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View Cathy McLeod Profile
Madam Speaker, the House has only been sitting again for two weeks and this is the second emergency debate that we have had. I do not think I have seen that in my 11 years of being here. We have had two emergency debates on two perhaps similar issues, but they are also different. What is happening to our country when we are at such a crisis point that we have had to have this kind of debate week after week?
So far the government has managed, in terms of the oil industry alone, to drive $150 billion out of the country. I want to talk about this project specifically, and then I am going to get into a bit of the context for the decision that was made.
Frontier mine was a proposed oil sands mine located between Fort McMurray and Fort Chipewyan in northeast Alberta. The process for this application started nine years ago in 2011, so it has been nine long years and $1 billion spent. It was projected to create 7,000 jobs during construction and another 2,500 during operations. Building the project would have required a $20.6-billion investment, and it would have contributed $70 billion in federal, provincial and municipal taxes over 41 years of production.
We hear about pharmacare programs and dental programs. If the government keeps driving businesses out of this country, we are not going to be able to afford anything.
This project had first nations support. The company had signed agreements with the 14 indigenous groups who live near it, and the latest agreement was made just last weekend before the decision was to be made.
Let me talk about the emissions. In its report on Teck Frontier, the review panel wrote the following:
The project is expected to have emissions that are equivalent to or lower than oil produced in some other jurisdictions. Not permitting oil production from the Frontier project may result in exporting emissions to other jurisdictions with higher emission intensity than the project and increase overall global greenhouse gas emissions on a per barrel basis.
The joint panel review acknowledged that there would be some environmental impacts. I have been to the oil sands and I have seen the amazing remediation work that has been done in that area. The panel recommended that the project move forward.
This is the panel's statement:
There are credible forecasts that indicate increasing hydrocarbon use globally over the next several decades. Evidence was not provided which demonstrated that oil produced—or not produced—in Canada would reduce domestic or global consumption or the associated carbon emissions.
These are two really important features. What the panel was essentially saying is we are going to continue to need oil and this would be produced in an environmentally reasonable way. The company committed to improving their process.
In November 2011, we had an application. In July 2019 we had a review panel that recommended the approval and then, to be quite frank, the cabinet sat on this for many months with the decision actually being due this week.
On Sunday night many MPs from the west, and I was one of them, got off the plane and heard the news. The immediate thing one does is look at what has happened in those four or five hours of being in the air. It was a stunning outcome to see that Teck had withdrawn its application.
I want to give the House some context for the decision. The government loves to say it was the company that made the decision but let us put this decision in context.
In 2017 the Prime Minister said we need to phase out the oil sands. Whoever thought that he meant to phase them out within a year or 24 months? No one thought that, but obviously that is what he is intending to do.
I would like to contrast this with the Alberta premier, who acknowledged the need for transition, but he said that he hoped that last barrel in the transition period would come from a stable, reliable democracy with some of the highest environmental human rights and labour standards on the earth. He wanted that to be Alberta.
Obviously, the Liberals do not want it to be Alberta. They want it to be Saudi Arabia. While we still need oil, we all recognize the need for transition. However, the government wants to remove that from Canada but not from anywhere else.
What we have next is a caucus revolt. I am going to give the House some quotes.
The MP for Scarborough—Guildwood was quoted as saying Liberal caucus members were “darn close” to unanimous in their opposition to the Teck mine. He guessed that the Prime Minister would not go against the views of caucus.
The MP for Beaches—East York said:
If we are truly committed to net zero by 2050, and to the science, and to the world, and to our future and tackling climate change, there is no explanation sitting here today as to how this project fits within that commitment. So should it proceed as it stands? I think it's a pretty easy no.
He said that the government was listening to caucus MPs voicing opposition. He also said, “They are incredibly serious about consultation with caucus and taking our concerns to heart.”
The MP for Pontiac weighed in and said that we have to meet those standards. He went on to say, “My constituents demand that we meet those, and our grandchildren demand that we meet those.”
The MP for Toronto—Danforth told the Toronto Star that she is concerned about the damaging impacts of the project on wildlife and old growth forest and that she questions whether the project would compromise the government's net-zero pledge. She also said that from everything she has read about the Teck Frontier project she does not think it should go ahead.
The MP for Kingston and the Islands actually paid money to boost a petition against the oil sands.
What we see is the majority of Liberal caucus members, as they themselves report, being against this particular project. Then we hear that the Liberals are preparing an aid package for Alberta in case this project does not go ahead.
As members are aware, there has been an incredibly weak and poor handling of the Coastal GasLink project, which has created issues across the country. The government is not managing to deal with it, so I think it feared having to make another decision that might have gone against the activists. Again, I have to say that the government continues to fail to recognize that if we do not produce the oil it is going to be produced elsewhere.
With the current government, the Prime Minister saw the writing on the wall. It is very clear he did not want to make a decision. What I have learned in this business is that things do not happen by magic. It was absolutely no coincidence when all of a sudden there was a decision not to go ahead with that project and that it was going to be withdrawn. We all would love to have been a fly on the wall for the conversation between the Prime Minister and the CEO of the company before that decision was made. There is no coincidence in this kind of business.
The Prime Minister says that he does not direct the RCMP. However, is it not interesting how the RCMP took no action on the current blockades until he said that those blockades had to come down. Is it not interesting that he does not want to make a decision about this particular project and all of a sudden a decision is made for him.
From the SNC-Lavalin affair, we all remember the statements about the Prime Minister being in “that kind of mood”. In this case, he has a crisis on his hands. It is happening throughout the country and he has dealt with it poorly. He also has an important project that he does not want to make a decision on. He has a caucus revolt and then, by coincidence, the company decides to withdraw its application.
This is a shame. It has certainly worried us incredibly on our side of the House. It is certainly not fair that Alberta is hurt and penalized and that we continue to look at Saudi Arabia and other places to import our resources from. It is wrong and the government should be ashamed.
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