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House of Commons Emblem

Standing Committee on Natural Resources



Thursday, April 11, 2024

[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]



     I call this meeting to order.
    Welcome to meeting number 92 of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Natural Resources.
    Pursuant to the order of reference of Tuesday, October 17, 2023, and the adopted motion of Wednesday, December 13, 2023, the committee is resuming consideration of Bill C-49, an act to amend the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Atlantic Accord Implementation Act and the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts.
    Since today's meeting is taking place in a hybrid format, I would like to make a few comments for the benefit of members and witnesses.
    Please wait until I recognize you by name before speaking. For those participating by video conference, click on the microphone icon to activate your mic, and please mute yourself when you are not speaking. For interpretation for those on Zoom, you have the choice, at the bottom of your screen, of floor, English or French. For those in the room, you can use the earpiece and select the desired channel.
    Although the room is equipped with a powerful audio system, feedback events can occur. These can be extremely harmful to interpreters and can cause serious injuries. The most common cause of sound feedback is an earpiece worn too close to a microphone. We, therefore, ask all participants to exercise a high degree of caution when handling the earpieces, especially when your microphone or your neighbour's microphone is turned on. In order to prevent incidents and safeguard the hearing health of the interpreters, I invite participants to ensure that they speak into the microphone into which their headset is plugged and to avoid manipulating the earbuds by placing them on the table, away from the microphone, when they are not in use.
    I remind you that all comments should be addressed through the chair.
    Additionally, taking screenshots or photos of your screen is not permitted.
    In accordance with our routine motion, I am informing the committee that all remote participants have completed the required connection tests in advance of the meeting. I believe one of the witnesses, Ms. McNeil, is having some technical issues, which I hope will get resolved with our technology ambassadors as we proceed with the meeting.
    With us today to answer your questions, we have, from the Department of Justice, Jean-Nicolas Bustros, counsel; and also Jean-François Roman, legal counsel. From the Department of Natural Resources, we have Abigail Lixfeld, senior director, renewable and electrical energy division, energy systems sector, by video conference; Annette Tobin, director, offshore management division, fuels sector, by video conference; Lauren Knowles, deputy director; Cheryl McNeil, deputy director, by video conference; and Daniel Morin, senior legislative and policy adviser, renewable and electrical energy division.
    As well, we have the legislative clerks from the House of Commons: Dancella Boyi and Émilie Thivierge.
    Today we are resuming the clause-by-clause consideration of Bill C-49.
    (On clause 221)
    The Chair: We are at clause 221.
    At the last meeting, the committee agreed by unanimous consent to allow Ms. Dabrusin to move her amendment, the new G-25, which starts on page 75 of the package.
    Ms. Dabrusin.
    This motion is similar to others that I have brought in respect of a different coming into force date relating to the Impact Assessment Act. I'm going to be supporting it and asking for my colleagues to support it as well.
    Ms. Dabrusin, thank you for moving the new G-25.
    Mr. Patzer.
    Obviously, we all supported her having the ability to move that amendment again, which was fine. Because we are moving a date in regard to the Impact Assessment Act, I know we've had a few days, so I'm just wondering if either the parliamentary secretary or maybe the officials know the date. Maybe they know it today. I'd like to give them that opportunity. If anybody knows when the date is that the Impact Assessment Act will be fixed and will be compliant with Canadian law, then that would be helpful.
    Thank you.
    Thank you, Mr. Patzer.
    Is there anybody who'd like to answer Mr. Patzer's question?
    Mr. Patzer, are you addressing it to somebody specifically?
    Mr. Jeremy Patzer: No.
    The Chair: Okay.
    Ms. Dabrusin, I'll start with you, and then we can proceed onwards.
     We anticipate that it will be happening shortly. On the other hand, for the purposes of writing legislation, there is not going to be a fixed date added into this. The coming into force date would be left to the Governor in Council for this section. It's the same as the other ones we have put in place.


    Thank you, Ms. Dabrusin.
    Do we have any further debate?
    (Amendment agreed to: yeas 10; nays 1 [See Minutes of Proceedings])
    (Clause 221 as amended agreed to: yeas 10; nays 1)
    (On clause 147)
    The Chair: The committee will remember that on March 21, 2024, we agreed to stand clause 147. We are now ready to go back to clause 147. When the committee agreed to stand that clause, we were debating amendment CPC-12, on page 57 of the package, which was amended by a subamendment that was adopted. The text of the amendment, CPC-12, as amended by the subamendment, reads as follows:
    That Bill C-49, in Clause 147, be amended by adding after line 27 on page 107 the following:
(c) during the submerged land licence issuance process, importance shall be given to the consideration of effects on fishing activities.
    Before we vote on CPC-12 as amended, do members wish to further debate the amendment or to propose another subamendment?
    It's over to you, Mr. Patzer.
     Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. I do appreciate the committee allowing us to have the time to go back and do this one again.
    I tried to keep the spirit of the language that Ms. Dabrusin proposed in the amendment that the committee adopted, so I hope that you guys will see that it is in there.
    I don't know if you'd call it a subamendment or what, but the subamendment I'm proposing would be that motion CPC-12, as amended, proposing to amend clause 147 of Bill C-49 by adding paragraph (c) after line 27 on page 107, be amended by replacing “the consideration of effects on fishing activities” with the following:
“considering the effects of the proposed work or activity on fishing activities and to understanding and maintaining the environmental characteristics of the offshore area that support that industry”
    We had some witness testimony that did speak to the characteristics of the ocean floor. That was from Dr. Kevin Stokesbury, Ph.D. in marine ecology, in regard to the development of wind. He did have this to say:
This will change the environment: the sea floor makeup, the current structure, the acoustics both during construction and operation, and the electromagnetic field. All these will impact the associated flora and fauna of the areas. This will happen on the scales of the individual turbine, which is centimetres to kilometres; the wind farm fields, from tens to hundreds of kilometres; and the entire eastern seaboard. It will affect the fisheries.... There is no overall framework to coordinate the different scientific research or push for broader ecosystem understanding.
I suggest that a framework that categorizes information about the ecology, economics and social and institutional effects of each of these two industries, with appropriate spatial and temporal scales, is key to reducing conflict and improving co-operation.
    Of course, the two industries he's talking about are fishing and the new wind power industry that is seeking to be developed with the passing of this bill.
    There were also some other concerns that were raised by the representative of FFAW around some of the proposals to weaken some of the wording. They were seeking, at the federal level, some adequate language in here to protect and help the fisheries. She made the following comment: “claims that 'where feasible, fishing activities will be able to continue to take place in areas that also have offshore renewable energy activity' are irresponsible, ill-informed and have been made without any consultation to our membership.” She was concerned about some of the impacts that it would have as well.
     That's another type of support for an amendment that would provide a bit more certainty, not just to fishing activity but to the environment and the ecosystem that goes along with the development of offshore wind as well.
    Those are some of the witness testimonies that I had.


    Thank you, Mr. Patzer.
    Now we'll go to Ms. Dabrusin.
    Given that we've just received the subamendment, I would ask if we could suspend to be able to review it.
    I think that's fair. We will suspend for a few minutes so that colleagues have an opportunity to review the subamendment. I want to let everybody online know that they should have received an email with the subamendment as well. We will suspend for a few minutes to give you time to review it.
    Thank you. We're suspended.



    We're back.
    I want to make sure that the members online did have an opportunity to review it. I see thumbs-up. Thank you.
    Ms. Dabrusin, I'll go back to you.
    Thank you for giving us some time to look at it.
    My question is for the officials. Similar wording was floated and discussed the last time we were considering amendments and subamendments. I'm wondering if, since the time we had these conversations about this additional type of wording, you've had a chance to touch base with the provinces about how they feel about this type of wording, because it is similar to what was previously discussed. What was their opinion about it?
    We did discuss the previous discussion with the provinces, after the meetings on March 21, and we did reflect further on the testimony that was provided during the hearings. Both the provinces and Natural Resources Canada recognize that the principal section in Bill C-49 could be further strengthened to ensure that potential effects on fishing activities are considered during the submerged land licence issuance process.
    However, we feel that the language that was adopted by the committee in that subamendment is sufficient, and the provinces were not supportive of making further amendments.
    They did provide a number of supporting points as to why they felt concerned about making additional changes, including “maintaining the environmental characteristics of the offshore area”, in part because of the role and purpose of the regulator, which is of course to ensure the responsible development of offshore energy projects.
    They raised some additional considerations that the term “environmental characteristics” is not well understood. It doesn't have a common definition or accepted meaning in common law, and we were not able to find any other federal legislation that uses this terminology. There were a number of concerns raised on the part of both governments and the provinces about establishing such a broad and open-ended requirement that doesn't have established tools or guidance to support the regulator in carrying out that duty. Ambiguity like that often increases the risk of challenge, creates a great degree of uncertainty for both the regulator and industry, and when we're looking to develop a new industry with offshore renewables, it is quite challenging.
    That said, government does recognize the importance of the fishing sector, and of course the importance of the environment. We do feel that the provisions that are already set out in both part II and, particularly, part III of the accord acts, and in Bill C-49, which is all about regulation of specific projects, are the appropriate place to assess and consider the potential impacts on fish.
    Thank you.
    Go ahead, Ms. Dabrusin.
    Thank you.
    If I can follow up on that, we do have two letters, one from the Minister of Industry, Energy and Technology of Newfoundland and Labrador, Andrew Parsons, and the other from the Minister of Natural Resources and Renewables of Nova Scotia, Tory Rushton. Both of those letters refer to joint management. In light of the fact that the provinces have said that they do not support having this type of wording added into the bills, am I correct in saying that it would go against the principles of joint management?


    Yes, in our view, and in particular the view of the provinces, to include any language in Bill C-49 that has not been agreed to by both levels of government goes against the spirit of joint management, which is really to do everything together and to set aside what would ordinarily be unilateral decision-making in favour of common decisions.
    All of the clauses and all of the provisions that are in Bill C-49 were agreed to by the provinces. Once the federal version of the bill is complete, the provinces would need to mirror the same legislation in their own legislatures. It would be quite problematic, and I believe unprecedented, for the federal statute to include provisions that are not replicated in the provincial bill, and it could create quite a degree of administrative uncertainty, where basically we would be giving the regulators competing instructions and putting them in a rather untenable place.
    Thank you.
    In light of those answers, I'll be opposing the subamendment.
    Thank you, Ms. Dabrusin.
    I'm going to go to Mr. Patzer.
    Mr. Patzer, go ahead. The floor is yours.
     Thank you.
    I want to make a quick extra plea. When the provinces look at this and propose amendments, does that mean they are going to have to consult with you guys, or consult with this committee, seeing as it's supposed to be joint management? As I understand it, we're doing this here, but then the province is going to have to go through it as well. I'm curious what the process is there. If they get it and then start amending things on their end, what does that do to the process of what we've done here today?
    I might defer to my colleagues from Justice or other NRCan colleagues if they have a perspective on what would happen if the provinces moved something that does not appear in the federal legislation.
    The typical process is that the federal legislature would move first, and then the province would mirror exactly what's in the federal legislature. Should there be divergences in the provincial process, there would be the same administrative issues that were mentioned by my director, Abigail. The process has been for the federal legislative process to go first, and then the provinces mirror it, typically word for word or with some minor drafting style changes. They mirror the intent of the federal legislation, and then the boards implement that based on both pieces of legislation.
    Given the situation on the ground in the Maritimes around some of the fishing issues, I think it's important that we make sure we do everything as properly as we possibly can. I appreciate that.
    I have no further comments.
    Thank you.
    I'm going to go to Mr. Dreeshen.
    My comment is similar, but maybe from a different perspective. My question would probably be for the legal folks.
    If the provinces find that there are some severe impediments to the structures that are in their waters, and they find that they need to come up with some sort of legislation for the environmental integrity of the sea floor and so on, how is that addressed? Would they then appeal to the federal government so that they could look at changing it?
    It's not that the question isn't important as to how we're going to deal with it. We're simply talking about how we're going to manage the legislation that we have in front of the provinces and in front of us right now. If they find that there are problems, how do they talk with the federal government, and what type of process would be required to amend the legislation or to find some way through regulation so that both parties could be satisfied that actual environmental concerns are taken care of?


     Thank you for the question. I don't mind providing a response.
    Joint management gives us a really strong foundation to work with the provinces on finding common solutions as we move forward with implementing and regulating projects. The accord acts, which have been in place for decades, have a fair degree of flexibility, both within the instructions that are provided to the regulator to respond to the specifics of each project, and for the broad regulation-making powers.
    If an issue arose that the provinces or the federal government felt was not adequately addressed in the accord acts, and if both governments felt that legislative change was required, then we would always have the opportunity to go back and make changes.
    That said, both levels of government and both of the provincial governments do feel that Bill C-49 as drafted, and with the further strengthening of the subamendment that was discussed at a previous meeting, does provide the flexibility and the tools that are necessary to be able to manage our understanding of both the environment and potential impacts on the fishing sector, and to be able to introduce mitigation measures and other tools that are necessary to promote co-operation and coexistence and manage potential effects.
    We also recognize, as governments, that there are a number of things that need to happen outside of legislation that are within the responsibility of government. Mr. Patzer referenced some of the testimony. Some of it has been reflected in the interim report of the regional assessment committees, around the importance of good research, good data, science, and working collectively with different stakeholders to make sure that we have a common understanding of how the fishing industry is changing as a result of climate change and how we need to be responding as technology evolves.
    We do feel there are opportunities and mechanisms, and the strength of the co-operation that we have with the provinces through joint management gives us a really strong foundation to work from going forward.
    I respect what you're saying. You're looking at this as a climate change management process, but I think what the fishers are talking about are the structures and how the fishing industry is going to be affected. The other is perhaps from a different position.
    If there have to be changes, will they be done via regulatory changes that both the federal and provincial governments would agree to, or would they have to come back to amendments to this legislation in order to rectify any potential problems that exist?
    We do feel that there are adequate tools within Bill C-49 and within the regulation-making powers to be able to address expected co-operation, coexistence and mitigation of effects related to projects, and that further changes to the legislation or introducing new regulation-making powers is not required at this time.
    In the future, if there are new technologies that have different impacts or if the landscape changes and governments feel the accord acts do not provide the strength they need, governments absolutely have the discretion to make further changes to ensure the regime is sound.


    Thank you.
     Do we have any further debate?
    (Subamendment negatived: nays 7; yeas 4)
    (Amendment as amended agreed to: yeas 11; nays 0)
    (Clause 147 as amended agreed to: yeas 10; nays 1)
    (On clause 38)
    The Chair: Moving on to clause 38, the committee will remember that on March 21, 2024, we agreed to consider and stand clause 38. We are now ready to go back to clause 38, which is now reopened for debate. I would like to remind all members that the following amendments to clause 38 were previously adopted: G-1, on page 19 of the package, and CPC-7, on page 21 of the package.
    There are two new amendments that were submitted in relation to clause 38. Amendment G-1.1 can be found on page 21.1 of the package, and CPC-7.1 on page 21.2. Please note that if G-1.1 is adopted, CPC-7.1 cannot be moved, since lines of paragraph (c) cannot be amended twice.
    Is there a member who would like to move G-1.1?
    Ms. Dabrusin.
    Thank you, Mr. Chair.
    Basically, coming out of the conversation we've just had, this allows for consistency between the Newfoundland and Labrador bill and the Nova Scotia bill. I would propose that we support this amendment.
     Do we have any further debate?
    (Amendment agreed to: yeas 11; nays 0 [See Minutes of Proceedings])
    (Clause 38 as amended agreed to: yeas 10; nays 1)
    The Chair: Shall the title carry?
    (Title agreed to: yeas 11; nays 0)
    The Chair: Shall the bill as amended carry?
    (Bill C-49 as amended agreed to: yeas 10; nays 1)
    The Chair: Shall the chair report the bill as amended to the House?
    (Reporting of bill to the House agreed to: yeas 11; nays 0)
    The Chair: Shall the committee order a reprint of the bill as amended for the use of the House at report stage?
    (Reprint of the bill agreed to: yeas 11; nays 0)


    Before we conclude everything, I have two points to address to committee members.
    Since we are finished with the bill, we would like to commence next Monday on the draft report that was sent to everybody on Canada's clean energy plans, as we do have a meeting scheduled for Monday. I'm hoping that everybody has a copy of that report and will have time to review it. That will be our plan for next Monday.
    I would also like to advise the committee that we need to set a witness deadline for our next study, which is on Canada's electricity grid. Proposed dates could be next Friday, April 19, at 4 p.m., or April 22, which is the following Monday. That's to provide witnesses so that we can create the panels and have a really good study moving forward.
    I'll go to Mr. Patzer, and then to Ms. Dabrusin.
     I would like the 22nd. I think that would be good. Next week is a sitting week and we have lots going on. It will give us a little extra time to make sure that we can get a response from witnesses. We have to reach out to them first, if we haven't already. It gives us a little bit of extra room there, because we never know what's going to happen upstairs.
    Let's give ourselves that little bit of extra flexibility over the weekend and going into that break week, the constituency week.
    Thank you, Mr. Patzer.
    Ms. Dabrusin, would you like to comment on this specifically?
    I was going to ask you to release our witnesses. I don't believe they need to be sitting here through this conversation.
    Yes, I can do that.
    I would like to thank our witnesses for participating in Bill C-49, working with us for the last few months and doing a great job. Thank you so much.
    You are released from today's meeting. Thank you.
     I would now like to go to Mr. Angus.
    Mr. Angus, go ahead.
    Thank you, Chair, and thank you for the excellent work in getting us to the finish line on this huge bill. I think it's a real success.
    Like Mr. Patzer, I would like to have that extra time for the witnesses so that we do this right.
    There's one thing that I want to follow up on. There were so many motions brought forward by the Conservatives that I can't keep track of all of them, but I do remember one that was about bringing in the minister to testify before us. I think it's always good to have the minister. If we're in a spot where we're waiting to get witnesses and we're about to move to this new study, I would like to have the minister come.
     I think they wanted to do it on the supplementary estimates, which we probably missed, but it's always good to have him come and talk about what the government is doing with our money.
    Go ahead, Ms. Dabrusin.
    Thank you.
    I would ask that we make sure of his availability before confirming a date.
    Thank you, colleagues.
    I'll go to Mr. Maguire, and then I'll wrap up.
    Go ahead.
     Mr. Chair, before we wrap up, I'd like to move a motion, notice of which has already been given.
Given that:
(a) the Liberal Newfoundland and Labrador premier has called on the federal government to spike its 23% carbon tax hike in a letter to the Prime Minister, saying, “I am now asking Ottawa to pause its planned increase to the carbon tax, set for April 1st, as the high cost of living is enough of a burden on families”; and
(b) according to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, the Prime Minister's carbon tax will cost Newfoundland and Labrador families over $1,300 per year now that the carbon tax has quadrupled, while nearly one third of Newfoundland and Labrador currently lives in energy poverty;
the committee report to the House that it calls on the Liberal government to immediately withdraw the 23% carbon tax increase that it imposed on Canadians on April 1, 2024.
    Mr. Chair, I think it's an important issue to bring forward at this time. I commend Mrs. Stubbs for putting this notice of motion on the books here last week.
    Like many Canadian families, residents in Newfoundland and Labrador are struggling to make ends meet, as everything is more expensive. Indeed, instead of delivering relief, the Prime Minister hiked the carbon tax by 23% on April 1. Now, the Liberal Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador has asked the Prime Minister to pause the carbon tax increase, because the cost of living challenges are already burdening these families.
    Gas prices are high in Newfoundland, the highest in the country. Food bank usage visits have skyrocketed across the province, and I note a similar issue in Manitoba, my home province. People are having to choose between filling up their cars, heating their homes and feeding their families and putting food on the table.
    Even to the recognition of some of the members across the way and their own counterparts, last year—I think it was in October—the Newfoundland and Labrador Liberal MP, Mr. McDonald, from Avalon, admitted that the carbon tax is hurting his constituents, saying that it is “putting a bigger burden on people who are now struggling with an affordability crisis”. I know Mr. McDonald personally. I think that's a pretty strong statement for him to make, and I would certainly agree with it, because it's happening not just in Newfoundland but across Canada. Despite that reality, though, he turned around and voted to keep that tax on Newfoundlanders and save the Prime Minister as community is paying the price.
    I think it's important, Mr. Chair, that increasing the carbon tax has real-world consequences on real people, so it should come as no surprise that 70% of Canadians and 70% of the provinces' premiers have opposed the April 1 carbon tax increase that the Prime Minister has forced, through his environment minister, on all the people of Canada.
     Even with that 70% reality, the Prime Minister pressed on, and now he's refusing to meet the premiers of Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Alberta and Saskatchewan, who wrote to him asking to discuss alternatives to his punishing carbon tax. That's why the House passed a Conservative motion calling on the Prime Minister to convene a televised emergency carbon tax meeting with all of Canada's 14 first ministers within five weeks. I think that's the least we can do to try to come to some solutions to attack the affordability crisis that's hitting families across the country today, but particularly in Newfoundland.
    It's the Prime Minister's responsibility to listen to Canada's premiers about the impact of his carbon tax and the way it is affecting Canadians. He must allow provinces and territories to opt out of the federal carbon tax and pursue other responsible ideas for lowering emissions without taxes.
    Mr. Chair, Canadians need relief, not more taxes. That's why I'm encouraging the members of this committee to support this motion and support the struggling families by calling on the Liberal government to withdraw the 23% tax hike that took place on April 1, just 10 days ago.


     Let's bring home lower prices for residents in Newfoundland and Labrador, and indeed all of Canada. I think it's imperative that we do so. We know that many of us are getting emails. I'm sure the Liberal members of the House are getting emails every day as well. The carbon tax is a continuing stress upon the food prices in Canada. We've seen the impacts of Bill C-234 and the cost increases on food by not taking the carbon tax off the heating of barns and drying grain. The amendment that came back from Parliament needs to be put back in place to make sure that all of those are implemented, not just half of them.
    We have a situation where we need to be heartened by the calls we're getting from people across the country, particularly in Newfoundland, on the high cost of living. I can't stress enough that the Prime Minister's own watchdog, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, has indicated that it's going to cost families in Newfoundland $1,300 a year now that the carbon tax has quadrupled.
    I'm very pleased to be able to put this motion, brought by my colleague Mrs. Stubbs, on the floor for a vote, or for my colleagues to discuss, at least.
    Thank you, Mr. Maguire.
    I have Mr. Angus.
    Mr. Angus, before I let you speak on this, or you may be proceeding on a question that you raised previously, I want to make sure that.... It was to invite the minister for the supplementary estimates (C), for which our time has passed, but you were suggesting that we invite the minister to attend at committee. I wanted to make sure that committee members understood what was being asked for, Mr. Angus.
    I didn't hear any loud objections here, but I want to make sure that we have the consent of the committee to invite the minister. We had implied consent, but we did not have consent, and I think that's why Mr. Angus may have had his hand up.


    No. I was going to speak to the motion.
    Go ahead, Mr. Angus. You have the floor, before I proceed to other speakers.
    Thank you.
    I move to adjourn—
    Point of order.
    I have the floor. I move to adjourn. It's not debatable.
    I said “point of order” before he said—
    I moved to adjourn. Sorry, but you—
    I said “point of order” first, Chair.
    No, you didn't.
    Yes, I did.
    Please call the roll.
    (Motion agreed to: yeas 7; nays 4)
    The Chair: The meeting is adjourned.
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