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View Tom Kmiec Profile
View Tom Kmiec Profile
2019-12-09 17:40 [p.129]
Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House.
I want to begin by thanking my constituents for sending me back here. I received one of the strongest results in Canada. I want to thank all of them for showing me that support and for helping me out on the campaign trail. I thank my volunteers and my supporters and of course my family, without whom I would not be able to stand here in the House. This is the second term that I will be serving in the House of Commons.
I want also to take the time to thank all Calgarians and all Albertans for sending back a strong Conservative team of 33 out of 34 members of Parliament. They have chosen very wisely in this Parliament to make sure that their voice is heard on the floor of the House of Commons in the Parliament of Canada. Albertans will no longer be taken advantage of.
Before I continue, Madam Speaker, I want to say that I am splitting my time with the member for Durham. I am sure he will have many important contributions to make to this debate, and also no doubt will provide the perspective of Ontarians on what their expectations are in the Parliament of Canada.
The Speech from the Throne was a very deep disappointment, a slap in the face to Albertans. We have faced some of the hardest economic times our province has faced in multiple generations. Albertans are used to downturns in the oil and gas sector. They are used to downturns in the energy sector. That is nothing new. When I moved to Alberta in 2005, it was something that every single energy worker would tell me. I remember in the last downturn, they would say to save for the next downturn, to put aside some money to weather it. It would come and go and the boom would come back. Projects would get built. We would have new opportunities to grow the economy to create well-paying middle-class jobs in the energy sector.
We have seen a government in the past four years that has failed to do that. We have seen a government that has made it its intention to phase out the energy sector, despite the fact that oil and gas companies invest in renewable energy and invest in their people. We will find no other companies as interested in maximizing the knowledge, the abilities and the type of work that people will be doing. I always tell people back home and all those whom I visit all across Canada that we spent a generation convincing young men and women that it was worth their while to pursue a degree in science, technology, engineering and mathematics because there would be well-paying jobs waiting for them when they finished. When they went into the private sector, they had co-operative jobs and internships ready to go. Some of them did not even finish their degrees and they already had six-figure salaries in engineering jobs waiting for them in oil and gas at the Suncors of the world.
Now we have heard terrible news. Haliburton announced that it was shutting down its cement operations in Alberta. We have news from companies like Suncor Energy. Encana has renamed itself and is moving to the United States. It has already moved most of its board of directors down there. Decisions are being made there for a Canadian company. It was once what we would say in French le fleuron, the main natural gas company in Canada and now those decisions are being made in Denver. Trans Canada dumped “Canada” from its name because it no longer has faith in doing business in Canada. Now it is called TC Energy to hide the fact to American investors that it is a Canadian-based company. That is a lost opportunity. I have come here to make sure that opportunity rings out again in these hallways and that there is opportunity for Albertans within Confederation, within a united Canada.
On every single street I was on and at most of the doors I went to, people would talk about it. People are fed up with being taken advantage of. I have said on the floor of the House of Commons before that people in Alberta are tired of being treated like colonials. We are not colonials. We have made an immense contribution to Canada. Over $600 billion has been transferred out of our province. Albertans do complain about it; it is just something that we do. It is true. We want to be able to create the wealth and then we are okay to share a slice of that wealth with the rest of Canada to make a contribution to Confederation. We contribute more than our fair share right now and all we are asking is that the government listen. Premier Kenney, who is here today in Ottawa, is making five simple requests, none of which happened to be in the throne speech. The federal government has listened to none of them. These are not new things. These are things that the premier has repeatedly asked for.
One request is to remove the cap on the stabilization fund. The Government of Alberta at the moment is forced into deficit spending as it is closing its deficit, which is something the current federal government is incapable of doing. Removing the cap on the stabilization fund would allow the province to get that money back, the “over-contribution”, I would call it, into Confederation, so that we can stabilize our health care system, our education system and the social services that Albertans depend on.
These are extremely important things that must be done. The premier has asked for a major significant amendment to Bill C-69 to ensure that certain major projects will not fall under the Bill C-69 rules. The “no pipelines” bill, as it is called in Alberta, ensures that there are no new projects being proposed. When I go into downtown Calgary and I talk to managers, directors and people making the decisions on whether to pursue a project in Canada, they say that there is no thought about any new projects being suggested for the Canadian market.
Most of the well-paying jobs in the oil and gas sector are in construction. Brand new projects that come online cost tens of thousands so that people can be hired for the length of the construction season to build it. For the past four years, all the government has to show for it is that it has expropriated one pipeline company and taken over Kinder Morgan's TMX contract. After dithering for years and trying to block the pipeline from being built, suddenly, the Liberal Party had a deathbed conversion. Suddenly the government is now in favour of building a pipeline, but only one pipeline. It cancelled energy east. It cancelled Enbridge's northern gateway. It cancelled more kilometres of pipeline than it actually had built. The only one that is kind of pitter-pattering away on getting built is really the last major energy infrastructure project in Canada. The same thing happened with LNG with well-paying jobs. For a generation we have been convincing people to go into the STEMs.
We also spent a heck of a lot of time convincing people to move from other parts of Canada and from parts of the United States to Alberta and earn a living there. We do not have the advantage of beautiful provinces like British Columbia which has the mountains and the ocean. Alberta is just rolling foothills and they are pretty flat on the east side. However, what we did have was an excellent quality of life, an excellent opportunity to work in a sector that was always trying to do its best, on the cutting edge of everything. There are wildlife biologists and people interested in environmental remediation. Those are the people I met at the doors, people who worked for oil and gas companies trying to remediate the land. They were proud of the work they were doing and the contributions they were making to ensure that with every single project that came online, at some point the land would be remediated and returned as close as possible to its original state.
Suncor was one of those great companies that managed to do that and earned an environmental certificate two provincial governments ago. Now there are wild bison on the territory, something we had not seen for an extremely long time. It is a bison population, by the way, that is healthier in the wilds of Wood Buffalo National Park.
This throne speech has very, very little for Albertans, so we will be looking for the government to actually reach out to Albertans and make an effort, a true effort, at bridging the gap between what Albertans are feeling and seeing on the ground, the experiences they have had over the past four years, and what we expect from the minority Parliament. There is an entire province right now that is feeling neglected. We are not asking for a handout. We are asking for the federal government to get out of our way and let us create the wealth. Let us create the jobs, well-paying private sector jobs that we have been known for over the past two decades.
It has been amazing to see how fast Calgary has grown even since I moved there. I represent the deep southeast suburbs of Calgary. There are entire communities that did not exist when I moved there. There is a hospital that was built in my riding. It did not exist back in 2005. Some 30,000 to 40,000 people have moved into my area. Cranston, Mahogany, Auburn Bay, Seton, Rangeview and Copperfield are communities that did not exist before.
Tens of thousands of people chose Calgary. They chose Alberta for those well-paying jobs in the energy sector. We have diversified our economy much more than people could ever believe.
The oil and gas sector is a much smaller proportion of Alberta's economy than it was back in 1997. We have diversified our economy. We were moving in the right direction, and we have a federal government that has impeded our ability to continue to create that wealth.
This throne speech is just not good enough. There is not enough concrete action in it that would actually provide any certainty or comfort for the people back home who have lost their jobs and whose severances have run out. They are finding no opportunities to work in the sector where they have spent 20 years, between their education and their early career opportunities, to actually make something of themselves and contribute to their families.
I will be proudly voting against the throne speech, because it has nothing in it.
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