In Parliament: Special Committee on Canada-US Relations (Line 5)

On May 10, I moved concurrence of the first report of the Special Committee on the Economic Relationship between Canada and the United States.

I focused in my remarks on the difficulty of resolving the matter of Line 5, a critical pipeline that crosses the Canada-US border bringing petroleum resources to Ontario, Quebec, Michigan and Wisconsin. I have been calling on the Prime Minister to telephone President Biden and invoke the terms of the Transit Pipelines Treaty. Watch the speech and Q&A on YouTube (17 min). The full transcript of my remarks, and the following questions and answers, is below the video link.

 

 

Mr. Speaker, I move that the first report of the Special Committee on the Economic Relationship between Canada and the United States, presented on Thursday, April 15, be concurred in.

I will be splitting my time today with the member for Chilliwack—Hope.

Today is May 10. In two days, on May 12, the Governor of the State of Michigan has stated that she will shut down Enbridge Line 5, which provides 540,000 barrels of oil per day to Canadian refineries in Sarnia in southern Ontario, and further feeds facilities in Quebec. It is estimated that 30,000 jobs depend on this important international infrastructure in southern Ontario alone. Today, we are debating concurrence of the report of the Special Committee on the Economic Relationship between Canada and the United States, which was presented to this House on April 15. That was 25 days ago and still there are no signs that the Prime Minister is engaged on this file.

How much of Canada's petroleum needs will be disrupted? In fact, 540,000 barrels per day equates to about 25% of Canada's daily consumption of oil. That shortage will fall on the backs of two provinces, Ontario and Quebec, as it will represent approximately half of the supply of this vital energy feedstock to its economic output as the products refine into inputs for petrochemicals, plastics and textiles, and much more that is at the heart of Canada's manufacturing sector, to heating homes, driving cars and getting goods like food and supplies to markets efficiently and quickly.

In short, cutting off this infrastructure will result in a disastrous outcome for Canada. Tens of thousands of jobs in the supply chain that feeds our economy and a manufacturing sector that has been built on and depends on this critical infrastructure, all waiting, with their fingers crossed, for the outcome. It is safe to say that the closure of this energy infrastructure represents a national energy security emergency. Two days away, yet Line 5 has been threatened with closure since November 13, 2020. Six months have passed. I spoke about this matter needing resolution quickly at that time, but the government frittered its time away.

Enbridge, one of Canada's great companies, has actively engaged with the governor's office, and moved the matter to the U.S. federal court where it seems to belong, yet the governor wants the matter heard in a state court. Nevertheless, the federal court did instruct the parties to enter into mediation discussions, which have been ongoing. It should be noted that the governor would not even return calls from Enbridge on the matter prior to the federal court judge's instructions. Although seemingly a productive exercise, the governor has insisted during mediation talks that she would be shutting down Line 5 on May 12, whatever the process, timing or outcome of mediation discussions. This is hardly a productive or a mediatory stance.

Why is the Governor of Michigan taking on this posture, as unreasonable as it seems to a friendly trading partner, international security partner, energy security partner and environmental progress partner for a line that is an energy lifeblood for her state and other neighbouring states, as well as Canada? Ostensibly, for the safety of water in the Great Lakes Basin, they will shut down a pipeline that has never leaked, in which the company operating it is actively going through state regulatory processes to make it even more secure with an underground concrete tunnel.

The outcome of this misguided approach will move that product to trucks, railcars and barges on the Great Lakes. All of those outcomes have larger environmental footprints and greater environmental risks, even to the Great Lakes, than the intrinsically safe pipeline option. By clear analysis, there are other reasons. The governor is a politician, so it must be politics. For whose benefit, we can speculate, but at whose cost it is clear: Those parties dependent upon this energy infrastructure for their livelihood, their jobs, their farms, the goods they produce, and the heat for homes and barns, so that our food supply is safe; and an international trade relationship between two of the world's most friendly trading nations. This is the fallout of what is really at stake.

The economies of our two countries, Canada and the U.S., have prospered over decades, better than economies elsewhere in the developed world because of our strong trade links and the rule of law that governs our institutions, including our trading relationships. The backbone of this mutually beneficial trade relationship is our infrastructure and the fundamentally most important part of that infrastructure is our energy infrastructure. Previous governments, of all stripes in Canada and the U.S., have recognized this importance.

In 1977, our two governments signed the Transit Pipelines Treaty to ensure that the energy transportation and trade between our two nations did not suffer because of political whims or short-term self-interest at the expense of our joint long-term prosperity and security and, yet, here we are. A state government is acting unilaterally, seemingly in direct contravention of our international treaty. It begs the question as to whether there is any meaning behind the words in that treaty or we have a trade partner that recognizes a Canadian government that either does not want to stand up for Canada's energy security or perhaps does not know how. Surely it cannot be because the Government of Canada does not recognize the importance of the infrastructure and the associated energy security.

It follows on our country's disastrous showing in renegotiating the new NAFTA, CUSMA, and a negotiating strategy where Canada did not show up with the real issues to be discussed for our benefit until too late. At one point, we were excluded from the trade discussions because the other parties did not take us seriously. No one was there to solve the emerging issues between our countries. In the end, we ended up with far less in the trade agreement than we had in the previous agreement, and our elected officials were relieved to sign it because it could have been so much worse. A victory is now defined by the current government as doing worse, but not losing completely. The bar is being lowered.

Since then, the U.S. has continued to ignore the trade treaty's terms on steel and aluminum and now is pursuing a buy America policy in which Canada is an outsider. So much for preferential access to our markets. So much for free trade. So much for trade treaties. So much for Canada's standing up for the terms it negotiates in these agreements. The current government will roll over on any trade issue. We need to get serious.

Canada's standing in the world, economically and diplomatically, has declined precipitously in the past six years. We are viewed as a non-serious world player more concerned with virtuous statements than fulfilling any objectives or standing for any principles. The ranking of our competitiveness has fallen from fifth in the world to 13th, between 2015 and 2019. In foreign affairs, we have moved to a status where trade disputes are handled by our trade partners with hostage diplomacy.

It is as if we can foresee the headlines for 2030: When did Canada lose its relevance in the world? The world will point to this period, a period when an aimless, disinterested, non-serious government spoke virtuous words of all it stood for and then delivered no tangible results. It failed to recognize Canada's strengths, its role in the world and its ability to add value to world events. It lost sight of getting things done. It could not build domestic pipelines after cancelling some of its most promising ones, delaying others and making the process for approving infrastructure opaque, adding years to regulatory process. Accountability and oversight disappeared and Canadians were not paying attention to the incompetence. Canada was, is, led by a government intent on staying in power at all costs, including the future of the country itself. Then a foreign government, our most important trading partner and ally, ignored a treaty between our two countries and allowed the shutdown of a key piece of infrastructure on which Canada's energy security depends. Why did the Government of Canada not engage adequately with the U.S. government? Perhaps it was because the interest groups that supported the Governor of Michigan were the same ones on which the Government of Canada relied for its own virtue signalling; or, perhaps it was just an incompetent Prime Minister who did not know that international engagement meant getting involved in personal diplomacy with his U.S. counterpart when Canada's interests were at grave risk.

Line 5 is recognized as a critical piece of international infrastructure, and its regulation is overseen by PHMSA in the United States. The Canadian equivalent would be the Department of Transport. Other critical departments that should be actively involved in this file include foreign affairs, international trade and energy. This issue requires a whole-of-government approach and the leader of that effort should be the Prime Minister. Delegating this matter to the Minister of Natural Resources does not accord it the importance it requires. We need to do better. The Prime Minister needs—

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Carol Hughes

Unfortunately, the hon. member's time is up. He will have time to add, during questions and comments.

Questions and comments, the hon. parliamentary secretary to the government House leader.

Kevin Lamoureux Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, the Conservative opposition party continues its shameful, destructive force on the floor of the House of Commons. It is simply amazing. Canadians are concerned about the pandemic, among other things, and the Conservatives still want to play political partisan games in the House. There was an emergency debate on the issue, yet the Conservatives have not seen fit to put it as one of the opposition days. When will the Conservatives start recognizing what Canadians want, get serious and allow government legislation to move forward. Why the constructive moves coming from the Conservative Party day in and day out?

Greg McLean Calgary Centre, AB

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague on the other side of the House for that Freudian slip.

This is very constructive. This is about Canadian jobs. This is about one of the most important issues for the future of Canada and a pattern we see happening. We are speaking up loudly at this point in time for the interests of Canadians and asking the Prime Minister to meet with the U.S. President and get this matter resolved along the terms of the transit pipelines treaty today or tomorrow. The deadline set by the Governor of Michigan is at our door. When will the Prime Minister act?

Richard Cannings South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Madam Speaker, listening to the member for Calgary Centre and his speech when opening this debate, I think pretty much everybody in this House wants this dispute settled and settled quickly. It is undoubtedly going before the courts, and part of that is based on the transit pipelines treaty, which he mentioned a couple of times. The treaty also states that it is “subject to regulations by the appropriate governmental authorities”. I am not a lawyer, but I would assume that might include state authorities, so this could go on and on.

I wondered, beyond what we did in the emergency debate last Thursday, what the member thinks we could be doing here to move this forward. We all care about those thousands of jobs in Ontario and Quebec and I just do not see the point of this debate here today.

Greg McLean Calgary Centre, AB

Madam Speaker, we are talking about accepting a parliamentary report, the Enbridge Line 5 interim report, from a parliamentary committee. This is a concurrence motion today to get this on the table two days before this line shuts down. We have been calling on the Prime Minister to get actively engaged in this file for several months now. It is not happening without his engagement. I appreciate that the member on the other side does not understand the difference between federal primacy and international treaties versus state regulation, but it is a transit pipeline treaty for the security of two nations, which was designed that way and is meant to overrule all the other regulations, except for of course safety. We are looking at a very important international treaty here that is at risk.

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, very quickly I would add that we did canvass the issue in an emergency debate. It is a legitimate concern of the State of Michigan to protect the waters of the Great Lakes, but we all agree a solution must be found. This is an existing route and it should be maintained by one means or another.

I would say this very quickly to the hon. member. He mentioned in debate the other night that losing the energy chapter of NAFTA in the new CUSMA somehow hurt Canada's energy security. I actually believe it is the opposite since that section only served to ensure that whatever quantity of fossil fuels or any product Canada was exporting to the U.S. would have to be maintained in perpetuity for those energy products. For instance, even if we were running out of our supplies of natural gas we would be required to continue to sell whatever share the U.S. got at its highest level. Would he not agree this is an improvement to have autonomy?

Greg McLean Calgary Centre, AB

Madam Speaker, that is a good question. The actual terms of the energy agreement in the former NAFTA was a proportional sharing agreement. It was not an absolute sharing agreement to the highest levels that we provide to the U.S.; it was a proportional sharing agreement so that if in some emergency or international incident we had to cut back one-quarter to the U.S. we would be incumbent to cut back one-quarter of our own supplies, as would the U.S. if we think about the way this product goes across the borders in both its raw and finished states. It is called a treaty for a reason, so that we can get some solidity on our energy security as an economy going forward.