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Speech on Bill C-69: Changes to Environmental Assessment Process

 

Impact Assessment Bill
Canadian Energy Regulator Bill
Navigation Protection Act

Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Mitchell, seconded by the Honourable Senator Pratte, for the second reading of 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.

Hon. Scott Tannas: Honourable senators, I rise again today to speak to Bill C-69. Before I start, I want to congratulate Senator Simons on her powerful and compelling speech yesterday, a maiden speech nonetheless. I wasn’t in the chamber, but I had the opportunity to read it this morning. Congratulations. I want to associate myself with everything that she had to say.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.

Senator Tannas: I also want to salute our brave friend Senator Mitchell. He has been an unrelenting advocate for the environment the entire time that I’ve been here watching him. I was thinking about his former mentor and colleague here in the Senate, Nick Taylor, who used to be the Leader of the Alberta Liberal Party and was in fact that when the National Energy Policy from Trudeau senior was given to Alberta.

Nick Taylor said that at that time he could hold a Liberal convention in a phone booth. He was only half-joking, I think, at the time.

Senator Mitchell, while we’re not there yet, this bill would go a long way towards making that reality happen again for you, so I do salute you for your bravery, sir.

Senator Tannas: My province is seized with this legislation. The provincial government has stated that the bill in its present form is unacceptable. It’s unacceptable to Alberta, and I have to say that Albertans themselves are becoming increasingly alarmed at what they perceive to be an attack on them, their values and their way of life.

I can say that in the five-and-a-half years I’ve been here — and I wasn’t expecting this — I’ve had more people stop me in supermarkets, at community events, at the airport and in business meetings to tell me that we have to stop this. It is quickly becoming a lightning rod in my province and I believe potentially in other provinces as well.

Folks, we in the Senate will need to bring our very best to this issue as we examine its intention and understand its proposed processes, and from there, develop the right package of amendments. The oil and gas industry has much to say about the bill, and their advocates and experts will be ready to testify at committee.

I’d like to take a minute to talk about the nuclear power industry in Canada, an industry that we have pioneered in many ways by leveraging another abundant Canadian resource, which is uranium. We forget something that Premier Brad Wall once said: “We are the Saudi Arabia of uranium.” This is a country with that resource in abundance more than anywhere else in the world.

This industry has been so far sidelined by the attention, I think, given to the oil and gas sector. This industry employs many thousands of Canadians in mines in Saskatchewan and power plants in Ontario. Cameco, which is the largest uranium miner in the country, located in Saskatchewan, is Canada’s largest industrial employer of Indigenous people. It’s something to think about. I don’t think they were consulted.

Everybody in that industry has concerns about the potential for harm with respect to Bill C-69. In particular, what I heard from a number of parties is that Bill C-69 carves out the impact assessment function for nuclear projects from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and hands it to the impact assessment agency. Industry groups are concerned that the government is dismantling a regulator that was viewed — and is still viewed — as world class and handing those powers to the newly created impact assessment agency, which cannot possibly possess the institutional knowledge and scientific expertise of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. The CNSC is mandated now, or will be, as the junior partner to the impact assessment agency in joint panels, and the Canadian Nuclear Association argues that they should at least be given equal status.

If our world needs less CO2 emissions — and that seems to be the collective wisdom these days — it will need more of some other kind of energy. I think we would do well to listen to and consider what Canada’s nuclear industry has to say.

I have to say, I’m puzzled why we seem to be ashamed of the abundance of resources that we have in this country, especially resources related to energy.

(1600)

We have hydro, nuclear and oil and gas. We also have the sun and the wind, although, as we will see over the next little while, the sun doesn’t show up very much at certain times of the year. All of these things are under attack — all oil and gas.

We hear from hydroelectric proponents that Bill C-68 will have a significant effect on their business, and the nuclear industry. I don’t understand why they are all under attack at the same time. I don’t understand whose agenda this is and why.

Honourable senators, I want to mention one more thing: The bill proposes to radically alter the process as to who can have standing during a process of review of a project. The new principle appears to support the notion that any and all must be heard when projects are being considered.

Colleagues, I think we should test this concept out as we consider Bill C-69. Why don’t we send our committee on the road to hear from any and all, from coast to coast to coast? Why don’t we try walking a mile in the shoes of a proponent and see how it works out?

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

Senator Tannas: Let’s make that part of our deliberations.

(On motion of Senator Martin, debate adjourned.)