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View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2020-03-10 18:44 [p.1922]
Mr. Speaker, as always, I appreciate the question and commentary from my colleague, who I know cares deeply not just about this project but about the environment more broadly.
As has been canvassed in this House many times, the Trans Mountain project matters to Canada. There are a number of reasons for that, but if we acknowledge that the oil and gas sector is a part of the Canadian economy that cannot be shut off overnight, we should do what we can to maximize the economic return while our energy producers are continuing to take part in employing Canadians and growing the economy. That said, we have to recognize that we are in the midst of a massive transition toward a low-carbon economy, and there cannot be a higher priority for the government.
With respect to the project, despite some of the issues that were raised by my colleague, we are confident that the project remains commercially viable. There is going to be a serious economic return from this project, although it was sort of dismissed. The fact remains that because we sell primarily to customers in one country, the United States, diversifying the markets these products could be sold into, whether they end up in the United States or in Asian markets, will create a competition in the marketplace that will increase the price, which will not only create economic returns on this specific project but will pay off across the energy sector more broadly. That does not even touch on the fact that thousands of Canadians in a part of the country that is deeply concerned about its local economy will now be working on this project.
I know there was some criticism on the basis that this was treated as some sort of a subsidy. The original question giving rise to the remarks this evening referred to the Parliamentary Budget Officer. I just came back from a finance committee meeting where the Parliamentary Budget Officer confirmed that in fact this is the purchase of an asset, not a subsidy.
The costs have changed over time, but that is because this project is different from what it was in 2017. We have put in place higher standards for environmental protection. We have engaged in a meaningful way with indigenous communities, and there are going to be more union jobs on this project as a result of some of the changes. If those come at a cost, the arm's-length Trans Mountain Corporation will need to recognize that it needs to meet the standard that the Federal Court has recognized is appropriate for this case.
To summarize, this project is proceeding in the right way. With regard to indigenous communities in particular, there are now 58 agreements with indigenous communities that represent over $500 million in benefits. When the project is complete, the contract awards will exceed $1 billion. Importantly, every dollar of profit, whether from the operation or the eventual sale of this project, is going to go to the transition toward a green economy.
The original question was critical, asking why we would do this when we could be doing that. It ignores the fact that we have invested about $70 billion toward the clean transition and have advanced Canada's first-ever national plan to combat climate change. It includes, of course, putting a price on pollution, investing in energy efficiency that will see 90% of our electricity generated from non-emitting sources by the end of the decade, massive investments in the transition toward electric vehicles, the single largest investment to protect nature in the history of Canada, new investments in research and innovation, and a phase-out of coal by the year 2030, to name but a few of the items that we are pursuing.
The fact is that the project remains in the national interest. We know it will put Canadians to work, but importantly, we have not taken our eye off the ball of the need to transition to a low-carbon economy. That remains at the top of our priority list as a government.
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