Adjournment Proceedings – Natural Resources

Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, I rise this evening in adjournment proceedings to pursue a question I asked on June 19, before the House adjourned for the summer recess. I am pleased that the question I raised then allows me to return to an issue of fundamental importance to my constituents.


I hold nine separate town hall meetings twice a year in my riding. At the last series of town halls, as one would expect, the question of the threat of supertankers loaded with bitumen and diluent, the threat of twin pipelines from northern Alberta to Kitimat, and the other project, the one that would expand pipelines to Vancouver for more bitumen diluent coming out of Vancouver harbour, were top of mind for my constituents.

In any case, the question I asked of the Prime Minister on June 19 was whether the Prime Minister would be prepared to force the Enbridge project down our throats if the Province of British Columbia continued to oppose it.

There is a constellation of opposition to the Enbridge project, the risky twinned pipeline from Kitimat to Alberta bringing a toxic fossil fuel condensate called diluent to be stirred into a solid called bitumen to bring it out the other side, and two different sets of tankers, one set bringing diluent and leaving and another collecting diluent mixed with bitumen and leaving offshore. The entire scheme poses unacceptable risks to British Columbia.

When I speak of the constellation of opposition, it really cannot be called a protest. We are talking about the Province of British Columbia itself. Minister of the Environment Mary Polak immediately, on the NEB decision and the cabinet of this country approving the project, said, “No way. Our conditions still are not met”.

However, that is not the only opposition. There is the Union of British Columbia Municipalities, and of course, first nations and the majority of British Columbia residents.

When I asked the question about forcing the project down our throats, I was thinking specifically of the fact that this particular Prime Minister signed a rather famous letter in 2001, generally referred to as the Alberta firewall letter. At the time, the Prime Minister was president of the National Citizens Coalition, and he signed it as the top signatory, immediately followed by Tom Flanagan and others from Alberta.

What they wrote Premier Klein was this:

It is imperative to take the initiative, to build firewalls around Alberta, to limit the extent to which an aggressive and hostile federal government can encroach upon legitimate provincial jurisdiction.

This was the essence of my question. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources who answered it at the time evaded this fundamental question of federal-provincial jurisdiction and conflict. What many British Columbians want to ask the Prime Minister and his cabinet is how far they will go to push a project that British Columbians have rejected.

Since the time I asked that question, we have had a substantial development, with the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in the Tsilhqot’in case. I may be the first member of Parliament to speak to that here on the very last day of September, because the decision came down in the summer. What a phenomenal decision. What a clear statement that first nations’ title is what it is: it is title. It is not just a matter of consultation. It is actually a matter of first nations having the right to say, “No, we will not allow our land to be destroyed”.

Under the circumstances, when will the current government admit that the Enbridge project it has approved will never be built?

Eve Adams: Mr. Speaker, our decision is based on the conclusions of an independent science-based review panel. After carefully reviewing the independent regulator’s recommendation on the northern gateway project, the government accepted the recommendation to impose 209 conditions to ensure that this project meets the highest safety standards. The panel heard from nearly 1,500 participants in 21 communities and reviewed 175,000 pages of evidence prior to making its recommendation.

This is another step in the process. It will now be up to the proponent to demonstrate to the regulator and Canadians how it will meet those over 200 conditions. It will also have to apply for regulatory permits and authorizations from federal, provincial, and municipal governments.

Finally, consultations with first nations communities are required under many of the conditions as part of the process for regulatory authorizations and permits. It also must fulfill its commitment to engage with first nations and communities along the route.

It is clear that the proponent has much work to do. As a government, we have promised Canadians that projects will only move forward if they are safe for Canadians and safe for the environment. That is the guiding principle for our plan for responsible resource development.

We have introduced a suite of measures to enhance pipeline and marine safety. Whether we are transporting energy by rail, tanker, or pipeline, our safety systems are world class. The safety record of federally regulated crude pipelines is indeed 99.999%, and our government is taking action to improve our record even further. Our overall goal is to prevent incidents from occurring at all.

In the unlikely event that an incident does occur, we must have robust and transparent emergency preparedness and response plans. We have backed this up with enhanced liability regimes to show industry that we are protecting the environment and that we are doing it very seriously.

We also recognize that aboriginal peoples must be full partners in everything we do, from ensuring the safety of our pipeline system to protecting our marine environment from incidents and sharing in the benefits of developing our resources.

In his report, Douglas Eyford made a number of recommendations to build a better relationship with aboriginal peoples. He said:

Canada must take decisive steps to build trust with Aboriginal Canadians, to foster their inclusion into the economy, and to advance the reconciliation of Aboriginal people…in Canadian society.

Our government agrees. We are moving forward with a suite of activities to enable aboriginal peoples to fully participate in the development and operation of our energy infrastructure projects, including our tanker and pipeline safety systems.

With the participation of first nations and our commitment to world-class pipeline safety systems, we are confident that Canada can capture the tremendous economic promise before it. We can diversify our energy markets and ensure prosperity for all Canadians for generations to come.