This government spent millions on expert panel reviews, then ignored the recommendations

Elizabeth May

Mr. Speaker, in fairness, the hon. member for Lac-Saint-Louis was quoting the National Post in reference to Jamie Mean of Mining Watch Canada, who is not the usual go-to sources for the National Post.

I happen to be struggling with this legislation because it is, without question, marginally better than Bill C-38 in 2012. The Liberals promised in their platform to restore what we had been in place before, that it would restore public trust and repair the damage done when the original Canadian Environmental Assessment Act brought in by Brian Mulroney was repealed by Bill C-38. This has not been restored. This has not been repaired. This has largely been entrenched.

Does my friend from Elmwood—Transcona have any theories as to why the Liberal government spent over $1 million on a National Energy Board expert panel and over $1 million on a separate environmental assessment expert panel that held hearings across the country? The expert panel on EA by the way went to 21 cities, heard from over 1,000 witnesses, produced a terrific report, and its recommendations were thrown under the proverbial bus.

What on earth was going on? I really cannot answer the question, but maybe my friend from Elmwood—Transcona could speculate.

Daniel Blaikie – Member for Elmwood-Transcona

Mr. Speaker, it would be speculation indeed, because it does not seem to make a lot of sense to have commissioned that work, have it done, and then largely ignore it.

We saw something similar with the Special Committee on Electoral Reform. There was a budget for that committee too. It did a lot of travel, heard from a number of witnesses, and produced a really great report. Everybody put a bit of water in their wine to clear the path for the government to move forward and make good on its election commitment. Without really even taking time to consider that report, the government decided to throw it in the wastepaper bin. It is a theme, but the motivation behind that theme is not exactly clear.

On the issue of electoral reform, by way of analogy to Bill C-69, one could imagine the government creating a really good proportional representation voting system that actually satisfied Canadians who voted for change, but putting in a caveat in the bill that the government of the day could decide in advance of an election whether it would use that process or the old process. I do not think anybody would say that made sense. Right?

Effectively, the ministerial discretion to decide whether to apply this framework to a project and then to ignore it afterwards would be a further caveat. We would be saying, “If we had the election and we do not like the results, we will actually just rescind it and then will redo the election under the old process”. Nobody would think that was a good idea and effectively that is what is happening here.

There may be virtues in the change to the process, but the real problem is whether the process will be applied and whether it has to be respected once it is seen through.