IN THE HOUSE ~ Response to Conservative Motion on the proposed Energy East pipeline project

Ms. Bergen (Portage—Lisgar) — That, given this time of economic uncertainty, the House: (a) recognize the importance of the energy sector to the Canadian economy and support its development in an environmentally sustainable way; (b) agree that pipelines are the safest way to transport oil; (c) acknowledge the desire for the Energy East pipeline expressed by the provincial governments of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, and New Brunswick; and (d) express its support for the Energy East pipeline currently under consideration.

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La motion suivante sera débattue en Chambre aujourd'hui :

Mme Bergen (Portage—Lisgar) — Que, compte tenu de la présente période d’incertitude économique, la Chambre : a) reconnaisse l’importance du secteur de l’énergie pour l’économie canadienne et soutienne son développement de manière écologiquement viable; b) convienne que les pipelines constituent la façon la plus sûre de transporter le pétrole; c) reconnaisse l’opinion favorable que les gouvernements de l’Alberta, de la Saskatchewan, de l’Ontario et du Nouveau-Brunswick ont exprimé à l’égard du projet Oléoduc Énergie Est; d) exprime son appui au projet Oléoduc Énergie Est actuellement à l’étude.

Context : Debate

M. Peter Julian (New Westminster—Burnaby, NPD): Madame la Présidente, j'ai le plaisir de me lever aujourd'hui à la Chambre pour parler des questions d'énergie. Surtout, relativement à ce secteur, il faut parler un peu de la question de la valeur ajoutée, une chose que l'on a perdue depuis des années, au Canada, quand on parle du développement des ressources naturelles.

Bien sûr, aussi, puisque nous entendons toujours garder des débats de fond en Chambre, je vais proposer un amendement à cette motion, quand je terminerai mon discours.

Context : Debate

I would like to start off because I think I am one of a few members of Parliament in the House that has actually been knee deep in oil. I used to be a worker at the Shellburn refinery. It is one of the refineries that has closed across the country. It is in Burnaby, British Columbia.

I remember the first time we had a briefing from the safety supervisor. The safety supervisor said two things: to never, ever go into the tanks alone, always go in with a partner. This was the tank farm adjacent to the Shellburn refinery. The second piece of strong advice, in fact a mandatory requirement to follow, was to alway check safety equipment before going into the tanks, making sure oxygen tanks were full, the regulator was working, and the mask was not broken. Those are all important things.

Why the safety supervisor was putting so much emphasis on that was of course because we have to respect oil as a substance and the impacts. The reality was, for any workers going into those tanks, if our safety equipment malfunctioned we would be dead within seconds. We know when we look at the energy sector around the world that safety regulations have to be very carefully followed. We have to respect the substance, both for the economic potential and the danger it imposes if it is mishandled. Having those safety regulations in place is something we feel very strongly about.

At the same time, when we are talking about energy projects we need to make sure that there is a process that is credible. That is really the fundamental question we are talking about today. It is the question of how we evaluate major resource projects to ensure that our environment is protected and companies are able to obtain social licence. It is absolutely critical. The hard reality is that after a decade of Conservative government, that ended last October thankfully, Canadians have simply lost faith in the federal environmental review process and at the same time pipeline projects have not moved ahead.

It is the Conservative members right next to me, the very sponsors of this motion, who are responsible for that lack of action. These are the Conservatives who, when in government, systematically dismantled laws protecting our air, land, and water, burying these attacks in budget bills, gutting the Navigable Waters Protection Act, the Environmental Assessment Act, the Fisheries Act, and the National Energy Board Act. We all remember these various modifications. It was the Conservatives who placed arbitrary limits on public consultation, shutting Canadians out of the project review process. We were having National Energy Board hearings in my city of Burnaby, British Columbia where the large meeting hall was completely empty because the public is banned from participating in the process. It was the Conservatives who actually injected more politics into the review process by giving cabinet the ability to overrule National Energy Board decisions. We have seen the impact of these changes with thousands of Canadians being denied the right to participate in pipeline reviews, growing public unrest, and mounting legal battles.

What is the result? We have an expression in western Canada, where I come from. I was born and bred in British Columbia but my mother was born in Alberta. My brother lived in Manitoba for some time. Of course, as New Democrats, our spiritual home is Saskatchewan, with the first social democratic government in North America, under Tommy Douglas. The expression that encompasses the Conservatives' approach on energy is: “All hat and no cattle�. What we have seen under the Conservatives, simply, despite their protestations to the contrary, is not a single kilometre of new pipeline constructed with the entire process taking place under the Conservatives. What we have seen is 28 court challenges to the National Energy Board or Governor in Council decisions in the last two years alone.

Context : Debate

Transcription in progress / Transcription en marche

Il faut dire aussi que la présentation d'hier a été faite si rapidement que les documents n'étaient même pas disponibles dans les deux langues officielles. Alors, cela démontre à quel point cela a été fait à la hâte et pas avec la rigueur nécessaire.

Transcription in progress / Transcription en marche

Context : Debate

Conservatives did create jobs in the energy sector, they created those jobs for lawyers. I have no objection to that, but the reality is when we look at the overall results, and I did listen to my colleague from Portage—Lisgar, who talked about a number of projects where the process had already started before the Conservatives came to power, and then of course, the one project approval that they try to hang their hat on is a pipeline reversal, which is not new pipelines.

The Conservatives on energy have all hat and no cattle. Instead of speeding up the pipeline review process, the changes that the Conservatives brought in broke public trust and meant that the projects ultimately did not move ahead. There was no social licence. In fact, the Conservatives damaged the process so badly, my colleague from Edmonton—Strathcona spoke to this earlier, that the Environment Commissioner was forced to sound the alarm that companies' emergency plans are out of date, board oversight is full of holes and the public does not have access to information about pipeline safety.

Perhaps most troubling, the commissioner found that the National Energy Board is not even verifying whether pipeline companies are living up to approval conditions in the same way that safety has to be manifest and followed. Safety regulations at the refinery that I worked at, pipeline companies need to live up to their approval conditions.

Now this report comes five years after yet another damning audit that found many of the same problems. The Conservatives have left our pipeline review process in shambles and thankfully, last October, Canadians clearly rejected their approach. That is why it is particularly inappropriate for the Conservatives today to try to use the House of Commons to get around the need for a credible, thorough, and open National Energy Board review process. They are the architects of the very problem we are discussing today. Now it is clear that Canadians voted for change on this issue.

The Liberals on the campaign trail told Canadians that they thought the Conservatives' process was broken and I agree with them. In fact, we have been saying it for a long time already. For the last decade New Democrats were sounding the alarm that the Conservatives were dismantling our environmental laws while the Liberals were standing by and letting those omnibus budget bills pass.

As we saw during the campaign, some of this could be about where they are getting their advice. Everyone will recall the incident involving a certain Dan Gagnier, Liberal Party campaign co-chair, trusted adviser to the Prime Minister, who also happened to be working for pipeline company TransCanada, advising them on how to lobby the incoming Liberal government. That certainly was not the high standard of ethical behaviour that Canadians expect.

Nevertheless, by the time the campaign rolled around, even the Liberals were saying the environmental review process was broken, so broken that it had to be redone. The Prime Minister came to my province and to Vancouver Island, Esquimalt, British Columbia on August 20 of last year, and when asked if his National Energy Board overhaul would apply to Kinder Morgan, he said: “Yes, yes, it applies to existing projects, existing pipelines as well�. He also said: “We are going to change the government and that process has to be redone�.

The government did change, but the rest of that sentence has not come true. This promise to British Columbians was repeated by the new Liberal member for Burnaby North—Seymour and by the member for North Vancouver, who is the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change. He said that the Kinder Morgan process would have to satisfy a new, rigorous review, but instead yesterday, the government rolled out a vague and ad hoc addition to the existing Conservative review process, just putting window dressing on top of what is a profoundly unstructured review process that does not lead to social licence.

Unfortunately, we just heard comments now from the Minister of Natural Resources, though he gave a good speech, saying that ultimately what is going through is the former Conservative government's review process rather than the new review process that the Liberals committed to British Columbians and all Canadians in the campaign.

Il faut dire aussi que la présentation d'hier a été faite si rapidement que les documents n'étaient même pas disponibles dans les deux langues officielles. Alors, cela démontre à quel point cela a été fait à la hâte et pas avec la rigueur nécessaire.

The announcement yesterday does not change any laws. Reviews will go ahead under existing Conservative legislation.

Context : Questions and Comments

Mr. Peter Julian: Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Vancouver Kingsway for his question, and if I get carried away, I know you will shut me down. It is not a filibuster. It is just that what he is asking is quite exciting and interesting.

He talked about value added. He talked about the accomplishments of the Alberta government, which is very new but has done surprising, effective things, bringing people together. This is the first time we have seen this in many years, perhaps since the time of Peter Lougheed, where we have seen an Alberta government, in such an effective way, bringing people together from all sides: environmentalists, first nations and industry. He is absolutely right to point out the accomplishment of what is still a very new government that has been so effective in starting to rebuild after the catastrophe that occurred under the Conservatives.

He also talked about value added. The refinery I worked for shut down, and we have seen this right across the country. We need policies that actually encourage the value added production and jobs that come with it, rather than exporting raw logs, raw bitumen and raw minerals. That is what we have seen.

Finally, green energy. The potential is enormous. We are seeing a worldwide clean energy boom, and I have seen it first hand in other countries. There have been national governments that have made those investments, like Germany creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs. Canada can do the same if we see leadership from this new government, we have not seen it thus far, but I am hoping that it will actually follow NDP and put in place a plan that will actually put Canadians back to work.

Context : Questions and Comments

Mr. Peter Julian (New Westminster—Burnaby, NDP): The point I made, Madam Speaker, as you are well aware is that when we saw the Conservatives running roughshod over the rights of Canadians and making all those changes, it was the NDP official opposition that was standing up to the Conservative government. The member is well aware that the Liberals were almost absent from the last Parliament. They ran a very successful election campaign. I am certainly not reproaching them in any way for that, but in the last Parliament, we saw day after day after day, New Democrats in this House of Commons pushing back on the Conservatives. Whether it was Bill C-51 or a whole range of other measures, it was New Democrats that provided the opposition.

That is the point and I stand by it, because those are the facts.