Mr. Speaker, I am fortunate to be able to speak to today’s opposition day motion regarding the need for the federal government to champion Canada’s energy sector, and more specifically calling on the Prime Minister to take immediate action with regard to getting the Trans Mountain expansion project constructed.
It is unfortunate that our request for an emergency debate on this topic was denied last week. However, I am happy to have the opportunity to discuss this important matter today, as it is essential that the federal government begins to take leadership on this issue.
Canada has a worldwide reputation as being a hub for natural resource industries. With a sizable amount of our resources coming from and being used for the energy sector, we expect that our federal government will do everything it can to ensure the energy industry is being supported and indeed championed. This has not been the case with the Trans Mountain pipeline, and it certainly was not the case with the failed energy east pipeline, which would have been running through my riding.
Pipelines are needed in Canada for a number of reasons. They are proven to be a significantly safer way of transporting crude oil across the country compared to doing it by rail and or by truck. The construction and maintenance of pipelines also creates much-needed jobs for many of the small communities that they run through. Most of all, pipelines that allow oil to be carried from oil-producing provinces to our coastal provinces will open markets for export, something that the energy sector has been asking the government to do for some time now.
As it currently stands, Canada’s only export market for our oil is the United States. We have one buyer, and that is it. Not only that, we are also selling our oil to the United States at an almost 50% discount, which the U.S. can resell at the market price. Canada is losing out on money that could be used here at home for things like our veterans, our seniors, home care, health care, education, and many other things.
Expanding to global markets means that we would not need to accept such a deep discount on our oil exports, yet we do not have a choice; we only have that one market. This is where pipelines could make all the difference. As said previously, the energy sector has been asking for the government’s assistance in diversifying available markets so that we do not have to sell our oil to the United States at an extreme discount.
The Trans Mountain pipeline project would do exactly that. It has gone through rigorous environmental assessments, including a 29-month review by the National Energy Board which recommended federal approval. One would think that taking action on this recommendation would be easy, and we would have shovels in the ground. Instead, British Columbia and Alberta are waging a trade war, and the root cause of it is a lack of leadership on behalf of this Prime Minister.
When the Prime Minister fails to stand up and support energy projects that are in the national interest of all Canadians, there are bound to be repercussions. This is what we are seeing now between British Columbia and Alberta, and it is completely unnecessary. It is the federal government’s responsibility to ensure it is not pitting provinces against provinces, but that is exactly what is happening here. It will not just affect the provinces involved but will be a trendsetting precedent across the entire country.
The Prime Minister has tried to reassure Canadians by stating that we are going to get the Trans Mountain pipeline built. Unfortunately, based on the number of promises that he and his government have already broken to Canadians, these words cannot be trusted. Do $10-billion dollar deficits and electoral reform ring a bell? It seems as though sunny ways has turned into sunny words, given the lack of action on this and other files. The inaction on the Trans Mountain project has literally created a national conflict that continues to grow with every day that passes. This is not leadership, and it is not helping our economy.
I would like to touch on something I mentioned earlier about the failed energy east pipeline, and that is the effect on the communities involved. The town of Moosomin in my riding was one of those places where energy east would have gone through. It would have created many jobs, both in the construction and the maintenance of the pipeline and retaining reservoirs. Moosomin has a population of roughly 3,000 people, many of whom work in or rely on the energy industry to keep them employed.
When energy east was cancelled, it did not just affect those who would have been directly employed through the building of the pipeline; it also affected the entire service industry that was expecting an influx in business due to the pipeline’s construction.
The trickle-down effect is real. We could ask the hotels and restaurants that have been struggling since the decrease in oil prices back in 2014.
When a key industry in a small community stops getting the support it needs, and by its federal government no less, it can be the death knell for businesses. Put a carbon tax and sweeping changes to small business taxes on top of that, and we have a recipe for disaster, a death by a thousand cuts.
The Prime Minister is doing nothing and lets the industry twist in the wind, changing rule after rule, just like with energy east. It seems the Prime Minister hopes the industry simply loses interest and finds the project economically unpalatable, allowing him to place blame elsewhere. People and communities will suffer from this lack of leadership.
My constituents expect the Prime Minister to understand the ins and outs of life for rural Canadians, and they expect him to care about it. They expect him to care for the people who reside in small communities, like those in my riding. He failed to champion energy east and sat back, allowing the mayor of Montreal, former Liberal MP, to lobby against the project, which certainly had an effect on the decision to cancel it. He did not step up then, and he is not stepping up now.
To western Canadians, this is yet another example of the Liberal government favouring the east and failing to represent the interests of those in the west. The people of Moosomin and those in Alberta and British Columbia deserve better. They need leadership. Without it, the situation will only get worse.
What we need is a concrete plan, an action plan, and a strong voice to say that this is wrong and unconstitutional. The Prime Minister and his government can talk the talk all they like, but if they cannot walk the walk, it means bad news for our economy. Saskatchewan has already lost thousands of jobs, and the lack of confidence in the industry will trickle down to affect us even more.
Energy investment in Canada is lower in the last two years than at any other two-year period in our 70-year history, and the government’s inaction will keep further investment out. If the leader of a country cannot even support his own energy sector, how is that supposed to instill confidence in foreign investment? Coupled with the lack of access to global markets, it is clear the energy industry needs a champion. Unfortunately, I do not think the Prime Minister will be it.
Let us be honest here. The more he delays, the more he kicks the issue down the road, the greater the chances he can claim he supported the Trans Mountain project but “aw shucks, they threw in the towel before we even got a chance to help them.”
Today’s motion calls for the Prime Minister to take immediate action, using all the tools available to establish certainty for the project, to mitigate damage of the current interprovincial trade dispute, and table this plan in the House no later than noon on Thursday, February 15. This is a reasonable, logical request. It is all well and good to say that something will get done. Until there is some level of commitment on paper, there is no way for the Liberals to be held accountable.
It is our job on this side of the House to do exactly that: hold the government to account. However, it becomes difficult when the government refuses to nail anything down and instead gives out vague promises and reassurances that have no actual effect on getting things done.
I know members on the government side will likely stand and tell me that they will take no lessons from the opposition on this. However, they do not need to take lessons from us. Their own party has made enough mistakes with its handling of the energy industry over the past few decades, from which they should have learned. I am sure many of us remember the national energy program. If we do not learn from history, we are bound to repeat it. Alas, this is what is happening here, right down to the name of the prime minister involved.
The Trans Mountain pipeline needs to be built and the Prime Minister needs to start taking action on it. The situation with Alberta and British Columbia is a symptom of a greater problem: a lack of leadership.
I call on the Prime Minister and the government to stand up, do the right thing, resolve this provincial trade dispute and truly become a champion for Canada’s energy industry. The Liberals need it, Canada needs it, my constituents need it.