The Backbench Spring: Is this history? - Macleans.ca

The Backbench Spring: Is this history?

A Conservative MP stands to ask a question of the government

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Nearer the end of Question Period this afternoon, the Speaker called on the Conservative MP for Vegreville-Wainwright and both Leon Benoit and another Conservative MP, Phil McColeman I believe, stood and began speaking. Only one of them, Mr. Benoit, is the member for Vegreville-Wainwright and eventually the other MP returned to his seat.

Conservative MP Brent Rathgeber says Mr. Benoit was not on the government whip’s list of those backbenchers who would be asking questions this afternoon, meaning that Mr. Benoit had stood of his own volition, caught the Speaker’s eye and been recognized and possibly making him the first Conservative MP to do so since the Speaker’s ruling. Mr. Benoit has not yet confirmed as much himself, but here is the question he asked.

Mr. Speaker, development of our natural resources is very important for creating jobs, for adding to our economy, and for providing money for health care, education and other social programs. Opposition parties criticizing the government for not paying enough attention to protecting the environment as major projects like mines and pipelines are being developed are slowing this development, thus killing jobs and reducing funding for social programs. I would ask the Minister of Natural Resources for evidence that the government is in fact protecting the environment in the development of these major natural resource projects.

For the record, the response of Dave Anderson, parliamentary secretary to the minister of natural resources, was as follows.

Mr. Speaker, the National Energy Board in Canada is a strong, independent regulator. It is a world-class regulator that ensures pipeline safety. Our government has taken action to prevent pipeline accidents and to prove our ability to respond to any incidents that do occur. For example, we have increased the number of inspections of federally regulated pipelines by 50%. We have doubled the amount of annual audits. We have put forward new fines for companies that break Canada’s rigorous new environmental protections. We are there for Canadian communities. We are going to protect the environment and develop the economy at the same time.

Update 8:43am. Mr. Benoit’s office confirms he was not scheduled to ask a question.