Madam Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to speak about Bill C-34 today. It has been said before that weak leaders create hard times. The bill is meant to deal with foreign interference and the lack of infrastructure. I am going to speak specifically about that lack of infrastructure in the north.
Point (b) in the summary says that the bill is meant to “authorize the Minister of Industry, after consultation with the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, to impose interim conditions in respect of investments in order to prevent injury to national security that could arise during the review...”
Again, I think it is pretty easy to make the case that this weak NDP-Liberal government, after eight years, and I would also include the members of Parliament from those territories, has put Canadians at risk in the north. It does not take too long to find articles that are really concerned about this. I will even quote from leaders who are actually in the north.
This is an article from just a week ago: “CSIS warning Inuit leaders about covert foreign investment in Arctic, documents show... The Canadian Security Intelligence Service has warned Inuit leaders that foreign adversaries could gain a foothold in Canada by offering to fill infrastructure gaps in the north.”
This is what this legislation says it is supposed to prevent from happening, and that is good, I guess, but, again, this NDP-Liberal government has been in power for eight years.
“We are making decisions every day that are currently not as informed as they could be about threats and considerations,” said Inuit leader Natan Obed.
I will read on.
“...CSIS documents obtained by CBC News show that the agency is trying to grow its presence in the North and deepen its relationship with Inuit communities in response to 'economic, strategic and military interests of foreign states in the North.'”
I go up to the territories quite often. It is quite a different perspective when one gets to the north, because when one talks to somebody in the southern parts of Canada, the north, the territories, is a faraway place. They do not really get how seriously the territories take this because, really, it is their front yard. They are seeing foreign activity increase right in their own front yards.
The article went on.
“'Foreign interference is a significant threat, primarily from China and then Russia. Both desire access to natural resources in the Arctic, like minerals,' said one of the CSIS documents, released through an access to information request. 'To date, however, [CSIS's] presence in Canada's north and Arctic has been limited.'”
I will go on.
“...CSIS Director David Vigneault visited the region in 2022 and has had meetings with [local leadership]...His talking points for those meetings, released to CBC News, included questions for the leaders about partnering with foreign telecommunication providers. 'CSIS's interests in Canada's north and the Arctic stem from our mandated responsibilities to address security threats, including foreign interference and espionage,' the talking points say.”
On espionage in our Canadian north he said, “'These take the form of activities such as covert foreign investments or partnership arrangements, efforts to interfere in decision-making at all levels of government, theft of research or data and interference in research agendas or funding.'”
Lastly, Natan Obed said, “'There's still incredible infrastructure deficits in the Canadian Arctic, whether it be for airports, for marine facilities, or for just a network for shipping.'”
I started off by saying that weak leaders create hard times. Indeed, this government has had eight years to really strengthen what I would say was a pretty strong approach. The former Stephen Harper government, in 2015, spent a lot of time and made a lot of investments in the Arctic and we just have not seen that continue.
This goes beyond what people think of security, as in the military, investments. Arctic sovereignty really refers to supporting northerners in the north, to make sure that they have good jobs, that they can have healthy families and healthy lifestyles, so they can reside in the north and do so in a strong position.
A way to erode that is to erode the economy. When we erode the economy, we erode those investments that are often made as a side benefit of infrastructure or of industrial development, such as roads, fibre optic networks and other really important infrastructure, which we all use.
This is about a previous action by the Liberal government when there was a moratorium placed on offshore oil and gas development in the Arctic. Bob McLeod, the then premier, who is the brother of the current NWT MP in the House, was not very happy about the decision the Prime Minister made to shut down all development in the north. The premier said there was billions of dollars of investment that simply got pushed off the table. Those investments would have also impacted, in large part, indigenous communities.
The premier said, “we made the decision to unconditionally share 25 percent of resource revenues with NWT Indigenous governments. We are proud to be on the forefront of preserving Indigenous languages”.
However, he also states, and this is a quote specifically about the moratorium:
Restrictions imposed on our vital energy and resource sector—40 percent of our economy and source of middle class jobs and incomes for many of our people—are driving companies away, and with that go the jobs that sustain healthy families and community life. Staying in or trying to join the middle class will become a distant dream for many.
That was then premier McLeod speaking to Bill C-34. When we have weak economies in our territories because of Ottawa-knows-best policies, this is what happens. Infrastructure does not get built and that is what puts us in this precarious position. That was from the Northwest, Territories.
I am going to go over to Nunavut. A recent article is entitled “Arviat South MLA blasts proposed amendments to federal mining law”. This is an MLA in Nunavut criticizing the current member of Parliament for Nunavut. The article states:
During three separate question periods in the legislative assembly on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, Arviat South MLA Joe Savikataaq asked Premier Akeeagok and multiple ministers for their positions on [the MP for Nunavut's] proposed amendments to the Territorial Lands Act.
The article continues:
He said if adopted [the NDP MP's] plan would impede the growth of mining in the territory and make it harder to increase Inuit employment in the mines.
“Not everybody wants to be a Government of Nunavut worker,” Savikataaq said. “Her position is completely wrong for Nunavut.”
I say that in relation to what we are talking about today. If economies are not developing and they are retracting, this is what happens. Investments are not made. We are put into a position where foreign governments can have undue influence because the territories are so desperate to get this infrastructure that it puts our security and sovereignty at risk.
As it relates to the security aspect of it in the military, we have seen recent quotes from former Liberal MP and general, Mr. Leslie. The article is entitled “Canadian Forces in desperate need of new spending, procurement follow-through”. The follow-through is what needs to be done here. The government makes a lot of promises. I have said in the House before that it has promised billions of dollars to modernize NORAD, but only $45 million has been spent. I have the documents from the estimates in front of me.
I will read from the article. It states, “Canada spends $23.3 billion on the Department of National Defence, but Leslie said the department has a chronic problem with actually using the funds.” Leslie stated, “Over the last seven years, the Armed Forces has been allocated roughly that amount but it hasn't been able to spend it all. And the blame for that lies squarely with the prime minister and the minister of finance,” and I would add on the NDP members to my left. The article continues, “Leslie, recruited in 2015 as a star candidate to write the Liberals' defence and foreign policy platform, is now disillusioned with the government procurement abilities.”
I started off by saying weak leaders create hard times. This weak, NDP-Liberal government has created hard times for us in the north, and it needs to change.