Mr. Speaker, once again, congratulations on your role in our Parliament.
In my new role as the shadow minister for northern affairs and the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, the one thing I am really concerned about is the lack of focus on the north by the government in the throne speech.
In the throne speech, the best that we got was “in the Far North or along the Canada-U.S. border—all Canadians want to make Canada a better place for themselves, their children and their communities.” That is all we got for the entire northern part of our country. I guess defining the north is difficult, because we are generally north wherever we set foot in Canadian territory.
Especially in those northern areas, we develop our resources. This is a government that said it is supposedly pro-north, but it is difficult to defend that. I will mention one thing that was very clear. Having a northern development strategy would have been good to hear. A national energy corridor to help get our resources to market would have been a great thing to hear in the throne speech.
A plan to restore ethics and accountability in the government is a general theme that we did not hear about. As the former chair of the ethics committee, I certainly know how lacking the Prime Minister is on that file.
There was also the lack of support for our energy workers, such as building the TMX, repealing Bill C-69 and Bill C-48. We did not hear about those either.
Why does that relate to the north? A lot of the natural resource projects are in the north. All that we have seen, even when we talk about Bill C-69 and Bill C-48, is the Liberals really limit any new development in the northern part of our country.
It is not just the Conservatives who are saying this. We have leaders in the north who have already criticized the Liberal government. I will mention some of those individuals.
Former Nunavut premier Peter Taptuna said, “We do want to be getting to a state where we can make our own determination of our priorities, and the way to do that is gain meaningful revenue from resource development. At the same time, when one potential source of revenue is taken off the table, it puts us back at practically square one where Ottawa will make the decisions for us.”
I am referring to the moratorium on development in the north by the Liberal government. At the time, the leaders in the north were not made aware of that and it was very much a surprise. We have indigenous peoples across the north who want to develop their resources and a good economy for their people and for their benefit. What we saw from the government was a complete stifling of that opportunity.
Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq said, “No one in Nunavut asked for a carbon tax and no one in Nunavut agreed to it.” That is another aspect of what this particular leadership has addressed, which is the effects of the carbon tax on the north.
I live in northern B.C. and the member for Yukon across the way lives where it is a little colder than where I live. One thing I would think the Liberal member across the way can agree on is that heating our homes in the north really is not an option. It is not a luxury and it is not something we can choose not to do. We need to heat our homes just to stay alive in the winter months. That is why the carbon tax especially targets the north unfairly. I would have at least expected some kind of way to mitigate that effect on northern communities. They really have no choice, whether it is transportation or heating their homes.
I am going to mention another leader, Merven Gruben, mayor of the hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk. It is a long quote, but I will read it for the benefit of members today. He said, “I agree the Liberals should be helping us. They shut down our offshore gasification and put a moratorium right across”, and I will use his language, “the whole freaking Arctic without even consulting us.” It might show his anger too with this decision. Obviously, they were expecting to develop those resources to help their people and it was stymied and shut down right there. He further stated, “They never said a word to us.”
Mayor Gruben's colleague said, “It's so easy to sit down here and make judgments on people and lives that are 3,500 klicks away, and make decisions on our behalf, especially with that moratorium on the Beaufort. That should be taken away, lifted, please and thank you. That is going to open up and give jobs to our people—training and all the stuff we're wishing for.”
Merven Gruben also made another key statement, saying, “We're proud people who like to work for a living.”
This is the opportunity they are looking for. They want to develop their resources, yet the government, which is supposed to be supporting the north, seems to be doing everything to get in the way of that development.
Mr. Merven Gruben also said:
I thank God we worked very closely with the Harper government and had the all-weather highway built into Tuk. It opened in November 2017, if some of you haven’t heard, and now we are learning to work with tourism. We all know that’s not the money and work that we were used to in the oil and gas days that we liked.
All that said, we are talking about the throne speech tonight. One thing I have not mentioned yet that alarms us in the north is the lack of a softwood lumber agreement. It is affecting many of the communities across the north.
We talked about gasification and oil and gas and referred a bit to mining, but there are great jobs in the forestry industry as well. There is lots of timber in the north. A lot of areas have not been logged for many years and the timber is sitting there, affecting hundreds of thousands of jobs across the country. It would greatly benefit the north if we signed a softwood lumber agreement. Even a signal from the Liberals that they wanted to get this done would have been appreciated by the folks in my riding and in the north, but we did not even get a signal.
As the House probably remembers, the last time this happened the government at least signalled. Maybe it is better for the Liberals not to say it; maybe that is where they are now. They did not even talk about a softwood lumber agreement.
The last time we heard about it was in 2015. In the first 100 days, the Prime Minister was supposed to sit down with the then President Obama and get a signed, sealed and delivered softwood lumber agreement. That did not happen.
Some have asked what the big deal is. The big deal is that the 20% tariff applied to our Canadian lumber has greatly affected the margins. A couple of years ago when we were making $600 per thousand, it was still profitable, but with the market going down and stumpage rates affecting us in northern British Columbia, the 20% tariff is now really affecting the sale of lumber and timber to our neighbours. Despite this, it was once again ignored by the government.
As a bottom line, the throne speech signals the direction the government is supposed to be going. We do not see a whole lot for the north or the softwood lumber industry. The Liberals are working on language to talk back Bill C-69 and Bill C-48. They seem to be ramping it up. We heard what the Minister of Environment was talking about. There is gas project in B.C., another northern project, and one of the project partners is pulling out. Is that because of the carbon tax in Canada? Is that because of other signals the environment minister has given that the Liberals will not co-operating with that particular project? I do not know.
The bottom line is that Canadians need to work. Canadians in the north, in the file that I now represent, need to work. They need to be able to heat their homes, feed their families and keep a roof over their heads. It is unfortunate that the government does not seem to take that group of Canadians seriously.