Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I wish to acknowledge that we are on the traditional territory of the Algonquin and Anishinabe peoples.
Today, I am pleased to address the chamber in support of our government's bill for better rules for the review of major projects, Bill C-69. The act would put in place better rules that would restore trust, protect the environment, advance reconciliation and would ensure that good projects could go ahead in a timely way.
I want to thank senators and members of Parliament for their careful consideration of this bill, in particular those senators who have worked productively to strengthen and improve the bill.
I would reserve special thanks for Senator Grant Mitchell, who has worked tirelessly as a sponsor of the bill throughout the Senate process.
Thousands of people across Canada have come forward to share their perspectives since January 2016. This is extremely important legislation, and I appreciate how engaged everyone has been.
Hundreds of major resource projects, worth an estimated $500 billion over the next decade, are possible across Canada, creating jobs from coast to coast to coast. It is imperative that we get this right.
These better rules are designed to protect our environment while restoring public trust in the process and improving investor confidence. These rules will also make the Canadian energy and resource sectors more competitive. They will build on Canada's strong economic growth and historic job numbers.
We are keeping our promise to Canadians, a promise we made in 2015 to fix our broken environmental impact assessment system.
In 2012, Stephen Harper's Conservative government gutted the rules for major projects, ignored science, trampled on indigenous rights and removed environmental protection. Those changes eroded public trust in how decisions were made and ultimately led to the polarization and paralysis we see today. It also ended up with us in court.
When good projects cannot get built because the process is in court, we have to admit the system is broken.
Our bill for better rules for the review of major projects, along with the amendments that we are proposing to accept, will change that. We will put in place better rules for major projects, like mines, pipelines and hydro projects, to protect our environment, improve investor confidence, strengthen our economy and create good, middle-class jobs.
Since we have formed government, we have worked very hard to restore public trust while providing certainty to business. Better rules are the key to rebuilding trust and confidence in how decisions about major projects are made. The amendments we are proposing to accept will enhance that effort.
Our bill for better rules reflect public input, respect indigenous rights, increase transparency and ensure that decisions are made by robust science, evidence and indigenous traditional knowledge.
The new impact assessment process will look at a project's potential impacts not just on our environment, but also its health, social and economic impacts over the long term, and the potential impacts to indigenous peoples.
We will also consider how projects are consistent with our environmental obligations and national climate plan. We will do proactive regional assessments to evaluate big picture issues and the cumulative effects of development. When making decisions, we will consider whether companies are using the best available technologies and practices to reduce impacts on the environment.
Project reviews will be completed through a more efficient and predictable process, with shorter legislated timelines that will lead to more timely decisions.
By increasing coordination with other jurisdictions, we will cut red tape and avoid duplication and delays.
Our goal is one project, one review.
We first introduced the bill after 14 months of consultations with provinces and territories, indigenous peoples, companies, environmental groups and Canadians across the country. We heard loud and clear that Canadians wanted a modern environmental and regulatory system that protected the environment, supported reconciliation with indigenous peoples, attracted investment and ensured that good projects go ahead in a timely way to create new jobs and economic opportunities for the middle class. We heard from investors and companies that they wanted a clear, predictable and timely process.
That is what our bill for better rules and the proposed amendments provide.
In January 2016, we introduced interim principles to guide how our government would review major projects until we could put better rules in place. We knew we could not keep approving projects under the Harper government's flawed rules, but we also knew that we could not put our economic development on hold for two years while we worked on new rules.
Our interim principles were the first step toward delivering on one of our high-priority platform commitments, which was to review and fix Canada's broken environmental assessment process and to restore confidence in how decisions about major resource projects were made.
Those interim principles made it clear that decisions would be based on robust science, evidence and indigenous traditional knowledge, that we would listen to the views of Canadians and communities that could be affected by proposed projects, that indigenous peoples would be consulted in a meaningful and respectful manner, that decisions would take into account the climate impacts of proposed projects and that no project already under review would be set back to the starting line.
Since we have formed government, we have worked very hard to restore public trust while providing certainty to business.
Today, we are putting before the House a bill that expands those interim principles into better rules.
This bill has gone through months of consultation and expert review. People across the country have provided input, including industry, academia, environmentalists and our indigenous, provincial and territorial partners. We held hundreds of meetings, received hundreds of written submissions and considered thousands of comments from individual Canadians.
Expert panels and parliamentary committees have conducted studies, heard witnesses and reviewed comments from the public. Senators themselves took the rare step of criss-crossing the country to hear a diversity of views on how to improve the broken system we inherited.
This bill has attracted attention across the country. Last September, someone hired a plane to fly over my office with a flag that read “Kill Bill C-69”. Then, in April, students in Quebec City gathered with signs that read “Go C-69”, decorated with hearts.
There are those who say this bill goes too far, and then there are those who say this bill does not go far enough. Our task as a government is to listen carefully to all voices and find a reasonable middle ground, moving us all forward together.
While we have been working hard to develop better rules, there has been a concerted misinformation campaign from the opposition. Members of the Conservative opposition have used this bill to stoke conflict, pitting one region against another, as if we are not one country, Canada, trying to build the best possible future for our kids and grandkids.
Conservatives in the House and the Senate want to replace environmental reviews with pipeline approvals. They want to replace legitimate public discussion with unilateral decisions. They do not want a better review process; they want to hand decisions over to oil lobbyists, ignore climate change and make the consideration of indigenous peoples' constitutional rights optional. Their goal has been to weaken the rules, and we all know where that road leads.
The opposition would pursue economic development at all costs and put the interests of oil lobbyists ahead of the interests of Canadians. That is exactly why we need better rules, ones designed to measure the impacts of major projects on all Canadians: environmental impacts, climate impacts, community impacts, economic impacts, impacts on indigenous peoples' rights, and impacts on Canada's reputation as a country where good projects can move ahead in a timely and transparent way that protects the environment and helps to build a better future for all Canadians.
The Senate has proposed 229 amendments to this bill. Of these, we are accepting 62 and amending 37, for a total of 99 amendments.
That leaves 130 amendments that we cannot accept, ones that would, for instance, make public consultation optional, remove consideration of a project's impacts on climate change, undermine the rule of law and make it more difficult for Canada to attract investment.
Here is a little parliamentary history for my colleagues. Going back to 1940, when the Library of Parliament began consistently indexing information, the highest number of Senate amendments ever concurred in by the House was 67, in 1946, to Bill No. 195, An Act respecting the Control of the Acquisition and Disposition of Foreign Currency and the Control of Transactions involving Foreign Currency or Non-Residents. In other words, this bill will be one for the history books.
I think it is fair to say that this has been a long and careful process and that we have worked diligently to create better rules. We thank the Senate for providing a variety of thoughtful improvements to the bill. We are accepting amendments that maintain the integrity of the bill and make it stronger.
For example, we are accepting amendments that increase the independence of the agency and minimize the potential for political interference. Instead of ministerial discretion on timelines, or who would be on a review panel, this power will be transferred to the agency.
We also support an amendment to make it clear that the minister cannot direct the head of the agency. We also support additional clarity on how the impact assessment agency will look at the environmental, health, economic and social factors to ensure that the focus is on the most significant issues.
We will make sure that the biggest projects with the biggest potential impacts are the ones requiring a federal impact assessment. We are supporting improvements to regional assessments and how we work with provinces to get to one project, one assessment.
These amendments would protect our environment and put sustainability at the heart of how we approach growing our economy and creating good, middle-class jobs. They would reduce the potential for political interference introduced by the Harper government's changes, and they would give companies and investors the certainty they need with a more timely process, clear timelines and transparent decisions. Together, these amendments would help to rebuild public trust, respect indigenous people's rights and protect our environment, while strengthening our economy and attracting investment to Canada.
We will be rejecting changes that weaken the act, including those that limit Canadians' access to the courts, increase political interference in decision-making, limit Canadians' input into the process, make it optional to consider how a project would affect Canada's ability to meet its environmental commitments, such as fighting climate change, and make it easy for future governments to ignore our constitutional duty to consult indigenous peoples, an approach that would land us exactly where we are today: in court.
The changes we are not accepting would take us backward, increase polarization and make it harder to get good projects built.
Conservatives want to keep the same system, the one that led to so many challenges, including with the Trans Mountain expansion, as an example. It is a system that weakened environmental protections, failed to properly consult indigenous peoples and limited public discussion. Canadians know that the environment and the economy go together, but these amendments would mean pursuing economic development at all costs. We cannot accept them, because they are, quite frankly, unacceptable to us and to Canadians.
Stephen Harper's approach put both the environment and the economy at risk. It failed to protect the environment. It destroyed the public trust. It paralyzed major projects. It is the system that created all the problems and polarization we see today.
Meanwhile, the current Leader of the Opposition has told oil lobbyists that he would kill this bill for better rules if he is elected. That is a recipe for economic risk, increased conflict and environmental damage. It is the same recipe that Stephen Harper tried. It did not work then and it will not work now.
As leading resource companies know, in the 21st century, we have to protect the environment and grow the economy at the same time. Canadians expect no less. It is not just the sustainable way forward; it is the smart way.
As I mentioned before, hundreds of major resource projects, worth an estimated $500 billion, are being planned across Canada. We want to see good projects get built. These are projects that grow our economy and represent tens of thousands of good, middle-class jobs.
Our government is committed to building a strong economy. One million jobs have been created since we took office, and unemployment is at historic lows. Last year, Canada's foreign direct investment grew by 60%.
The official opposition has been talking down Canada's economic success, stoking fear and uncertainty, an act that I remind members has real consequences for investment in Canadian companies. Meanwhile, our government has been working to attract and promote investment in Canada. We know that these better rules will provide investors with the certainty they need and will lead to more good jobs for Canadians.
In 2019, we cannot have a plan for the economy without having a plan for the environment. It is essential to be competitive and attract investment in today's world.
Investment in Canada is rising, and jobs are being created in Canada, in part because businesses want to invest in countries that see the future, countries that take sustainability seriously. Customers expect it. Our trading partners expect it. Canadians expect it.
Combined, the amendments we are accepting will produce better rules for major projects in Canada, rules that are clear, fair and predictable, with shorter legislated timelines and sustainability at their core. These rules will make sure that Canada remains a great place to live, to work and to invest.
To vote for the bill for better rules is to vote for strong environmental protection, transparent science- and evidence-based decision-making, predictable and timely reviews that create certainty for companies and for investors, recognition and respect for indigenous peoples' rights and knowledge and advancing reconciliation, less red tape and better coordination with provinces, a single agency that will provide consistent and efficient assessments, and a full package of measures that will protect our environment, support good, middle-class jobs and attract new investment to Canada.
With better rules, we will restore Canadians' trust in how decisions about major projects are made. We will restore investors' confidence in Canada as a great place to do business. We will restore our reputation as a country that knows we can fight climate change, protect the environment and respect indigenous rights, while growing the economy and creating good jobs.
We are so lucky to live in Canada. There is so much opportunity before us. Now is the time for all of us to reach out to investors around the world and say, “Canada is the place to invest. We have fair, predictable rules with legislated timelines.”
These better rules will make that possible. Any politician or company saying otherwise is, quite frankly, undermining the opportunity we have to attract investment. That is not in the interest of Canada and that is not in the interests of Canadians.
We are extremely lucky to live in Canada. Now is the time for all of us to reach out to investors around the world and tell them that Canada is the place to invest. In the 21st century, as leading resource companies know, we can protect the environment and grow the economy at the same time if we work together to make that happen.
Please join me in voting to pass the bill. We owe it to Canadians. We owe it to our economy. We owe it to our environment and we owe it to our kids and grandkids.