Madam Speaker, Bill C-69, in front of us today, has a lot of different changes to current acts of Parliament, but also introduces new acts of Parliament. While I support one of the principles in the bill, which is the “one project, one assessment” process for major natural resource projects, there are too many problems with this bill for me to support it.
In particular, I want to focus on the new impact assessment act that the bill creates. First and foremost, the bill will not streamline, and make quicker, assessments for projects designated to be included in the project list. While the government says that the proposed impact assessment act would reduce the current legislated timelines for reviewing projects from 365 days to a maximum of 300 days for assessments led by the new review agency, and from 720 days to a maximum of 600 days for assessments led by a review panel, it is failing to acknowledge that while these timelines are shorter, the new legislation also introduces a planning phase ahead of an assessment led by either the review agency or the review panel. That planning phase can last up to 180 days.
In fact, this legislation will actually increase the amount of time that it takes for major natural resource projects to be reviewed under a federal environmental assessment. Furthermore, while the timelines put in place for the actual impact assessment are shorter, the timelines in the current legislation in front of the House can be extended by the Minister of Environment and by the cabinet, repeatedly.
There is nothing in this legislation to suggest that the process by which we review proposed projects will be shorter, in fact it suggests that it is actually going to be longer. The legislation in front of us will not actually lead to more efficient and less costly assessments for companies looking to invest in Canada's natural resource sector. In fact, the evidence in the bill is that it is going to be much more expensive for companies to make these applications, because the government has proposed to substantially expand the number of criteria that the review agency or review panel has to take into consideration when it is assessing a project. It does not just have to take into account environmental factors. It now also has to take into account health, social, and economic impacts, as well as impacts on other issues, and these impacts over the long term.
When we take into account this vastly expanded criteria and that it is vastly expanded over the long term, it is clear that companies are going to have to spend a lot more money preparing for these applications and working through the application process.
Proposed section 22 of the impact assessment act lists more than 20 factors that have to be considered in assessing the impact of a designated project. For example, there is a reference to sustainability and to the intersection of sex and gender with other identity factors. These are just some of the added criteria that the government has added to the process, which is just going to increase the cost and complexity for proponents. It is not only going to be a much longer process for proponents to go through; it is also going to be a much costlier process.
This is a big problem, because we have a problem in Canada with attracting, not just domestic but foreign investment for natural resource projects. In fact, Statistics Canada recently, this past spring, highlighted that there has been the biggest drop in foreign direct investment into this country in eight years. Last year saw the deepest plunge in foreign investment in this country since the deep, dark days of 2010, when we were just coming out of the recession of 2009 caused by the global financial crisis of 2008.
We have seen a massive plunge in foreign direct investment, a massive drop in investors willing to invest in Canadian companies. In fact, last year, for the second year in a row, we saw more foreign selling of Canadian companies than purchasing of Canadian companies. This has led to a drop in investment, particularly in the oil sector, with the commensurate drop in jobs and growth.
However, there is another problem with the bill that I want to highlight, which has to do with the designated project list. In other words, there is a problem in how certain projects get designated for an environmental assessment and how other projects do not. It remains to be seen with the proposed legislation whether or not the government will get it right in regulation.
Earlier this year, the government announced that it was going to undertake consultations with a view to help revise the regulations concerning the designated projects list. The Liberals said they would be coming forward with new regulations under the proposed act, and I hope they read the Hansard transcript tonight of the debates here in the House of Commons to ensure that our input is incorporated, if the bill does pass, in these new regulations.
The problem is one of inequity and unfairness from a whole range of perspectives. If a mine is proposed in western Canada, let us say in Alberta, under both the pre-2012 rules and the current 2012 rules, and potentially under the proposed legislation, it would undergo a federal environmental assessment. However, if that same mine was proposed in southern Ontario, mines that we often call “gravel pits” or “quarries”, it would not undergo a federal environmental assessment.
I will give members an example of this. In 2011, a mega-quarry was proposed in southern Ontario by an American company that had acquired over 2,500 acres of prime farmland in Dufferin County. That American company had acquired the equivalent of 10 square kilometres of land to build an open pit mine. Under the pre-2012 rules and the 2012 rules, and potentially under this proposed legislation, the federal government said that it did not require a federal environmental assessment, yet if that same 10 square kilometre mine was proposed in Alberta, let us say an open pit bitumen mine, a federal environmental assessment most certainly would have been required. This is an example of the unfairness of the current and potentially the proposed system the federal government has.
If one builds a mine to extract iron ore or bitumen in western Canada, one would undergo a federal environmental assessment, but if the same mine is proposed in southern Ontario, then do not worry, the government will turn a blind eye and not have it undergo that federal environmental assessment. Therefore, it is not just treating one sector of the economy different from another, the oil and gas sector, or the iron ore sector compared with the aggregate sector, but it is also treating one region of the country differently from another, and that is not fair. I hope that the government, in undertaking these consultations, takes that into account.
It is also not fair to the environment when a 10 square kilometre open pit mega-quarry is proposed for southern Ontario, which would have plunged 200 feet deep and pumped 600 million litres of fresh water out of the pit each and every day. It should undergo the same federal environmental assessment that a mine of similar size would undergo in western Canada. It should undergo that, because in southern Ontario we have the most dense biosphere in the entire country. There is all the more need to protect this dense biosphere, which is under greater threat than any other part of the country largely due to the growing urban populations we see in the Montreal, Quebec City, Ottawa, Windsor, and Toronto corridor.
I hope the government's yet-to-be-created project list, whether it is based on the current legislation or the proposed legislation, treats all sectors of the economy and all regions of the country fairly, and I hope the department is incorporating this input as it comes forward with new regulations.
There is yet another problem with the proposed legislation before the House, and it plays into a broader pattern of the government, and that is of political interference. As the member for St. Albert—Edmonton just pointed out, the proposed legislation would allow the minister a veto power over natural resource project applications. This is unprecedented in this country. Until the Liberal government came to power, not a single natural resource project had been rejected or approved by the federal cabinet before the federal environmental assessment process had been completed, and not a single federal environmental assessment process had been overruled by federal cabinet.
In other words, up until this government, the federal cabinet accepted every single recommendation coming out of a federal environmental review process over the many decades that it was in place. The current government's rejection of the northern gateway pipeline was the first time the federal cabinet had stopped the process for the review of a major natural resource project before allowing that process to be completed and before allowing the cabinet to accept fully the recommendations of that process.
Here, in this legislation, we see a repeat of that pattern. They are proposing to give the minister a veto power. Before an impact assessment can begin, the minister will have the power not to conduct an assessment if the minister believes the proposed project would cause unacceptable effects. That is so broad a criteria that a person could drive a Mack truck through that. There again we see the politicization of processes that were once arm's length, quasi-judicial, and left to the professional public service.
Another example of this politicization of what was once performed by the professional public service, by quasi-judicial entities, is Bill C-49. Bill C-49 gives the Minister of Transport a political veto over a review of joint ventures by an airline. Up to Bill C-49, and for many years, any airline that wanted to enter into a joint venture had to undergo a review by one of the premier law enforcement agencies in the world, the Competition Bureau, to ensure that there were no anti-competitive results from a joint venture. In fact, when Air Canada proposed a joint venture with United Airlines some years ago, the Competition Bureau said no to the original proposal for that joint venture and said they had to pull out of that joint venture a number of cross-border routes because they would be deleterious to competition, and because it would increase prices for consumers and for businesses across Canada.
What the current government has done through Bill C-49, which it rammed through the House and Senate, is it has given the Minister of Transport the ability to veto that process through a broad definition of public interest to bypass the Competition Bureau's review of a joint venture, and to rubber-stamp a joint venture in the interests of the airline and against the competition interests of consumers in this country. With the recent passage of Bill C-49, Air Canada has announced a joint venture with Air China. I do not think that is any coincidence.
Thus, these are just a few examples of how the government is politicizing the process for law enforcement of our competition laws and for the review of major natural resource projects that no previous government has ever done.
Finally, I want to critique the Liberal government's general approach to environmental issues. The Liberals have created a climate of uncertainty. On pipeline approvals, they have created uncertainty. That is why Kinder Morgan has announced that it is pulling out of Canada and why it sold its assets to the Government of Canada. They have created a climate of uncertainty in the business community. That is why, as I previously mentioned, Statistics Canada, this spring, reported that foreign investment into Canada plunged last year to its lowest level in eight years. There has been an exodus of capital from the country's oil and gas sector. Statistics Canada reports that capital flows dropped for a second year in a row last year, and are down by more than half since 2015. Net foreign purchases by foreign businesses of Canadian businesses are now less than sales by those foreign businesses, meaning that foreign companies sold more Canadian businesses than they bought.
On climate change, they have created a great deal of uncertainty.
The Liberals came with big fanfare with their price on carbon, but they have only priced it out to $50 per tonne to 2022. They have not announced what happens after 2022. We are four short years away from 2022, and businesses and consumers need the certainty of what happens after 2022.
Furthermore, the Liberals have created uncertainty because $50 per tonne does not get us to our Paris accord targets. In fact, last autumn the Auditor General came forward with a report saying that Canada will not meet its Paris accord targets of a 30% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2030 with the $50-per-tonne target. He estimated that we are some 45 megatonnes short of the target.
The Liberals have created uncertainty with their climate change policy because they have been inconsistent on climate change policy. They are inconsistent with how they treat one sector of the economy versus another. For example, they demand that projects in the oil and gas sector take into account both upstream and downstream emissions, while not requiring projects in other sectors of the economy to do the same.
They are inconsistent with climate change policy in the way they treat one region of the country versus another. The Auditor General's report from a week ago, report 4, highlights the inconsistency in the way they treat central Canadians versus the way they treat westerners.
For example, the Liberals tell western Canadian oil and gas producers that climate change impacts need to be part of the approval process of any major natural resource project, and yet they turn around, and one of the first decisions they make as a government is to waive the tolls on the new federal bridge in Montreal, a $4-billion-plus bridge. The Auditor General reported, in report 4 last week, that waiving the tolls will result in a 20% increase in vehicular traffic over that bridge, from 50 million to 60 million cars and trucks a year, an additional 10 million vehicles crossing that bridge every year, with the attendant greenhouse gases and pollution that this entails.
The Liberals tell companies and Canadians on one side of the country that they have to take into account greenhouse gas emissions when they propose a new project in the oil and gas sector, but when the government builds a brand new federal bridge in Montreal for $4 billion-plus, it is not going to take into account those greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, it will waive the tolls, which is going to lead to a 20% jump in traffic, with the attendant greenhouse gas emissions that this entails.
Finally, the Liberals have created a climate of uncertainty by their failure to realize that our income taxes are too high. The government talks a good game about the environment and the economy, but the facts speak otherwise. They blew a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reduce corporate and personal income taxes. They failed to seize the opportunity of using the revenues generated by the price of carbon to drive down our high corporate and personal income taxes. They also failed to seize the opportunity to reform our income tax system to reduce its complexity and its distortive nature.
Our system was reformed in 1971 by the government of Pierre Trudeau. It was reformed again in 1986 by the government of Brian Mulroney. It has been over 30 years since we have had any significant income tax reform to our personal income tax system or our corporate income tax system, and the Liberals blew the chance to do it, even though they promised to take a look at tax reform in their very first budget.
The government talks a good game on the environment and the economy, but the facts say otherwise. It is a story of a missed opportunity, and that is why I cannot support this bill.