Michael MacDonald proud of Senate’s role

Senator serves on committees that reviewed Bills C-48 and C-69

May 29, 2019 2:11 pm
Kevin Weedmark

One day after the Senate transport committee rejected the federal moratorium on oil tankers in northern B.C., the energy committee that studied C-69 voted to approve 187 amendments to the bill, which would make developing resource projects more difficult.

Senator Michael MacDonald happens to be a member of both the Senate Transport Committee that rejected Bill C-48, and is the deputy chair of the Senate Energy Committee that proposed all the amendments to Bill C-69.

He said the senators’ amendments came from groups and governments across the country.

“We heard from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, from the workers in these industries, from communities affected by these industries, and from provinces,” he said. We went to people who knew what they were talking about on the impact of the bill. The independent senators had a number of amendments as well. We gave them our support, and we got ours passed, and now it’s up to the government to decide which of those 187 they’re going to keep.

“One of the most important amendments we proposed is curtailing the minister’s ability to go in there and arbitrarily shut everything down because they feel like it.

“Another one is stopping intervenors from coming in from anywhere in the world. We want a lot of this stuff tightened up.

“We’re pleased that we got a lot of our amendments on the table. Now we’ll see. When the government is run by a bunch of idealogues I don’t expect too much, unfortunately. Hope springs eternal, but this is not a government that has been open to accepting too many things unless you put them in a corner.”

MacDonald said the amended bill now goes back to the Senate. “It goes to third reading, and it can be amended at third reading, so I expect there may be more amendments to come. They’re voted on by the entire Senate.

“Once the bill is eventually called, I assume it will pass, and then it will go back to the House, where they will have to decide which amendments they’re going to accept and which ones they’re not.”

The bill will go back before the senate for third reading during the last week of May, and then it goes back to the House of Commons.

What did MacDonald learn in the hearings on Bill C-69?

“I always thought it was problematic. I always thought it was undermining national unity,” he said. “But in the hearings I learned that there is a much better understanding in the West of what it’s doing to the economy.”

Moosomin’s economic development committee was among those that submitted briefs to the Senate Energy Committee on Bill C-69. The community had earlier hosted an energy rally with federal Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, Sask Premier Scott Moe, New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs, and Senator Denise Batters.

MacDonald said he believes the community had an impact on the national debate.

“The brief got read and looked at and assessed, and we had a lot of briefs from a lot of communities and groups that led to those amendments.

“The one thing I noticed about this bill—you see a lot of bills where all you get is cut-and-paste stuff. ‘Sign here and send this message off.’ But what I noticed about this bill was the number of independently sourced letters from people who have great experience and insight into the oil and gas industry, engineering, mining, investment, movement of capital. Just a really great cross-section of well-educated and professional people who have written in with insights that we never would have got sitting around the table in Ottawa. Certainly not from the bureaucrats.

“You have engineers who have worked both upstream and downstream over a 40-45 year period. They’re pretty knowledgable and it shows.

“I was impressed by the amount of well-written independent correspondence we received on this bill from people who have something to say.

“People who are well-versed in industry and managing environmental issues and managing growth, and have a lot of experience in some of these industries are fully cognizant of the damage this bill could do when it comes to investment in this country and competing with the rest of the world.”

He said the pipeline rally in Moosomin also had an impact on the national debate.

“The attention paid to that rally in Moosomin had an impact when it comes to helping educate the public in general. Whether it has any impact on the government is another story.

“And whether it has any impact on certain power elements in the country is another story.”

Where does he think the bill will go from here?

“I think it will pass before the election. Do I have any faith in the government when it comes to the oil and gas industry? No, not really. Not after what I’ve witnessed up there for the past number of years. I’m hoping for the best.”

MacDonald said he believes the lack of pipelines puts Canada at a disadvantage.

“We have a common market in oil in North America. Basically it’s a free market. We operate with the Americans. They’re taking our oil at discounted prices and putting it through refineries in the Southern U.S. I don’t blame them for that. We have to sell it there, because we can’t get it onto the world market. All the money is bleeding out of this country and going there, and the Americans are producing more oil than ever, and they’re selling it on the world market. They have the best of both worlds, and we have the worst. You can’t blame them. They’re just doing what the market lets them do.”

He said he is happy with the work the senators did on the file.

“I’m satisfied with the work my colleagues an myself did. I’m glad that we insisted on doing the work in the senate that wasn’t done well enough in the Commons.

“We have a responsibility. If we see a bill that’s so badly flawed it’s going to damage the government in so many ways, economically, socially and everything else, then I think we have an obligation to try to make it better. But the government doesn’t have to accept it. We put a lot of time and effort into this, and I think we raised the profile of the bill with the Canadian public. We’ll see if we raised it with the government.

“But one of the things about Canada is we’re a pretty resilient country. We have an election every four years, and we have a chance this October to do something about it.”