Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise tonight to speak to Bill C-88, an act to amend the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act and the Canada Petroleum Resources Act.
Once again, this bill, like many other bills we have seen in the House, is being debated and rushed through Parliament in the last few days before the House rises for the summer. It is worth noting that this is a bill that was only studied in our committee on indigenous and northern affairs for one meeting before we went into clause-by-clause consideration. As a result, we were unable to hear live testimony from stakeholders such as the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and the Northwest Territories Chamber of Commerce.
We have recently seen these legislative delays with other important bills, such as Bill C-92, which was passed at third reading in this House just last week, on June 3. It is totally unacceptable that the Liberals have so utterly mismanaged their legislative schedule when it comes to the bills that are now before us, days before we rise.
Bill C-88 is a bill that forms part of a long Liberal saga to kill natural resources development in this country. The bill would amend subsection 12(1) of the Canada Petroleum Resources Act to allow the Governor in Council to arbitrarily ban any oil and gas activity across the Arctic offshore. Under this bill, the government would only need to invoke the national interest to ban oil and gas development in the Beaufort Sea. However, the term “national interest” remains undefined in this bill, so the government would have complete discretion to decide when it should ban oil and gas activities in the Arctic offshore. These opportunities for greater economic prosperity in the north would therefore be limited and controlled by the ministers here in Ottawa. Again, under the current government, Ottawa knows best.
We have already seen the Liberals reveal their paternalism when it comes to economic opportunities for northern communities. We just have to go back to December 2016. While the Prime Minister was in Washington, D.C., he announced that there would be a moratorium on offshore oil and gas development in the Beaufort Sea. No, he was not up in northern Canada. He was, in fact, meeting with President Obama in Washington.
There was absolutely no consultation with the Government of Northwest Territories before this moratorium was announced in Washington. In fact, the territorial leaders of the day were given less than half an hour's notice before the Prime Minister declared the moratorium, in the United States, the farthest destination away from northern Canada.
By single-handedly introducing a moratorium on oil and gas development in the Beaufort Sea, the Liberals are telling northern communities that Ottawa knows best. The Liberals are saying, through their actions, that northerners do not have the right to pursue their own economic opportunities without the approval of the current federal government.
We heard from multiple witnesses in committee about the devastating impact the Liberals' moratorium has had on northerners. Wally Schumann, the minister of industry, tourism and investment and the minister of infrastructure for the Northwest Territories, said the following about the moratorium:
I guess we can be very frank because we're in front of the committee.
When it first came out, we never got very much notice on the whole issue of the moratorium and the potential that was in the Beaufort Sea. There were millions and millions, if not billions, of dollars in bid deposits and land leases up there. That took away any hope we had of developing the Beaufort Sea.
We also heard from Merven Gruben, the mayor of Tuktoyaktuk. He was very disappointed with the Liberal decision to unilaterally impose this moratorium on northerners. He was very concerned about the effects this ban would have on the people of his community. He said:
It's so easy to sit down here and make judgments on people and lives that are some 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.
Unfortunately, the Liberals are not listening to the voices, again, of the northerners, and as a result, communities are paying the price now for the Liberal government's arrogance. There is absolutely no doubt that Bill C-88 is just another attempt by the Liberal government to polarize oil and gas extraction in this country. It explains the power of cabinet to block economic development and adds to the ever-increasing levels of bureaucratic red tape that need to be navigated by proponents of energy development.
The bill makes northern energy development more difficult by increasing the obstacles that must be overcome by energy proponents before they can even put shovels in the ground.
In response to these polarized anti-energy provisions, many stakeholders have voiced their concerns. One of the numerous stakeholders that want to see the Governor in Council power to ban oil and gas development removed finally from the bill is the Northwest Territories Chamber of Commerce. It has written submissions to our committee. The chamber indicated its opposition to the final authority of the Governor in Council to ban northern oil and gas development.
The chamber wrote to us as follows:
The final decision needs to be approved by the Indigenous Nation of the prescribed area who are the steward's of the area but also rely on the land to provide economic independence to their membership and throughout the NT.
Of course, in pushing through Bill C-88 without any amendments, the Liberals have demonstrated that they do not care about the opinions and concerns of our northern communities, which will be deeply affected by this piece of legislation. These northern voices are once again being ignored by the Liberal government.
Another important stakeholder that expressed really serious concerns about Bill C-88 was the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation. Unfortunately, like the Northwest Territories Chamber of Commerce, the IRC was not afforded the opportunity at all to present live testimony to our committee, because, as I mentioned before, we were only given one day to hear from witnesses on this very important matter.
Again, the Liberals rushed the process. It was the result of the Liberals' mismanagement of the parliamentary agenda and a consequence of the fact that the Liberals left this bill to the very last minute for deliberations.
Like so many other crucial stakeholders, the IRC is opposed to the unilateral power to ban oil and gas development in the Arctic offshore, which the bill gives to the Governor in Council.
It is hardly surprising that the IRC is against the arbitrary power given to politicians here in Ottawa to determine the fate of energy development in the north. Bill C-88 says that the Governor in Council can ban oil and gas development projects when “it is in the national interests to do so”. However, does Bill C-88 tell us what the national interest is? Does Bill C-88 tell northern communities what the national interest is? No, of course not.
Like so many other Liberal anti-energy policies, questions of the national interests are only for the Liberals to decide and nobody else. The bill is simply a reinforcement of the arrogant mantra that the Liberals know best.
Given that the IRC was not given the opportunity to offer live testimony on this discussion on Bill C-88, I would like to read into the record some of the serious concerns the IRC highlighted in its written submission to our committee.
First of all, it bears noting that the IRC is an organization that was created way back in 1984 to manage the settlement that formed part of the Inuvialuit Final Agreement, better known as the IFA. The Inuvialuit occupy the Inuvialuit Settlement Area, or the ISR, and beyond.
The IFA was the first comprehensive land claim agreement settled north of the 60th parallel and only the second settled in Canada's history.
Why was this land claim agreement so important for Inuvialuit people, and why did they initiate the negotiations with the Government of Canada? In the IRC's own words, the land claim negotiations “came in response to our limited influence in increasing development activity on our lands and the vast marine areas of the ISR.”
In the short term, then, the Inuvialuit secured a land claim agreement, in part, so that they could have greater influence over development activities on their own lands.
With this background in mind, the IRC has written about its serious reservations with regard to the power the bill would give to Ottawa to declare oil and gas moratoriums on IRC lands. In fact, the IRC already saw the Prime Minister declare a moratorium in a significant portion of their settlement region when the Liberals were first elected to power in 2016. In regard to this ban, the IRC wrote,
it is important to note that the imposition of the Moratorium by the Prime Minister was done without consultation with any Inuvialuit in contravention of the IFA and with the framework established and the promises made under the Northwest Territories Lands and Resources Devolution Agreement.
The Liberals simply seized the opportunity in 2016 to unilaterally implement a moratorium on oil and gas in the north while the Prime Minister, as I mentioned before, was not even in this country. He was in the United States of America looking for photo ops and free publicity. The Liberals did not consult at all with stakeholders before they took on this decision. What is worse, instead of apologizing to many of the northern communities that are suffering because of this moratorium, the Liberals are going full steam ahead with Bill C-88, as we see tonight, to ensure that they can unilaterally put bans on northern oil and gas development again and again.
Bill C-88 says that the Governor in Council can make these bans when it is in the national interest to do so. The IRC and Conservatives would like to know what the Liberals mean when they say “in the national interest”.
The IRC had the following to say on the issue of the national interest:
The national interest criterion is problematic as it elevates the national priorities of the day vis-à-vis Inuvialuit priorities within our traditional territory. It would be akin to an appropriation a constituent might experience in the south without any restitution from the government. Bill C-88 does not define national interest or incorporate an express requirement to consider how the national interest ought to be balanced against the ability of rights holders to provide for their economic future.
Despite these concerns from indigenous stakeholders in the north, the Liberals have demonstrated repeatedly, through their anti-energy policies, that they have no intention at all of ever balancing their vision of the national interest against the views of indigenous groups that do not share the Liberals' hostile attitude toward natural resource development.
Unfortunately, Bill C-88 is not the only bill the Liberals have pushed forward, to the detriment of the indigenous communities across this country. We have just heard from indigenous communities about the real concerns they have about Bill C-69, the Liberal environmental assessment act.
Stephen Buffalo, the president and CEO of the Indian Resource Council and a member of the Samson Cree Nation, said:
Indigenous communities are on the verge of a major economic breakthrough, one that finally allows Indigenous people to share in Canada's economic prosperity. Bill C-69 will stop this progress in its tracks.
Roy Fox, chief of the Kainai or Blood tribe first nation, said the following about Bill C-69:
...I and the majority of Treaty 7 chiefs strongly oppose the bill for its likely devastating impact on our ability to support our community members, as it would make it virtually impossible for my nation to fully benefit from the development of our energy resources.
Bill C-48, the northern B.C. oil tanker ban, is yet another Liberal anti-energy bill that the Liberals have rammed through this Parliament against the wishes of major indigenous stakeholders. Bill C-48 shuts the door to the Eagle Spirit pipeline proposal, an energy corridor that is supported by over 35 first nations and is an indigenous-led and indigenous-owned initiative. It is a $17-billion project that has the potential to provide economic opportunity to numerous indigenous communities. However, as with Bill C-88, this one tonight, Bill C-48 is another Liberal anti-energy bill that is both hurtful and patronizing to indigenous communities. Bill C-48 is another example of the Liberal government here in Ottawa telling indigenous communities that they cannot pursue their own natural resource development when it does not suit the interests of the Liberal agenda of the day.
Indigenous communities are tired of the paternalism that has been constantly demonstrated toward them by this anti-energy Liberal government. The chair and president of Eagle Spirit Energy, Calvin Helin, who is a member of the Lax Kw'alaams First Nation, had the following to say about the viewpoint of the 35 first nations that are in favour of the Eagle Spirit pipeline. He said that these first nations “do not like outsiders, particularly those they view as trust-fund babies, coming into the traditional territories they've governed and looked after for over 10,000 years and dictating government policy in their territory.”
However, the Liberals clearly do not think that these indigenous viewpoints are part of the current government's idea of a national interest, so they choose to ignore these voices. As a result of Liberal indifference to the concerns of these indigenous groups, in 2018 the chiefs council for the Eagle Spirit pipeline had to launch a GoFundMe campaign just to help pay legal costs in a court challenge to Bill C-48. The Eagle Spirit project noted the sad state of affairs by stating that this action is required to be taken by Canada's poorest people against a federal justice department with unlimited resources. Other indigenous groups have either filed lawsuits or are planning to do so pending the legislative fate of Bill C-48.
Sadly, the Liberals again did not listen to these indigenous voices then, and they are not listening to the indigenous voices in our northern communities today. It is glaringly clear that all the Liberals care about is the pursuit of their anti-energy policies at all costs. However, the cost is a very real human cost to the ability of northern communities to be in control of their own economic development opportunities.
The Liberals have promised time and time again to work with northerners. With only days left now in this Parliament, when will the Liberals finally live up to this promise?