Business of Supply
Mr. Speaker, it is always an honour for me to rise in the House to speak on any important matter of debate, and this is such an important matter. Ironically, we are a few months away from the 60th anniversary of a similar debate on pipelines that rocked the House at the time and led to an election and a change in government.
Ironically at the time, it was the Liberal Party that was advocating for a pipeline to be built across Canada and it was Prime Minister Diefenbaker who was looking at options on whether it could go through the United States or how that government would proceed. However, I think everyone involved knew the importance of that project to Canada and its economy. It was the way it was being implemented in the nation’s interest.
We are back here today because my hon. colleague, the natural resources critic of the official opposition, brought this debate to the House. In debates like this I also think of a quote that a mentor of mine once related to me. I have not been able to find the attribution, but one of my political mentors when I was living in Nova Scotia was the late Henry David MacKeen, who was very close to Robert Stanfield, the leader of the official opposition and Conservative leader in Ottawa. Stanfield once said that it is far easier to unite one part of Canada against another part of Canada than it is to unite all of Canada. Sadly, we are having this debate today because our new Prime Minister seems to have forgotten that point and the role of the nation’s leader in guiding our economy.
The Prime Minister speaks regularly about diversity, which I like him doing. Diversity is our strength, but diversity is more than just our peoples. It is our geography and our economy. Those three things are linked, because it is the geography of regions, whether it is Atlantic Canada with our fishery or western Canada with our resources, that the people of those regions and all of Canada benefit from the economy involved. That is the diversity of our country, the second largest in the world. That needs to be the focus of the Prime Minister of Canada, not pitting one region or industry or sector against another, because by doing that we are dividing Canadians.
Our economy is diverse. We sometimes hear voices in the media suggesting that we are only an oil and gas exporter, that that is all the previous government focused on. People who say that have no clear understanding of our economy. The resource economy is very important to Canada, but it represents about 8% of our GDP and not all of it concentrated in a few provinces. Petrolia, Ontario was where oil was first produced in Canada. It is no longer produced there, but almost $1 billion in manufacturing jobs in southern Ontario are attributable to the resource sector in western Canada. There are as many manufacturing jobs in southern Ontario attributable to the resource sector as to auto assembly. The success of that region and part of our economy benefits all.
Canada receives $17 billion through all levels of government as a result of the resource industry. This diversity is what has helped us weather the global recession of 2008-09 better than any of our main allies. It was that economy that helped as Ontario, Quebec, and other provinces’ economies slowed. Now the Canadian way would be to embrace the diversity of that economy, and as resource prices are depressed, hopefully other aspects of our economy from high-tech, to manufacturing, to agriculture, to fisheries, can help take up some of the slack. That is what a family does. That is what a confederation does. We cannot pit one industry or one sector of our economy against the other, because that pits Canadians against each other.
The resource industry is much more than just the trees, the minerals, or the oil and gas. We have innovated in this sector probably better than any other country. From exploration, to extraction, to processing, these are high-tech knowledge-based jobs that help us also mitigate environmental damage. Millions of dollars is being spent on that.
For a number of years I had the pleasure of working in Toronto in the so-called Bay Street area. The Toronto Stock Exchange and Bay Street would not exist in the form they do today were it not for our resource sector. In fact, our exchange remains one of the best places to raise capital for mining exploration in the world. That is what put us on the map.
There are a lot of Liberal MPs from Toronto. If we were to look at the office towers in Toronto, those jobs would not be there if we were not a global centre for mining finance. The capital markets and banks that have fed off of that for generations have now placed us as one of the best and strongest G7 economies in the world. There are jobs in every part of this country and resources coming to all levels of government because of the resource sector. To demonize that sector or pit it against another is an abdication of leadership.
In the last year, both before and after his election, the Prime Minister made comments that make it appear to many that he plays favourites among the sectors. Because sectors, geography and our people are so closely linked, picking favourites pits one part of the country against another. We saw this when he said that parts of Ontario need to move past their manufacturing heritage. The auto industry in Canada grew up from Oshawa, a part of which I have the honour of representing. There are still thousands of jobs in the auto assembly and auto parts industries in my area and tens of thousands in southern Ontario that we cannot move past. The Prime Minister should be asking how we can secure and expand these employment opportunities. Not every community across the country can pop up a BlackBerry or an OpenText or a Hootsuite. Those are tremendous innovators. However, one should not pick those innovators over our resource sector, not as the Prime Minister.
In case the Prime Minister does not know, we are resourceful now. However, he said in Davos that resources were in our past, as if the Canadian innovations in the in situ work in mining, oil, and gas were not an example of resourcefulness, as if mitigating the water use in the oil sands was not resourceful, and as if raising capital for mining operations or exploration around the world was not resourceful or meaningful. The role of the Prime Minister should not be to pick favourites. He should be a champion for all.
I worry about the tone he is setting, even in his early days as the Prime Minister of Canada, which is one that other levels of government are following. The mayor of Montreal, his former parliamentary colleague, appears to think that it is okay, when he knows full well the opportunity that energy east holds for New Brunswick and western Canada, and that the National Energy Board is seized with that matter to ensure that energy east is in the national interest, alongside environmental, aboriginal, and community concerns, which, writ large, have developed into the concept of social licence. The Prime Minister has set a tone that is allowing division to start in our country.
The Prime Minister of Canada should not be a traffic cop for other levels of government but a dispassionate referee, when there are tens of thousands of jobs on the line and we, 60 years later in the House, are having another debate on pipelines and how they are in our nation’s interest.
I will end with a quote from 2014 with respect to energy east by Frank McKenna, a tremendous Canadian and prominent Liberal leader, who said:
Our country has always had its regional differences, and the Energy East pipeline is not going to change that by itself. That said, following the National Energy Board’s due diligence and further input from various parties (including First Nations and environmental organizations), I would hope that one thing becomes abundantly clear. The Energy East project represents one of those rare opportunities to bring all provinces and regions of this country together to support a project that will benefit us all, and that is truly in the national interest.