OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre pledged to “speed up” approvals of clean energy projects if he forms government, as his MPs are delaying the passage of two bills set to introduce new regulations aimed at promoting the transition to net-zero emissions in a House of Commons committee.
Poilievre made that promise during a press conference in Vancouver when asked about the role he would see for the federal government to help provinces connect their electricity power grids.
“I think we, as a country, could do a lot better,” he said, before talking about about the hydroelectric potential in Quebec and Manitoba, the massive supply of uranium in Saskatchewan and the tidal power off Canada’s shores. “Common sense Conservatives pledge to speed up the approval for these projects.”
“What stands in the way today? Well, there’s a double-approval process that goes into every new hydroelectric dam that is completely duplicative. Conservatives pledge that if provinces have high environmental standards, we will allow their approval process to stand,” he added.
For the past two weeks, Conservative MPs have been holding up C-50, also known as the “Just Transition” Act, which prepares workers to transition to a lower-carbon economy, as well as C-49 which modernizes the regulatory regime of offshore energy resources in the Atlantic region.
The past four meetings of the Natural Resources committee consisted of raising multiple points of order and constant interruption from the Conservatives, which sometimes meant talking all at once into the microphones to drown out other speakers, much to the Liberals’ and the NDP’s chagrin.
Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said last week the situation in the committee with the official opposition’s tactics is a “ridiculous waste of taxpayer resources.”
“It is particularly problematic because the two bills that they are holding off are important pieces of moving this country forward from an economic perspective, to ensure that we have good jobs and economic prosperity across this country as we move and transition towards a lower-carbon future.”
NDP MP Charlie Angus said these were “the most juvenile, childish tactics” he had ever seen.
Bill C-49 would modernize the Atlantic Accord Acts by establishing a unified regulatory framework for the development and regulation of offshore renewable energy projects – such as wind, hydrogen and green ammonia – offshore Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.
Both provinces support the federal amendments to their offshore accords, and are expected to introduce mirror legislation to complete the framework once C-49 is passed.
Conservative Natural Resources critic Shannon Stubbs had previously criticized the legislation as “another step in a long line of Liberal laws and policies since 2015 that appears destined to drive investment out of Canada with more uncertainty, red tape and extended and costly timelines.”
Her New Brunswick colleague Jake Stewart, however, told CBC News that Conservatives do in fact “support the development of offshore wind and renewables in Atlantic Canada.”
But Conservatives mostly took issue with Bill C-50, which forces the federal government to table a Sustainable Jobs Action Plan every five years and establishes a Sustainable Jobs Partnership Council co-chaired by the industry and unions to provide advice on the shift to a low-carbon economy.
The bill was a key part of the supply-and-confidence agreement with the NDP, and has support from union representatives across the country. But Alberta Premier Danielle Smith has called it a threat to the province’s oil and gas industry and threatened to not recognize or enforce it.
Both pieces of legislation are now in front of the natural resources committee, which is two weeks into a filibuster from the official Opposition.
At the crux of the issue is a scheduling motion brought by Liberal MP Francesco Sorbara on Oct. 30 to study C-50 then C-49 before moving to the clause-by-clause consideration of the bills. But the Conservatives opposed the move, saying that C-49 should be considered before C-50.
But before considering C-49, Stubbs brought an amendment to first undertake a study of the Supreme Court’s ruling of the Impact Assessment Act, dubbed the “no more pipelines act” by its critics, as largely unconstitutional. She said that C-49 incorporates parts of that law in the text of the bill.
Stubbs argued that the federal government should not rush through these new bills as they did for the Impact Assessment Act and that the committee needed to hear from more witnesses.
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But Liberals and the NDP have argued that the clean energy transition is already underway, saying Canada cannot afford to sit on the sidelines while waiting for its rules to be in place. They said that the more those bills are delayed, the more Canadian workers will miss out on opportunities.
“The Conservatives can filibuster this bill but they cannot filibuster the energy transition,” said Caroline Brouillette, executive director of Climate Action Network Canada. “And we need mechanisms that make sure that workers and communities are at the table and are supported through this transition.”
The Bloc Quebecois’ Mario Simard also rejected Stubbs’ proposition to study the Impact Assessment Act, arguing that it is a law that was passed in another legislature.
As a result, Conservatives have been giving lengthy speeches or disrupting the work of the committee to the point where the chair, Liberal MP George Chahal, said he has had to suspend the meetings multiple times to ensure the health and safety of the interpreters translating the proceedings.
During the last meeting on Nov. 8, emotions ran high when Angus said his right to participate in the debate was interfered by a “bar room mob action” from the Conservatives heckling him and others. Stubbs took issue with that characterization, saying a mob is a “dangerous criminal organization.”
Simard said that the committee would be going around in circles until the Christmas break if nothing changes, and characterized the proceedings as a “sad and boring comedy.”
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