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"Closed for Business" Sign Remains in the Window of Canada

Remarks on the Message from Commons on Bill C-69

Impact Assessment Bill
Canadian Energy Regulator Bill
Navigation Protection Act

Bill to Amend—Message from Commons—Motion for Concurrence in Commons Amendments and Non-Insistence Upon Senate Amendments Adopted

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Mitchell, seconded by the Honourable Senator Gagné:

That, in relation to Bill C-69, An Act to enact the Impact Assessment Act and the Canadian Energy Regulator Act, to amend the Navigation Protection Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, the Senate:

(a)agree to the amendments made by the House of Commons to Senate amendments, including amendments made in consequence of Senate amendments; and

(b)do not insist on its amendments to which the House of Commons has disagreed; and

That a message be sent to the House of Commons to acquaint that house accordingly.

Hon. Douglas Black: Honourable senators, I rise tonight for my final observations in respect of Bill C-69. Barring a miracle — and Senator Harder earlier in the week indicated that he’s not a great believer in miracles — nor am I — I believe the die has been cast on Bill C-69, despite the fact that an amendment package was endorsed by this chamber and sent to the House of Commons that would allow projects to be built in this country, allow investment to return to this country and take the “Closed for Business” sign out of the window of this country. We had a bill that would have advanced those objectives with the amendments approved by the Senate. Unfortunately, what has returned will not achieve those objectives.

My sense is there is no appetite for further amendments, so there will be no surprise that, of course, I will vote against Bill C-69. My comments today are really reflections for the purpose of the record because this matter will be revisited at some point in time. I want to reflect on the process and the likely results of Bill C-69.

My principal reflections — and I am going to keep it as short and focused as I can — is one I want to commend the Senate and my colleagues for the work that this body did. It’s an outstanding piece of work. I’ve only been a senator for seven years, but I’ve never seen the Senate work so diligently and cooperatively together in a very difficult circumstance.

The bill that arrived from the House of Commons was, to put it nicely, not fully baked. We took the time and energy at many levels to endeavour to create a piece of legislation that would work. I am deeply indebted to my colleagues for taking that matter so seriously.

Of course we had disagreements. I have a view; others have other views. But I respect everyone’s view in this chamber because I know you took the time necessary to understand the issues involved.

I particularly want to ever so quickly recognize three senators who I think made an outstanding contribution and allowed us to get to the point that we did. My colleague, our colleague, Senator Wetston — who unfortunately is not with us tonight — my friend, my law school classmate and an individual who made a very real and strong contribution to endeavouring to get a package that worked.

I also want to acknowledge Senator Richards. If Senator Richards had not taken the position he did at committee, we would never have had the opportunity to fully explore the amendment package that was agreed to by this Senate.

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.

Senator D. Black: Finally — and I presume some will be surprised — my great friend Senator Mitchell. It is fair to say that we were on different sides of this issue. I can tell you throughout the last year that I’ve been so intimately involved in this file, he has shown nothing but courtesy to me and to those who I have been working with.

To my friend, who I understand will be voting differently tonight, I respect that he had a very tough file and he handled that file in an admirable way.

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.

Senator D. Black: My second reflection, unfortunately, in my view, is that Bill C-69 will be no more effective than CEAA 2012 was in getting projects built in Canada. With CEAA 2012, I think we all agree, the pendulum had swung a bit too far in one direction. Bill C-69 has swung it in the other direction with the same effect: A level of uncertainty that is too great for projects to be developed.

Thirdly, I would observe, as I think is well understood and was underlined by our colleague Senator Dasko earlier this evening, that Albertans are currently deeply alienated from Canada and their sense of the power structure in this country. The question they ask is very simple: Why would a majority agree to policies that so clearly punish economic success from an industry that sets the global standard in responsible, renewable and non-renewable energy development and First Nations engagement? That is the question that is asked. We’ll simply leave it at that. We’re all hopeful we can navigate this, but I think, as we all understand today, it is a very real issue in this country.

My next observation is that, unfortunately, after TMX, which was approved yesterday and, of course, this is a great announcement. There’s no taking anything from it. There’s no sense being churlish about it. It’s an announcement that was needed. I commend the government for making the announcement. We need construction to start, and we need to ensure that the heavy water that is going to flow is addressed by the government.

I would remind our colleagues that it was a year ago that this chamber supported the bill which I sponsored, Bill S-245, which was a piece of legislation which declared the Trans Mountain pipeline in the general advantage of Canada. There is a whole series of practical business and constitutional reasons that flow from that, but I am indebted to my colleagues for that as well. The House of Commons should have passed that legislation, and they wouldn’t have had to buy a pipeline.

That’s for another day. I suspect we’ll be revisiting Bill S-245, or some successor of it, again as there are going to be very real difficulties as we move forward.

It’s odd to reflect that at this particular time in Canadian history, where our opportunities for trade are limited, whether it’s in agriculture or other areas, that we seem to be taking proactive steps to restrict the export of our most significant export project.

I would also point out to colleagues that all the rhetoric that was advanced as we debated this turns out not to just be rhetoric. Since the decision was taken last week that the House of Commons was not going to accept the amendment package that was put forward by the Senate, I can tell you a couple of things.

While the Toronto Stock Exchange Index has advanced quite strongly over the last four or five days, the sub-index that deals with midstream companies, the very companies that build pipelines, storage and midstream facilities, has hit all-time lows. Some companies have lost between 70 and 90 per cent of their value since the decision was taken by the House of Commons.

I would also point out a couple of comments from Canadian business leaders. The CEO of Imperial Oil, a company well known to us all, owned principally by ExxonMobil, said last week:

. . . unfortunately cause us to step back and deeply consider any and all future major growth opportunities . . . .

When we see a policy like this, a bill like this, there is no balance in it. The proof will come over time, when parties quit investing.

That type of comment was underlined by Satoshi Abe, President of Japan Canada Oil Sands, who has invested in Canada on behalf of the Japanese for over 40 years. They’ve invested well in the billions of dollars, in this country.

He indicated:

Increasing regulatory hurdles and uncertainty simply adds to the challenges making Canada unattractive when compared to other jurisdictions.

This is all since last Wednesday. That is underlined by other leaders in the industry across Canada.

I would observe, as we heard very eloquently from Senator Busson earlier today, and I remember hearing from Senator Nancy Greene Raine when she was with us last year, that we need to know that oil will move, and oil is going to move on trains. What has happened over the last number of months, certainly over the last year, year and a half, is the amount of oil carried on trains is up 500 to 600 per cent. This is not an ideal circumstance. Our very Transport Committee, a year or a year and a half ago, examined this issue and alerted the Senate to the risks that we’re incurring.

The spectre that Senator Busson raised, and I still remember Senator Nancy raising the spectre, she said, literally, “I watched these trains move through central British Columbia on these high trestles.” Whose interest is that in, as Senator Busson indicated so eloquently tonight?

I live in Canmore. I see the trains go through heading into the Rocky Mountains. There used to be 30 or 40 cars. Now there are 140 cars.

My colleagues from Toronto see these trains rumbling through the centre of Toronto, through the centre of Rosedale in Toronto, and Lac-Mégantic, Winnipeg, Regina and Vancouver. What interest do we possibly think we’re serving in that regard? We have to simply pray to God that there is not a disaster, because it’s going to be a very tough mirror to look into.

May I also observe that First Nations, who wish to move from poverty to prosperity, are deeply frustrated with the decision that’s been taken, not only those who currently are developing resources on their lands and will lose economic value, indeed are losing economic value, but those depending on new opportunities. There will be no Eagle Spirit. There will be no engagement with new pipelines, whether by way of storage facilities, owners and pipelines, because there will be no projects. Opportunities will close.

Of course, tax and royalties will decline. Senator Harder very eloquently indicated yesterday when talking about Trans Mountain that we’re not talking about tax and royalty revenues in the thousands or hundreds or millions of dollars. We are talking in the billions of dollars. Trans Mountain is going to generate billions of dollars for both industry and government. All of that revenue from other projects is going to be lost and the consequences that flow from that.

Honourable senators, we also need to know that litigation is going to increase. The principal driver for the work that I and so many others did was to endeavour to limit the litigation risk, because that’s what is keeping proponents from moving forward.

Our inability to craft a package of amendments is going to see an increase in litigation. The reasons are provinces are unhappy with Ottawa, and provinces aren’t happy with each other. My province has already served notice that they are going to take action on all of Bill C-48, Bill C-69 and the price on carbon. That’s in the last three or four days.

British Columbia has indicated they are going to take further action in respect of the pipeline projects. That’s before we get to people who are feeling disadvantaged by the process under Bill C-69. Unfortunately, that risk is going to enhance.

Finally, I have an observation that I wish to share with you, really for the benefit of the record only. As many of you may know, I have been actively involved for the last year in coordinating and working with a group of organizations, people, agencies and governments across the country to develop the package of amendments that ultimately came before the Senate.

There was a process that was followed, but to suggest that the amendments that were accepted were the ISG amendments and the amendments that were rejected were the Conservative amendments is just simply disingenuous. That is not how it worked. The way it worked was like-minded parties developed a package of amendments and endeavoured to find the vehicles required to get them before the Senate. That’s what happened and that’s what worked.

I’m indebted to my ISG colleagues, Senator Wetston, my friends across the aisle and anyone who was prepared to recognize the risks involved and to take up the challenge. That’s how it worked. For anyone to say these were the Conservative amendments and therefore they can’t be approved is just simply disingenuous.

What do I hope we could achieve? This phase of the battle is over. We’re going to vote tonight and miracles may happen, but this phase of the battle is over.

I’m urging constructive dialogue on developing an energy strategy for this country, not rhetoric, a hope, or a wish. We need a plan. We need a plan that involves all interests, renewable and non-renewable.

A lot of work was done by a lot of organizations over the last decade. It’s there to be done. Someone somewhere needs to pick up that work and endeavour to move forward to develop a strategy so we don’t need to go through this again. We don’t need to put the country through this again. We’ll understand what our national interest is, and we’ll work collectively toward it.

Finally, I want to thank the tens of thousands of Canadians who wrote, spoke out and in many cases marched in the belief that their voices would be heard. I want to thank the nine premiers of this country. Nine premiers, colleagues.

The Hon. the Speaker: I’m sorry, Senator Black, but your time has expired. Are you asking for five more minutes?

Senator D. Black: May I?

The Hon. the Speaker: Is leave granted, honourable senators?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Senator D. Black: I wish to thank the First Nations groups, the Chambers of Commerce, the think tanks, the environmental groups and the project developers. A broader coalition of opposition I have never seen developed. I am appreciative to people for their efforts.

As you can imagine, I have heard, as many of you have as well, from hundreds if not thousands of Canadians who have expressed their ideas, their concerns and their frustrations. I thank them every day — and I mean every day — wherever I am. People come up to me in airports, grocery stores and coffee shops, wherever I am, to express their frustrations but, more importantly, to thank me and my colleagues for the work we’re endeavouring to do. I simply want to underline that this is my work. I’m working on behalf of the resource industries, renewable and non-renewable, and everyone who is touched by those, and that work will continue.

Thank you, colleagues.

The bill that arrived from the House of Commons was, to put it nicely, not fully baked. We took the time and energy at many levels to endeavour to create a piece of legislation that would work.
Why would a majority agree to policies that so clearly punish economic success from an industry that sets the global standard in responsible, renewable and non-renewable energy development and First Nations engagement?
First Nations, who wish to move from poverty to prosperity, are deeply frustrated with the decision that’s been taken, not only those who currently are developing resources on their lands and will lose economic value, indeed are losing economic value, but those depending on new opportunities.
Our inability to craft a package of amendments is going to see an increase in litigation. The reasons are provinces are unhappy with Ottawa, and provinces aren’t happy with each other.