political spinners within the Conservative Party do not want to go that way. They say they want to remain focused. Being focused to them is to push for a dysfunctional chamber and character assassination. That is what they are all about. It is—
Madam Speaker, of course, these are just my preliminary remarks to try to explain the behaviour. If I were a Conservative MP, I would be embarrassed, too, and would want to get right to the motion on Line 5.
We debated Line 5 extensively in an emergency debate. If the member had listened to his colleague who introduced this report, he would have heard his colleague also make reference to the trade agreement. I fully understand the embarrassment of the Conservatives when the truth of the reality, in terms of their destructive force, is being pointed out. Maybe they disagree with the House leadership of the Conservative caucus, and I would encourage them to have that discussion.
However, when it comes to Line 5, let me provide some specific quotes. This is how the minister has responded. The Conservative Party of Canada is saying that the government is not doing anything on Line 5 and that it does not appreciate the importance of Line 5. Nothing could be further from the truth. From day one, the government has been following the issue and, more importantly, taking action on the issue.
On the day the emergency debate was introduced, a question was put to the minister. I specifically quoted it during the emergency debate. Let me quote the answer that the gave last Thursday:
Mr. Speaker, people will not be left out in the cold. The heating of Canadian homes or the flying of Canadian jets or the operation of Canadian refineries are non-negotiable.
Line 5 is not just vital to Canada, it is also vital to the United States. Therefore, it is vital to all of North America. Shutting it down would have profound consequences. There are 5,000 direct jobs in Sarnia, 23,000 indirect jobs in the region, thousands of jobs at refineries in Montreal and Lévis, but also in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan, and that is the case we are making. Line 5 is essential for North American energy security.
The minister has provided answers on many different occasions, all providing assurances that the government understands the importance of it. The other day, when I was talking about the issue of longevity, at one time I pointed out that it was oil tankers that actually shipped the oil products, and then it went to pipelines. Ever since then, and I believe it was in the 1950s, it has been delivered through the pipeline. I believe it has met the expectations of people on both sides of the border.
I understand the economics of it. It is not just about the gasoline that is being shipped, or the final product. It is about all forms of commodities, including gasoline, propane, clothes and all sorts of things. Is there any wonder why the Government of Canada is seized with the issue?
We saw the Conservatives throughout that emergency debate and during question period. I do not believe there is going to be anything that comes out of today other than the Conservatives saying, “We did some more filibustering during Government Business.” We will not see anything further come out of this than what we heard last Thursday night. The Conservatives will continue to say that the government is not doing enough and that it should be talking to so and so.
Let me give another quote from the that I quoted last Thursday night. This is in response to my Conservative friends who continue to try to spread misinformation to Canadians and try to give a false impression that the Government of Canada is not active on this file.
During the emergency debate last Thursday night, he said:
We have been clear from the start. We would leave no stone unturned in defending Canada's energy security. We have been looking at all of our options. We are working at the political level. We are working at the diplomatic level. We are working at the legal level. It is a full-court press.
We raised Line 5 directly with the President of the United States and members of his cabinet during the virtual Canada-U.S. summit in February. The Prime Minister also raised the critical importance of North American energy security in conversation with Vice President Harris.
I raised the issue with U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm in our very first call. I was frank and unequivocal in expressing how significant this issue was for Canada. The Minister of Transport raised Line 5 with his counterpart, Transport Secretary Buttigieg, whose department oversees the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, the U.S. federal regulator for pipelines, which has consistently stated that Line 5 is safe. The Minister of Foreign Affairs raised this issue with his counterpart, Secretary of State Blinken. Ambassador Hillman has been making the case directly to Governor Whitmer. Meanwhile, in Detroit and in Lansing, Consul General Joe Comartin has been making the case to state lawmakers and members of the Whitmer administration.
Let me take this opportunity to thank Governor Whitmer, Consul General Joe Comartin in Detroit, the team at the Canadian embassy in Washington and all of our diplomats who have been engaging on this issue in Washington, Detroit and Lansing who defend Canada's interests there every day.
It begs the question: What is the Conservative Party talking about? Do the Conservatives just believe they can click their heels and voila, or they can pull something out of a hat and the issue is resolved overnight? Do they believe that three days from now there will not be any gas coming through the pipeline? That is the impression they are trying to give when they portray this issue.
It is a very serious issue, and I do not want to do anything to marginalize the importance of it. However, I will criticize the Conservative Party for its attitude and its ongoing desire to give misinformation on what is such an important issue. Some provinces that are likely more affected than other provinces include Alberta, Ontario and Quebec. However, this affects all of us in Canada, if not directly then indirectly.
As the minister, the and the government as a whole have recognized the importance of this issue, there have been many discussions taking place. I wonder if the Conservatives' national caucus can share with the House specifically what it has done. Better yet, why do the Conservatives not provide a real, tangible idea, as opposed to being concentrated on trying to promote western alienation or giving misinformation to people of Ontario and outside of that area?
The Government of Canada understands the issue. We continue to have dialogue on all fronts at the political and diplomatic levels and are using many other mechanisms to make Canada's case as strong as it is. We all know that is the case.
We all know that the emergency debate would have sufficed, and that the real reason the Conservative Party is bringing the report forward on a concurrence motion has nothing to do with the report. It has everything to do with wanting to be a destructive force on the floor of the House of Commons.
Madam Speaker, I am participating in today's debate as the Bloc Québécois's representative on the Special Committee on the Economic Relationship between Canada and the United States, where I am one of the vice-chairs.
Just a few weeks ago, the committee spent a few meetings studying concerns about Line 5 and the potential impact if it were to close. I would venture to say that unanimity ruled. Every single one of the witnesses said the same thing: closure would be catastrophic. However, none of the witnesses were able to put any figures on anything related to jobs at risk in Quebec.
I asked every witness the same question. Have any studies shown that we have reason to fear? None of them had any such studies handy, nor could any of them clarify anything about Michigan's claims. The witnesses' verdict was clear: The governor of the U.S. state was simply wrong. Nobody even suggested or raised the merest hint of even the slightest possibility that everything was perhaps not entirely unfounded.
I want to inform the House that the Bloc Québécois is well aware that a shutdown of Line 5 would have consequences for jobs in Quebec. There is a chance that Line 5, an Enbridge pipeline that supplies a good number of the refineries in Quebec, could be shut down, which raises legitimate concerns that require informed responses.
I want to stress that our position may sound ideological, but it is not. We recognize that Line 5 is not as bad as tanker trucks, for example, which come with their own dangers. We recognize that it is not as bad as shipping oil by rail, and we experienced the hazards of this mode of transportation with the tragedy in Lac-Mégantic, caused by deregulation in the sector by successive federal governments.
I remind members that in 2013, a train filled with oil exploded in the middle of a small town called Lac-Mégantic, killing 47 people and destroying some 40 buildings in a massive fire. Inadequate regulation of the transportation of oil by rail is part and parcel of Canada's economic vision. Ottawa has cut the number of inspectors for rail cars and the railways themselves.
This issue speaks to my constituents because a few years ago, members of an activist group in my riding known as Convoi citoyen, ventured onto the tracks not far from the Saint-Hyacinthe station and took several photos of uncovered wires and tracks that were sitting on wet earth instead of cement. We are not stupid. We know that Line 5 is better and less dangerous than rail transportation.
It is also clear that Line 5 is better than using tanker ships to transport oil. Quebec, and specifically the St. Lawrence, has become a key part of the geopolitics of Canadian oil. Quebec unfortunately has no jurisdiction over the waterways, seaways, railways or airways that cross our territory, other than the ones that exist exclusively in Quebec. Canada is entitled to act as it sees fit, in spite of protests from local communities.
In 2014, the riverside municipalities of Sorel-Tracy and L'Isle-aux-Coudres complained about the fact that the width of the supertankers had increased from 32 to 44 metres, but the municipalities that received them had not been consulted, nor had the emergency plans been adapted. We know that just 5% to 20% of oil spilled in the river can be recovered.
The case of Lac Saint-Pierre, designated an UNESCO world biosphere reserve in 2000, is striking. Pressure to ban the transportation of bitumen on that part of the river has been totally ineffective despite the publication of a study showing that an oil spill would traverse the entire lake in just eight hours.
Again, we are no fools. If we look a little more closely—on paper, to be sure—line 5 is a lesser evil in comparison to trucks, trains and ships.
Unfortunately, we would have liked to hear a more critical point of view on pipelines. The witnesses at committee were unanimous, as were our colleagues. All the federal parties kept referring to “team Canada”. Today I am talking on behalf of “team Quebec”.
The Bloc Québécois is focused on the 21st century economy, or the energy transition.
We applauded the U.S. President's intention to revoke the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, whose only objective is to create new markets for oil from the oil sands.
Citizens are sharing their concerns with us about the environmental safety of pipelines, particularly with regard to waterways, but also about the potential economic impact of shutting down those pipelines. We are not stupid. We want to keep jobs but not at any price, because we do not want to put our waterways at risk. We also understand the concerns many people have about the gas prices at the pump because the cost of energy and transportation is taking a toll on the wallets of Quebec families, who are already struggling because of everything that has been going on this past year.
It is important to make the distinction between the Keystone XL pipeline and Enbridge Line 5. While Keystone XL seeks to further develop the oil sands, Line 5 was built in 1953 and essentially carries light crude oil and natural gas liquids to refineries in Quebec. It passes through the United States, mainly the much-talked-about State of Michigan.
Line 5 was approved under U.S. State Department regulations and not by presidential permit as was Keystone XL. Line 5 is protected by the 1977 Agreement between the Government Of Canada and the Government of the United States Of America Concerning Transit Pipelines. Therefore, there are still legal avenues to be explored.
We should also ask ourselves whether the repercussions of a potential shutdown would be as catastrophic as we are hearing for the price of gas at the pumps for Quebeckers. We know that Quebec refineries also have other possible market supply sources and that the shutdown would be problematic primarily for Ontario. We are aware of that.
However, we should remember that Newfoundland and Labrador is Canada's third-largest producer. If Enbridge's Line 5 is shut down, it would still be possible to consider Canadian supply from that region. For example, if people wanted a nearby source, one inside Canada's border, Newfoundland and Labrador could be a source of supply.
Let us move on to environmental safety. As I mentioned earlier, during our study, each and every witness we heard told us that the State of Michigan was way off base every step of the way. No one was willing to consider that the concerns were legitimate, and yet, we know there was a leak in 2010 that resulted in an oil spill in the Kalamazoo River, in southern Michigan. It seems to me that we can also understand that Michigan is worried about the risk pipelines pose to waterways. At the time, the people from Enbridge said not to worry, that they would really strengthen their safety measures. That is fine. In that case, the burden of proof lies with them to show that real measures were taken.
I think everyone agrees that every accident is one too many, and each is a collective failure to protect ecosystems. Because Line 5 has had leaks, perhaps the idea of retrofitting it should not be excluded. Perhaps the status quo is untenable. Unfortunately, we are not hearing anyone in this place speak about this possibility.
We must now come at the oil issue another way because Canada, as we know, has the third-biggest oil reserve in the world. According to official statistics, it has 172 billion barrels of extractable oil, of which 166 billion are in the Alberta oil sands. Canada is ranked fourth in global production and fourth in global oil exports.
I certainly recognize that, when we talk about transition, it does not mean that we should celebrate and hope to wake up tomorrow morning with no more oil. It is not that simple. That is the very definition of transition. However, we need to have a plan.
Let us agree, however, as scientists do, that 80% of oil must stay in the ground if we want to take an environmentally responsible approach. Furthermore, 96% of Canada's oil comes from the oil sands, which means that only a very small amount does not come from that source. Oil from the oil sands is among the most polluting in the world. The Natural Resources Canada website touts the technological advances that are leading to less greenhouse gases per barrel. That is also the argument put forward by the Montreal Economic Institute.
It is true that the oil industry has been rapidly evolving. Just 50 years ago, offshore drilling was done by humans. Today, robots are doing the job. Nevertheless, from an environmental standpoint, between 1990 and 2018, greenhouse gas emissions from tar sands development have increased by 456%.
Exclusive dependence on this one source of energy is also a major economic problem. Historically, this phenomenon has been referred to as Dutch disease, which is the structural dismantling of the manufacturing sector and possible ensuing deindustrialization resulting from a strong commodities export sector. The development of natural resources is therefore closely related to the decline in the manufacturing industry of the country in question. Does that remind my colleagues of anything? It makes me think about the loss of over 100,000 jobs related to the increase in the Canadian dollar as a result of the increase in oil exports.
The term “Dutch disease” was coined in the 1960s when the Netherlands had a major increase in revenue following the discovery of natural gas deposits. The country's currency appreciated, which made the export of non-gas products less competitive. Dutch disease serves as a necessary reminder that a country must not depend solely on its commodities sector.
Canada's economic development centres on the extraction of raw materials. That is a paradigm that has existed since the beginning of the Canadian experience, when the Canadian colony specialized in bulk commodities, agricultural products and extractible materials for export. These products do not require a lot of processing and their market is mainly centred around international trade.
Canada's history has been shaped by the search for products that already have a market, by the state, and by capital to extract those products. Basically, it was the easy way to pay Canadian workers and import the goods consumers needed. Canada's economic growth was therefore closely linked to demand in the industrialized countries with which it did business.
Political life in Canada has been heavily influenced by our reliance on exports because political power and wealth are concentrated in the hands of the elite who, historically, combined the two. Geographical realities also explain all this, of course. The state has had to supply capital that the business world did not have the means to provide.
However, focusing on exporting raw materials has a significant influence on public policy. To keep the country competitive, politicians have had to provide infrastructure and adjust their environmental and health regulations.
Exploiting these resources did not require particularly sophisticated technological expertise if they were not being processed in any significant way, though. Essentially, Canada was just an outpost used to supply raw materials for use in processing industries in ways that supported the economic development of the industrialized nations and Canadian companies involved.
The expectation was that the supply of resources dedicated to supporting these exports would continue expanding forever. It was an infinite growth model. The railway, which is what led to the creation of Canada in the first place, had to be paid for by transporting resources, and that helped stall the exploration of new technological opportunities. Ultimately, the system ended up reinforcing our reliance on unprocessed materials. It was a vicious cycle. Increased reliance on raw material exports created a need for greater investment in transportation infrastructure, and that meant less money available for other economic sectors.
This system underpinned colonial history, but the Canadian economy has diversified and become more complex since then. It cannot be summed up as Quebec's forests, Saskatchewan's farms, Ontario's mines or Alberta's oil, of course. Markets have changed, new opportunities have been found, and people have flocked to the cities. However, it is clear that Canada is staying true to that spirit by consistently opting to specialize in natural resources in order to compete worldwide.
Western Canada has focused all its efforts on oil extraction, neglecting the necessary diversification of its economy. To get back to Dutch disease, the consequences could be even greater if the oil sector also goes through some difficulties, like the depletion of its reserves or fluctuations in the price per barrel.
The impact on Canada's economic future is considerable. We are paying for it today with the COVID-19 crisis, as well as the oil crisis, the price of the unwavering support that Ottawa, the banks and the pension funds provide to the oil sector. Pension funds like the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec have increased their investments in the sector. Canadians' and Quebeckers' pensions have therefore been jeopardized by being dependent on oil fluctuations. However, oil investments by foreign companies have declined steadily over the last four years, meaning there are very few royalties to be had.
Shale oil, for example, is a very bad development opportunity, and yet Canada cannot seem to escape it. One of Canada's biggest disappointments is that in the global marketplace, in the midst of this great geopolitical struggle, Canada is ultimately a minor player with basically no influence. It is easy to see the problems that could arise from stubbornly putting all the eggs in one basket, especially when that basket refers to a deregulated and fluctuating energy sector.
It is really tough to get out of oil, though. When the price is high, investments pour in. The renewable energy sector is looking to grow, but the money is just not going there because investments continue to pour in for oil. Conversely, when the price is low, investments will be minimal, almost non-existent, but consumers, whether individuals or companies, will rush to the pump, so there is no money left for renewable energy. I could say it is a lose-lose situation for anyone thinking about a real transition. This is where political will is needed. It is imperative and urgent that we make the transition. Crises come with serious repercussions, but they can also bring great opportunity.
The energy transition that many have been calling for and talking about for quite some time needs to begin with decisive action. We must put an end to Canada's oil dependency. In the meantime, demanding a safe supply of oil can no longer be a luxury. In other words, Line 5 is the lesser evil compared to other modes of transportation that are more dangerous. However, we must not depend on it. We also need to look very closely at the real environmental considerations that can be linked to safety and that are entirely legitimate. They must not be dismissed out of hand, as Canada's federal politicians seem to be doing.
Madam Speaker, I will repeat that we are here for a reason. It is by design. It is designed for us not to take our aging infrastructure, in the oil and gas industry in particular, for granted while we focus on the new economy and sustainable energy.
As the vice-chair of the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary association, and as the NDP critic for industry and the Great Lakes, I have seen that the United States has decided to move farther than Canada has on the environment. Often through the Democratic movement, but even under the Republicans, the U.S. has certainly had more strenuous environmental practices than our side has had over here.
We are faced now with a crisis that has come about over the last number of months not by accident, but by ignoring what has been taking place. We have not even learned anything during this process. Regarding Line 5 and its connection to the Great Lakes, Governor Whitmer has been clear on this for a long time, as she has on her concern about the Great Lakes and the environmental effects. There is no doubt that Enbridge, with its previous indiscretion at Kalamazoo, has broken trust in many respects. It was not just that one incident. There were many other places.
The pinnacle of the debate happening at the moment is that the budget that was just tabled and discussed did not even include the words “Great Lakes”. The United States are putting billions of dollars into protecting the Great Lakes, with a governor expressing concerns about a refurbished pipeline. The pipeline is something we believe is important and needs to be refurbished because of our connection to it and our dependency on it, as well as because of our lack of a commitment to develop alternatives to it. However, the government did not even mention the Great Lakes in the budget once. How is that possible, when members of Congress and the Senate have specifically written to the government asking about putting money together to work on the Great Lakes' environmental sustainability? The U.S. is putting billions of dollars into it.
The International Joint Commission of the Great Lakes binational treaty is one of the best in the world. It deals with water and the environment. It needs stronger legislation to allow it to do even better work. It is a part of the international agreements that we have and is something to be proud of, regarding our sharing some of the most important freshwater in the world, yet there is no mention of it in the budget. No one cared enough to throw a bone, so to speak, to the Governor of Michigan or to the other environmental concerns being expressed here. With all those billions of dollars being spent, there was no specific commitment to, or even a mention of, the Great Lakes.
Given that I am on the front lines of the Detroit River here, I can tell colleagues that there is incredible interest and opportunity to improve the environment, the ecosystem and energy alternatives. Detroit, Michigan, has spent over $10 billion on electric vehicles, other types of energy efficiencies and a new age of automotive production. Meanwhile, throughout Canada over the last four or five years, we have seen a paltry $6 billion spent not on greenfield sites, but on the refurbishment of plants. These refurbishments have come about because of collective bargaining opportunities from Unifor. We can thank Jerry Dias and the rest of the bargaining committee for opening the door for those types of investments. At the same time, in Detroit, Ohio and Indiana they have been receiving billions of dollars for their electrification and manufacturing industries.
The famously said in London, Ontario, that we had to transition out of manufacturing. We did that, and have seen how that served us through COVID in vaccine production, innovation and a response for alternatives. We are behind, and we are behind for a reason. We have decided to basically skate for many, many years. I have seen this in the House of Commons. In terms of signed agreements, whether the Kyoto agreement or others, Canada continually misses its targets. However, right in our lap, across the lake, a series of environmental movements are taking place for the citizens of Michigan. All we had to do was to engage our councils and trade offices. We have the connections and the people on the ground here who understand what is taking place. They understand that the governor and the commitment to shut down Line 5 have been front and centre, in many respects, for a long time. What did we do in response? We are just going to try to lobby what we can. We did not even offer something back in return.
We are now going to have to rely upon using tactics like invoking an international treaty on pipelines versus being a co-operative partner to improve the environment we share. We always talk about offsets. Why would the government not, at the very least, do an offset for the state of Michigan to show some support for, and the importance of, the Great Lakes system that we share, whether it be its fisheries or ecosystems? I am still fighting for a national urban park on a piece of property the Windsor port owns. The port is staffed by the citizens of our country. It wants millions of taxpayer dollars or it is going to bulldoze it.
I had an event in Windsor before COVID on building a national urban park. Members of the Michigan Department of Environment came in full regalia to be part of it. Representatives of the federal department came to a public meeting in the city of Windsor. They crossed the border because our ecosystems are tied together: the wildlife, the fish, the fauna and 110 different endangered species. For eight years, I have been fighting for the protection of that property. For the last number of years, I have been fighting the federal government to transfer this piece of property to the Ministry of the Environment instead of it having bulldozed, and there has still been no commitment for that.
In all of this, we do not even throw a bone to Michigan's concerns. We do not give the State any recognition that its concerns are valid, and they are. Let us look at Kalamazoo. How can we have a serious debate about this issue but not look at the consequences of what took place in Kalamazoo and at least give a nod that this has some serious issues?
Having said that, the government is back on the particular position that we are going to have to rely upon an international agreement or some arm-twisting from Washington on the State of Michigan, with us offering it nothing. It is a terrible proposition. There is no offset from us. There is nothing other than us trying to put ourselves in a strong position because of international agreements and obligations. As opposed to this, we could have gotten in front of this with some improvements and suggestions. Who is going to pay for this at the end of the day, if Line 5 closes? It will be the working people: The people doing the heavy lifting and hard work that is necessary every day to run our economy as we try to transition. We should transition, but we still need Line 5 for farms, the auto sector, manufacturing, gas for our cars, airports and all of those things.
One of the first things I did when I came to Parliament was table a motion for a petroleum monitoring agency to ensure consumer accountability. It was something that was put in place once before, but was never funded. What is the backup plan right now to protect consumers from being hosed by the industry if there is speculation or a potential reduction of service products such as oil, gas, propane and so forth? There will be no protection for them because the Competition Bureau does not have the capability to provide it.
Individuals across Ontario, and in other places eventually as well, will be completely vulnerable to the oil and gas industry and some of the pricing issues we have seen in the past. They have had to be dragged front and centre, but it has taken a long time. It has been expensive for a lot of people, and we still do not even have the basic supports or decency to provide reporting mechanisms that will protect consumers. We have no plan for that either.
Our plan going forward is not going to be anything significant or anything that will grant faith or some type of good gesture to the State of Michigan about this. That is what is backwards about this debate we have been having. It has been total neglect from the government. Let us look at infrastructure in the Windsor-Detroit region. I started working on a new border crossing and my first public meeting was in 1998. The Gordie Howe International Bridge is finally being built, but the infrastructure that supports this, and 38% of the Canadian economy, is about 100 years old. There is a tunnel for cars and trucks, a bridge and another tunnel for trains.
We are here for a reason. We have been on borrowed time, and if we do not do anything about it and address the issues from the State of Michigan, then all we can do is rely on arm-twisting. That is not being a good neighbour.
Madam Speaker, I would really like to thank the member for for sharing his time with me. He is such a strong voice for the people of southwestern Ontario and he knows the effects that shutting down Line 5 will have on the thousands of workers in that part of Canada. He knows how serious this is for the environment of the Great Lakes. He knows Michigan because it is just across the river from his home.
Today, we are talking about Enbridge Line 5 again, this time through a concurrence debate on a report from the Special Committee on the Economic Relationship between Canada and the United States. While almost everyone in the House is concerned about Michigan's threat to shut down the pipeline, and I am happy to talk about why the NDP is concerned about the Line 5 situation, we did just have an emergency debate on Line 5 only four days ago, on Thursday night. I will reiterate today a lot of the points I made on Thursday.
I will start by saying, again, that this is a very different debate to the ones around expansion pipelines such as Keystone XL and the Trans Mountain expansion. These pipelines are expansion projects designed solely to increase the amount of raw bitumen exported from Canada at a time when world demand has flatlined and the climate crisis requires that it decline steeply in the future. Even the Canada Energy Regulator, the former National Energy Board, has reported that Keystone XL and the Trans Mountain expansion are not needed and that the Alberta oil sector will never be producing enough oil to need them.
Line 5 is a different story. This is a debate about the impending closure of a pipeline that brings western Canadian oil to eastern Canada, creating Canadian jobs. This is about maintaining the status quo and maintaining those jobs in the industrial heartland of Canada. The one similarity between this and the other pipeline debates is that at the heart of it, there is credible environmental concern.
Line 5 is an Enbridge pipeline that transports crude oil and natural gas liquids from Alberta through Michigan to refineries and other facilities in Ontario and Quebec. It is capable of carrying 540,000 barrels of oil per day. A similar pipeline, a sort of sister pipeline in the Enbridge system, Line 6B, also serves these markets with 667,000 barrels of oil per day.
Line 5 was built 68 years ago, and the Michigan section operates under an easement granted by that state. In November, the Governor of Michigan announced that she was revoking the easement for the pipeline through Michigan effective May 12, this Wednesday, two days from now. The governor cited permit violations and environmental concerns, especially regarding the section that travels through the Straits of Mackinac between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. For its part, Enbridge has proposed to enclose the underwater section in a tunnel to protect it from future accidents and has obtained some of the permits necessary to carry out that work.
What will the impact be if the pipeline is shut down? About 4,900 jobs in Sarnia directly rely on the supply of crude oil that Line 5 now supplies. One of the products those plants in Sarnia produces is jet fuel that supplies large airports such as Toronto Pearson Airport. The oil not diverted in Sarnia is carried onto refineries in Quebec. Therefore, the impact could be huge.
There is some debate on how alternate supplies could mitigate these impacts. Pearson airport has stated in a recent article in the National Post that it is not too worried about a shutdown of Line 5 as it has diversified its sources of jet fuel. The Suncor refinery in Quebec said it made arrangements to get its crude oil from another pipeline. Industries in Sarnia may be able to get some crude oil from increased flow in Line 6B, since it managed that way when Line 6B was ruptured in 2010. Then it got alternate supplies through Line 5.
It is clear that the petrochemical sector in Sarnia could be facing significant shortages that would have to be made up through transport by rail and truck. That is not an ideal situation and one that could result in direct loss of jobs in the Sarnia industrial complex and indirect job losses throughout the region. Therefore, we need to have a strategy to keep Line 5 going and protect those jobs. That strategy goes through convincing Michigan that it is in all our interests to keep Line 5 operating.
What are the environmental risks that Michigan is citing in its decision to cancel this easement? One of the largest inland oil spills in U.S. history happened with the other Enbridge pipeline in Michigan, Line 6B, which also goes to Sarnia via Michigan, but goes around the south end of Lake Michigan instead of crossing under the Straits of Mackinac.
In 2010, Line 6B ruptured and sent about 20,000 barrels of bitumen into the Kalamazoo River just east of Battle Creek, Michigan. The spill contaminated over 50 kilometres of the river, took five years to clean up, and admittedly it probably never will be fully cleaned up. Line 5 itself has suffered a number of leaks over the years. Therefore, the people of Michigan are very well aware of what could happen.
The has always said that this is a demonstrably safe pipeline. I think the people of Michigan would tend to disagree. They have pointed out numerous violations of the original easement agreement, including the design of the support systems and the pipeline at the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac. Recent assessments show that the underwater part of the pipeline is suffering from thinning walls and other stressors. A 2017 risk assessment found that a leak of Line 5 in the straits would contaminate about 1,000 kilometres of shoreline of the Great Lakes.
We need to protect the Great Lakes ecosystem and the thousands of jobs in Ontario and Quebec. The federal government needs to have a plan that would do both.
The Governor of Michigan made an election promise to shut down Line 5, so it should be no surprise that she is doubling down on this threat. If we are to solve the problem through diplomatic means, and everyone agrees this would be best, we will have to prove to the State of Michigan and everyone else who cares about the environment that Line 5 will not have a history similar to Line 6B.
We must point out the economic impacts this closure would have on Michigan itself. Michigan and the neighbouring states of Ohio and Pennsylvania also receive some of the fuels carried through Line 5, including over half of Michigan's propane supplies. Enbridge is counting on the 1977 transit pipelines treaty if talks fail, and right now it does seem that both sides are very far apart. We may see this stuck in the courts for a long time.
This pipeline dispute is very different from the others we have debated in Canada over the past decade or more. It is an existing pipeline that supplies oil to Canadian industry and maintains good jobs. It is an integral part of the economies of Ontario and Quebec.
We will be using oil and gas over the next three decades, albeit in declining amounts, as we transition to zero emissions by 2050. We will be using crude oil as a feedstock in our manufacturing sectors for years to come. Line 5 is an important delivery mechanism for those purposes.
This dispute has been a wake-up call. The public, both in Canada and the United States, is increasingly unwilling to accept the environmental risks associated with pipelines and the climate impacts of burning fossil fuels.
We in the NDP, and I think everyone in the House, are concerned about workers in the oil and gas sector, whether they work in Alberta or the industrial cities of Ontario and Quebec. We need a plan, not just empty promises, to provide good jobs for these workers over the coming decades. We need programs that will allow these workers to move on to jobs in building retrofits, electrification, electric vehicle manufacture, renewable electricity, batter technology and the myriad of other sectors that will provide good employment for decades to come. We need government programs to provide those jobs to prove to workers we are serious about helping them.
Getting this done will require strong public sector leadership that the Liberals and Conservatives have so far been unwilling to even discuss. While this transition takes place, we need to protect the thousands of jobs that Line 5 provides and we need to protect the ecosystem of the Great Lakes. The federal government must have a clear and effective plan to do both.