Mr. Speaker, the environment is the economy. Nearly two years ago, on May 10, 2013, I stood in the House next to the environment minister to declare what British Columbians and Canadians believe: that the environment is the economy.
Every time we consider whether environmental and economic factors are in balance, we are suggesting that the environment and the economy are in conflict with each other. Some would argue that we must sacrifice one to advance the other. In other words, we tend, wrongly, to start our discussion from the notion that the economy and the environment are at war with each other.
As a member of Parliament, I am increasingly required to consider the impact of industrial projects on the economy and environment, especially in the riding I represent. Throughout the year, conversations at events, in coffee shops, and in the homes of constituents are often related to responsible resource development. Constituents of mine, as individuals and in groups, have consistently expressed their support for Canada's economic success, but have also stood for responsible environmental practices befitting of a riding that many call the most beautiful place on earth.
Some of these proud Canadians include former fisheries minister John Fraser, Carl Halvorson of the North Vancouver Outdoor School based in Squamish, Squamish first nation elder Randall Lewis, and David Bromley, a world-renowned environmental engineer. The environment is the economy. This is the message we Canadians are increasingly taking to our Prime Minister, the natural resources industry, and the environment, fisheries, and other ministers. Bill C-46, the pipeline safety act, shows that our government is listening.
The environment is the economy. This is best illustrated in the context of value-added projects both in the riding I represent and elsewhere in Canada. This government has created a challenging review process for natural resource projects, where proponents have a high standard to meet. They must increasingly show better productivity and value to Canada, with less waste, more efficient use of resources, and a respect for the environment we cherish. These projects have a significant impact on the quality of life in Canada, providing financial and infrastructure inputs. Canada needs these projects.
The automatic reaction of “stop” is a simplistic approach, characteristic of special interest groups that just want to stall projects. This Conservative government believes in the need for continuous improvement in project implementation and impact mitigation. However, we are opposed to the simplistic hands-down rejection by people who would just say no to industry, who forget Canada's entrepreneurial roots, and who would leap to negative conclusions without due process, sound data, or information to support their position.
More and more, we Canadians are learning the benefits derived from a focus on the environment. Specifically, less use of resource inputs such as water, energy, and land has made us more efficient, leading to higher productivity and economic sustainability. As a government, we have emphasised the need for a science-based, independent, objective approval process that keeps us focused on the real objective of less impact, greater efficiency, and sustainability.
This government's focus on these principles has driven a culture of responsibility to improve continuously. The result has been the growth of jobs in the environmental sector, which now supports employment levels that dwarf even the automotive and oil and gas sectors. According to the organization ECO Canada, as of 2013, some 682,000 jobs in Canada are directly related to the environment. The focus on the environment is a change agent, not a simplistic “stop” agent. It is why I continue to say that Canada's environment is our economy.
Our government continues to rely upon independent, objective scientific assessments before approving any project. We saw this approach at work recently in our government's rejection of the Taseko New Prosperity mine project in northern B.C., an ambitious proposal to create thousands of jobs and large economic stimulus, but nevertheless rejected for environmental reasons. Many British Columbians supported the Taseko initiative, but environmental considerations prevailed. As demonstrated by that decision, our government has pledged that natural resource development will only proceed if the project is proven to be safe for Canadians and safe for the environment.
The pipeline safety act would complement a number of measures previously implemented by our government to strengthen pipeline safety, which provided the National Energy Board, for example, the authority to levy administrative monetary penalties and increase the number of inspections and audits.
Bill C-46 would build on this work and provide a world-class regulatory regime for Canada's pipeline sector, while strengthening protection for Canadians and the environment. Bill C-46 addresses three main areas, which are incident prevention, preparedness and response, and liability and compensation.
Today, as a lawyer, I am focusing on the area of liability and compensation, particularly emphasizing the bill's strengthened measures to compensate for environmental damages in keeping with the polluter pays principle.
Under Bill C-46, our government would deliver on the promise to enshrine the polluter pays principle in law, to make it an important foundation for the pipeline safety regime. It would place accountability on industy and protect Canadian taxpayers from having to pay for damages and cleanup costs in the unlikely event of a spill or accident. The polluter pays principle assigns responsibility to the polluter for paying for damage to the environment, as well as the associated cleanup costs.
One of the key features of the proposed law is that it would raise the cap for absolute civil liability up to $1 billion for pipeline owners, even where there is no fault or negligence on the part of the proponent. On the other hand, liability where the pipeline owner is at fault or negligent would remain unlimited. Another key feature is that the legislation would establish the legal right for various parties to seek environmental damages. This would ensure that any damages to wildlife, waterways, or other public resources could be addressed.
The absolute or no-fault liability regime created under Bill C-46 would be one of the most robust and comprehensive in the world. While the U.S. and the U.K. have similar legislation in place, the $1 billion minimum financial capacity, and absolute liability limit would be unique to Canada. Canada would also be unique in having a cost recovered financial backstop model that provides complete coverage for cleanup and damages.
Our country has a world-class pipeline safety system. Between 2000 and 2011, federally regulated pipelines boasted a safety record of over 99.999%.
The natural resources sector is the largest private employer of aboriginal people in Canada. The plan described in the pipeline safety act was developed closely with industry and aboriginal communities to provide training for aboriginal communities on pipeline monitoring and response. This would allow aboriginal people to continue to make important contributions as full partners in the development of our natural resources.
In conclusion, Canada's environment is the economy. This government supports robust processes that take into account all considerations relevant to British Columbians and Canadians: a sustainable environment, value-adding jobs, and thriving economic growth.
Let us put an end to the “stop” mentality, which is characterized by not having sound data, and let us start encouraging open dialogue that considers all of the evidence, starting with this question of pipeline safety.
Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague talks about small businesses and asks why we are not helping small business, yet we are helping small business. In fact, we introduced the small business job credit, which NDP members voted against. If they want to help small business, why do they keep voting against all the measures we have created to help businesses in this country?
I will share with members some of the other things we have done to help businesses We have provided $1.4 billion in tax relief for new manufacturing machinery and equipment through the accelerated capital cost allowance. We have improved support for Canada's aerospace industry by investing almost $1 billion in the strategic aerospace and defence initiative to ensure that the needs of the industry continue to be met. We have supported Canada's vibrant shipbuilding industry, which is very important in my riding of north Vancouver, with $35 billion in funding. This will create tens of thousands of jobs over the next 30 years and breathe new life into that industry.
These are just some of the things we have done to help businesses in Canada.
The electoral district of North Vancouver (British Columbia) has a population of 122,371 with 87,034 registered voters and 216 polling divisions.
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