Mr. Speaker, it is with grave concern for the future of our whole country that, on behalf of the official opposition, I rise to address the Liberal government's response to the 187 Senate amendments to the Liberal's no-more-pipelines bill, Bill C-69. It is likely the last time I will debate this proposed legislation in the House of Commons on behalf of the residents of Lakeland and the provinces, territories, municipalities, indigenous communities, economists, public policy experts, business owners and workers across this country who oppose Bill C-69 and its many negative and widespread impacts on Canada.
I will start by reviewing what has brought us to this day. I will say that Canadians can be forgiven for asking just the what the heck is going on here, because it is, frankly, unconscionable that within days of the House adjourning for the summer and five months away from an election, the Liberals are rushing through debate on their response to 187 amendments, which were also supported by Liberal-appointed senators.
These amendments were an attempt to rescue such flawed but consequential legislation that it will have significant economic impacts and ramifications for the private sector in resource development, in construction, in manufacturing and all the spin-off impacts for related sectors, as well as for provincial and indigenous governments, for infrastructure and for municipalities. It is unbelievable that the Liberals have chosen to reject the majority of the substantive and meaningful amendments passed by the Senate that private sector proponents, provinces and indigenous leaders said would at least make this very significant legislation “workable”, which is not a ringing endorsement as it is.
The response by the Liberals, tabled around midnight last night, will only exacerbate the uncertainty they have caused since 2015, which has driven nearly unprecedented levels of money, jobs, businesses, innovation and resource development out of Canada.
Let us all remember, as the minister just reminded us, that the Liberals started consultations on the bill in January 2016, when they started the regulatory vacuum for major resource development in this country. They introduced it in the House of Commons and rushed it through a year and a half ago. However, at that time, they ignored the dire warnings from committee witnesses, ignored input from expert panels and then subsequently rejected every single amendment put forward by opposition members of all parties, except for one amendment from me that mandated transparency on the reasons for holding a public meeting on discretionary matters and one amendment from the NDP.
They rammed it through the House in such a flawed, wrong-headed and disastrous state that it now faces near universal opposition across the country from a broad and diverse coalition and it requires all these amendments from the Senate, which, thankfully, was able to do a more thorough review and seek a wider scope of feedback and scrutiny than the Liberals allowed when they pushed the bill through the House of Commons so many months ago.
So much for all that rhetoric, nearly four years ago, about the importance of consultation, basing decisions on facts and evidence, and working collaboratively with opposition MPs. Sunny ways have certainly turned into very dark days under the Liberals. The Leader of the Opposition and all Conservatives in both the House and the Senate have opposed Bill C-69 from the very beginning, because, just like the Prime Minister, the bill is not as advertised.
The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association already did warn a year and half ago that Bill C-69, in its original state, would ensure that no new pipeline was ever proposed in Canada again. However, it is clear today like never before, by the Liberals' response to the Senate amendments, that their objective always was and is to dramatically hinder energy development, to interfere in other jurisdictions on resource development by imposing federal reviews on municipal and provincial infrastructure projects, and to make things even more difficult for farmers, rural municipalities, villages and cities by imposing federal reviews on things like irrigation and infrastructure.
To be clear, Bill C-69 is not only opposed by six Conservative premiers fighting to protect their jurisdiction, as the Prime Minister implies, but in fact, nine out of 10 provinces and the governments of all three territories have raised grave concerns with Bill C-69 in the past several months. It is opposed by private sector proponents across the economy in every corner of the country.
Bill C-69 would not provide certainty or clarity for investors. It would actually create duplication between federal and provincial reviews. It would politicize decisions by granting extensive opportunities for political and ideological interference instead of grounding decisions on science, facts and evidence, and on the technical and economic merits of individual proposals. It would implement open-ended timelines and vague criteria for major resource projects and crucial infrastructure. It would potentially expose all kinds of resource development that is within provincial jurisdiction to federal reviews. It would drive jobs, businesses and investment out of Canada and into competing countries, like the United States, and so many other countries with much lower environmental standards and performance than Canada.
Bill C-69 exposes major Canadian resource and infrastructure proposals within Canada to literally anyone, anywhere in the world, to intervene on those reviews. It removes all parameters for public participation, even reasonable limits like the requirement of a community or individual being locally impacted, and specific technical expertise or knowledge.
That is something the Senate amendments actually improved, increasing the weight of testimony from indigenous communities for example directly impacted by the project, which the Liberals have rejected.
Bill C-69 undermines the principles of fairness, predictability, certainty and clarity for major resource proponents with disproportionately harmful consequences for particular provinces and regions.
All of these reasons are why the Senate had to propose 187 amendments. It is absolutely reckless for the Liberals to reject those key amendments proposed by senators from all regions and on both sides of the political spectrum.
The proposed amendments taken together represent the bare minimum for private sector proponents to operate under, and 100% of those amendments proposed by the Senate to Bill C-69 must be accepted in their entirety. A failure to implement all of the amendments would hinder the entire Canadian economy from coast to coast to coast, which is why a future Conservative government would repeal and replace Bill C-69.
The reality is that Bill C-69 is not only an attack on pipelines and on the energy sector. It is an attack on the economic well-being of the entire country.
Canadians expect their Prime Minister and a federal government to unite and to be a champion for the best interests of all Canadians for oil and gas or refinery workers in western and Atlantic provinces and Ontario and the North, for assembly-line and manufacturing workers across central Canada and Quebec, and for hard-working Canadians and small businesses in all the other sectors that depend on the energy sector, the number one private sector investor in the Canadian economy and Canada's biggest exporter in every corner of the country.
The Liberals pit Canadians against each other over resource development in a way that has not been done since the 1980s, and they have put the whole Canadian economy at risk.
The losses in the energy sector are rippling through other sectors across Canada, whether it is manufacturing in Ontario and Quebec, financial services and banking across the country, railroads, shipping, ports and all the indirect and induced jobs in other sectors. This Liberal attack will touch every corner of the country.
The sad fact is that the Liberals are killing Canadian innovation and killing Canadian jobs. The economic and social consequences are immense: spikes in personal and business bankruptcies, foreclosures, increased food bank use, crime and substance abuse, family breakdowns, suicides, a loss of hope, and a loss of dreams and dignity. All of that is the result of the Liberals' attacks on Canada's natural resource sector and the thousands of good-paying jobs that have been killed by their anti-energy, anti-resources, anti-business policies and legislation.
Through Bill C-69, the Liberals will steamroll the provinces, giving themselves unprecedented power over even highways, passenger trains, recycling plants; over the regulation of non-renewable resources like the oil sands under provincial jurisdiction and other developments like wind, hydro, solar and natural gas. They will take over joint responsibilities like offshore oil and gas exploration.
Unbelievably, the Liberal Prime Minister dismisses provincial advocacy and concerns as being partisan. He says the outcries and the warnings are irresponsible, but that is just not true. The Liberal response of rejecting the majority of the Senate amendments today actually goes directly against requests from the Liberal premier of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Liberal premier of Nova Scotia. It is indicative of what the former Liberal premier of B.C. pointed out, that the “Ottawa knows best” Prime Minister considers himself not to be a first among equals, but to actually have no equals among the provinces, or anyone else for that matter.
Nine out of 10 provinces and all three territories demanded major changes to this legislation, changes the Senate proposed, which the Liberals are rejecting today.
The Liberals have given a single minister the ability to determine what projects require federal review without any prior notice or regulation. This means any future project in principal jurisdiction could require a lengthy and expensive federal review at the last minute without warning. That will not create certainty for investors and it will kill jobs in Canada.
The Liberals are taking projects away from expert life-cycle regulators with a depth and breadth of experience and knowledge and putting them under a new federal regulator without the same level of expertise while expanding opportunities for political and ideological interference.
What is really galling, and we heard it again here today, is that the Liberals have justified this legislation, while they deliberately undermine and attack Canada's reputation with ongoing and co-ordinated consistent attacks on confidence in Canada's formerly world-renowned regulator, on Canada's world-leading track record of independent science and evidence-based environmental reviews, and on Canada's leadership on indigenous consultation and the incorporation of traditional knowledge for which Canada has long been renowned, for decades.
It is a pattern. The Liberals constantly divide Canadians, pitting regions and provinces against each other for Liberal partisan purposes at any and all costs, while they say one thing and do another. This time, the Liberals' cynical tactics have backfired. Canadians do not always agree on everything, and thank goodness for that. People across Canada are united in their opposition to this disastrous bill.
On Monday, those premiers that the Prime Minister attacked yesterday, the premiers of the Northwest Territories, New Brunswick, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, representing 59% of Canada's population and 63% of the GDP, called on the Prime Minister to seriously consider their concerns and accept all the Senate amendments in Bill C-69, because “the damage it would do to the economy, jobs and investment will echo from one coast to the other.”
They say, “Bill C-69, as originally drafted, would make it virtually impossible to develop critical infrastructure, depriving Canada of much needed investment.”
They talk about the fact that “the planned investment value of major resource sector projects in Canada plunged by $100 billion” between 2017 and 2018, “an amount equivalent to 4.5 per cent of Canada’s gross domestic product. To protect Canada’s economic future, we, collectively, cannot afford to overlook the uncertainty and risk to future investment created by Bill C-69.”
The premiers also issued a stark public warning of the impact of Bill C-69, and its impact on national unity if it is passed without 100% of the Senate amendments. They say their “governments are deeply concerned with the federal government’s disregard, so far, of the concerns raised by our provinces and territory related to these bills.”
Talking about Bill C-69, as well as Bill C-48, they say:
As it stands, the federal government appears indifferent to the economic hardships faced by provinces and territories. Immediate action to refine or eliminate these bills is needed to avoid further alienating provinces and territories and their citizens and focus on uniting the country in support of Canada’s economic prosperity.
They raised real concerns about the willingness of the Liberal government to trample on the provinces. They remind the Prime Minister:
Provinces and territories have clear and sole jurisdiction over the development of their non-renewable natural resources, forestry resources, and the generation and production of electricity.
Bill C-69 upsets the balance struck by the constitutional division of powers by ignoring the exclusive provincial powers over projects relating to these resources.
The premiers call on the federal government to adopt all of these amendments or “risk creating a Constitutional crisis.”
What is crazy about this is the Prime Minister's response to the premiers yesterday. That was a complete failure of leadership. He dismissed their concerns as partisan and attacked them for being irresponsible. The scale and the intensity of alienation and frustration captured in the premiers' cautions reflect the views and experiences of the people they represent. That is a direct consequence of this Prime Minister's divisive, calculated, regionalized and anti-energy, anti-resource development agenda.
Let me remind the Prime Minister, again, it is not only those six premiers who have opposed Bill C-69 in recent months. The only government that did not speak out is an anti-energy, anti-resource NDP-Green coalition government that is not even representing the majority view of its citizens when it comes to pipelines, and oil and gas. It, of course, is no accident that provincial Liberal leaders request the Liberal Prime Minister to steer clear of their provinces during provincial elections, whether in Atlantic Canada or in western Canada.
The provinces have been very clear about the economic consequences of the Liberals' Bill C-69.
The Government of Saskatchewan, in talking about Bill C-69, said, “[T]he uncertainty and the non-transparency that it would introduce is really disastrous.”
The Government of Quebec said, “Bill C-69 gives the federal government substantial powers, the equivalent of a veto over Quebec's economic development and the management of its natural resources.”
The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador says Bill C-69 is an “unnecessary regulatory burden”, potentially undermining development opportunities and the global competitiveness of the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador offshore area.
The Government of Nunavut says Bill C-69 may “muddy or lengthen the processes, potentially leading to a reduction in investor confidence in Canada and Nunavut.”
The Government of Nova Scotia says the new assessment criteria in Bill C-69 “raise significant uncertainty and there is risk that they may not be interpreted similarly in different offices across the country.”
The Government of Ontario says Bill C-69 is “fundamentally contradictory to several of Canada’s long-term strategic goals and it effectively hinders natural resource related economic development within the country.”
The Government of New Brunswick says Bill C-69 “represents an unacceptable risk, an unacceptable impediment to Atlantic Canada's and New Brunswicker's future prosperity.”
The Government of Manitoba says Bill C-69 will “drive down investment, compound economic losses...and sacrifice jobs.”
The Government of Alberta called Bill C-69 completely “unacceptable” and has announced it will launch a constitutional challenge against it.
The premiers are speaking out because they must represent their provinces. They are simply voicing the rising alienation, frustration, anger, anxiety and experiences of the people whom they represent. They are making the plea to protect their jurisdictions with good reason. One of the amendments from the Senate that the Liberals are rejecting was the implementation of an exemption list of projects to ensure that projects under provincial jurisdiction would not be exposed to federal review. That is an amendment that the Liberals are rejecting.
Let us talk about the areas that are potentially open for review, under Bill C-69 as the Liberals want to pass it: the construction, operation, decommissioning or abandonment or expansion of a new facility, plant, structure, or thing for recovering oil sands by drilling or other in situ recovery operations; the construction, operation, decommissioning, abandonment or expansion of existing or of new pipelines other than an offshore pipeline or other than pipelines across interprovincial jurisdictions; the construction, operation, decommissioning or abandonment or expansion of new or existing facilities, plants, structures or things for the generation of wind electric power or solar electric power; the same for a facility, plant, structure or thing for the refining, manufacturing or processing of natural gas, natural gas liquids or petroleum to produce refined products or other light hydrocarbon components or products; and the same for generating units that use natural gas as their primary fuel for coal-to-gas generation and for simple cycle turbines.
This is the reason that premiers are speaking out and raising such grave concerns about this almost unprecedented intervention into provincial jurisdiction.
However, the impact of Bill C-69 will not stop at the provinces. The Liberals' “Ottawa knows best” approach will even impose costly and time-consuming federal reviews on municipalities. The mayor of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo and the mayor of the MD of Bonnyville lead a coalition of at least 20 municipalities that say Bill C-69 would impede municipal infrastructure projects and would fail to provide the necessary clarity on municipal land-use planning, waterway use, indigenous consultation and federal grants.
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities says, “[T]he proposed Bill could result in more municipal infrastructure projects falling under federal review. This could add additional financial and administrative costs to municipal operations.”
The Prime Minister committed to a “collaborative relationship“ with provinces and territories, and he promised Canadians that he would maintain an ongoing partnership with provincial, territorial and municipal governments. However, when those governments sent the Prime Minister a letter with a plea for due diligence and for serious consideration of their concerns and a warning about the consequences for Canada, he essentially told them to get bent. He patronized and condescended to them, dismissed the substance of what they said, and both ascribed and criticized their motivations and really all of the hundreds of thousands Canadians whom they represent. What a contrast it is to four years ago, and what a disheartening and bitter legacy.
What is even more hypocritical is the intensely partisan use of separatism in the past by this very Liberal Prime Minister. In 2012, he threatened to become a Quebec separatist if Canadians did not do as he liked. He said, “I always say if there comes a point where I thought Canada really was Stephen Harper's Canada...maybe I'd consider making Quebec a country. Oh yes, absolutely. I know my values very well, even if I no longer recognize Canada.”
That is why his response to nine out of 10 provinces and three territorial governments raising these very serious concerns, that they either do what he wants or they get kicked to the curb, is absolutely mind-boggling. For him to have the gall to suggest the premiers are being irresponsible and threatening national unity if they, in his words, “don't get their way” or “do not get everything they want” is unbelievable. What kind of a sorry, divisive, petulant, flippant response is that from a Prime Minister?
In his case, and on this subject in particular, what profound hypocrisy. Canadians do and should expect more from their Prime Minister. The Prime Minister should be rising to the occasion and providing the leadership that Canadians so desperately need right now, but, again, he is not as advertised. Make no mistake, the actual clear and present danger, the real threat to national unity and the risk of a constitutional crisis, is the Liberal Prime Minister.
There may be no better example of how he is not as advertised than how he treats indigenous communities.
The Prime Minister likes to claim his most important relationship is with indigenous people, but even in that respect, he is divisive and, in turn, dismissive when it suits him. The Liberals claim Bill C-69 would improve consultation with indigenous people and somehow would expand the rights of indigenous people to consultation or would enhance the Crown's duty to consult and accommodate, but it does not.
Hundreds of indigenous communities and indigenous business owners represented by the national chiefs council, the Indian Resource Council, the Eagle Spirit Chiefs Council, the Alberta Assembly of Treaty Chiefs and the majority of Treaty 7 First Nations oppose Bill C-69.
Roy Fox, chief of the Blood Tribe First Nation, said, “ I don't have any confidence in Bill C- 69. I am fearful, and I am confident, that it will keep my people in poverty.”
Steven Buffalo, the president and CEO of the Indian Resource Council, 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.”
The 35 first nations in B.C. and Alberta involved in the Eagle Spirit Chiefs Council said that they would take the government to court over Bill C-69 because it could make it “impossible to complete a project” and because the removal of the standing test for participation and project reviews could lead to foreign interests “overriding the interests of aboriginal title holders.”
Like most Canadians, indigenous leaders are concerned about the total lack of parameters that allows anyone anywhere in the world to intervene in impact assessment processes, significantly reducing the voices of local indigenous communities and risking the aspirations of local communities to be drowned out by distant and activist commentators. A lack of discretion to determine how different groups will participate in reviews will make processes more vulnerable to legal challenges in the case of any slight differentiation or disagreement between parties.
Yesterday, the Prime Minister claimed that the Senate amendment made indigenous consultation “optional”. Not only is that completely false, but the Liberals' rejection of Senate amendments will have a detrimental impact on locally impacted indigenous communities that want to meaningfully participate and seek accommodation in consultations on major resource projects, for which the Crown has a rock solid, undisputed primary duty.
The amendments the Senate made to Bill C-69 would have helped ensure that review panels, the agency and the Canadian energy regulator would have the discretion to hear from and prioritize those directly affected by a project and to consider the information, expertise and opinions of other experts as they would see appropriate.
As a representative of nine indigenous communities, almost all of which are involved in oil and gas, as a person of Ojibway descent myself and as a Conservative who is more interested in action, concrete measures and actual positive outcomes in the lives and well-being of the indigenous and all Canadians, it is very frustrating to listen to the Liberals and the left talk about the real crippling poverty and the particular socio-economic challenges and barriers facing indigenous Canadians, while they impose policies and laws, like Bill C-69, Bill C-48 and others, that will block economic reconciliation and self-sufficiency through financial opportunities and that actively undermine years of efforts and work of those indigenous communities to secure agreements and build businesses through responsible resource development to benefit their communities' elders, youth and futures.
Legal experts agree with the assessment that Bill C-69 would not enhance or enforce expanded meaningful consultation with indigenous communities on major resource projects.
A University of British Columbia law professor, who specializes in indigenous law, says that there is nothing in Bill C-69 that improves meaningful dialogue with indigenous communities. He says, “the courts have said for 15 years that you need to have meaningful dialogue [and] there is nothing in [Bill C-69] that seems to do that.”
For the Prime Minister to stand in the House and say that indigenous consultation is weakened or made optional by the Senate amendments demonstrates either his basic lack of knowledge on indigenous consultation or he is deliberately misleading Canadians for political purposes.
Indigenous consultations are a constitutional requirement, a duty of the Crown. Nothing—