Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to finish off my comments on Bill .
To put the debate in context, the last time I spoke to this bill, I talked about the fact that while the Marine Liability Act amendments are important, they are really not what we are looking for from the government in terms of the protection of marine areas. Liability implies problems; it implies accidents.
We are looking for regulations, enforcement, and investments in Coast Guards around this country to prevent and alleviate accidents before they happen. We want to ensure that what we are doing in our marine areas is the very safest for Canadians and for the protection of the environment, people, and property. Those are things that come first. Liability is important, but it simply does not give the protections we are looking for.
In its past budgets, the government has cut Coast Guard stations, including the Coast Guard station in my riding, in Inuvik. The station that was in place for many years has now been removed. We do not have a Coast Guard response capability in Inuvik.
There are companies looking at investing hundreds of millions of dollars in offshore oil and gas drilling in this region. The same thing is occurring in the Alaska region. We have no capacity for oil spill remediation. That does not exist for the Arctic to any degree. In fact, the ability of anyone to extract oil from ice-covered waters has not yet been proven to the satisfaction of those who look into these matters. We are making the area more hazardous through less investment in infrastructure in that region, and that is a problem, moving forward.
The Conservatives have said over and over again that they are interested in exploiting the resources of the Arctic. They want to move ahead with economic development in the Arctic. They want to see the wealth of the Arctic being exploited.
Let us start with taking care of the Arctic by making sure that the regulations for shipping are in place and that we are conducting ourselves by investing in infrastructure that can deal with the issues that come forward in the future. Surely as we increase the risk for companies working in an area, we should respond with the kind of protection that can reduce the liability from people who may suffer from accidents, because we would have some way of dealing with the accidents. That is not the case now.
There are cruise ships moving through the Arctic. If we have a problem in the Arctic with a cruise ship, we have no way to deal with it. We have increased traffic through the Northwest Passage, a passage that has never been charted properly. We do not know where the rocks are, and we are putting ships through there now. When will the accidents happen? It will be soon enough. What will liability do to protect the environment? What will liability mean to the people of the Arctic?
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to share my time with the member for .
Today, we are debating Bill , which would amend five acts: the Aviation Industry Indemnity Act, the Aeronautics Act, the Canada Marine Act, the Marine Liability Act and the Canada Shipping Act, 2001.
My speech will focus on the maritime and marine aspects. I will start with the title of the bill: the . The purpose of the bill is to safeguard our seas and skies, but frankly, it really missed the target here. We have a problem with this bill, which is why, on our side of the House, we are willing to pass it at second reading, but only so that there can be a good debate when it goes to committee.
We had proposed that this bill be debated at a special committee before it go to second reading. We really wanted a bill that would truly protect Canada's coastal communities and marine habitats. Unfortunately, the bill as written contains a great many flaws.
I would like to mention one that is very worrisome to the people of the Gulf of St. Lawrence: under the legislation, oil carriers will not be liable unless there is a spill of 10,000 tonnes of oil or more. People may be wondering how much 10,000 tonnes really is. We usually talk about barrels or use other ways to measure oil if there is ever a spill. However, in this bill, the figure is 10,000 tonnes. For anyone who is interested, 10,000 tonnes of oil is equal to 75,000 barrels. That is a mere fraction of how much oil a tanker transports.
Tankers in the Gulf of St. Lawrence currently transport 150,000 tonnes of oil, not 10,000. A spill of 150,000 tonnes would be devastating for the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Therefore, 10,000 tonnes is not enough. This bill does not go far enough to properly protect either Canada's marine areas or the coastal communities that depend on the marine areas.
Take, for example, the Irving Whale oil tanker, which sank off the coast of the Magdalen Islands in 1970. The Irving Whale was carrying 800 tonnes of oil, compared to tankers today that carry 150,000 tonnes, yet, 800 tonnes was all it took for oil to continue washing up on the beaches of the Magdalen Islands today, 43 years later. Every year, oil from the Irving Whale washes ashore and we are still cleaning it up, even though there were only 800 tonnes.
Furthermore, the Exxon Valdez was carrying 40,000 tonnes of oil and the spill is still not completely cleaned up. In 1989, that was a huge amount. Today, oil tankers are not held responsible unless there is a spill of 10,000 tonnes or more. I repeat that we still have not finished cleaning up after the Exxon Valdez spill. That number—10,000 tonnes—is simply not enough.
I would like to talk more about some aspects of the bill. An oil company will not be held responsible unless the spilled oil amounts to 10,000 tonnes. Only then will the company be responsible for cleaning up the mess or for paying into the compensation fund set up to deal with spills.
I would like to point out something about the ship-source oil pollution fund.
In March 2013, the fund was at $400 million. After the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the cleanup cost $40 billion, but the fund is at $400 million today.
The legislation leads oil companies to believe that, if the spill is more than 10,000 tonnes and they pay the required money into the compensation fund, they have nothing to worry about because someone else will clean up the mess.
That is all well and good, but the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development indicated that the Coast Guard does not have the capacity to clean up after a spill. That is what the commissioner said in his last report, before his position was eliminated by the Conservatives, in their rush to eliminate environmental protection in Canada.
As my colleague recently wrote, we do not have the capacity to deal with these oil spills. According to the report by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, on the west coast our capacity is limited and on the east coast it is inadequate. On the north coast, the east coast and to some extent in the west, winter is inescapable. I do not think there is any technology that makes it possible to clean up an oil spill in icy ocean waters. I think that the Conservatives will probably propose a method during the debate in committee and perhaps even before then. I would be very interested in learning more about it, but right now we do not have the capacity to clean up such an oil spill.
In his latest report, the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development warned us that we are unable to clean up a major oil spill. He emphasized that marine oil exploration and development is bound to increase in Canada, and it is coming soon. We must ask ourselves the following questions. Do we have the technology to do it? Can we do it successfully? We cannot jeopardize the industries that are already there.
Because of the tourism industry and the fishery, which has suffered enormously since the 1990s, we cannot afford an oil spill in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. We would not be able to clean it up.
Even if a company is able to compensate the compensation fund, the question remains: What should be done with the oil in the ocean? Spills have to be cleaned up.
The bill proposes that if the Coast Guard is not able to clean up the oil spill, response organizations should be invited to do so. Subcontracts would be awarded to non-governmental organizations. Which non-governmental organizations are those? Who has this capacity? Throwing money at a problem is not enough; action has to be taken and the spill has to be cleaned up, but no one has the capacity to do it. Someone has to take the time to conduct a realistic assessment of action to be taken in the worst-case scenario, what to do if a spill occurs. It is completely predictable: there will certainly be another oil spill. It is not just a theoretical issue, because oil spills are highly predictable. Unfortunately, we are not able to clean them up.
I would like to invite all members of Parliament to think about the following. What will the coastal communities that depend on Canada's environment and marine areas do if their beaches are soiled with oil? What about fish habitats, and what will they generate if they are also covered with oil? We have often seen pictures of birds caught in oil spills; cleaning them up is not possible. This bill will not make that any more possible.
I hope all the members in this House will give this serious consideration. Do coastal communities and coastal areas in Canada deserve the government's protection? I hope that the answer is yes and I hope that it means this bill will be greatly improved.
Mr. Speaker, I am not sure whether I understood correctly or not, but I think my colleague is saying that the Conservative government is concerned about the cost to businesses of certain regulations, but not about environmental, social or other safety related costs, including the safety of francophones, of the land, Fisheries and Oceans, the Coast Guard and all that. It is a little disconcerting to hear this discourse.
I am also here to speak to Bill . Admittedly the proposed legislation provides for modest improvements to marine safety. During the first session of this Parliament, the NDP suggested that the government broaden the scope of this bill. Our party is prepared to make real changes with a view to protecting our coastlines. The Conservatives, however, rejected our suggestion. That is unfortunate, but it seems the opposition’s opinion matters little to the Conservatives.
Sadly the only legislators who are responsible and concerned about the safety of Canadians are sitting on this side of the House. They are not seated on the government benches, and if there are any such individuals, they are generally muzzled, and by whom? By the Conservative Party financiers.
I want to focus primarily on Part 5 of the bill which has five main components. Part 5 amends the Canada Shipping Act, 2001. It enacts new requirements respecting oil handling facilities, including the requirement on the part of the operator of such a facility to notify and submit plans of the proposed operations to the minister.
The NDP is committed to putting an end to oil spills along our coastlines. We are prepared to make that commitment, unlike the Conservatives who fail to enforce the necessary regulations to prevent spills of this nature. Judging from the Conservatives’ record, it is becoming increasingly difficult to believe that they take Canadians’ concerns seriously. They have no credibility whatsoever when it comes to marine and aviation safety. Furthermore, their policies are contradictory.
On the one hand, they are shutting down the Coast Guard station in Kitsilano and cutting environmental emergency response programs, while on the other hand, they are demanding more of the marine transportation system. It is all well and good for them to expand requirements, but they also need to assume their responsibilities.
I would like to remind this House that the Conservatives closed the St. John’s maritime centre and they still want to shut down the Quebec City marine rescue sub-centre, the one and only bilingual centre in all of Canada. We must not forget the closing of the maritime radio stations across the country. I am thinking of the maritime radio station in Rivière-au-Renard, which is an excellent example.
Bill is a barely concealed attempt to offset past inaction and the Conservatives’ cuts to maritime safety. The measures set out in Bill C-3 to improve safety are relatively feeble considering the risks that exist because of all these closures. With all its tributaries, the St. Lawrence estuary is one of the most dangerous in the world and furthermore much of the marine traffic is French-speaking. Right now, traffic on the St. Lawrence is increasing, but services are decreasing. Before now, a number of different call centres knew the territory, and they are gradually being closed down. The government is even threatening to close the Quebec City centre. If that ever happened, there would certainly be deaths. The government that made that decision would be accountable.
The U.S. Coast Guard is studying the effects of the higher number of oil tankers on the west coast and their larger size, given the fact that the increased traffic increases the risk of an oil spill. The United States is taking these risks seriously, while the is taking the opposite tack, saying that everything is safe, despite the expected increases in oil tanker traffic.
“A supertanker oil spill near our shores would threaten [the] coastal economy and thousands of jobs,” said U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell.
The NDP members hope that Bill would really increase safety in oil tanker traffic. The Conservative government should have taken the opportunity to cancel the cuts in the most recent budgets—we remember them—as well as the marine security program closures.
Some of the measures that the NDP wants to see in a bill that aims at protecting Canada’s waters include the following.
First, the government must cancel the closures and cuts to Coast Guard services, including the Kitsilano Coast Guard station.
Second, the government must cancel the cuts to marine communications and traffic services, including the maritime traffic control communications terminals in Vancouver and St. John’s.
Third, the government must cancel the closure of the British Columbia regional office for oil spill emergencies.
Fourth, the government must cancel the cuts to the Centre for Offshore Oil, Gas and Energy Research.
Fifth, the government must cancel cuts to the principal environmental emergency programs, including in the event of oil spills in Newfoundland and British Columbia.
Sixth, we must strengthen the capacity—which is currently non-existent—of petroleum boards to deal with oil spills, as recommended by the Commissioner of the Environment. The Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board needs to acquire the internal expertise to manage a major spill with an independent safety regulator.
Seventh, the Canadian Coast Guard must be required to work with its American counterparts. Studies have already been conducted in the United States. We could work with the Americans to see what must be done, what regulations are required and how to make the structure of our supertankers as secure as possible. The Coast Guard therefore needs to conduct a parallel study with its American counterparts to examine the risks associated with additional oil tanker traffic through Canadian waters.
Rather than implementing half measures when it comes to responding to and monitoring oil spills as proposed in this bill, an assessment must be done of the national ship-source oil pollution fund, which has not been used in a long time.
For 40 years, oil tankers were prohibited from travelling along the coast of British Columbia. This moratorium was imposed as a result of a verbal agreement with British Columbia. Nothing was put in writing. The NDP's call for a ban on oil tanker traffic through this corridor has the support of first nations communities; local and regional elected officials; the tourism, leisure and fishing industries; other industries that may be affected; and over 75% of British Columbians.
I would like to add one thing about all of our demands. The first nations are concerned about all this deregulation and the cuts to Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Coast Guard. Tourism industries, particularly Quebec's Gaspé and North Shore regions and all of the maritime provinces that make a living from this industry, are concerned about the impact that an oil spill in the St. Lawrence gulf and estuary would have. Given all the currents and the unique nature of this gulf and estuary, an oil spill would be a major catastrophe. It would quickly spread to all the gulf's ecosystems, which would harm the fishing and tourism industries, as well as the entire economy of these regions.
It is therefore important to carefully think this through. Before going down this road, the Conservatives should think about what could happen in order to prevent deaths and a great deal of environmental damage in my region.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand and speak for a few moments on Bill .
I want to commend my colleague, the member for , for his comments. He and I have worked together on fisheries and oceans. I know he is deeply concerned about these issues as they impact his constituents. He has worked very hard and continues to work very hard in their interests.
The title of Bill C-3 is interesting. It is the “safeguarding Canada's seas and skies” bill. Once again the Conservatives are all talk and very little action. While members have indicated that we will be supporting this bill and moving it through second reading, it is only because it makes very modest improvements. In the time I have, I want to speak about the need for us to do a better job of protecting our oceans.
Jacques-Yves Cousteau once said, “For most of history, man has had to fight nature to survive; in this century he is beginning to realize that, in order to survive, he must protect it.”
Today that means protecting our oceans from ourselves.
Before I go any further, I want to indicate that I will be sharing my time with the member from Quebec.
Canada is the steward of more than 7.1 million square kilometres of ocean and the world's longest coastline, stretching over 244,000 kilometres across three oceans, yet we remain grossly unprepared for disasters off our shores. The bill, as I said, contains only modest improvements in marine security at best, and it does very little to respond to Canada's lack of preparedness for oil or chemical spills.
My NDP colleagues and I take the protection of our oceans very seriously, and that is why we proposed to broaden the scope of this bill to make real, comprehensive changes to protect our coast. Not surprisingly, the members opposite, the Conservative government, rejected our proposal.
It is fair to say that Canada, in many ways, has been lucky to date, in that we have not had a significant spill off our coast, because over 20 years of reports have told us that we are simply not ready.
In 1990, following the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster, the Brander-Smith report came out regarding tanker safety and marine spills response capabilities. This report had three major findings: first, Canada did not have the capability to respond effectively to a spill, regardless of where in the country it was; second, based on tanker traffic, Canada could expect over 100 spills of various degrees every year, with a significant spill once every 15 years.
In reality, this number was greatly underestimated. Between 2007 and 2009 alone, a total of 4,160 spills of oil, chemicals, and other pollutants were reported.
The third major finding was that the risk of spills was highest in eastern Canada.
These findings are nearly the same as those identified in the 2010 report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development. In this report, the commissioner found that while Transport Canada and DFO have carried out risk assessments related to oil spills, they can provide no assurance that the federal government is ready to respond effectively to a spill.
He also identified that eastern Canada remains most vulnerable for a spill. The Deepwater Horizon incident in 2010 resulted in an estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil being spilled into the Gulf of Mexico. It is estimated to cost $40 billion to clean up this spill over an unknown number of years.
This disaster needs to remind us of how quickly an oil disaster can occur and how costly the cleanup can be.
In Canada, we currently have a liability cap of only $40 million. While the Conservatives committed back in June to increasing this cap to $1 billion, we have yet to see any action on that commitment, and we can appreciate the fact that if we had a spill like the one in the Gulf of Mexico, $1 billion would be only a fraction of the money needed to deal with the disaster.
We need real action to protect our oceans, and we need it now. Canada should be a world leader when it comes to oil spill preparedness, not a reluctant follower of international requirements. We have too much at stake—surely we all recognize that—and too much to lose when it comes to protecting our oceans and their resources. Many of our coastal communities depend on a healthy ocean for their livelihoods, and we understand clearly that Canada's economy benefits from clean coastal resources.
I am the member of Parliament for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour in Nova Scotia, where a couple of big companies are moving to develop resources off our coast. Billions of dollars have already been put on the table by Shell and BP just for the right to begin to dig; that is how confident they are of what they are going to find. The Province of Nova Scotia has extended the moratorium on Georges Banks against exploration and development, but the federal government has failed to respond. All of these things are indications that the government is failing to act quickly enough.
Earlier today in question period, I talked about the changes the government has made to the Fisheries Act. The gutting of the Fisheries Act is putting the development of natural resources above the protection of our oceans and marine life. Members opposite know this only too well. It is going to take a disaster of the kind I am talking about to bring it to their attention once and for all.
When we consider the reports that have been written and the science that has already been presented that indicate to us very clearly the dangers that lie on our three coasts, do members opposite not agree that now is the time to move forward? Let us not wait for another report. Let us not wait for a disaster to bring to our attention the fact that we had the opportunity but did not move quickly enough.
Let us not do that. Let us be a leader. As we move this bill forward, let us take the opportunity at committee to bring in expert advice and make the kinds of changes that we advocated for previously when this bill was before the House, to give it teeth, to give it a real commitment, to recognize that we have to do so much more to protect our coastlines if we are going to be developing our natural resources.
Let us not wait for another disaster. Let us not wait for another example of why we need to act, whether it is in the north, as the member for talked about, or in the St. Lawrence, as my colleague from talked about. Let us move now. I urge the government opposite that when this bill goes forward, passes at second reading, and goes to committee, let us make sure we make efforts to expand it to make it more encompassing so that we can truly protect our oceans once and for all.
Mr. Speaker, after my colleague’s speech, there is not a great deal more for me to say. He clearly outlined what we want to know about Bill .
There is a great deal of confusion at the present time over Bill and Bill . We all know that is because the Conservatives prorogued Parliament. Today we find ourselves debating legislation that was outstanding when the last session of Parliament ended. Bills were brought back before the House and given new numbers. That explains the confusion. I just wanted to mention that in case anyone following these proceedings might be confused.
That being said, I do want to point out that the NDP is supporting this bill at second reading because it provides for modest improvements to marine safety. Obviously it is difficult to be opposed to something positive. Because it provides for modest improvements, we are prepared to move forward. However, the bill clearly falls short of what we had hoped and expected legislators to do, and obviously of what needs to be done.
Before voting in favour of Bill at second reading, the NDP had called for it to be referred, prior to second reading, to a committee where consideration could be given to incorporating more comprehensive measures to protect Canada’s coastlines and to neutralize or reverse to some degree the impact of Conservative cutbacks and closures affecting marine safety and environmental protection.
The issue of marine safety is obviously one that is very close to my heart, as the member for . In fact, I have been calling on the Conservative government since 2011 to reverse its decision to shut down the Marine Search and Rescue Centre in Québec City. More importantly, it is the only officially bilingual centre in Canada and in North America.
I also have to say that the centre in Quebec City, which was established more than 35 years ago, was put there specifically to accommodate staff with intimate knowledge of the geography of the St. Lawrence River, the Gulf of St. Lawrence and all its nooks and crannies. The expertise developed there was substantial. I realize that for the Conservatives, expertise represents a cost that you have to slash to achieve a zero deficit.
Yet expertise is a value that contributes much more than that. That is why in this case, too, I am concerned when I see cuts made with no thought given to the investment required to protect our fellow citizens on land and at sea.
When the Quebec City maritime search and rescue centre was established, it was also a means of protecting essential services in French, now threatened by this Conservative majority government, which believes it can get away with anything.
We also know that in Quebec City, fully bilingual staff are not to be found in the centres. The decision was made to close the centre in Quebec City and transfer half the calls to Halifax and the other half to Trenton. It was also decided to transfer calls from Cap-à-l'Aigle west to Trenton, and from Cap-à-l'Aigle east to the centre in Halifax.
However, the decision made in 2011 has so far generated huge costs in logistics, competitions and job offers to find people who are competent. Efforts have been made to recruit people, but experts do not come in a Cracker Jack box. Experts are really hard to find because it takes years of experience, specific qualifications and academic credentials to build that kind of expertise.
When they sought to transfer the centre from Quebec City to Trenton, they relaxed the selection criteria in order to find recruits. According to the latest information, they nevertheless still have not found the staff they need in Trenton to handle the calls. In Halifax, the people are not yet sufficiently qualified.
In Halifax, a rescue drill was held last February. I gave a press briefing, one of many about the Quebec City centre. The rescue drill, which was billed as normal procedure, was a complete failure because, for a normal operation, it seems that they unfairly increased the number of people assigned. In spite of that, the bilingual coordinator was reportedly overwhelmed; people involved who thought they could operate just as well in French as in English were completely powerless to cope with the work to be done; there were also complaints about a lack of familiarity with the St. Lawrence, a river with a long history.
Even in the time of Jacques Cartier, there were difficulties in navigating some parts of the St Lawrence. It is a distinctive river. There are strong currents in some locations, and some parts of the river have yet to be charted. Some parts are familiar to people who use the river, but are not necessarily to be found on the numerous technical applications for navigation. That tells you how much we need experts familiar with such details, which are not always incorporated into any kind of device.
Despite the failure experienced last February, the Conservatives had decided to press on, even with failure after failure. They are transferring the Quebec City centre to Trenton and Halifax, even though nothing is right, and nothing is working after so many years. Yet they were told. What is more, there was no public consultation on the matter and there was no impact study before the decision was made. We understand, moreover, that the minister never visited the centre in Quebec City to see the work being done on site.
Whatever bill we are discussing in the House, whether it relates to transport, health or employment insurance, I am always surprised that impact studies are not carried out, and people are not consulted: neither the provinces, nor the municipalities, nor the experts in the field. No. The government believes it is right, and goes ahead and makes the decision. This is regrettable, however, because what leads us to make wrong decisions is the belief that we are right, and that we are capable of handling everything ourselves.
Nevertheless, hundreds of resolutions were adopted across Canada by associations of pilots, fishers, enthusiasts, pleasure boaters and front-line people in favour of keeping the Quebec Marine City Search and Rescue Centre open. A motion was adopted unanimously in the Quebec National Assembly. Resolutions by a number of municipalities, including the City of Quebec and everywhere else, even in eastern Canada, for example, called for maintaining the centre. Despite this, the government always turns a blind eye.
You cannot reduce services and claim to maintain them by saying that nothing will change. It is untrue. Whenever I hear the Conservatives talk, I get angry because I say to myself that they understand nothing.
In this case, whether it is the Coast Guard or the veterans that are involved, there is no app for it. You cannot say that people will manage by going on line, and everything will be done automatically. No, you need experts, you need people who can answer questions and who operate in the field. That is what is important. That is what needs to be understood in the case of Bill , but also in all the decisions the government may make.
In closing, the bill seems to be part of a concerted effort by the Conservatives to address their lack of credibility in the area of transport safety. We in the NDP know very well, however, that transport safety is not something the Conservatives do.
Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to rise to speak to the motion.
I have been following the debate and we will, very reluctantly, be supporting Bill .
As a teacher, I learned a long time ago that one absolutely has to recognize when baby steps are taken. This is definitely a baby step on behalf of the current government to do the right thing.
The reason I am in favour of supporting the bill is because it is a baby step in the right direction. I am hoping that, with positive reinforcement, we will get other baby steps, which would lead to good legislation to address the major concerns we have with what the Conservative government has been doing around environmental protection and protecting our pristine coastlines.
As members know, I come from the most beautiful province in Canada: British Columbia. I used to live in Quebec many years ago, La belle province, and I used to say that it was the most beautiful province. I will say that we live in a country that has amazing geography. For those who were born here and many, like me, who chose Canada to be our home, we are privileged to live here.
I decided to raise my children here not only because of the geography but because I fell in love with Canada and all it had to offer. However, I can assure members that one of the key factors was our amazing geography: our lakes, rivers, seaways, coastlines and mountains. Believe it or not, it was even our beautiful Prairies, which I thought were amazing when I drove across Canada for the very first time.
However, I have had this fear for many years, which is one of the reasons I am a member of Parliament today, because I did not like where Canada was being taken by consecutive governments, especially over the last number of years. One of the key concerns I have is the stewardship of our beautiful nation, and I will speak specifically about our waterways.
As I said, the proposed legislation does take a baby step in the right direction. However, it always amazes me that, over and over again, when the Conservatives actually follow a UN convention that we have been a signatory to for a number of years and decide to implement it, they make it sound as if it is a revolutionary move. In some of the speeches by the minister at the time, he talked about double-hulled vessels. Well, that already exists.
At the same time, we are very pleased that our government has come to realize that, yes, we did sign agreements with the United Nations. It behooves us as a member of the United Nations in good standing to implement those agreements. Members of the NDP are very committed to protecting our beautiful waterways and coastlines, as I am sure are many of my colleagues across the way who really want to agree with us, especially those from coastal communities.
We have all seen the terrible damage that oil spills can do. I had the chance to visit a cleanup. Members should see the birds and the kind of cleanup that has to occur after an oil spill, especially to the environment around it. We have all seen TV images, but to actually see something like that is so scary. I do not use that word lightly. We do not appreciate the kind of damage that can be done.
We want to make sure that we absolutely mitigate and minimize, and put into place extra protections to make sure our coastlines are protected. When we talk about oil spills, we are not just talking about the oil that is lost to the oil producer, we are talking about the impact on our environment. We are talking about the impact on communities and the impact on our food supply, because everything around an oil spill gets damaged.
At the same time, we have to say that the last budget bill, not the current one but the previous one, took so many environmental protections away from our waterways. When we really think about it, that is quite scary. This is a time when we know more about our environment than we have ever known before, when we should be putting in protections. However, the government has taken away the protection.
Now that we are rewarding the Conservatives by supporting this baby step, I am urging them to try to undo the damage that they have done in previous legislation. It is never too late to learn. One thing I learned as a teacher is to never quit. It is always possible for the other person to learn. We are willing to provide the Conservatives with evidence, with science, with whatever they need to convince them, but there is no answer to blind commitment to an ideology or blind commitment to doing damage to our environment in the name of so-called economic gain. There is no economic gain when our environment gets damaged.
Our job is not only about responsible resource development with the right environmental protection, but we are also the stewards of this country for future generations. I would urge all my colleagues across the way to remember that.
The NDP has been calling for a ban on oil tanker traffic through the corridor of the British Columbia coastline for a very long time. As a matter of fact, 75% of B.C. residents support that. It is supported by first nation communities; local, regional and provincial politicians; environmental groups; tourism, recreation, fishing and other potentially affected industries. We are really talking about listening to people, local government, environmental groups as well as everyday Canadians. The evidence is right here and the commitment to looking after our coastline is here.
The current study that the United States Coast Guard is doing, which is on the rising number of tankers on the west coast and their size, is proactive. We should be joining them in that study to decrease the risk of a spill. The United States is taking this risk seriously, and the is taking the opposite approach, because he keeps telling everyone everything is safe, even with projected increases in tanker traffic. United States Senator Maria Cantwell said that a supertanker oil spill near our shore would threaten the thriving coastal economy and thousands of jobs.
We really do have to start paying attention. I am not a very close supporter of the B.C. government. In B.C. we have a so-called Liberal government, which is really a Liberal-Conservative coalition government.
Premier Christy Clark sounded the alarm bells on October 2, 2013, after her election. That was not so long ago. She sounded the alarm over Canada's inability to handle a major coastal oil spill now, let alone in the future, should new pipelines be approved. She stated that we are “woefully under-resourced”, yet the has told CBC News that the system now in place could handle a fairly large spill off the B.C. coast. He may know something that we British Columbians do not know. He may have all these resources hidden and buried somewhere for the day we need them. What we do know is that the government, through its actions, is limiting the kinds of protections we need. The closure of the Coast Guard facility at Kitsilano is a prime example. Why would they take that away? All of that is very worrisome for us.
That is not the only thing. I have other quotes from people who are saying we need to take a bit of a halt and put the environmental protections in place. We know there are oil tankers going down that coastline. However, we also have to realize that the Burrard Inlet and area is very rocky. I tried to kayak it at one time. I know members will find that strange, but I did used to kayak at one time. My partner has done it many times. I would not say it is a dangerous place to have those huge ships going through that inlet, but it is not that easy to steer through. It is a very narrow inlet, yet the tankers would have to go up there.
We have heard similar concerns from the north. They do not want to see those tankers coming down the coast. They do not want to see an increase because they know we cannot take the chance of an oil spill.
We know there are tankers there now, but surely we do not want to double the tankers, which is what the projections are. It shocked me, and not too many things do, but oil tanker traffic has tripled between 2005 and 2010. Tanker traffic is planned to triple again by 2016. It has tripled, and it is going to triple again. The proposed pipeline project would increase crude oil deliveries from 300,000 to 700,000 barrels a day.
As I was saying earlier, Burrard Inlet is the second most dangerous navigational point in Vancouver. It is very difficult to navigate through it. A simple weather malfunction, with a little wind and current, could lead to catastrophic results. This happened in October, 1979 with the freighter Japan Erica. We shut down the north shore bulk terminal for three months and railway traffic for almost five months.
We only have to see the kind of damage that these spills can do. On May 25, 2010, as we all know, the Malaysian registered Bunga Kelana 3 collided in the Singapore Strait. An estimated 2,500 tonnes, or almost 3 million litres of crude oil, poured into the sea.
Let us put that one aside for a minute. The holding capacity of a double-hulled designed tanker would be a million plus barrels. The VLCC class of supertankers dwarfs the Exxon Valdez. Risk assessment measures have to be reconfigured. We cannot keep using the old risk assessments when the tankers are becoming so gargantuan. It is hard to imagine. The shocking part of it is that today's supertanker can weigh up to 320,000 DWT, with a capacity of two million barrels of oil, drastically increasing the risk of a spill.
With the bigger tankers come bigger risks, and the realization that we have to look at this in a different way. Once again, we have to take a look at the risks to the environment.
We will hear from the Conservatives. We will not hear too much today, and not at all this afternoon, I do not think. That is another tactic I do not understand. In my naivety before I became a member of Parliament, I actually thought this was a place where we could debate issues. However, it seems that the government side has decided to sit out the debate for this afternoon.
I am here to make my points and I will answer questions, but it seems that the government does not want to hear or debate anything too much because it has made up its mind. The government sees this part as a bit of a nuisance that it has to put up with because it is part of the process.
However, let me tell members that, for us, this is very serious. The health of the planet, the health of our waterways, and the safety and environmental factors are critical for us as we look into the future.
We also have to take a look at who is going to be paying for these oil spills once they occur. We do not hear the government side addressing that too much. If there is this massive oil spill, who is going to be on the hook for the cleanup? I have not heard much about the kind of protection that would be provided to taxpayers. We have to take a look at some of the ways this is done in other parts of the world. For example, both Norway and Greenland have no pre-set limits, in terms of liability across the board for oil spills. I am not saying that is the solution, but it is a conversation we need to have. We need to bring the right people to the table to have that kind of discussion and debate at committee stage.
By the way, I was proud of my colleagues and our critic in this area. They have, and had, ways to improve the legislation. However, once again, what we have seen is the same as we have seen with most of the bills. There is very little movement from the government side because once it puts something on paper, that is the way it is going to be. It has already made up its mind, so why debate and go through all of those issues?
As was said earlier, when we look at what the government could be doing to make this piece of legislation more effective, the first thing is to pay some attention to what our people said at committee. It is never too late, by the way. Here is an example of what we would like to see in the bill, if anybody on the other side is paying attention. If they are not, I am sure they can read the written record later, which I am sure they are dying to do.
Number one, let us have the government reverse the Coast Guard closures and the scaling back of services, including the closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard station. That is one of the baby steps the government could take in the right direction.
Then, let us take a look at the government cancelling the cuts to marine communications and traffic services centres, including the marine traffic control communications terminals in Vancouver and Saint John. If we are really worried about safety and the environment, then why, when we are talking about increasing all this traffic, would we be closing those offices?
The government could stop the closure of B.C.'s regional office for emergency oil spill responders. It is beyond my comprehension. Why would we want to close an emergency response centre?
We could cancel the cuts to Canada's offshore oil, gas and energy research centre. We could reverse the cuts to key environmental emergency programs, including oil spill response for Newfoundland and Labrador and B.C.
We could also require the Canadian Coast Guard to work with its U.S. counterparts and conduct a parallel study to examine the risks that additional supertanker traffic would cause in Canadian waters.
As I said, we are going to support this legislation because it is a baby step in the right direction, and I am hoping my colleagues will add many other baby steps.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to what should have been a much more important bill than it is, because it should have had a lot more things in it. We have already advised what we think should also be in the bill, but it is part of a disturbing trend on the part of the government members to be all talk and very little action when it comes to the environment. When they do bring forth action on the environment, it is to reduce or eliminate environmental protections. One has only to go back to the last budget, and some of this budget, in which environmental protection was weakened or eviscerated entirely.
In the 2012 budget, we lost a lot of the environmental assessment process. The act was changed. Some of the act has yet to be defined. Unless for people on a reserve, we still do not know what the definition of “the environment” is because the ministry has yet to promulgate the regulations that come with that act.
We also have the loss of navigable waters protection, which has hurt thousands of rivers across the country that are no longer protected from oil spills for example.
I will be splitting my time with the member for , Mr. Speaker.
This bill, ironically named “the aviation industry indemnity act” to make consequential amendments to other acts, would do essentially five things. It would allow some air carriers to be indemnified for flying in war-risk areas. It would allow for civilian aircraft accidents to be investigated in part by the military, which there may be some difficulties with in terms of how public that would be. It would amend the Marine Act to define what the effective date of the appointment of a director of a port authority would be. However, the two most important things that we have been talking mostly about in the House are the portions that deal with tanker traffic and oil transfer capacity in the deep-water ports of Canada.
We have some serious concerns on the part of the people who live along those coasts that they do not wish accidents to happen at all, period. The NDP believes that prevention and preventing accidents, not having them in the first place, is exactly what should be done. We are much better off if what we do is prevent the spill of oil into the oceans in the first place. However, I am afraid the government is not going in that direction. Its philosophy seems to be that it is okay to pollute as long as somebody has insurance, as long as somebody has some means of paying for the cleanup. Given that diluted bitumen has not yet been transported in great numbers and has not been fouling the ocean, we do not even know what the cleanup of that would look like if it should happen. Believe me, spills unfortunately will happen.
All of these systems come with a mean time before failure, MTBF, which means that everybody expects something to fail. When they fail at the same time, as was the case at Lac-Mégantic, an absolutely horrific disaster unfolds. There were several different failures that happened at the same time in Lac-Mégantic, and of course we all wish it had not happened. We all wish we had been more careful with our regulations with the rail industry. We wish we had been more careful with the size and type of railcars that we use to transport dangerous liquids. We all wish we had been more careful with the use of one person instead of two in those rail disaster prone areas. We all wish we had been more careful with the transportation of dangerous goods, but we were not. Therefore, we had a disaster that claimed 40-odd lives and basically incinerated the centre of a town. That should never have happen and it should never happen again.
The NDP is committed to seeing that we build into all of our systems for transporting dangerous goods, including on the open seas, outside of ports and on the west, east and north coasts, systems that prevent the spill of dangerous goods and prevent the disasters in the first place.
The Canadian Transportation Agency and the Transportation Safety Board of Canada have made recommendations to the government on a number of occasions about how to make the rail transportation of dangerous goods safer. Has the government acted on any of those recommendations? Not so far. We wish it would. We wish it would bring in positive train control. We wish it would eliminate the DOT-111A tank cars and replace them with tank cars that are actually capable of withstanding even a small collision, but the government sits on its hands and says and does nothing.
I am afraid that is part of what we are up against in the NDP. We are up against a government that is committed to extracting stuff out of the ground as quickly as it can and getting it to market as quickly as it can and hopes that nothing will happen. We cannot live with just hope. We have to build regulations and enforcement mechanisms that prevent things. When things do happen, as we all know they sometimes will, we need to have systems in place that find a way to clean them up. When we close, as the government has done, British Columbia's oil spill response centre and shut down the Kitsilano Coast Guard Station, those are two things that are designed to deal with this kind of thing in the first place. The government shuts them down, rather than builds them up.
If we are going to have more tanker traffic, if we are going to transport more oil and if we are going to suck more oil out of the sands of Alberta, which we apparently are as the government is determined, getting it from Alberta to the rest of Canada and the rest of the world has to be done safely. It cannot be done in rusty old pipelines. It cannot be done in tank cars and railcars that cannot survive a fender-bender. It cannot be done with double-hulled tankers on the ocean. Although the government would like to claim that it has introduced the notion of double-hulled tankers, they have in fact been around for more than 20 years and they, too, have spills. They, too, are subject to being punctured in a disaster at sea.
On May 25, 2010, the Malaysian registered Bunga Kelana collided with a bulk carrier. A 10 metre gash was torn in the side of the ship, which then spilled an estimated 2,500 tonnes, or 2.9 million litres, of crude oil into the sea. It was a double-hulled tanker. It did not prevent oil from spilling into the sea.
That is what we are up against. Some might argue that out in the middle of the ocean, if an accident were to happen, nobody is out there anyway. Actually, there is a lot of wildlife out there. There are fish and entire ecosystems that could not stand to have their systems fouled by oil.
To look at the pristine and beautiful coast of British Columbia and to suggest that we are going to allow giant tankers that carry two million tonnes of crude in their hulls along a very rocky and dangerous shore is just playing with danger. It is just inviting a disaster. We in the NDP believe that should be avoided. We believe disasters are meant to be avoided, not played with or messed with. That is our position on this. That is what we have been saying all along.
When we want to safely carry oil, my riding has a rail corridor through it that has hundreds and hundreds of those lightweight DOT-111A tanker cars going through it. When residents in my riding wrote to Transport Canada and asked the director of rail safety to come and talk to them, he said sure, that he would love to come and talk to them and tell them how safe the rail system was. That was until the minister nixed it. The minister actually interfered and muzzled the Transport Canada official. The minister said that he was not allowed to talk to people. There were some brochures and flyers, and that is all they would get. They were not allowed to be told face-to-face.
We in the NDP want a bill that actually prevents spills and measures taken by the government that actually prevent and stop them before they happen, rather than trying to find ways to ensure people are insured for when they do happen.
Mr. Speaker, I would especially like to thank my colleagues who took part in this debate throughout the course of the day and who pointed out many times that this government is incapable of drafting simple bills. Bills can be complex but yet easy to understand. They can contain a series of measures that can be implemented so that the public feels safe about the hazardous goods being shipped across the country.
It seems challenging. As I said when I put a question to my colleague, the government has trouble disseminating real information. It often leaves the job of disclosing information to businesses and then we need to invoke the Access to Information Act. That can take weeks or months, when sometimes the information is needed immediately. In an era when information can travel at the speed of light thanks to social media or telecommunications, we must rely on procedures that can take weeks or months.
I experienced first-hand the tragedy in Lac-Mégantic and five months after the fact, we are still not sure what some of the railcars were carrying.
How then can we trust the government when it tables legislation respecting Canada’s seas and skies? How can we trust the government and feel safe? This government lacks credibility. The short title of this bill is: Safeguarding Canada’s Seas and Skies Act. This bill will enact or amend five acts that cover different subjects. Again, we are being served up a kind of minibus bill. It is not an omnibus bill, but rather a minibus bill.
Well, we have no intention of climbing aboard this Conservative minibus. We will continue to fight for Canadians who want to feel safe by knowing what materials are being transported by rail and by sea. Canadians are concerned about the environment.
It is always the same story. Members of the scientific community are muzzled at a time when the public is deeply concerned about the environment. Many Canadians from coast to coast are worried about the environment. They are asking questions. Why is the Conservative government acting this way? Why is it not concerned about the environment?
It is not that we are opposed to the development of raw materials and natural resources, far from it, but we want to make sure some will be left for the decades and centuries to come. We want future generations, my children and my children's children, to have a healthy environment, clean air, fresh drinking water and fertile land for agriculture, whether it be in the Eastern Townships, Quebec or elsewhere in Canada.
When we see bills such as this one, questions come to mind. Is this government aware of and even vaguely concerned about the environment? I wonder. My fellow citizens ask me what planet the Conservatives are living on and what they are thinking.
Earlier, my colleague from quoted Commander Cousteau, but I could also cite Hubert Reeves and Albert Jacquard. In the 1980s, they raised environmental concerns based on the type of capitalism they were already seeing at the time. They said that the greatest threat was focusing on this damned economic growth regardless of its collateral effects.
The aim was always greater productivity regardless of the collateral effects of economic growth and productivity growth, always staggering and without concern for the environment. The more we consume, the more we keep on consuming.
Yes, in the 21st century, we must still rely on fossil matter and fossil fuels, on development of the oil sands, development of shale gas and various other forms of fossil fuels. Development is one thing, and we can already see the Conservatives are not very concerned about the environment when it comes to developing certain sites. We want to consume more and we want more growth. That is all well and good, but we need more vehicles in order to do that. More hazardous materials are travelling on our railways, on the railway lines and highways.
Supertankers are starting to navigate our great St. Lawrence River, historically one of the most beautiful on the planet. They contain up to two million barrels of oil. A spill from one of them and we would completely forget the Exxon Valdez, whose impact on the biodiversity and drinking water of the Alaska coastline is still being felt 25 years later. It is incredible to think that we can develop raw materials and transport them anywhere without any concern for public safety, the safety of Canadians across the country.
Climate change is obvious. With respect to the airline industry, the insurance industry is the one that would like to dictate how "war risk" incidents are redefined. In agriculture, some insurance companies are already reluctant to see those kinds of crops in certain areas of the country since it is clear that the sector is at risk because of climate change. Unbelievable. It is sad to hear that. It is sad to realize the truth of that considering that we are a democratic institution that should discuss the real issues, like the environment, and yes, natural resource development.
In fact, that is currently the engine and lever in our economy. The NDP is very proud, just like many workers, the hundreds of thousands of workers in these industries and industries that depend on those large businesses. However, we must be mindful of our everyday actions and of the regulations we put in place because we are talking about our land, our drinking water supply and our air.
Back in the 1970s, we were trying to fight acid rain here because the automobile industry parked it in our driveway. We spent over 20 years fighting acid rain, and we were successful. In the past 10 years, the trend has reversed. However, under Liberal and Conservative rule, scientists and anyone who denounces these things have been muzzled. The government has even said that people who care about the environment, activists, are terrorists. I cannot believe people say that. It is unbelievable that people who want to protect their land, their seas, the sky and the air we breathe are treated like terrorists. It is as if some of the hon. members across the way are sometimes not getting enough oxygen.
It gives me great pleasure to do my work here. I understand that it is now time for me to answer my colleagues' questions.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing by time with the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard.
I am pleased to rise in the House to speak to Bill .
As we can see, this bill has a long title. Bill is an omnibus bill that seeks to enact or amend five pieces of legislation. For the benefit of those watching us, I will try to summarize it. The first part implements the Aviation Industry Indemnity Act that has allowed the Department of Transport to compensate certain airlines for any war-risk losses, damages or liability. As a result, the government can cover the cost of damages related to unlawful actions, such as rebellions, attacks or armed conflicts. The goal is to ensure the continued operation of Canada's major aviation services in the event of seizure, regardless of whether stakeholders are able to obtain insurance at that time.
With respect to Part 2, to provide certain persons with 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 amends the Canada Marine Act in relation to the effective day of the appointment of a director of a port authority.
Part 4 amends 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.
Part 5 amends the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, by imposing new requirements on operators of oil handling facilities, including the obligation to notify the minister of their operations, and submit their plans to the minister.
Part 5 thus introduces a new requirement whereby the operators of oil handling facilities must submit to the minister a response plan, civil and criminal liability for response organizations engaged in response operations, the application of new measures and monetary sanctions, with new investigative powers for Transport Canada investigators.
After initial review of this omnibus bill, and despite the rejection of our proposal to expand its scope, I offer my qualified support for Bill at second reading, while drawing attention to the Conservatives’ lack of credibility with respect to marine and aviation safety issues, and their contradictory policies.
As the saying goes, this Conservative government does not put its money where its mouth is. This has become the trademark operating mode of this Conservative government. This bill is an attempt to make up for its lack of credibility in the area of transport safety, particularly with respect to tanker traffic on the West Coast and growing opposition to the northern gateway pipeline, first proposed in 2006.
This bill also implements 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 government is trying to make up for lost time, which is unfortunately difficult to do. In the fall of 2012, two large ships at sea off the West Coast were wrecked because of the current volume of traffic. The amendments proposed in this bill are not enough to prevent a catastrophic spill. The context of the bill puts the emphasis rather on administrative organization and a real failure to improve the environment. Mr. Ben West of ForestEthics Advocacy has said that we have moved ahead quickly in the wrong direction on this matter.
If the Conservative government was really concerned about safety, why did it not apply what was agreed to under the 2010 convention immediately? If Bill was really designed to promote greater safety with respect to oil tanker traffic, a Conservative government should have seized the opportunity to cancel the cuts in the most recent budgets and the shutdown of marine safety programs.
The NDP is committed to the polluter pays principle. We also want to strengthen the petroleum boards' capacity, which is currently zero, to deal with oil spills, as recommended by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development. In addition we want the Coast Guard to be required to work with its U.S. counterparts and to conduct a parallel study to examine the risks resulting from additional tanker traffic in Canadian waters.
It is appalling that this government is constantly making cuts in structures that have proven effective in the past, or that it is closing them, just as traffic increases and the ships carrying oil and potentially hazardous substances get bigger.
I wonder what is the idea behind the bill before us. I moderately support the bill, but I would like it to go to committee and have experts speak out on parts 4 and 5.