Mr. Speaker, it is great to speak to Bill today. I will be sharing my time this morning with the fabulous member of Parliament for . She deserves a round of applause.
This legislation seeks to enact the Aviation Industry Indemnity Act and make changes to many different pieces of existing legislation, such as the Aeronautics Act, the Canada Marine Act, the Marine Liability Act, and the Canada Shipping Act, 2001.
Right now we are debating Bill at third reading. I want to mention at the outset that the NDP will be supporting the bill at third reading because, as my hon. colleague before me mentioned briefly in his response to questions, it would make marginal improvements to the situation we have at hand.
However, I must also note that during the committee study of the bill, amendments were proposed that came from suggestions from witness testimony at committee. The NDP moved seven amendments and the Green Party moved three. All 10 of the amendments that were put forward, based on expert testimony, were refused by the Conservative majority on the committee. Even though Bill would make modest improvements, even better improvements could have been made, and were put forward, but Conservatives on the committee made sure they did not pass.
Just briefly, I want to mention a couple of the general themes of the amendments we proposed.
One of the amendments required the to publish all reports from the studies of the disasters that happened, rather than keeping them as internal documents.
Another amendment was with regard to extending the ship-source oil pollution fund, the SOPF, to non-oil spills that could pollute our waters. Conservative members chose not to support that.
Bill was formerly Bill , which was tabled in March 2013. That legislation died on the order paper when that session of Parliament was prorogued.
Bill appears to be part of a concerted effort by the Conservatives to correct their lack of credibility in areas of transport safety, particularly oil tanker traffic on the west coast, in face of the mounting opposition we are seeing across the country to the Northern Gateway pipeline, which was originally proposed in 2006.
I think the real reason why the government is finally pushing on this issue is that the bill would implement the International Convention on Liability and Compensation for Damage in Connection with the Carriage of Hazardous and Noxious Substances by Sea, 2010, to which Canada is a signatory. The convention has not been implemented yet, so this legislation would allow for its implementation.
New Democrats believe that Canadian taxpayers should not be on the hook for the cleanup costs and damage that follow a spill of hazardous and noxious substances. In consequence, we have proposed that damages from a hazardous and noxious substance spill exceeding $500 million liability should not be paid by taxpayers. They should be covered by the SOPF, the ship-source oil pollution fund. Polluters should be responsible for the cleanup of oil spills, rather than taxpayers across the country.
Part 2 of the bill would give the military the AIA, which is the airworthiness investigative authority, the traditional Transportation Safety Board investigatory powers in the event of an aviation accident involving the military.
For example, if the military exclusively investigates a defined military-civilian accident, the Transportation Safety Board is no longer involved. The military investigator only reports the results of that investigation to the . Canadians do not know what is in the report, in the investigation or the outcome of that report. The New Democrats feel that our operations need to be far more transparent. One of the amendments we had put forward was to make these reports public, rather than them only being given to the Minister of National Defence. Canadians should know what is in those reports.
Other measures that the New Democrats wanted to see in a bill to safeguard Canada's seas included: reversing the Coast Guard closures and the scaling back of the services included in the closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard station; cancelling the closure of B.C.'s regional office for emergency oil spill responders; cancelling the cuts to Canada's Centre for Offshore Oil, Gas and Energy Research; and reversing the cuts to key environmental emergency programs, including oil spill response for Newfoundland and Labrador and British Columbia. We put forward many other suggestions to reverse many of the cuts put forward by the Conservative government that decreased safety on our coastlines and in Canadian waters. Many of these amendments were not accepted by the Conservatives on the transportation, infrastructure and communities committee.
We are now left with Bill , which is, as I said at the outset, a marginal improvement, but not the best it could be. However, we do support the bill at third reading.
The two pieces that we really pushed for in committee were to not have Canadian taxpayers on the hook for large-scale hazardous and noxious substance spills. It should have been the polluters. The second piece was that there needed to be increased transparency regarding investigations and the reports that would come out of those investigations. We know how the Conservatives are with respect to transparency and accountability, so I will not go too much into repeating the fact that the government likes to keep things secretive and does not like telling Canadians what it is going on.
The context of Bill focuses on administrative organization, but lacks in actual environmental improvements. Ben West from ForestEthics Advocacy said of continuing on this path of safety cuts and emergency response closures, “...we have actually been aggressively moving in the wrong direction on this file.” I am concerned because this may have been on the topic of forest or coastline safety in British Columbia, which has a high level of tanker traffic.
My constituency of Scarborough—Rouge River is home to the Rouge Park. The government just introduced legislation in the House to create it as Canada's first urban national park. We are consistently seeing actions by the government that are moving away from forest safety and not ensuring the viability and long-term sustainability of our forests. Rouge Park is a grand forest that was created by community activists, including me. In the spring we go out and plant trees and bushes and in the fall we remove invasive species to ensure that our park, the people's park, will thrive and be a large, successful park.
It is great that the Conservatives have finally come on board, 35 years after the community and local activists started to work on this park, to make it a national park. However, we need to ensure that it is done in a sustainable way where we protect and respect the existing legislation and greenbelt protection measures. We also need to talk to the local first nations communities that have sacred burial grounds and a village there. We also need to talk to the local community activists who work on the ground in the community.
Mr. Speaker, in starting my remarks, I would definitely like to thank my fabulous colleague from for her remarks and for the great representation she provides for the constituents of Scarborough—Rouge River.
I am happy to participate in the debate on Bill .
As folks can well imagine, it does make a number of changes to a number of pieces of legislation. As my colleague has said, the NDP will be supporting this bill at third reading because it does make modest improvements to the existing legislation, although we did make some proposed amendments to the bill, which we thought would strengthen it significantly. Unfortunately, the government was not open to those amendments.
Let me just briefly describe what the bill proposes to do.
Part 1 would enact the Aviation Industry Indemnity Act to indemnify the aviation industry for the cost of damages in the event of what they call “interferences” for things like armed conflict or an attack, things that normally would be outside the normal operation of the aviation industry, a crisis of some kind.
Part 2 would amend the Aeronautics Act to provide the Airworthiness Investigative Authority with the powers to investigate aviation accidents or incidents involving civilians and aircraft or aeronautical installations operated by or on behalf of the Department of National Defence, the Canadian Forces or a visiting force.
Part 3 would amend the Canada Marine Act in relation to the effective day of the appointment of a director of the Port Authority.
Part 4 would amend the Marine Liability Act to implement, in Canada, the International Convention on Liability and Compensation for Damage in Connection with the Carriage of Hazardous and Noxious Substances by Sea. That is a 2010 convention which basically establishes a liability scheme to compensate victims in the event of a spill of hazardous or noxious substances. It puts a limit to that liability, which the act details.
Part 5 would introduce requirements for operators of oil handling facilities, including the requirement to notify the minister of their operations and to submit plans to the minister.
The NDP supports this bill, but we believe there should not be a limit to the liability. We do not believe Canadians should be on the hook for clean-up costs and damages following a spill of hazardous or noxious substances.
The Conservatives have even refused reasonable amendments that would increase the liability. Canadians would ultimately be on the hook if the damages exceeded that liability.
Basically, the New Democrats are committed to preventing any spills on our coasts whatsoever. We want to ensure that we have an effective Coast Guard and that we have effective environmental precautions so our coasts are protected. We do question the government when it takes actions like closing down B.C.'s oil spill response centre. If we want to make the coasts safer, why would we close down the oil spill response centre? Shutting down the Kitsilano Coast Guard station and gutting environmental emergency response programs, these do not sound like the actions of a government that has the interests of the safety of Canadians as its priority.
However, as I said, there are some positive parts of this bill. The required pilotage and increased surveillance is a small step in the right direction, but the bill is very limited in its scope. New Democrats believe that the government needs to reverse the effects of the drastic cuts of last year's budget on tanker safety to really be effective.
If we are talking about tanker safety, let us take a look at some of the more recent statistics. Tanker traffic has increased dramatically and, therefore, has created an increased risk of an oil spill in Canadian waters. The federal government decreases marine communication traffic centres and environmental emergency programs even though estimates state that oil tanker traffic has already tripled between 2005 and 2010 and that oil tanker traffic is planned to triple again by 2016. Therefore, we are seeing dramatically increased oil tanker traffic, which would require stronger measures by the government.
Proposed pipeline expansion projects would increase crude deliveries from 300,000 to 700,000 barrels per day. We are seeing a tremendous increase in traffic and we should have the strongest precautionary measures possible. One of the precautionary measures is to ensure that the polluter pays, so that if there is a spill or a problem, which hopefully there is not and something we can prevent, the polluter pays for the damage caused.
We know what the government's record is when it comes to environmental protection. We have seen in omnibus budget bill after omnibus budget bill the extent of the cuts, such as the gutting of environmental protections and the changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act. A major urban heritage river, the Humber River, runs through my riding of Parkdale—High Park. It is truly a national treasure, which is why it was deemed to be a heritage river. It has been delisted from the Navigable Waters Protection Act, all except the very mouth of the river. That is of great concern to conservationists, biologists, and the community at large. New Democrats are trying to get that river and many other rivers put back under the protection of the Navigable Waters Protection Act.
The government is also making changes in aviation safety, which is one of the issues addressed in this bill. In my riding of Parkdale—High Park it is home to many flight attendants and pilots, people who work in the aviation industry. One of the issues that is of great concern to them is the number of flight attendants on aircraft. We all remember, at least in Toronto we all remember, back in 2005 when Air France flight 358 crashed at Toronto Pearson International Airport. It was a horrific crash. When people first saw the smoke and fire, they wondered whether anyone would survive, but the full complement of cabin crew managed to evacuate all the passengers from that burning aircraft in less than 90 seconds. Talk about professionalism and dedication. They were exemplary.
We know from the history of aviation accidents that having more flight attendants positioned at emergency exits improves every passenger's chance of escaping and surviving in the event of an aircraft accident. We have seen the government previously attempt to reduce the number of flight attendants on aircraft. Right now, the ratio is 1:40. It is trying to reduce that by 25% and increase it to 1:50. I believe that is fundamentally wrong and it could be very dangerous for the travelling public.
While New Democrats support this bill, we have many other concerns about public safety and environmental protection. Frankly, the scope of the changes in this bill are very limited.
Mr. Speaker, it is with some pleasure that I rise to debate Bill today. I want to underline the fact that it is today because as many Canadians would know, it is also today that the federal government will make its long awaited announcement on the Enbridge northern gateway project at some point this afternoon.
This was a decision and a burden that the Conservative government and the Prime Minister gave to themselves. Previously in Canadian law, any such decisions of this scope and magnitude were handled entirely by the National Energy Board, an organization that was meant to be arm's-length from government and was tasked with promoting energy exports. Some would offer that it might be a challenge or a conflict of interest at times because it is a panel that is tasked with promoting exports and encouraging that to happen, but is also playing the role of watchdog and protecting the public's interests. Sometimes, such as in this case, that has been challenging.
Today by midnight tonight is when the government has to make the decision on Enbridge northern gateway. The government has lost so much faith with the public when it comes to oil spills and the maintenance of the oil industry. My Conservative colleagues can chuckle, but the unfortunate thing is they are entitled to those opinions and not their own facts. The facts state that Canadian public support for transit of oil through pipeline and rail has dropped dramatically since the government took office.
One might ask why that is. I suppose Conservatives, from a particularly cynical line of political thought, thought that they could sort of pull one over on the public, that the public would not notice if the Conservatives since taking office have systematically undermined and downgraded environmental protection laws in Canada, have systematically taken out the major pieces of protection that Canadians have enjoyed for many years rather than enhance them.
Over the last number of weeks we have seen the Conservatives on a pipeline and supertanker charm offensive on both coasts, but particularly on the west coast, where Conservative minister after minister is swooping in to show the public that suddenly they are very concerned with oil spills and with protecting the public. I would argue that it is important to know the government by its actions, not by its words. If we judged the Conservatives by their actions, we would come to a very clear and concise opinion about who they think is really important.
I can say that the oil lobby is particularly thrilled, but Canadians, particularly those living on a pipeline route or under the threat of new or increased supertanker traffic, know the Conservatives are not on their side. This is the government that closed down Coast Guard bases, bases like Kitsilano that is one of the busiest Coast Guard bases in the entire country, handling an enormous amount of traffic.
This is the government that scrapped the Navigable Waters Protection Act, an act that had existed for almost a century in Canada. Excuse me, I misspoke, Conservatives did keep some rivers and lakes protected by the Navigable Waters Protection Act, but those are the lakes that exist in cottage country north of Ontario. Those are the lakes and rivers the Conservatives deemed to be important to protect. All of the rest were deemed not so important.
New Democrats have been standing in the House day after day, attempting to reintroduce those lakes into protection, reintroduce those rivers into some form of protection. That is what Canadians want because we are attached to our rivers and lakes. We are a nation of great expanse and imagination. We believe in the idea that Canada as a settled but wild place, a place where people can experience a country that is truly vast and magnificent, also has with it some responsibility to protect those spaces.
The government gutted the Environmental Assessment Act. According to the Auditor General of Canada, assessments in Canada ranged between 3,000 and 5,000 a year. That is 3,000 and 5,000 different projects a year, mines, pipelines, and whatnot, that went through some sort of environmental review. For those who have ever been involved, this is a public hearing where a proponent has to bring evidence and show in testimony and the public gets to ask questions.
The Conservatives have taken those 3,000 to 5,000 assessments a year and reduced them down from what the Auditor General estimates to between 12 and 15 assessments a year. All those other projects, hundreds and thousands of projects, thousands of mines and pipelines will simply not get an environmental review.
The few that do get a review, as we have now seen through new legislation and regulations the Conservatives have introduced, limit the public's ability to go to the hearings and cross-examine the proponents, the oil companies and the mining companies.
The Conservatives have so narrowly defined who matters, it is now being brought up in court, as is so often the case with Conservative legislation and laws. They make them so badly, and so often make them against the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, that Canadians are forced to go to court to protect that charter. The Conservatives spend millions of taxpayers' dollars trying to undermine the charter with these draconian pieces of legislation that take away values and the rights of Canadians, and they lose, time and time again.
It is at the point where the Conservatives cannot even get a judge nominated to the Supreme Court without violating some fundamental piece of our Constitution. It is incredible, the hubris, yet we can understand it with a government that has been too long in power. It grows in arrogance. It grows in the sense of entitlement. We have seen this movie before in Canada. It is lamentable, because the Conservatives came in riding the white knight of accountability, riding the cause and the celebrated idea of having a more open and transparent government. However, according to the ethics commissioner, the Privacy Commissioner, and the Parliamentary Budget Officer, all of the watchdogs of Parliament, the government has become, and is, the most secretive in Canadian history. It denies Canadians the basic right to information they have constitutionally protected. This is what the Conservatives have become.
It was also the Conservatives who gutted the Fisheries Act, one of the most fundamental pieces of protection of the fisheries in Canada, which has been an historical and important part of our industry and society. It said that companies can now go in and destroy fish habitat, where fish spawn, with no consequence whatsoever, without triggering any kind of assessment or any kind of public hearing.
That is okay under the Conservatives' world view. The private sector dominates all. They have limited liability across a whole series of sectors. What is limited liability? That is when the government comes in with a rule to subsidize and support certain industries. It picks winners and losers. There are certain industries that do not enjoy this favouritism from the government, but the oil industry is one that absolutely does. The Conservatives insert a liability cap on damages in the event of any major accident in which there are significant and serious costs, both for cleanup and to pay damages to those who have lost businesses or their homes. Heaven forbid, under the Conservatives' world view, that the company that causes the pollution, that causes the spill from a pipeline or a tanker, should pay for the cost of damages. The Conservatives use terms like the “polluter pay principle”, but only sometimes and only to a certain amount. That is the Conservatives' view of the world.
Limited liability, this reducing the risk for certain industrial players, causes all sorts of consequences. It is not just the idea that the public has to pay any expenses above. An example is that under certain of these acts, there is a $500-million cap for oil spills. People might say that $500 million is a lot of money, and maybe that is enough. However, the spill from the Exxon Valdez, which happened just north of my riding in northwestern B.C., hit $3.5 billion. Under the Conservative law, who would pay the remainder, the $3 billion or more? That would be the Canadian public.
For the Kalamazoo spill in Michigan, by Enbridge, that happened just a couple of years ago, it is $1.1 billion and counting. They have been at it for three years. They have dredged up the whole bottom of the river, and they are still paying. Under the Conservatives' world view, it would be the public paying for that incompetence by an oil company.
This is not to suggest that these oil companies do not have the resources to pay for this. I did not look at oil prices today, but it is somewhere north of $100, certainly. They are clearing massive profits, historically high profits. These folks can afford to pay for the operations they perform.
The second consequence, aside from the public paying, is that if an industry knows, as the investment industry knew in the United States that there was a certain liability protection they had and that certain banks were “too big to fail”, over time it encourages very bad, risky behaviour. Fundamentally, all of those investors knew that even if this thing went totally wrong, they would not be on the hook.
Imagine going to a casino or the racetrack and the government saying, “No matter what, you cannot lose money today. We will cap it at $50.” Most Canadians would pick a horse that is 100 to one. Why not? They would put $100 on it and put more on the next one, because there would be no way to lose. The only upside would be that we would get to pick long shots, which would encourage risky behaviour.
The companies will not admit to this, but that is human behaviour. Unless they have somehow changed the genetic code in oil companies to make humans into something we are not, if they encourage risky behaviour, over time humans will take those risks. At the end, we will wake up one morning and turn on the CBC news and hear that there was a tragic accident last night and there is oil spilling, as it does; in Enbridge's case, it has been 900 times just in the last decade. It is lamentable, and the homeowners are upset, and ranchers are worried, and fishermen are losing their business. When they do the investigation, it will turn out to be from human error, again. Who will pick up the tab? The companies will, up to a little bit. Everything beyond that will come to the taxpayers of Canada.
If we think of all of the industries in the world we would want to subsidize, the oil industry would not be on the top of the list. It makes an inordinate amount of profit. Gas prices in Canada today are $1.30 to $1.40 a litre. Some say it is doing too fine. It is certainly doing fine enough.
This is the Conservative government that shut down B.C.'s regulatory oil spill response team. The Conservatives cancelled that and fired everyone in charge of oil spill response on the west coast. They wonder why the public raises suspicions. This is a government that has a fund, as Liberal governments had previously, that shippers at one point had to contribute to. That fund has gone up to $400 million, having contributed to it since 1976, and the government is fine with that and believes it is enough money to handle all incidents of all the oil spills in the country, not just one. As I have described, some of these oil spills can be incredibly expensive.
In Bill , the government made some small moves to improve a disastrous situation and make it less disastrous.
When people are in the process of potential rehabilitation for their actions, we want to encourage any small steps they make. Therefore, the NDP at committee encouraged the baby steps being made by the government and made amendments based on the testimony of the witnesses we heard. I know that is radical and may be contrary to the world view of the Conservatives, but we listen to witnesses who come to committee that know more about an issue than MPs do. We take their advice and write it up into nicely worded amendments as changes to a bill, but consistently, time and time again, the Conservatives reject them. One would think that at committee they would offer some alternative or say why they are rejecting them and that they have counter evidence that is better or more informed, but they do not.
All opposition MPs have witnessed it. We have all been there when we have put forward a motion and we stare at five blank Conservative faces across the way. When it is time for the vote, we make our case and say, “This is based on witness so-and-so. This is how it will help this bill and how it will help the Canadian public and protect the public.” The Conservatives just stare at us with nothing going on and vote against it. It happens over and over again.
If this is just a political exercise, so be it. People can choose to make themselves look ignorant. That is a choice others make. The fact is, this impacts Canadian lives and Canadian industry and uncertainty. I have argued for quite a while, although it may be a slightly counterintuitive position, that for reasons of social licence and the idea of winning over the public, the Conservatives have been no friend of the oil industry. We have seen this just recently.
The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, the main lobby group in Canada for the oil industry, distanced itself from the Conservative position on a whole variety of things, particularly the ads they had been running. When the oil lobby abandons the government and says it would like to not be associated with it, we know that the government has a problem.
The Conservatives like to talk about radicals. That is what radicals look like in action. They so denigrated the faith of the public in government to protect our general and collective interests that the public has said that it no longer grants the government a social licence to operate.
When the Conservatives come out with their announcement this afternoon and give the green light and thumbs up to Enbridge northern gateway, we do not believe that the public will be swayed one bit, because the Conservatives have completely lost their faith. They have forgotten one very fundamental principle in this place, which is that governments can grant permits, but only people can grant permission. The government has forgotten that, and in forgetting that, we see the arrogance and bullying we have seen time and again.
People have raised concerns about the northern gateway pipeline going through northern B.C. It goes right through my home and the homes of the people I represent. The government has suggested that in raising those concerns, those people must be foreign-funded radicals. That is what the minister called them in a letter issued out of the Prime Minister's Office. He said that they must be enemies of the state. That is what they called me, my friends, and my community members for having raised questions about a pipeline that threatens our very way of life.
I do not think that is anti-Canadian. I think it is very Canadian to raise questions, to raise our voices, to stand shoulder to shoulder, first nation with non-first nation, community to community, to say that our voices count in the conversation of Canada, that we will not be marginalized, and that we will not be bullied by a government, any government, of any political stripe.
Conservatives should know this. The Conservatives used to decry the heavy-handed tactics of Ottawa when it comes to energy policy. Some will remember this. How does Ottawa know best for the west? I remember this. Arrogant Liberal governments came in and imposed plans that western Canada did not want, and western Canadians reacted.
Now we see it in the reverse: a pipeline that Canadians on the west coast of British Columbia do not want, at a level of 66% or more. We have 130-plus first nations that have told the government, ”Do not do this thing.” The Union of B.C. Municipalities and the B.C. government have all told the government, “No” and “What part of 'no' do you not understand?”
The government, in a few short hours, is poised to ignore all of that and say that those people must be radicals. They must be enemies of Canada. All those people, two-thirds of the province of British Columbia, the Government of British Columbia, 130 first nations and more, the Union of B.C. Municipalities, and the mayors and councillors of British Columbia must be enemies of Canada. That is the Conservatives' world view, because they have so attached themselves to one bad pipeline. The arrogance has grown so much with the current that he cannot imagine stepping back. He cannot imagine taking a breath and realizing that there may be other things that are more important.
Here is a secondary concern, as if all that were not bad enough. As I was talking to first nation leaders in B.C. over the weekend and again last night, they said that if the Conservatives force this project down the throats of British Columbians against the rights and titles of first nations in B.C., not only will this pipeline never get built, but it will so poison the relationship that is already in a terrible state between first nations and the Government of Canada that other projects, other industries, will also be threatened. The ability to get agreements and deals done in B.C. between industrial players and the first nations of B.C. will be jeopardized.
All that is at stake—the relationship between the crown and an important place like British Columbia, the ability to get other industrial development done, such as liquefied natural gas, mining, and other industrial projects—the government is willing to threaten for the sake of one bad pipeline. That is the equation the is going to make this afternoon. That is the test he is facing as a leader in this country this afternoon.
I lament that he will fail that test. I am saddened by the fact that he will fail this test of leadership because he is unable to see the forest for the trees. He is unable to see past his own belligerence and his own determination to have it his way or the highway. He is going to ram through all of those objections. He somehow thinks that we are going to back down; that the first nations, which have constitutionally protected rights and title in this country, are suddenly going to forgo those rights; that the people in B.C. who voted against this thing two-thirds to one-third are not going to show up at the ballot box in 2015 and kick Conservative MPs out who stand on the wrong side of this issue; and that the Union of B.C. Municipalities and the Government of B.C. are suddenly just going to walk away from their opposition to this pipeline that threatens who we are.
It is a most Canadian response. When threatened at a core level, at a values level, at the ability to raise our kids in a healthy environment and hope for their better future, it is a most Canadian reaction to stand up and resist. It is a most Canadian reaction to say to a government that has grown so arrogant and so content with its privilege and its power, whose members have become so accustomed to those limos that they cannot find a way--
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Nathan Cullen: They can heckle, Mr. Speaker. They yell out to try to shut down the voices of real British Columbians who understand how to stand up for their constituents, rather than selling out to the oil companies, as they have so happily done. British Columbia MPs in this place know right from wrong. They know what this afternoon means. It is a decision point. It is a fork in the road. It is a place where Canada stands and says this is the future we want.
New Democrats will stand on the right side of that future and say that we want a prosperous, clean environment and jobs that will sustain us through the future, not a government so drunk on power that it has lost its way and has lost its ability to see anything at all other than the almighty buck from the oil companies.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
It is very important for me to be able to rise today and speak to Bill . I will pull back a little bit and talk about some of the specifics related to this bill.
When looking at Bill , we see it is something we will support at third reading because of the modest improvements in marine security that we have seen in this bill. However, it is important to recognize that, as usual, we try to bring forward some amendments at committee, really to make the bills better. That is what we are supposed to be doing. We are supposed to be strengthening the bills and laws of this country to make them better for Canadians. However, as usual and once again, the Conservatives completely voted against all of our amendments. It is unfortunate. These amendments did not just come from the NDP; they came from witnesses and stakeholders.
We really need to ensure that the government starts to listen. What we heard from my colleague just a few minutes ago is that it is not listening to first nations in British Columbia. It is not listening to the Government of British Columbia, which said no when it comes to northern gateway. It is also not listening to, I believe, 67% of the population, which is against northern gateway.
We needed to ensure that Bill had a broader scope. It is something we asked for. We asked that this bill be allowed to go to committee before second reading to ensure we were looking at ways of enhancing this bill and making it better, making sure we can protect our pristine coastline on the B.C. coast. Unfortunately though, that never happened.
Let me give members some key facts and figures before I continue. What we have heard about tanker traffic is that it is increasing the chances of an oil spill in Canadian waters, yet the government has decreased the marine communications and traffic centres and environmental emergency programs. It has done this even though the estimates state that oil tanker traffic tripled between 2005 and 2010, that tanker traffic is expected to triple again by 2016, and that the proposed pipeline expansion projects would increase crude oil deliveries from 300,000 to 700,000 barrels per day.
We need to ensure that we are protecting our coast, but again, this bill would not address it.
Let me talk a little bit about those amendments. We wanted to ensure that Canadian taxpayers are not on the hook for cleanup costs and damages following the spill of hazardous and noxious substances. We wanted to ensure transparency regarding investigation reports of aviation accidents or incidents involving civilians and the military. Those proposed reasonable amendments never made it past the committee.
Prior to debating Bill , which I believe was the former Bill at second reading before prorogation, we requested that the scope of this bill be broadened by sending it to committee before second reading for a study that would aim to include a more comprehensive measure to safeguard Canada's coast. It would also, in part, reverse many of the cuts that we have seen from the Conservative government and the closures specific to marine and environmental safety. I believe that we sent a letter to the back in April, 2013, to outline this request.
Bill would make amendments to five acts. I will touch on those briefly. The first part would enact the aviation industry indemnity act, which would authorize the to undertake to indemnify certain aviation industry participants for loss, damage, or liability caused by “war risks”.
The second part would amend the Aeronautics Act to provide the airworthiness investigation with the powers to investigate aviation accidents or incidents involving civilians and aircraft or aeronautical installations operated by or on behalf of the DND, Canadian Forces, or a visiting force.
Part 3 would amend the Canada Marine Act in relation to the effective day of the appointment of a director of a port authority, in that the municipality or the port authority notifies the port ASAP.
Part 4 would amend the Marine Liability Act to implement the International Convention on Liability and Compensation for Damage in Connection with the Carriage of Hazardous and Noxious Substances by Sea, 2010, or as it is known, the HNS convention.
The liability scheme that was created for this talked about shipowners' liability limited to $230 million. Damages in excess of shipowners' liability were to be paid by an international fund, which is that HNS fund, up to a maximum of $500 million.
In part 4, the availability of the ship-source oil pollution fund to oil spills would exclude HNS spills. We wanted to ensure, at committee level, that this is broader.
Part 5 really looks at the Canada Shipping Act, 2001. It was introducing new requirements for operators of oil handling facilities, including the requirement to notify the minister of their operations and to submit plans to the minister. There are some other segments to that as well.
I think it is important for us to then say that we believe, as I talked about in the last amendment, that Canadian taxpayers really should not have to pay the cleanup costs and damages following a spill of hazardous or noxious substances.
However, we have seen the government refuse reasonable amendments that may have prevented Canadian taxpayers from being responsible for damages exceeding $500 million.
It is also important for us to say that the NDP is committed to ensuring that oil spills never happen on our coasts. We have seen the Conservative record in the past. There was the closing of British Columbia's oil spill response centre, the shutting down of Kitsilano Coast Guard station, and the gutting of environmental response programs. This is making it increasingly difficult for us, and even for Canadians, to trust that their concerns are really being taken seriously.
Some of the things that we really wanted to see in this bill to safeguard Canada's seas include reversing those cuts to the Coast Guard and reversing the scaling back of the services; the cancelling of closure of the marine communication traffic service centres, including the marine traffic control communications terminals in Vancouver and of course in St. John's, Newfoundland, as well; the cancelling of the closure of B.C.'s regional office for emergency oil spill responders; and the cancelling of the cuts to Canada's Centre for Offshore Oil, Gas and Energy Research.
Those are just a few of the things we really would have liked to have seen in this bill. Unfortunately, they are not there.
When it comes on the eve of the announcement on northern gateway, what we are really seeing now are the concerns and the worries of Canadians being ignored by the government. As I heard earlier, 67% of people in British Columbia are opposed to northern gateway. We have the government saying no. We have first nations saying that they do not want this, and that they need to have some type of discussion. I wish the government would listen to first nations and have that communication with them. Unfortunately we are seeing that this is not happening.
To put it into perspective, we are going to see about 1,100 kilometres of pipeline pumping raw bitumen through the pristine forest and rivers in northern British Columbia. That is about 525,000 barrels of raw bitumen per day. What is really scary is Enbridge's record on pipeline safety. We have seen over 800 spills between 1999 and 2010, resulting in over 16,000 barrels of oil going into the environment.
We can all agree that no one wants to see that in northern British Columbia. We need to do everything we can to protect northern British Columbia.
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from for giving me a few minutes to talk about Bill , which is about an issue that really matters to me. It is about safety and amendments to the Canada Marine Act, the Marine Liability Act and the Canada Shipping Act, 2001.
I am concerned about this issue and it is a personal one for me because there is a big debate about it right now. Our colleague from and several others have talked about a number of things, including the northern gateway pipeline. However, TransCanada has a project called energy east. They want to build a pipeline from the Alberta oil sands to Saint John, New Brunswick. The pipeline would go through my riding, Témiscouata, and through the lower St. Lawrence. They would build an oil port in Cacouna, which is not in my riding, but which is nearby. Cacouna is about a 45-minute drive from Rimouski.
This is important because some parts of this bill, if it is passed, would result in the construction of an oil port where there is currently a commercial port.
In addition, Part 5 of this bill amends the Canada Shipping Act, 2001. It introduces new requirements for operators of oil handling facilities, which is what an oil port is, including the requirement to notify the minister of their operations and to submit plans to the minister.
I will not go into detail about this because I do not have much time, but I wonder why this has not always been the case. This bill seems to be a hasty response on the part of the Conservative government to implement measures that will reassure the public, particularly with respect to the northern gateway project, which has been on the agenda for a very long time.
Before the election, I worked briefly on the pipeline and oil transportation file in British Columbia. I picked up on people's concerns about security measures and navigation problems and risks along the British Columbia coast. This bill sets out to reassure people, but does not completely succeed.
We will vote in favour of this bill because it is an improvement over the status quo. However, I highly doubt that the bill has addressed everyone's concerns.
The reason is that the government's actions in the past—and I am not just talking about this bill, but also its decisions, particularly since 2011—have not really responded to the need for additional protection. Environmentally, these actions have not ensured that the work was done to protect Canadians and their livelihoods.
The people on British Columbia's coast still remember an incident that happened 40 years ago, the wreck of the Exxon Valdez. They were affected, and they now want to ensure that the coast is well protected, specifically the coast of the islands off British Columbia.
What have the Conservatives done since 2011, before we started discussing the bill? They have reduced Coast Guard service, including closing the Coast Guard station in Kitsilano.
They have made cuts to the marine communications and traffic services centres, including the centres in Vancouver and St. John's, Newfoundland. They have closed the British Columbia regional office for oil spill emergencies. Why? Why are the Conservatives not cancelling these closures?
There have been cuts to the Centre for Offshore Oil, Gas and Energy Research, as well as to the main environmental emergency programs, including in the event of oil spills in Newfoundland and Labrador and British Columbia.
All the decisions made in this matter, before the bill was discussed, fly in the face of the need for additional protection under this bill. No one really knows where the Conservative government is going.
As an economist, I am very sensitive to externality issues and issues related to the principle we support, the polluter pays principle. This bill contains elements that are not in line with that concept.
Let us take a look at part 4, which has to do with liability in the event of a spill involving noxious and hazardous substances or oil.
In committee, specifically at second reading where I had the opportunity to speak, we proposed that public funds not be used in cases where a disaster is caused by a private company. The bill caps that compensation at $500 million. Beyond $500 million, taxpayers could end up being forced, through the government, to pay the cost of the cleanup and compensation for the people who lose their livelihood or source of economic activity. This makes no sense.
It is the company that should take responsibility for this. When it comes to externalities, if the company had to take more responsibility or even full responsibility for the cost of an oil spill or a spill of hazardous and noxious substances, then it would take measures to ensure its own survival.
Currently, oil companies have a profit margin of tens of millions of dollars for every shipment of oil. If they have limited responsibility for a spill, then they have no incentive to take the protective measures they need to take. Their main incentive is their reputation, and their ability to maintain good public relations to minimize the hits to their reputation.
That is not enough incentive. A greater share of the responsibility for compensation should be taken by the private corporations that ship oil and hazardous and noxious substances.
This bill does not go far enough. We announced amendments at second reading and we proposed them at report stage. Many witnesses supported the opposition on this. In fact, that is what the Conservatives are grappling with on this day when the decision on the northern gateway pipeline will be announced.
Many people from British Columbia, and not just citizens and first nations, are talking to the Conservatives. We know that the Conservatives are not used to negotiating with the first nations or acknowledging their concerns on these issues. Even witnesses who work at port authorities and others who work in the field told the Conservatives exactly what needed to be done. In fact, their comments were often consistent with those made by the official opposition. However, these demands have been ignored. No amendment was accepted. The current bill is the same as it was when it was introduced at second reading.
A responsible government that wants to be known for good governance would realize that it does not have all the answers and that the bill has weaknesses that must be corrected so that it can be true to its objective. Instead, the government is turning a deaf ear. It is refusing to listen and to accept very pertinent comments that address the concerns raised about the environment and liability when it comes to the transportation of noxious or hazardous substances that could be detrimental to the economic activity of much of the community affected.
We find it difficult to understand why the government is remaining silent and intransigent. I do believe that we were all elected by our constituents, in my case the people of the lovely riding of Rimouski—Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques. We have the duty to debate and improve bills.
The government members are remaining silent about this bill. No one is rising to debate it and to justify the proposed measures. We have pointed out this bill's weaknesses, and we will continue to do so.
As I mentioned, this will not prevent us from voting in favour of the bill at third reading because it is still better than what is currently in place. However, I mentioned that I do not understand why the measures proposed in part 5 have not been implemented already. They seem to be very reasonable.
In short, we will be supporting the bill. However, we are very disappointed with the Conservative government's silence and refusal to listen at every stage, including study in committee.
If the Conservatives were to ask me a question about this bill, I would be very pleased to answer.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill , which is yet another omnibus bill that only affects five bills this time. We should be lucky. In finance we dealt with a budget implementation act that would amend some 60 bills, so having only having only 5 bills is a bit of a luxury.
It is not so much the process I want to talk about today, but the substance. We can do much better than this legislation, which we will be supporting at this stage.
I wish to advise you, Mr. Speaker, that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for .
It is interesting and somewhat ironic that we are here today on the eve of what we understand to be the government's decision day on the Enbridge northern gateway pipeline. I had the good fortune of running in a by-election in my community of Victoria and Oak Bay coastal communities in British Columbia in November 2012. As we would expect, and as I am sure all members on all sides of the House will have done, I knocked on a lot of doors and met a lot of people from various walks of life, young and old. I did not meet a single person who supported the Enbridge northern gateway proposal, not one.
I have a duty and an honour to represent my coastal community, and I will do so to the best of my ability. However, I believe that if this bill is a bit of window dressing, greasing the wheels for this project, the Conservatives ought to know that it has met utter opposition in British Columbia. Perhaps the most poignant aspect of the opposition I encountered and observed was that it united British Columbians in a way that I had never experienced in my life. I have never seen aboriginal people leading protests of the kind and in the numbers. I have never seen retired teachers and bus drivers, people who are very young and people who are at the end of their careers and indeed at the end of their lives, all united in opposition to what the government intends to do, although I pray I am wrong.
I know the polls say that two-thirds of the population are opposed. However, if we scratch a little deeper, we will not find many people who think it makes sense to ship, in tankers the size of the Eiffel Tower along some of the most dangerous waters on the planet into Hecate Strait, diluted bitumen, a product of which we really have little understanding. We did not even know at the joint review panel whether it would sink or rise to the surface. That is the level of misunderstanding.
I taught environmental law for over a dozen years. People who appeared before that committee, fellow lawyers who cross-examined, said that they had never seen such dissonance between what a panel heard in testimony and what it concluded in its recommendations. It was two different realities. As well, the cost-benefit analysis that would say it is fine to potentially extirpate a herd of caribou, an endangered species, because it is in the national interest, with no evidence for that, is really quite shocking to British Columbians. It is also shocking that we would play Russian roulette with rivers full of endangered species, including certain salmon stocks that would never come back if there were a spill.
It is a product that is not heavy oil, but is diluted bitumen and it ought not to be confused with what happened with Exxon Valdez, which was bad enough as I will explain. That this could possibly be approved by the Government of Canada in the face of ferocious opposition by young and old, aboriginal and non-aboriginal, coastal and non-coastal communities, is frankly shocking to me. I just wish to reiterate that I will do, on behalf of the people of my community, whatever I can to ensure that this wrong-headed decision is never fully implemented in my province and in our country.
This bill deals with a number of matters that are somewhat germane to what I have been saying. Entirely, the Canada Marine Act, the Marine Liability Act and the Canada Shipping Act are three of the statutes that would be amended. Some of the regulatory changes are to be commended, and for that reason the bill will have our full support.
What the government has done in northern gateway is handed the industry a poisoned chalice. As one industry leader said very eloquently, we will get the permission perhaps from the government, but we will not get the permission from the people.
The phrase “social licence” has been used throughout this debate and I know exactly what that industry leader said. Even if government gives us the piece of paper, it will not have given us the legitimacy to proceed, because people know in their guts that this process is flawed. They knew that it was unfair and that a decision built on such a flawed process should not see the light of day.
It really is a poisoned chalice, and it is interesting that I see environmental organizations, first nations and industry holding hands around that phenomenon, recognizing that indeed industry will have been handed a poisoned chalice if the government were to proceed in the face of the ferocious opposition that is out there today.
At the second reading debate, the hon. said a number of things about the bill, in respect of the proposed amendments to the Canada Shipping Act. She talked about the amendments that would increase marine environmental protection by strengthening provisions pertaining to pollution prevention and response. She said that the amendments would aim to strengthen requirements for spill prevention and preparedness at oil handling facilities by requiring certain facilities to submit both prevention and emergency plans to the Minister of Transport, to which I say “Bravo.”
However, when we do not have officials who are there to enforce those laws, who do not have the budget to insist on compliance, with the greatest of respect, it is irrelevant what the legislation says. We have seen the government consistently cut programs, cut offices that would deal with these very issues. It means nothing that legislation like this would contain pretty words, full of sound and fury and signifying nothing, as Shakespeare would say.
This legislation, like so many Conservative initiatives, might look good on the surface, but if there is no personnel because it has all been cut, if there are no scientists because they have all been fired, if there is no office anymore, as in the case of the Kitsilano Coast Guard office, or spill prevention offices, who cares?
People are not being fooled. They know that what we do in passing pretty laws with no people behind them to enforce them and no political will, moreover, to enforce them, it really does not matter very much, and that is what is so frustrating. The Conservatives are full of sound and fury and really signify nothing in this kind of legislation.
On the amendment, if people do not, for example, submit those plans, what happens then? The minister tells us that the government has administered a penalty. There are $250 and sometimes even a range of $25,000 for a monetary penalty for some matter that may not have been complied with: a) we have to actually do it, we have to bring a proceeding; and b) we have to collect it.
Having worked on behalf of compliance with Canadian Environmental Protection Act, when I had the good fortune of advising the chief review officer under CEPA 99, these monetary penalties and these administrative regimes are excellent, but with no will to enforce them, who cares what they say, and who even cares what the amount is? The penalty amounts may sound impressive when they are increased but again, no will, no fines, no action, nothing. It is sound and fury, signifying nothing.
I am not making it up when I say that the government has done so little by, in effect, closing the Kitsilano Coast Guard Station, by closing British Columbia's oil spill response centre and gutting the environmental emergency response program. Do British Columbians, do Canadians trust the government to look after their precious environment with these cosmetic changes? I think not, and I think we will find the members opposite, 21 of them, will face the wrath of British Columbians when they see if indeed, and I pray I am wrong, the government were to ever allow the monstrosity of the Enbridge northern gateway project to see the light of day.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House and speak to Bill .
I stand here with my colleagues, many of whom have spoken before me, who have made clear our position as New Democrats on this bill. It is a position where we recognize the modest improvements that have been made in terms of marine security, but we have also expressed concern about the amendments we proposed that have not been passed by the government.
We have been very clear in our concern that despite these acts, Canadians know that the current situation is one in which regulations, of the few that do exist on paper, are not able to be enforced the way they ought to because of the cuts that we are seeing in terms of scientists, the Coast Guard and inspectors that need to be in place to make sure that legislation and regulations are being followed.
When I was first asked to speak to the bill, I understood the connections with respect to the proposed Enbridge pipeline and the immense opposition that so many people in B.C. and across the country have to the pipeline, in part because they know the great risk to the environment, the environmental damage it poses. The fact is the government and provincial governments can do nothing to deal with potential oil spills to make them go away. I share that concern.
Obviously I am proud to be part of a party that is opposed to the Enbridge pipeline, that stands with Canadians and British Columbia and the rest of the country in opposition to this plan. I also want to share the voices of my own constituents who stand to lose as a result of the government's approach on the failure to enforce regulation and legislation when it comes to keeping our waterways and our rail lines safe.
I speak particularly about the proposal to ship oil through Churchill. For those who have not been to Churchill, it is well known as a real gem not just for my province of Manitoba, but also for our country. It is a small community on the coast of Hudson Bay about 1,200 kilometres north of Winnipeg. It is known around the world as the easiest place in the world for humans to be able to see polar bears. It includes a nesting ground for polar bears which is part of Wapusk National Park. It is a real treasure for Canadians.
We know that the community of Churchill in northern Manitoba benefits from the tourism industry, as people come to our region because of the polar bears. We also know that Churchill's economy depends on environmental research that takes place in the Churchill Northern Studies Centre. where researchers and scientists from around the world come to engage in climate change research and the impacts of climate change on wildlife, such as polar bears. We also know that Churchill depends on rail traffic and trade of which a good chunk is international trade.
Churchill has been going through a difficult time and will continue to go through a difficult time, because of the fact that the government got rid of its number one best customer, the Canadian Wheat Board. In getting rid of the Canadian Wheat Board, Churchill lost an important trade partner that had an ongoing and very positive relationship with Churchill.
The government then decided, because it wiped out an organization that was run by farmers and managed in the best interests of farmers, and despite its rhetoric that somehow the market was going to correct everything, to offer a major taxpayer-funded subsidy to some of the biggest grain companies around the world to do one thing that had already happened under the Canadian Wheat Board, which was to ship grain through Churchill. Sadly, this has not resulted in the figures that used to be under the Canadian Wheat Board. The people of Churchill and northern Manitoba are concerned about the future of the port, the future of trade through the port, and what it means in terms of bringing in revenue and investment into the port and the rail line that exists.
In the midst of a difficult and stressful situation, the company that owns the rail line and the port expressed interest out of the blue just under a year ago to ship crude oil from the Bakken oil fields, through the Bay line, up to Churchill and onto ships in the Arctic Ocean.
I do not think it comes as any surprise to anyone that people were taken aback by this proposal. The number one concern that was raised was safety. This occurred mere weeks after the tragedy that happened in Lac-Mégantic. We know that very similar crude oil was being transported in the railcars that blew up and killed so many people in that community.
People saw those images and what it could mean to our region. In recognizing that concern, people looked around to see whom they could work with to make sure they are protected. Sadly, when they looked at the federal government, what they saw is a government that has targeted regulation, particularly environmental regulation, that has cut back inspections in a whole host of areas, and has removed itself from taking leadership when it comes to safety.
In terms of rail safety, I want to recognize that in recent months, some measures have been brought in that are important to Canadians, particularly my constituents. However, we are particularly concerned about the potential of an oil spill if this shipment possibly went through into Hudson Bay and the Arctic Ocean. That would be a devastating prospect.
We do not have the technology or the know-how to deal with oil spills in the Arctic. This has been raised in the context of drilling in the Arctic, but we do not even have to go that far. Simply transporting crude oil in the Arctic at the kind of volumes we are hearing about from this company is not something we know how to deal with.
In terms of the terrain, we know that if there were to be an oil spill into Hudson Bay, with it being a bay, it would remain there for a considerable amount of time. It would pollute the tributary rivers that come from Hudson Bay. It would actually move counterclockwise, the direction in which the water moves, into James Bay, and would pollute James Bay. It would then move straight up into the Arctic Ocean and pollute the various coastlines of Nunavut. It would have a devastating impact on the wildlife, including beluga whales. The beluga whale population of Hudson Bay is unique in that it has managed to withstand a fair bit of adversity and has shown signs of resilience that we do not see in other beluga whale populations. This is all to say that the reality of an oil spill is something which we cannot comprehend.
As the member of Parliament for Churchill and someone who is proud to come from the north, and proud of the way that first nations people, Métis people and northern people have been stewards of the environment, certainly where I come from, it troubles me that the federal government is not a partner at the table the way it ought to be when it comes to protecting our waterways, protecting our oceans, and protecting Canadians.
I am proud to stand here to raise our real concerns about this bill and to continue the fight for greater protection and fundamental leadership from the federal government, because Canadians deserve better.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join the debate with my colleagues on Bill .
When we look at what it is trying to accomplish, it is, in a sense, part of a reporting mechanism, but it is also part of a risk-mitigating exercise as well. I think all of us would accept the fact that, inherently, in life there is risk. Getting out of bed in the morning is a risk. People are then exposed to the vagaries of life. They can step on the road and get run over by a bus. I hope that does not happen, but people learn certain things and mitigate the risks in life. They could also stay in bed, never get up, and die of starvation and lack of water. That would be a risk people would take if they decided to stay there. Clearly, we learn lessons over our lifetimes. We look back to those life lessons and ask how we can mitigate the risks that may be in front of us, so we can manage all of those things.
Business owners and many of my friends in the Conservative Party and other parties who have businesses mitigate risk. They figure out how to manage the risk. They find ways to ensure that whatever the risks are, if they cannot manage them, they limit the ability of risks to affect their businesses. When we talk about handling noxious and hazardous substances, there is a risk. The risk can be great because the eventuality of an incident has great repercussions to populations, environments, perhaps marine aquacultures, animals. It is an abundance of risk. The issue is what to do in mitigating it.
One thing the government has outlined before is that ships have to be double-hulled. No one can suggest that is brand new, because it is not. Ships have been double-hulled for a long time. It is a recommendation that was made many years ago. In fact, it was thought of decades ago, but double-hulled ships were not built because it was an expensive proposition.
My family grew up in the shipbuilding business. That is what my father, his grandfather, and his grandfather before him did. They all built ships, and at those times they were considered great big ships. They do not look like great big ships any more. Those ships literally look like tugs compared to the ships that are built today, but at that time they were seen as giants of the marine industry. They were built to withstand certain things. One of the things I learned from my father in all the years that he built them is that ships are at the mercy of the sea and the mercy of the captain. When they are at the mercy of the sea, it is guaranteed there will be an incident, because the sea is unrelenting. The sea shows no mercy. Therefore, when an incident occurs, it is a matter of how to avoid risk and mitigate it when it actually happens.
In the case of the captain, there are times when captains make decisions that are ill-founded and ships run aground, they capsize, or they run into other ships. We have seen over time that captains have been charged with crimes on the sea because of their inability to be the masters of their vessels in an appropriate and manageable way.
This bill, unfortunately, says it may potentially happen, so a few things should be done here and there and it should be tweaked it a bit here or there. We are no longer talking about vessels that my father built in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, when, if there was a spill, it was manageable. They knew what the substance was, the hazardous and noxious substances were smaller cargoes in those days around the world than they are today and, ultimately, it was a small incident that had to be dealt with.
Now the scope and size of incidents are huge. Today's ships are now simply called very large ships because they do not have another name for them. They are football fields in length. They are phenomenally huge. When they carry bulk cargo, it can be noxious substances or oil. Most of them are oil carriers. If there is a major incident due to a rupture, there may be a leak. I am not talking 1,000 litres or 10,000 litres, but millions. That is the scope of the issue that we now have to deal with.
Unfortunately, the measures in Bill , as much as they step toward the right direction, do not take into consideration the scope and magnitude of the spills before us today because they are of such huge proportions. If we have a catastrophic spill like we saw in the gulf, which came out of a well that lost its backflow preventer, the effects are equally transparent. Essentially, the top of the well head blew off allowing it to spew oil for weeks. Although the magnitude of that was seen across thousands of miles, the damage that was done to the ocean floor and elsewhere in the ecosystem is unknown because it has not yet been mapped out. We looked at the shoreline in Louisiana and up the gulf coast into Florida, down into Mexico, and a number of other different places, but we need to determine what the damage was to the marine aquaculture. It could take decades to make that determination.
We have one of the largest coastlines, if not the largest coastline, of any nation in the world: British Columbia. It is fair to talk about that since the northern gateway is on everyone's mind today, including the government's. The government should help out by sharing that with us now. It would unburden its mind of that decision and make it feel better. Like the saying in the evangelical movement “repent and thou shalt see the way and the light and the truth”, it should simply tell us what that is now.
My friend from Churchill talked about the fact that we have this huge internal waterway called Hudson's Bay. A lot of folks forget about this huge piece that goes right into the Arctic Ocean. Although we see it on a map, quite often we lose sight of that. I want to thank my friend from Churchill for giving us the opportunity to remember that. Oddly enough, many if not all of us live on or near a coast. For those of us who live in central Canada, it is strange to think about that. I live on the coast but I have two coasts to go to, the coasts of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. The folks from Toronto and my good friend from Parkdale—High Park have the north shore of Lake Ontario. She lives on a coast. Many of us across this country live very close to bodies of water, as do our good friends in the Conservative Party. A body of water is often one or two blocks away from their home.
The impact of any of these kinds of catastrophic spills is not just substances that come up the St. Lawrence River and head into places like Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, and Lake Superior because we heard our member from Churchill talk about how that would get out through Hudson's Bay. We have bodies of water throughout this entire country in front of us that have that potential.
It is interesting to look at the two furthest coasts. I will leave out the north for now, but if we look at the east and west coasts and we talk to sailors about traversing the north Atlantic and heading into Newfoundland, depending on the time of year it can be one of the most dangerous waters one could ever enter into. I have been on our far east coast as well as the west coast and have not had the opportunity to go to the Arctic yet. When we look at the north Atlantic we see the types of dangers that are inherent in it. Seafarers know all too well the inherent dangers of going to sea.
As a kid, I grew up on an island and it was natural for us to be at the sea. When one grows up in Scotland, which is an island, the coast is everywhere. There is no other land, just coast, and nearly all of us at some point in time take to the sea somehow. Whether we fish or are involved in other industries, we always seem to be at sea. In their hearts seafarers know the dangers of going to sea. It is one of the most dangerous occupations in the world.
I raise that because they know the inherent danger. They know that the likelihood of an incident just simply gets greater the longer they are at sea. Very few seafarers, very few sailors, ever run out an entire career not having an incident while on ship. It is just an inherent danger of actually being on a ship. Regardless how good the master is or how well the ship is built, it just happens. Some of it happens through negligence, sometimes, of the master of the ship and sometimes it is just simply the weather. We have heard of ships that just simply sunk, and people will ask how they could possibly have sunk because it would have been impossible for them to sink. When they get out in a gale or on the wrong sea, they can sink. Regardless how new these vessels are, how large they are, how sophisticated they are, with radar, sonar, and all kinds of navigational tools, when the sea is angry, the sea will conquer. The problem for us is that we face the consequences of what is left of that catastrophic mess.
Now, of course, with this, we are talking about who pays for that because, ultimately, this comes back to the risk. If people want to be in the business of moving noxious substances and oil and hazardous materials, they know the risk when they decide to go into that business.
How is it that these operators, the movers of this type of material, have figured out a way to download the risk to us? That is what they have done. Now they have decided to move them in huge bulk cargo carriers that are literally beyond most of our imaginations, unless one has actually been at port and seen one. How big are these things? They are gigantic. If they have a spill, it will more than likely be beyond the capability of the amount of these funds that they have to put up as a liability, and these companies that are moving this material have figured that out. They have now figured out how to download the risk to the Canadian public.
Other businesses do not get to do that. They do not get to download their risk to the general public and say that maybe it will cost $1 billion or $4 billion and they will pay the first couple hundred million dollars, maybe up to $500 million. Then other folks can carry the rest.
It is patently wrong. Never mind it being unfair; it is just patently wrong. No other business gets to do that. No other business gets to simply say to the Canadian taxpayer, “You carry the risk while I carry on making money.”
These businesses are why we say they should actually be held accountable for the costs. Yes, some will say we will put them out of business. That is the risk they took when they understood that this was a business where they could make lots of money. However, the risk is that, if they have a potential catastrophic spill and they have to pay for the cleanup, it might wipe them out. That is the risk that, in our view, they should accept, because there is a huge generator of wealth on the other side because there is a lot of money to be made in this type of business.
The other side of the coin is that they do it as well as they should. If they are unfortunate and the sea catches up to them and they have a catastrophic event and spill and sully the pristine coastlines of my great friends from British Columbia, the damage will be irreparable probably for the rest of the lifetimes of all of us who are in this House which, in some case, would be many decades. For me, it would obviously be a little less, as I am a little older. However, there are many folks in this House who are much younger than I who have many more decades to live. It will be like the Exxon Valdez, which is still not cleaned up, from what I have heard from my friends in British Columbia, in the sense it is still there decades later.
Now we are talking about new product that would come through the northern gateway, about which I still have not heard from my friends across the way what they are going to do there—somehow I do not think it is coming. Perhaps, of course, the Speaker knows and might share it with us when he stands.
Clearly, this type of product, this type of oil, which is now mixed with some other things, is a different piece from anything. With respect to the type of oil spilling into the Kalamazoo River, in Michigan, the American environmental agencies found a spill that they had no expertise to deal with because it sunk to the bottom of the river.
Oil normally floats, and gasoline floats and evaporates, not that either one is a good thing to have in the water. However, heavy oil sinks. That creates a new problem of how to deal with an oil that sinks to the bottom, be it the ocean or, as in this case, a river. The cost of that is probably not determinable as yet, and yet we have set a limit on folks.
I think it was my colleague from Victoria who said earlier that, while it is great to have fines, if there is no one to go collect them, then we actually would not get anything. If only traffic tickets were like that. If they actually wrote us a ticket for speeding but no one actually came to collect it, we would all just keep speeding. Getting a traffic ticket for speeding usually makes one cautious. We know we will have to pay it because, if we do not, our drivers licence will not be renewed; there is no denying it. Therefore, there is a cause and effect. I was driving too fast and got caught. The punishment was handed out in the way of a ticket. I know I will have to pay it, because someone will come and collect it. Unfortunately, in this regulation there will be a ticket writer, but no one is going to collect. People could just stick them up on the wall and say, “Yeah, that's number 48 and two more will make 50” and not pay them. What would it matter if they were not actually being enforced?
We end up in a situation where we have a regulation that is not being enforced, so why do we bother? We look at some of these regulations and we think they are not what we would do, in the sense that we would make them tougher, but they are there, so perhaps the government will hear us and will find a way to regulate them and enforce them so they actually get done.
One of the things I find quite incredible is that the bill talks about regulations: how we need to do this and that, laying down the groundwork of looking as if we are really going to be safe and secure, so that when the government this afternoon says yes to northern gateway—as I am sure it will—it will say it put all the safety regulations in place. There is Bill and some other things the government has done, like double hull tankers and other things it is talking about, inspections and all those good things. However, the government's budgets have literally closed Coast Guard centres right across the country on both shores. The Kitsilano centre is a prime example. I understand from my friends in B.C. it is the busiest security port of anywhere in the country. However, the government closed it because it did not think it was very important.
The government is actually saying that it is going to increase the number of ships up and down the Juan de Fuca, upside, inside, and in between Vancouver Island and the mainland, but we do not actually need any extra Coast Guard. It reminds me of someone saying that the stop light does not work, but there are only two cars so we do not actually need a traffic cop to control the traffic, and then saying that we will let 2,000 through there and we still do not need a traffic cop. Well, we do. If we are going to actually increase the amount of tanker flow in those troubled waters—I say troubled waters with respect to the fact that they are dangerous and hazardous—we need to put traffic cops there. The Coast Guard are not just a traffic cops; they actually save lives. They actually respond.
We see the same thing on the east coast with the closures there. I have heard my colleagues from Quebec talk about the closing of a Coast Guard office in Quebec that actually provides French language service. If I am not correct someone will correct me during questions. There are a lot of Maritimers at sea. We need that type of essential service.
Just imagine a Maritimer at sea making a distress call and he actually cannot talk to the person and let him know where he is, because of a language barrier, because he speaks French and does not understand English. He is stuck out in the North Atlantic somewhere, bobbing around, waiting for his ship to flip over and end up in the North Atlantic Ocean, where he will last about 18 minutes, simply because we did not provide a language service.
How do we answer to that person's family? How do we tell that person's family that we are really sorry we did not provide service in the right language?
It is time for the Conservatives to re-evaluate their cuts. Those places are essential for Maritimers, they are essential for our coast, they are essential for our environment, and they are essential for Canadians.