Alistair's speech on Bill C-57, sustainable development
May 30th, 2018 - 11:35am
Mr. Alistair MacGregor (Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to be joining the debate on Bill C-57, although I must agree with my Conservative colleagues that it is unfortunate to be doing it under the yoke of time allocation.
It is a strategy that the federal government seems to be employing quite a bit this week. I was having an exchange with the member for Perth—Wellington earlier today about this resembling a student who has missed the due date for his homework and has suddenly realized it is coming up and he had better rush things. We have been wasting time over February, March, April, and May, and now we are almost into June. If we look at the parliamentary calendar, we see that time is suddenly short, so the Liberals are feeling the need to engage in these draconian tactics to limit the ability of members to be here on behalf of their constituents. Every single one of these seats represents a unique geographic area of Canada, and the people of Canada deserve to have their voices and concerns raised in this House by the members who represent them.
That said, let us now turn to the bill before us, Bill C-57.
I want to compliment my friend and colleague, the member for the riding of Edmonton Strathcona. She has decades of experience in the field of environmental sustainability. When she speaks to our caucus or delivers speeches in this House or at committee, people listen, because they realize this member has the experience and the knowledge. Very rarely have I seen people contradict her, because they know that she is usually right. She has the experience to back it up.
I want to walk the House through a bit of the history of how we got to Bill C-57. We would have to go back to the spring of 2016, when the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development reviewed the current act. There is a mandate in the act that it has to be reviewed every certain number of years. I believe it is every three years. That is just to make sure that it is staying up to date with the changing nature of Canada, to see if we are meeting our goals or if anything needs to be tweaked, and to see if the government has been doing a good job in following the existing act. That is why it is important.
As a part of this review, the committee, as committees usually do, brought forth witnesses to testify with respect to the current act and present some recommendations for ideas for reform. Witnesses at the committee found the current act lacking in two important ways. First, unlike the definition of “sustainable development”, it focuses on environmental decision-making and ignores the social and economic pillars of sustainable development; second, the purpose is about transparency and accountability for environmental decision-making, rather than about advancing sustainable development. The committee agreed with those significant shortcomings and recommended that the act be amended to require the development of an effective federal strategy that will inspire, in equal measure, environmental, social, and economic advancement toward a better future, something I think that all members in this House can very much agree to.
The unfortunate thing with the bill before us, Bill C-57, is that it only partially addresses these deficiencies and recommendations. It is important to note that the updated law should reflect the broader UN sustainable development goals, which have been endorsed by Canada.
I want to list some key things that came about after that study, because when Bill C-57 made it to the committee, the Liberal government did not even listen to its own members of Parliament on that committee. It did not even listen to the recommendations that had come from the environment committee. That is a real shame, because suddenly we have Liberals recommending something, only to see their government completely ignore it. That action shows that the government is not committed to delivering on its commitments under the broad UN sustainable development goal to ensure the whole of government ensures that its laws and policies reflect environmental, social, and economic needs.
I want to drill down on that, because the member for Edmonton Strathcona really was faced with a Herculean task. Many of my colleagues who sit on committees know this. Since the NDP has just one spot on a 10-member committee, that one member does not have the luxury of teamwork with other MPs. The work often falls upon us, so when it comes to the amending stage of a bill, the clause-by-clause part of a bill, it is a pretty big task.
I can remember doing that last year at the justice committee when I was the justice critic for our party, especially when it came to Bill C-46. That was a gargantuan justice bill, and my staff and I were pretty busy on that.
Going back to the matter at hand, Bill C-57, almost all of the amendments by the member for Edmonton Strathcona at committee were based on three things: recommendations from the Commissioner of the Environment, recommendations from expert witness testimony at the committee, and recommendations from the committee itself.
She had three very good arguments behind her recommendations. What did the Liberal-dominated committee do? It voted down those amendments, flying in the face of the evidence. The government likes to pride itself on evidence-based decision-making. I have yet to hear a coherent answer from the government side as to why the Liberals did that to the amendments of the hon. member for Edmonton Strathcona, when they knew she has years of experience and that her amendments were based on solid evidence. We have still not received any good reasons on that.
The House voted today, historically I might add, for Bill C-262, which was moved by my hon. colleague, the member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou. It was a historic moment for the House of Commons, because that private member's bill passed third reading and commits the federal government to ensuring that all laws are in compliance with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
One of the amendments by the hon. member for Edmonton Strathcona was to ensure that Bill C-57 actually included a reference to UNDRIP. However, that was voted down. Then the Liberals decided they would vote in favour of the bill that is now going to mandate adherence to UNDRIP. Canadians should try to work their way through the reasoning behind that. I am still having some problems doing it.
That said, UNDRIP has passed this House. It is going to the other place now. I wish senators well. I certainly hope they will look at the hard work we did here in the House of Commons that recognize that in 2018, we are at a place in this great country where we can no longer afford to play the role of a colonizer. We have to make sure that first nations in Canada are the full and equal partners they very much deserve to be. It is only when we make sure that all of our federal laws recognize that implicitly that we will be able to move beyond our past—never forgetting it, but moving beyond it—to a place where most people would like us to be.
I know that my time on this bill is short, so I just want to end with this. The day that the Minister of Environment moved time allocation on this bill was Tuesday, the very day the Liberal government announced it was purchasing the Kinder Morgan pipeline for $4.5 billion. That is just the price tag for the existing infrastructure. There is no word on the cost of expanding the pipeline. I just think that when the environment minister is moving to shut down debate on a bill that seeks to bring federal departments in compliance with sustainable development goals and yet buys a pipeline, which is infrastructure that rightly belongs in the 20th century, it makes a mockery of the government's real commitment to addressing climate change.
I would dearly like to know what federal department is going to be in control of the Kinder Morgan pipeline, and how it can possibly justify its sustainable development when it is going to be operating something that makes a mockery of our climate change commitments.
This being 2018, with all of the evidence of climate change all around us, we certainly need this country to be taking a firm and strong direction in addressing climate change. I think everyone who looks to future generations knows that we owe them that at this moment in time.
I will conclude there. I have appreciated this opportunity to speak to Bill C-57. I welcome questions and comments from my colleagues and friends.
Mr. Tom Kmiec (Calgary Shepard, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I will start by congratulating the member, along with all members of the House, for gaining a share of the Trans Mountain pipeline. We are all owners together now of a project that would have been profitable had the government just stayed out of the way and provided certainty to the company who owned it before.
Members often disagree in the House. We on this side of the House are Conservatives who believe in a free market and think there is a way to manage the balance between the economy and the environment. We are talking tonight about the Federal Sustainable Development Act. New Democrats have a different point of view on reaching that fine balance. Does the member feel that this legislation finds that balance?
What does the member think of the government now being in the potential business of exporting oil sands energy to the west coast, all the while talking a good game about promoting environmental stewardship, which I think is quite possible? Obviously the member has a different point of view as a New Democrat. Could he comment further on this dichotomy that has been created by the Liberals?
Mr. Alistair MacGregor:
Mr. Speaker, it is true that we in the NDP do have different views on why this is a bad idea.
What I will say to workers in Alberta, my brother being one of them involved in the industry, is that stopping the Kinder Morgan expansion will not stop the oil sands from working right now, and no one in the House wants that.
Furthermore, Kinder Morgan was devised at a time when oil prices were around $100 a barrel. It is exporting diluted bitumen, which is the rawest form of the product, and we are not getting any value for this. If we want our oil industry to be sustainable, then we should sell it for the most value possible, not bargain basement prices.
If we are going to talk about Canada's energy security as a country, it does not involve building a pipeline that will direct exports to China. This will not in any way lead to Canada's energy security. That makes a mockery of the government's sustainable development goals, especially in light of Bill C-57.
Mrs. Karen Vecchio (Elgin—Middlesex—London, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, we have talked a lot in the House about the carbon tax. Some people have said it is going to create sustainability, that it is going to do this or that. I would like the member's personal view on that.
From what we have seen in the last couple of days with $4.5 billion going to Kinder Morgan and things like that, does the member think that the government is going to take the money from the carbon tax and put it into technologies that will make development more sustainable? Many Canadians are hoping that is what the government will do with their hard-earned dollars. Does the member think the government will put that money aside, or does he believe the money will just go into the coffers and be ill-spent?
Mr. Alistair MacGregor:
Mr. Speaker, we have heard a lot of discussion about the carbon tax at the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food. We heard from a lot of witnesses, farmers in particular, who are quite concerned about the impact the carbon tax will have on their operations. I very much empathize with those farmers.
For those who are in industries and businesses that are still very reliant on fossil fuels for their operations, I think there is a way to design the carbon tax to mitigate the worst effects on them while also respecting the need to put a price on pollution. Putting higher prices on this starts to change the conversation. I am from Vancouver Island and gas is selling at $1.50 a litre there. That certainly has led to my constituents thinking about how fast they can get an electric car, because they say these prices are killing them.