The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill , be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to be rising to speak to Bill . We know the bill deals with the whole question of liability for pipeline spills.
My riding of is a very strong environmental riding. The environmental consciousness of the average citizen is exceptional. Constituents are very concerned about the serious environmental risks associated with pipeline projects in Canada, including oil spills. It is also important to say they also understand that pipelines are directly tied to the facilitation of accelerated oil extraction and oil export that is at cross purposes to the urgent need to fight climate change, the single most important challenge the world faces and, indeed, the single most important challenge that we have faced for decades without acting properly on it.
Many also realize the particular risks of localized pollution of diluted bitumen once it spills in any form, whether from a tanker or from a pipeline, as the member for has been emphasizing in today's debate. My constituents have very little faith that the government is taking steps in general to ensure that these kinds of environmental concerns are thoroughly addressed. They need to know that the environment is being protected and that necessary preventive and response measures are going to be put in place.
Of course, I take these concerns seriously. When it comes to major resource projects like pipelines, the NDP believes that proper community consultation, respect for the rights and title of aboriginal peoples, and rigorous environmental assessments are the bedrock of any kind of viable sustainable development approach. This has not been the approach taken by the government, by and large, in the review, for example, of northern gateway, Kinder Morgan and Keystone XL, and in the same flawed process that was applied to Line 9 and is now being applied to Energy East.
The legislation we are debating today is, however, a step forward. Bill seeks, among other things, to ensure that some polluters will be absolutely liable for harm caused by a pipeline spill, including environmental damage, what is termed in the bill as non-use harm. The bill includes absolute liability for all National Energy Board regulated pipelines. That means companies would be liable for costs and damages, irrespective of fault, up to $1 billion for major oil pipelines, which are pipelines that ship or transport more than 250,000 barrels of oil a day. Where there is fault, including negligence, there is no cap, and that is a good feature of this bill. For those under 250,000 barrels a day, it is left to regulation. Therefore, there is lack of clarity as to what the liability cap will be for smaller operations.
It is a good start, as I have said, and that is why, of course, I will support it at second reading. From what I have heard, most of my colleagues, if not all of them, also will be. We need to send it to committee for further study and amendments, and this is exactly the kind of bill where there will be real expertise brought to bear from across the spectrum. I honestly hope the committee will have enough hearings to go into the finer details of the bill to get it right. There seems to be a cross-party consensus that it needs to be done right, by and large, and it is not the kind of bill that should be overly politicized.
We in the NDP have long been consistent in our position that companies, corporations, and not taxpayers and not citizens who call on the public treasury for other government programs, should cover the cost of pollution. The bill is long overdue as a first step toward a polluter pays regime for pipelines in Canada.
There are some other specific provisions I should briefly point out by way of being somewhat laudatory of what the government has put forward in Bill . One is that aboriginal governments, termed “any Aboriginal governing body”, in the bill, are treated similarly to other governments, municipal, provincial and federal, in terms of the role they play in cleanup and being compensated for any kind of cleanup they have to do. Other powers and rights are given to them as well, and that is something.
Additional remedies, as part of the judgment that a court can give under offence provisions in the National Energy Board Act, include such creative possibilities as ordering the creation of scholarship funds for environmental studies. This is written into the bill.
Interim compensation is possible as one of the orders from the new pipeline claims tribunal, which can be called into being in cases of so-called designated companies. The system set up by the bill would have the ability to access as much of the pooled liability reserve funds as the National Energy Board would deem needed in the case of designated companies. Therefore, when a company is sharing a pooled fund, to ensure it has enough money, it is not just its share of the pooled fund that can be accessed, but the entire fund, at least on my reading.
Also, in terms of the kinds of fines that come with the offence provisions that already exist in the National Energy Board Act, there are a number of new headings under which aggravation of damages could be sparked, or what kind of extra factors would mean higher fines. One of the aggravating factors is where there is evidence that shows that the corporation allowed the spill to happen essentially as part of an economic calculus in order to save costs, in order to make more money.
All of these things are to be commended in the bill. There are, however, more than a few problems.
The first problem has been mentioned a few times, and that is setting the limit on liability in cases of so-called non-fault at $1 billion, which may not be sufficient. The member for has already indicated clearly that we know it has already cost more than $1 billion for the cleanup in the Kalamazoo River area. We also know the cleanup has not actually worked and to some extent the attempt goes on, whether a real cleanup will ever be possible given the nature of diluted bitumen.
Second, much of the bill is heavily laden with regulatory and discretionary provisions. An awful lot of power is given to the cabinet and the National Energy Board to set out detailed regulations. This includes, for example, that this new pipeline claims tribunal exists in the act in a very general way. The Governor-in-Council, however, would be given the power to make regulations on virtually everything to do with this tribunal, including in subclause 48.47(a) “prescribing the terms and conditions of appointment of its members”. There is nothing in the act—we have nothing to look at—to know what kind of tribunal this would be. Where are these members going to come from? How are they going to be appointed? How do we know this tribunal will be a fair and adequate replacement for the courts, for example, in the stream of cases that might go to it? There is actually a lot of room for manipulation of that pipeline claims tribunal by virtue of so much being left out of the act.
Other problems are more in terms of how things are left to regulation, even as the act has taken care to ensure some things cannot be regulated. For example, it appears from my reading that the Governor-in-Council cannot prescribe higher amounts than the $1 billion on a company-by-company basis. It is allowed to say yes for a certain kind of pipeline that carries much more than 250,000 barrels per day that the liability limit should be more than $1 billion. However, it cannot do that on a company-by-company basis, although it would be specifically allowed to do it on a company-by-company basis for pipelines involving under 250,000 barrels. Therefore, if there is a company that is notorious for having problems, notorious for non-compliance, notorious for being a greater risk and yet still is in the game so to speak, there seems to be a prohibition on treating that company differently. There is a kind of formal equality idea here, which is a problem.
In terms of the amount of cash on hand that a company has to keep in order to cover liability, the National Energy Board is not required to ensure that the money on hand includes enough money for any potential loss of non-use value, which is code in the bill for environmental damage relating to a public resource. This is part and parcel of a couple of features we discussed earlier in questions and answers in relation to an earlier speech. There are a couple of areas in which, although the act starts out by saying so-called “non-use value”, environmental damage is covered as one of the three major heads of damage that the bill's liability provisions are meant to go to, but there are other provisions in the act that seem to claw that back.
In conclusion, this is a good start for sure, but at the same time it is a bill that needs close scrutiny in committee. It is the kind of scrutiny that will be very easy to understand in terms of what is necessary to improve the bill. I hope all parties will gather together to do that.
Mr. Speaker, it is always an honour to rise and speak on behalf of the people of Timmins—James Bay, and speak on the issue of Bill , the so-called pipeline safety act, the amendment to the National Energy Board Act. As I rise today, back home there is great concern in my region about the third derailment in this past month in our region. There were two tanker derailments in the small community of Gogama, one at Hornepayne. Twenty-nine cars carrying heavy crude went off the tracks. A number of them are still burning out of control in the Mattagami River right now. The Mattagami River runs from that part of northern Ontario right through the heart of the city of Timmins, through communities like Smooth Rock Falls up into the Missinaibi and the Moose rivers in James Bay. A huge drainage area of 37,000 kilometres is affected.
This heavy crude is burning in a fish habitat very close to the community of Mattagami First Nation and very close to Gogama. We need to look at these issues in terms of government policy. We saw the horrific tragedy at Lac-Mégantic this past summer and we saw the failed safety measures. We saw the promises that have been put in place allowing companies to look after themselves, that somehow Canadians would be better protected in this privatized world and that if we let corporations look after themselves without oversight, everything will be fine. Many good people in Lac-Mégantic died because of that.
If the train had derailed just a few kilometres from where it did, not into the river but into the community of Gogama, we could have had a repeat of Lac-Mégantic. For all of us across so much of Canada and across the north, our communities are built on the rail lines. Across the street from my house, the Ontario Northland carries its heavy duty sulphuric acid from the smelter in Rouyn-Noranda. In fact my street address is Mileage 104, on the railway line. We are so closely tied to the issues of safety.
I speak of that in terms of the huge economic impact the oil industry has on our country. It is a huge driver, but also we need to start addressing the growing environmental impact to make sure that there is a balance. There will be some people who say “we will not ship by rail anymore, let us get the pipelines through and once the pipelines are through, we will not have to worry anymore”. The problem is the lack of a long-term vision of the government where, as my colleague from said, they only believe in the rip-and-ship philosophy.
There is something fundamentally, economically wrong when the vision of our national economy is to take raw bitumen out of the ground, ship it 2,000 kilometres to a port in Quebec so it can be shipped off to China or someplace else to be processed. That is an abomination. That is not an economic plan. The people who carry the risk are the people living along that pipeline because the government stripped all the environmental protection acts, stripped the Navigable Waters Act so that the need to have the shut-off valves along the rivers does not exist anymore.
We are told that somehow this is in all our interests. I see oil industry ads all over Ottawa say “It's your oil, it's our oil, let's do the right thing”. It is not our oil. It should be Canada's interest. No, it is our risk. The benefits are going to the Koch brothers in the U.S. They are going offshore. Ask any northerner at the pumps, for all the damage they suffered in the economy lately, when have they ever had a break on gas prices. We never had one.
We need to look at this. There are some good things in the bill about issues of liability. I ask people back home about the processes that are in place to protect the public. If I look at the National Energy Board, I do not feel much comfort. I guess if I were an oil lobbyist, I would feel great. If I were a big Suncor or Sunoco, I would think the National Energy Board is good. Energy east is a major project that is happening. The public has a right to participate because if we talk about moving bitumen through pipeline, there needs to be public buy-in and they have to understand what is at stake.
The National Energy Board needs to hear from the citizens about what is at stake. However, citizens do not get to write a letter to the National Energy Board. They have to get approval to write a letter in order to be able to write a letter. The National Energy Board does not accept unsolicited letters. People have to apply and then it will decide whether or not their opinion counts. That is not how to build public trust. That is not social licence. The National Energy Board will decide whether the letters will be posted or whether to outright refuse them.
Therefore, granting or refusing a project application impinges on whether or not there is a direct effect on the interests of the person, the degree of connection between the project and the person, the likelihood of severity of harm that a person is exposed to, and the frequency and duration of a person's use of an area near the project. I am trying to interpret what that means. Maybe if I live right on top of the pipeline I get to go to the hearings to say whether or not I like it. If I am like the citizens of Timmins, in the case of the Gogama derailment, if I am part of the larger population of 37,000 square kilometres who has been impacted by this present derailment and if it was a pipeline blowout, would any of those people be allowed to speak at the National Energy Board hearings?
The issue we are dealing with here with crude, with oil, are about a national vision that says that there is no point processing and upgrading in our own country where we can create value-added jobs and ensure the great gifts we have in terms of resources of oil, gas and mineral production. There is no national vision to upgrade, to make sure there is value added, so we are taking less out of the ground because we would see more in our economy. However, we are being told that somehow we should trust the pipeline agenda because the government has turned our country into a petrol state and, like all petrol states, it is corrupt. We see its attack on birdwatchers, on environmental organizations, on anyone who speaks up against its agenda.
We are supposed to believe that bitumen is just like oil, but it is not. I am looking at Bill that talks about a $1-billion liability, which was surpassed in terms of the damage that Enbridge did to the Kalamazoo River. It is still being ordered by the Environmental Protection Agency to go back and fix the damage it did to the Kalamazoo River. It may not ever be able to fix the damage it did to the Kalamazoo River because it did not have the proper oversight.
I am thinking of a pipeline running through northern Ontario like the train that ran through Gogama. If there is a blowout and it is carrying bitumen, is there enough protection in this bill to offset the billions of dollars in damage that would accrue? If this northern gateway pipeline had ever gone through and it was blowing bitumen out through the B.C. mountains, how would anyone be able to get to that? When one drives up through the mountains in B.C., sometimes there are trucks at the bottom because it was too difficult to get down to the trucks that went off the edge. How would we be able to somehow get the bitumen off those rivers? That is why President Obama rejected Keystone, contrary to the demands of the Liberal Party and Conservative Party leaders. He said it was not in America's interests to take the risk without the benefit.
Therefore, I am looking at where we need to be as an economy. Our natural resources are vital to us but there has to be social licence. It has to be done safely and with the long-term implication that if companies will be moving products like bitumen out of the ground they are doing it in a safe way. They failed with our rail. We have had too many accidents and we need accountability there. However, if we are supposed to trust that this bill would protect us on pipelines, when we see the collusion of the oil interests and the Conservative government, I do not believe them for a moment and I do not think Canadians do either.
We are interested in this bill and want to bring it to committee, but there is a bigger issue with respect to environmental accountability that has to be addressed by this nation.
Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure for me to speak in the debate on this bill.
As most of my colleagues have said, this bill is important because it is a further step toward applying the polluter pays principle, and I sincerely believe it is fundamentally essential, considering the unbridled increase in the development of various oil and gas resources in Canada and the potential consequences of that. We are aware of all the debates and reactions that oil and gas development and transportation by a variety of methods, including pipelines, give rise to among the general public. It is really important to move forward and take at least this step in the best way possible.
Like all my colleagues in the New Democratic Party—I have not heard any dissenting voices on this issue—I support this bill at second reading, both because of its basic principle and because it contains some really positive elements. However, our support is of course conditional on the fact that we must be able to consider the bill in depth at the committee stage and that ultimately we can look at what is good, what has to be improved and what improvements can be made, in the hopes that the debate can be as broad and as deep as possible.
Moreover, I am taking this opportunity to say that I welcome the fact that the bill is not currently the subject of a time allocation motion. I do not know if that will happen. I may well be in dangerous waters just by bringing it up. I hope I am not giving my Conservative colleagues any ideas about moving a time allocation motion, but it is quite significant. It is also important that we have a very comprehensive debate on this bill and especially that we listen to the views from all parts of Canada. We represent very diverse populations that are sometimes spread over huge areas. As my colleague mentioned earlier, he represents a riding whose vast size is beyond all measure in comparison with the riding that I represent, which is much smaller and very urban. However, in view of some of the pipeline routes, my urban riding is likely to be very deeply affected if there were an accident.
The thing that is really important about the polluter pays principle is that it makes it possible to use an encouraging approach, that is, prevention, which relies on companies’ best practices. Companies wishing to build and operate a pipeline will go much further with their safety measures, doubling or tripling their monitoring and taking containment measures to ensure that they prevent spills as much as possible. If ever there were a spill, they would take steps to keep damage to a minimum.
As some of our colleagues have stressed, deplorable accidents have happened; just a few years ago there was a well-publicized accident along the Kalamazoo River, which was deeply contaminated following a large-scale spill. According to the findings of an investigation, the spill is worrying because of the way in which these types of pipelines are operated. At the end of the day, a company that provides minimum services in order to carry a crude or refined product has too little control and too few teams close by in order to ensure that when something goes wrong with the pipeline, it is identified and then corrective measures are taken as quickly as possible.
This is far from being useful because obviously we can develop our natural resources in a responsible manner.
We can do this without sacrificing environmental sustainability and social acceptability. I am talking about these concepts precisely because environmental development and economic development are two elements that are far from being incompatible. We have discussed, among other things, the idea of having a value-added product, for example, refining crude oil and offering derived products. Furthermore, we might well develop some expertise, which is also value-added and can be exported, not to mention using it here in Canada, in a way that creates high-quality jobs, in order to prevent accidents and reduce the risks and the footprint of the facilities that are already operating.
After discussing environmental sustainability, the other very important aspect is social acceptability, and especially participating in the partnership that can be created with the communities directly or indirectly affected by the movement of equipment, for instance, in the case of a pipeline that goes through a community or at the very least passes close to it. This is of course very demanding. Everybody realizes it. However, it is an essential practice because if the people’s voices are heard and they are convinced that their concerns will be taken into consideration, it is much easier to gain their co-operation in reaching a solution or a result that will preclude unilaterally imposed measures. In fact, imposing measures unilaterally could well lead to fractious disputes and perhaps even to certain excesses. We cannot blame people for this. When people feel that their safety and the safety of their families is under direct threat, how can anyone criticize them for reacting strongly, for making demands, for challenging or wanting to block the project? Some parts of our country are currently going through this situation with projects that are up in the air, under consideration or being developed.
Once we have satisfied these questions of environmental sustainability and social licence, we will be able to ensure real long-term prosperity and, most of all, prosperity that is shared among all segments of society, with everyone's involvement. That is why it is very important for this bill to be thoroughly examined in committee and for the committee to hear a broad range of witnesses. I do not mean only expert witnesses, but also witnesses from civil society and the communities near pipelines and existing facilities. That will help us understand how some of the more controversial aspects of this bill need to be improved.
Of course, one of the aspects I want to touch on is the $1 billion cap on liability when no fault or negligence is proven. This may seem like a very large amount; a billion dollars is an enormous sum. Still, would it be enough for a community like Quebec City, which includes my riding of Beauport—Limoilou, if there were a pipeline project with the potential to affect major sources of drinking water for hundreds of thousands of people? Those sources include the St. Lawrence River and a number of large lakes and rivers. What would happen if they were seriously affected over months or years? Losses would go far beyond that level, even if no fault were proven, the company was not liable and it was truly an accident.
Beyond Beauport—Limoilou and Quebec City, what meaning would that level of liability have if natural environments were permanently soiled?
It is possible to do the simple accounting, but it is essential for companies to realize that their liability must be absolute and that they must take every precaution to avoid accidents.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak in favour of the bill. I think it is important, when public safety issues are before us, that we get them to committee as quickly as possible. I think we all have faith or hope that the committee process will improve safety issues when there is a discrepancy or a concern that they are too soft. However, we also recognize that the government on this measure is attempting to correct a problem that has been left long standing for far too long.
The issue of moving volatile substances safely through this country will be with us regardless of which side of the climate change debate we end up on, regardless of which side of the pipeline debate we are on, and which side of the rail lines we come down on because of one simple fact: moving resources to market requires us to manage some difficult chemicals and some difficult substances. Getting it right gives us peace of mind but also protects people. It also protects the environment if we do it properly.
The concerns we are starting to hear about the bill are not so much about the intent. We support that. They are not so much about the provisions to strengthen our already lax laws, as we can see from past pipeline incidents; the concerns are about oversight.
This parallels another conversation that is happening in this building, which is again about public safety. Oversight works when it is independent and when it is vigorous and when it is well supported by research, facts, and investigative powers but also with accountability models.
The concerns at present about the bill reach those same areas I just listed. For me, who represents a riding in the city of Toronto where the rail lines move through at the south end and the north end of the riding, getting pipelines right is extraordinarily important for the safety of the residents I represent and am speaking for today.
Every one of the derailments that has been listed in this House during the debate, including the one that happened over the weekend in Gogama, the second derailment this month, would have made it through the heart of the city of Toronto but for the poor luck to have happened where they did. They could have happened in one of those densely populated parts of Toronto, one of the most densely populated parts of Canada, and the impact would have been beyond catastrophic. I do not think there is a word to describe what the scenario would have looked like.
We have huge issues, and it is precisely because of the lack of public oversight and of independent oversight over these public safety issues that even though we support the general intent of these sorts of bills, we get shy about them. We get very nervous about them. We can start to hear the corrections we think, if tabled and accepted, would make it a better bill. If we start giving voice to those suggestions, hopefully they will be heard inside the parliamentary committee.
In particular, on rail, if we do not move volatile chemicals by pipeline, they will move to market by rail. Quite clearly, accident after accident, allowing the industry to self-regulate and diluting the accountability models is having a devastating impact on the quality of transportation and the quality of our resource management system.
It is precisely because of the way we have walked away from enforcement, regulation, and accountability, in particular around oil, in particular around pipelines, that our trading partners, in particular the United States of America, have moved away from trusting us to manage these files properly. As a result, even the most enthusiastic supporters of the oil sands now cannot get that product to market efficiently. With the rail accidents right now, there is actually no way of getting it to the east coast.
It is thought that somehow not providing good government, not providing good oversight, and not providing independent accountability models is going to make things better. It has made things worse.
While we watch this pipeline proposal move through the House and on to committee, this is exactly the time and exactly the opportunity the government should be seizing to show us that it can listen, that it can take the good ideas coming from industry, the environmental movement, parliamentarians, and ordinary citizens, and actually craft legislation that gives people peace of mind that there will not be a major accident, and if there are accidents, that containment strategies are in place, and if containment strategies fail, that accountability is there.
Losing the drinking water for a small town, or losing the capacity to manage the environment for the long term because of a catastrophic spill, is an unacceptable outcome of economic development. Surely in this day and age we are smart enough to manage the resources more effectively.
Part of it is about exploring upstream possibilities for refinement. I hear members of the opposition party talk about doing all the refining in Canada. We know that the refining capacity of North America is stronger than the supply right now. The challenge is that unless we are prepared to subsidize the oil and gas industry to provide new forms of refinement and new forms of downstream processing, there is no way of realizing the vision they have placed on the table as an alternative to pipelines or rail.
Therefore, with the economic reality staring us in the face, with the understanding that the resources are going to move to market, the issue falls to us to find the right balance. Refine what we can, absolutely. Move it when we have to; we must accomplish this. To move it safely is the issue.
The challenge we are having with the legislation again comes down to oversight. If we take a look at the National Energy Board, it has become a de facto rubber stamp for decisions that have already been made by the government. The quality of the people appointed is not sufficient to give us the sense of confidence that if there is an issue that needs to be addressed we are going to get a response in both a timely and proactive fashion but also in an accountable way. That is the issue that concerns us.
Therefore, as the bill, with our support, makes it to the parliamentary committee, please do not do with it what has been done with so many other bills: refuse to listen to opposition ideas, refuse to listen to expert opinion, refuse to listen to the concerns of ordinary Canadians, and refuse to act in the interest of all of us together in concert. Please, hold meaningful hearings, change the accountability model, create independence in the accountability model, and go forward.
I think we will find that all of us can support moves like that that would strengthen the capacity of the current government to do what it is supposed to do, which is not just to stand back and eliminate government but to in fact push government forward into a position where it can be effective and can deliver the economic results we all want it to.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to make an aside at the beginning of my speech to point out that it is Quebec Intellectual Disability Week. As this will last the entire week, I hope that we are going to talk a lot about it and that there will be less prejudice against people with intellectual disabilities. I wanted to take this opportunity to mention this week here in the House.
I rise today in support of Bill at second reading.
Bill amends the statutory liability regime for federally regulated pipelines in Canada. The bill includes absolute liability for all National Energy Board regulated pipelines. Under the new law, a firm's liability for oil leaks and spills would be augmented to $1 billion for major oil pipelines to cover costs for a large-scale rupture, regardless of fault. These are pipelines that have the capacity to transport at least 250,000 barrels of oil per day. A company would continue to have unlimited liability when it was at fault or demonstrated negligence.
The National Energy Board is set to take control of oil spill cleanups. As policy makers, it is our duty to have an in-depth analysis of all of the provisions that are part of a bill and to shed light on dark corners. Although this bill contains important measures that would allow for greater liability in the event of a disaster or an oil leak, there remains a serious cause for concern, mainly due to a lack of clarity and a lack of certainty. There is a lack of clarity because if the cleanup costs surpass $1 billion dollars, Bill does not provide clear indications as to who would assume the cleanup costs where there is no proof of fault or negligence. There is lack of certainty because the implementation of many of the proposed changes would be left to the discretion of the National Energy Board or cabinet.
Although identifying those responsible for cleanup is important when polluters are to pay the bill for the pollution they caused, we must ensure at the outset that all prevention measures are meticulously developed and adequately strengthened, so that fossil fuels are transported under the best possible conditions. Our first priority should therefore be to prevent oil spills from happening. It is essential that the production and transportation of crude oil is accompanied by an improvement in safety measures, regardless of the method of transportation used.
Today, a large proportion of Canadians do not have much faith in the way in which we transport oil. Only 29% of Canadians think that rail transportation is safe. Take, for example, the Lac-Mégantic disaster or the derailment in northern Ontario this past weekend. In my riding, there are many railways and this is of concern to my constituents. A great deal of oil is transported using these rail lines and people are worried about it. Here are a few more statistics: in Canada, only 37% of Canadians think that tanker transportation is safe, and only 47% of Canadians think that pipelines are a safe way to transport oil. I do not think this is very many.
These perceptions are shaped by the growing number of accidents over the past decade. The latest Transportation Safety Board of Canada report shows that pipeline accidents have increased significantly, from 71 in 2004 to 118 in 2014. The number of accidents has gone up by 47 per year in 10 years. In 2011, the Commissioner of the Environment pointed out that the National Energy Board had not managed to fix a number of known problems or to ensure that pipelines were properly maintained. The Conservatives have still not implemented an adequate monitoring and inspection system.
To address these problems, the NDP believes that the government must introduce solid regulations, increased monitoring and stricter inspection of the infrastructure in use. We believe that rebuilding a strict environmental assessment process to repair the damage done by the Conservative government should be a top priority. We also need strict legislative provisions for environmental assessments instead of the environmental regulations that the Conservative government is constantly contravening. This process must be carried out in collaboration with communities, government organizations, the provinces and territories, and first nations, which must be consulted and involved in a meaningful way.
Bill represents significant progress towards improving the liability regime, particularly by strengthening the powers of the National Energy Board, which, if the bill is properly enforced, will protect taxpayers by applying the polluter pays principle. However, the bill remains rather vague and does not address some crucial issues.
Indeed, the bill leaves some doubts about whether taxpayers will have to bear the cost of cleanups over $1 billion when fault or negligence cannot be proven. Furthermore, too many provisions create uncertainty because their implementation will be left up to the discretion of either the National Energy Board or cabinet, not to mention that very few of the provisions in Bill are mandatory, and the application of many of them will depend on measures that the government will take.
From that perspective, Bill allows quite a bit of flexibility in terms of decisions made for political reasons and in terms of secret agreements between operators and the National Energy Board.
Many stakeholders in civil society have already expressed reservations about this bill, and the NDP shares those concerns.
For example, Ian Miron, a lawyer at Ecojustice, said that Bill C-46 is too discretionary in that its influence depends on how the NEB and cabinet decide to implement certain provisions. It is possible for some measures to be implemented for political or other reasons, which would leave Canadians without the protection and peace of mind that this bill purports to provide them.
An NDP government would give Canada a sustainable industry, enforce environmental laws, and take into account cumulative repercussions, public safety and respect for first nations in all of its decisions.
The NDP understands the need to stop excessively relying on fossil fuels. Our vision for development promotes economic growth and job creation, while ensuring social and environmental sustainability.
On this side of the House, we place particular emphasis on the development of renewable energy resources, such as solar energy, hydroelectricity, tidal energy, and biomass energy. Through this approach, we will create a significant number of well-paid jobs and make Canada a leader in the field.
The NDP has repeatedly criticized the government's lack of action and leadership on green and renewable solutions. By investing in renewable energy and energy independence, Canada will not only reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, but it will also foster innovation and create green jobs.
Canadians deserve to be represented by a government with a vision, a government that looks to the future and that wants to strike a balance between economic development and environmental protection.
The NDP promises to better manage our natural resources, invest in renewable energy and clean technologies and improve energy efficiency in order to build a more sustainable economy. Canadians know that they can count on the NDP.
Since becoming an MP, people have been telling me in their many emails and phone calls, and when I meet them going door-to-door, that the environment is a priority for them. They are concerned about what will happen to future generations. They tell me that we are heading towards a world where we are so reliant on fossil fuels that it will be difficult to change course.
I think this is a very important topic. As my colleagues have mentioned, this is a step in the right direction. I hope we will be able to improve the bill in committee. We believe in the polluter pays principle, but I showed that there are some shortcomings and we must absolutely fix them.
I hope that all parties in the House will be willing to work together, since this is very important for Canada and for our global environment.
Mr. Speaker, we are in the process of debating Bill .
Our party will support the bill at second reading, because we want to go further. We feel this is a good step forward, but we must continue because we dream of a country that, like Sweden, Denmark and Finland, is capable of living with clean energies, which serve people well and reduce the harmful effects of pollution.
We are saying that this bill is a step forward, but a lot of proposals and amendments will be necessary in order to make it a really good bill. Bill leaves a great deal of leeway for politically motivated decisions and secret agreements between pipeline operators and the National Energy Board.
I am a member of the Standing Joint Committee on the Scrutiny of Regulations, and we can see that sometimes many things are left up to the ministers, who will end up making regulations. In some cases, they do not necessarily keep to the intent of the law. I would therefore prefer to have a bill that is clearly drafted and leaves no grey areas. Unfortunately, this is not the case with this bill. It is a little bit too general for my taste.
This bill does not necessarily include absolute liability for gas companies and other non-oil pipeline operators or for small-scale oil pipeline companies. This will also be established through future regulations or by cabinet. However, cabinet is the executive branch. Cabinet is not the legislative branch. Here again, partisan politics will be at play. It is a very sensitive area.
For us, as members of the NDP, it is important to begin by making it mandatory for companies to be liable for what they do to the environment. We are well aware that they are transporting raw materials by the means they have available to them, that is, pipelines, trains and so forth. There is always a risk. However, safety is fundamental and Canadians must be reassured. We feel that Canada must take measures to ensure that natural resources, these resources that are so dangerous, are developed and transported safely, because we must protect our constituents. Communities must be consulted and engaged in a meaningful way.
We always keep in mind what happened in Lac-Mégantic. Last weekend, we learned that there was another accident involving the transportation of oil and that a fire was caused. Fortunately, this time, no one was killed. However, it is frightening. We talk a lot about security in our country, but this is also a security issue.
If oil companies really want to get Canadians’ support, they must consider public opinion and provide information. They cannot do this by sitting back and discussing issues solely with the groups that want to make money. Canadians must be truly informed and their views must be considered in the decision-making process. Since information has not been flowing very smoothly and some has been hidden, people have begun to stand up against the pipelines. For instance, there is an article in Le Devoir that describes the municipal revolt against the energy east project. It states that, “At least 75 cities have voiced concerns about the TransCanada pipeline”. That is 75 cities in Quebec alone.
Guillaume Tremblay, mayor of Mascouche, said, “We do not want this project in our city”. In his view, there are a number of elements that point in favour of simply rejecting the pipeline that the oil company wants to build in the municipality, which is located north of Montreal.
He said that he is really concerned about protecting the artesian wells that many residents have, as well as safeguarding natural habitats. It has been said that if the oil companies cause damage, they will pay for it. However, that is not enough. It is not enough to simply repair the damage that has been done. We must consider producing sustainable energies that will eliminate people's fears. The mayors are already against the project; not all of them, but most.
Other citizens’ groups are concerned, not just the ones that are involved in the decision-making. Another article was published in Le Devoir on Tuesday, March 3, entitled “early childhood centre concerned about Enbridge project”. In this case, the centre is concerned about the reversal of the flow in line 9B, which passes through its backyard. Think about the parents that send their children to this centre. If a spill happens there, the children will be paying for it.
The director of the Gamin Gamine day care centre in Terrebonne is very concerned about the reversal of the flow in the pipeline, which will soon be sending 300,000 barrels of oil toward Montreal every day, because the pipeline passes through the centre's backyard.
People are asking us what is going to happen, and we politicians are obliged to give them real answers. We have to take this seriously. Schools are also concerned. These people fear for the safety of their children. This is a serious matter.
The Montreal metropolitan community believes that there are still unanswered questions. People do not feel as though they have been consulted and they are of the opinion that many of the answers they have received are not clear, primarily those concerning emergency plans. There is nothing about this in the bill.
Enbridge states, however, that meetings with the first responders in the municipalities concerned should be held in the next few weeks. It is as though the company is saying that it had planned to look into this later and that people should just trust it. Canadians should not be taken for puppets who can be manipulated into just about anything because they need gas for their cars. It goes beyond that.
Hydro-Québec has also sounded the alarm. It wants its concerns about the possible route of TransCanada's energy east pipeline to be heard at the National Energy Board public hearings to be held later this year. There are concerns about the proven phenomenon of corrosion.
In its letter, the crown corporation pointed out that the preliminary route proposed by the Alberta company runs along its high-voltage power lines for about 700 kilometres. Hydro-Québec is concerned that the project will limit the operation and growth of its network. However, electricity is a clean energy.
Hydro-Québec is concerned about what a pipeline leak would do to its own infrastructure. It mentions the risk of the presence of power lines, which could lead to corrosion problems for the pipeline. We really need a more in-depth study.
TransCanada acknowledges that it had similar problems with its Keystone pipeline in western Canada, after it went into service in 2010. However, the company's spokesperson, Tim Duboyce, says that the company has developed a technique called cathodic protection, which protects steel structures. That is a step forward.
Environmental groups such as Greenpeace are concerned about all these issues: “Hydro-Québec is very clear: there are risks.”
As legislators, we cannot simply settle for supporting the polluter pays principle. We need to be more ambitious than that. Radio-Canada published an article on this topic. It said:
|| Pipeline operators are required to report any oil spills to the Transportation Safety Board of Canada.
The most recent report states that the number of accidents has decreased, but if you look at the number of accidents in relation to the volume of oil transported per pipeline, it is clear that the number of accidents has been consistently increasing for 10 years.
I invite everyone to take a little trip with me as we take a look at European countries. Since the oil crisis in the early 1970s, Sweden has invested massively in research on alternative energy sources, and it is working. Sweden is a huge consumer of energy per capita—about 16,000 kilowatts per person per year—but its carbon emissions are comparatively smaller. The country primarily uses wind energy and hydroelectric energy.
We need to continue to dream and go further. This bill is a step in the right direction, but it is not the last step. We need to take this very seriously. We are talking about our health and the health of our children and our planet.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to a very important bill that is at the second reading stage. At the moment, this bill is very controversial, even though the NDP plans to support it at second reading.
I am going to read the title for the people who are kind enough to be listening to us on CPAC. It is the The bill is at second reading. To ensure that people are able to follow us, second reading is not the final passage of a bill. Some of us are considering supporting a bill that is extremely flawed so we can send it to committee where a host of amendments will certainly be proposed. We will see how things go in committee in order to decide whether the bill then deserves support at third reading. That is the point at which it might be enacted into law for Canada.
In 2013, 1.3 million barrels of crude oil were transported through pipelines under federal jurisdiction in Canada. That shows the importance of this subject. In Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, we are currently having to deal with the presence of the National Energy Board, because at the moment, the processes that have been initiated are hugely problematic. As the entire country now knows, there is an oil port project in my riding that is directly associated with a very large pipeline project, energy east. We are in a completely ludicrous situation in my constituency, where, on the one hand, the promoter has unilaterally decided not to clarify anything about its project before the end of March, while, on the other hand, the National Energy Board is requiring that community stakeholders decide now whether they are going to be included in the consultations in a few months. Therefore we have very competent people who are spending hundreds if not thousands of hours preparing to participate in a consultation that is probably going to be about something other than what is being presented by the promoter at this point. That makes this project a hot topic for the people I represent.
I am going to offer some explanation about the bill that is before us today. The bill includes absolute liability for all pipelines regulated by the National Energy Board. That means that the companies will be liable for costs and expenses and for damages regardless of fault, up to a maximum of $1 billion for high-capacity pipelines, that is, pipelines that transport at least 250,000 barrels of oil per day. That is a very high capacity. For a middle-class person sitting quietly in Tourville, Longueuil or Trois-Pistoles, $1 billion may seem like a large amount. Someone might say $1 billion is wonderful, and if something happens, we will be protected.
I would remind people that things are relative here. I will take Lac Mégantic as an example. People have to understand that Lac Mégantic would not have been covered by this bill. We are talking exclusively about accidents associated with pipelines. In a situation like the one in Lac Mégantic, the money that was distributed to the families of the victims as compensation totalled $200 million. That is just the money paid to the victims’ families. The cleanup of the downtown area cost $190 million. Of the 7.5 million litres of oil the train was carrying, 80% mostly leaked into the river. The cleanup is going to take years, and we do not yet know exactly how much it will cost, but it will be several hundred million dollars. Just by looking at the situation in Lac Mégantic, we realize that in relative terms, $1 billion is virtually a minimum. We have not received assurance that the amount that must be available for protection in the event of an accident is sufficient.
I will give another example, a very tough one. It is the worst example in North America at this point, and it has been cited by at least three of my colleagues in the last few hours. It is the accident in Kalamazoo, Michigan. It involves the Canadian company Enbridge and 4 million litres of heavy crude that were spilled into the Kalamazoo River and wetlands. The last time I saw the figures, the damage amounted to over $1 billion and there had been more than five years of cleanup. More than 80% of the bitumen spilled into the Kalamazoo River is still there in the environment, after over $1 billion was spent. That is another example that puts this $1 billion into perspective.
I also wonder where the $1 billion comes from. Why $1 billion?
This $1 billion looks like a vote-getting figure, if you will pardon that term. The Conservatives seem to be using something easy to understand, something that looks big. However, if they had sat some experts around the table to estimate the kind of minimum guarantee needed for an oil spill, the experts would not have come up with $1 billion. They might have come up with $1.2 billion or $1.3 billion. This $1 billion is completely arbitrary; it is a round number, easy to remember. I hope that some very direct questions will be asked during the committee meetings where the bill will be considered.
The companies’ liability would be unlimited only in the case of fault or negligence. What will happen in a case where fault is not clear or is disputed? We are talking about billionaire proponents here. If, literally, they want to hire an army of lawyers to try to prove the fault does not lie with them, how many years will it take to see the end of a court action disputing fault, with resources like that? Mr. Speaker, I think your training makes you an even better judge of that than I am. It may really be a very long time.
That runs counter to another aspect of the law that I question, which puts a limit of six years after the event on the right to seek compensation, if a person is a victim of the consequences. That does not work. In Kalamazoo, they have been cleaning up for five years, and there are still pollutants. In the years to come, people are therefore going to have to take stock again to determine whether their property and their health have ultimately been affected by that. The cleanup is not yet finished. It is not that people do not want to determine, in six years, whether they are affected or not; rather, the phenomenon is still in a state of flux. The victims are not acting in bad faith. Someone may realize only after seven or eight or nine or 10 or 12 years that they have been negatively affected by the event. Why suddenly impose a six-year limit?
The energy east project will carry 1.1 million barrels a day. That means 173 million litres every day. We all remember the damage caused by 4 million litres of crude in the Kalamazoo River. That cost over $1 billion. Now, operators want to build a pipeline that will carry 173 million litres a day, or 120,000 litres every minute. Pipelines are relatively safe at the beginning of their life cycle, but often, near the end, tragedies or other serious incidents happen more regularly. An accident like the one in Kalamazoo, where managers took some time to close the valves, must never happen. Literally millions of litres of oil spilled into the environment. Think about it: that is 173 million litres a day. The same question remains regarding the $1 billion.
There is another question I have not yet heard. Perhaps an esteemed colleague, a minister across the way, could answer this. Is the $1 billion indexed? At the rate costs grow with inflation, in five or 10 years, $1 billion will not be worth the same amount. A major accident could happen in my region over the next 40 years and we are told there will be a $1 billion limit. If an accident were to happen tomorrow morning, it might already cost more than $1 billion, and I did not see any anything about indexing or mechanisms to guarantee that this will follow the cost of living, considering the astronomical costs associated with cleaning up these kinds of accidents.
I would like to finish on a more positive note and talk a bit about one of the NDP's key principles. What distinguishes us from the current government is, first and foremost, sustainability. We believe it is crucial that polluters pay for the pollution they create, rather than passing on the cost to future generations.
I have one last example. Now that the toxic effects of mines on the environment cost billions of dollars, laws require environmental protection funds to be set aside during mining operations so that we do not end up at the end of a project with a company that maybe made less profit, or left for another country, or suddenly disappeared at the end of a project to avoid paying to clean up the mess it left behind. That kind of mechanism is missing here, and neither I nor most of my constituents find that reassuring.
Mr. Speaker, something I meant to talk about today was breach of trust, which goes back to what my colleague was saying.
In 2011, the environment commissioner said that the National Energy Board had not managed to secure better measures to protect the environment and the public when it comes to pipelines. It is now 2015. Nothing was done until this small step. It took years for a small, extremely questionable step to be taken.
Indeed, my colleague is right. First, the $1 billion is highly questionable. Another major deficiency in this entire process of the Conservatives' bill is operational safety.
It is all well and good for the government to tell people that it will raise the ceiling in the event of a major accident, but what my constituents really want to know is what will be put in place to ensure that there are no major accidents. This is an unbelievable oversight.
It is akin to saying that it is a huge industry, this has to go through and if the pipeline breaks, then damage will be paid for. If we are talking to the farmers in my riding or the people in the municipalities who are concerned about their water supply, then we cannot use that argument.
These people want to know what guarantee there is that beyond the oil, their resources will be protected during operations, because those resources could be threatened by a major spill.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to be able to debate Bill today.
I am delighted because for once, this is a bill that has some good elements. Also, we cannot deny that oil transportation is a major issue and among those that most concern the public. People are worried and they have reason to be.
The figures given here speak for themselves and reiterate what I have heard before in many conversations. The public’s confidence in the methods of oil transportation is very low: 71% of people believe that rail transport is dangerous. After what happened again in Gogoma on the weekend, that opinion may become more entrenched.
In addition, 63% of Canadians believe that shipping oil by sea is too risky. Quebeckers are terrified at the idea that a tanker might capsize in the St. Lawrence. An incident like that would cause widespread and irreparable harm to Quebec, since the river is such a unique and fragile environment, and of such crucial importance to us all. Pipelines are seen by the public as the least dangerous method, with 47% support.
Overall, nobody is really happy. People fear the worst. They are right to be worried, if we consider that the consequences of an accident are catastrophic and irreversible. The number of barrels of oil per day that travel by pipeline is enormous. When we talk about huge figures like billions of barrels a day, it is to be expected that the idea of a spill would immediately take on incomprehensible and terrifying dimensions.
Canada is first and foremost a country with natural resources that can be exploited. This has always been the source of our well-being and our affluence. The diversity of our common resources positions Canada and its provinces on a number of economic fronts at the same time. It is also the source of our tremendous technical knowledge, built over decades in response to the needs associated with resource development, for which we are internationally renowned.
In short, we are blessed with incredible good fortune, and that fortune belongs to all Canadians. This is our real national treasure. However, while it is certainly a blessing, that treasure sometimes looks like a curse. Tragic events have happened in the past. The risks of inadequate regulation of the oil shipment methods are clear. The Lac Mégantic disaster is so serious and so clearly connected with the federal government’s complacency that I am surprised at how lax the legislative initiatives are.
In fact, the public has little faith in the government when it comes to its ability or desire to regulate the energy sector. If not the government, who should do it? The industry itself? Of course not. What we are seeing is a very serious legitimacy deficit. Canadians do not believe that the Government of Canada is going to protect them, or wants to protect them. That hurts.
I believe the people of Canada are entitled to expect that members of Parliament will make not just good decisions about pipelines, but the best possible decisions. All of us here have a duty to think about public safety, the sustainability of resource development and the resilience of the environment. Development of our natural resources that is responsible and scientific, the Conservatives’ favourite adjective, is what will guarantee our survival as an affluent society. Of course, we have to assume that everyone here wants our society to survive and does not imagine that the world is going to end next week with the second coming of the Saviour. That remains to be seen, however.
I am well aware that we must not expect too much. The government has now taken a step toward a polluter pays scheme, which is encouraging. Holding the industry accountable is essential. It comes a quarter-century late and it was not very difficult to put forward, but we will take what we can get.
Bill introduces absolute liability for all pipelines overseen by the National Energy Board. This is a good initiative and it is the reason behind our support. Absolute liability in the case of fault or negligence means that the operator will have unlimited liability.
In the case of any other incident, the operator is liable up to a maximum of $1 billion. By taking that approach, the government is clearly thinking only of physical damage and the repair costs that may be incurred. This initiative seems to be valid, but there are two points in Bill that are still vague. It is important that the public know that they might easily have to make a financial contribution in the event of a disaster.
First, if the case could not be made for negligence or fault, the government might have to absorb the costs. In addition, if the costs incurred exceed $1 billion, we will have to pay anything above that amount. In some cases, the bill adds up very quickly and can easily exceed that limit. As several of my colleagues have done already, I would also like to refer to the accident caused by Enbridge in Kalamazoo, Michigan, which has cost nearly $1.2 billion.
Second, as we suspected, environmental damage is not really part of the calculation.
In the end, the potential irreparable damage to the very fabric of our country, which is priceless, will not be worth it.
What the government is counting on can be easily explained: considering Canada's size, the government hopes that accidents will happen in the middle of nowhere, where environmental oversight has already been eliminated by budget cuts, and that the public will quickly forget contamination of the hinterland. Out of sight, out of mind.
Although this may be an ideological government, it certainly is not a sentimental one. Bill strengthens some of the powers of the National Energy Board to ensure that the transport of oil by pipeline meets certain standards and that the public is protected. However, the operator will still have a say and the bill leaves room for backroom arrangements. Ultimately, cabinet will decide whether there should be sanctions.
If the operator does not comply with the NEB orders, the board will not have the powers needed to take action, unless it is dealing with an abandoned pipeline. We will all agree that an empty pipeline is rather safe.
I would like to reassure those who thought that the Conservatives had suddenly discovered the merits of environmentalism. Bill is all about the economy. Accidents are expensive and it is unfair for the public to pay for the negligence of corporations. Naturally, we agree.
Because the “teeth” that Bill C-46 gives the National Energy Board are merely molars, if the government does not see fit to crack down on an operator, the only thing the board can do is chew on its reprimands.
The government began reviewing its liability regimes for oil and natural gas development last year. Bill is a first step that we find acceptable even though we would like the regulation to go much further. We want to protect the environment because we believe that the ecosystem is non-negotiable. Other countries do this and are more prosperous than we are.
The government refused to consider it and brought forward legislation that might not even serve the purpose if evidence of fault is lacking or if the government decides to act in favour of the operator.
Is it any surprise that public confidence is so low under the circumstances?
In addition, as we might have expected, this bill did not involve in-depth consultation with the members of Confederation or first nations. This is yet another example of the omniscience we see so regularly in the Langevin Block.
I am fascinated by the Prime Minister's telescopic vision, his effortless ability to see and understand everything across the country. That sense of direction is amazing—superhuman, even. The only thing the needs to complete his image is a central Asian republic.
At the end of the day, what people want is strict, guaranteed regulations. People want pipelines to be extra safe—no loopholes, no risky measures—as well as responsible, environmentally sound and sustainable management.
What Canadians want is for us to act like adults, not teenagers.
I can therefore guarantee that the best environment minister Quebec has ever had will not accept any “ifs” and “maybes” when he considers approving pipelines once he becomes prime minister of Canada.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to discuss Bill on behalf of my fellow constituents in . This is a bill that deals with issues as important as energy resources and the protection of our environment.
Bill amends the rules governing oil companies’ liability. That consists of establishing a principle under which the party responsible for an oil spill will pay up to $1 billion for the damage caused. This bill is part of a broader government review of the liability rules that apply to various aspects of oil and gas development.
Canadians are aware of the potential risks of extracting and transporting oil, and they need to know that their government is going to oversee the industry properly and also protect our environment. Canadians do not have to make a choice between economic development and environmental protection. We need to take both aspects into consideration jointly.
When it comes to projects like northern gateway, Keystone XL or energy east, it is important to make judicious decisions that promote economic development and employment in Canada, while at the same time minimizing the risks to our environment. We need a new vision when it comes to the future of our energy resources, a vision that is guided by three very simple principles.
The first is sustainability, to ensure that polluters pay the bill for cleanups associated with a spill and the pollution caused, rather than passing the bill on to the next generations.
The second is partnership, to ensure that the First Nations, the provinces and local communities genuinely benefit from resource development and to create reliable and value-added jobs here in Canada.
The third is the long-term prosperity that comes from investing the proceeds of our natural resources in modern, ecological technologies, to keep Canada on the cutting edge of energy innovation and keep energy prices affordable for all Canadians.
We are disappointed that in spite of all our calls for urgent action, the Conservatives have taken so long to introduce this bill. In 2011, the Commissioner of the Environment pointed out that the National Energy Board had been unable to solve a number of known problems and ensure adequate maintenance of pipelines. The government has still not implemented an adequate monitoring and inspection system.
Last year, Bill was also introduced. It dealt with liability relating to offshore drilling and the possibility of spills in the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans. Because of this narrow vision, the government did not conduct consultations on the liability regime applicable to rail transportation. The Conservatives did not take that issue seriously until they had to limit the political fallout or consequences from the Lac-Mégantic tragedy.
The bill we are currently considering includes absolute liability for all pipelines regulated by the National Energy Board. In other words, the companies will be liable for the costs and damage caused by a pipeline spill, regardless of fault, up to a maximum of $1 billion for high-capacity pipelines. However, in the case of fault or negligence, liability will be unlimited.
I welcome this measure. It is a good start, but that figure could be reached quickly, since the cleanup of some tragedies that have occurred in recent years has significantly exceeded the $1 billion ceiling provided by this bill.
Bill also limits the time Canadians will have to claim compensation for long-term damage to their health or the environment caused by an accident. The claim must be made within three years of when the damage occurs or six years, at most, after an oil spill. This is debatable, since it is highly probable that some damage will be discovered well after the six years provided by this bill.
The bill gives the National Energy Board the authority to order reimbursement of any cleanup costs incurred by governments, communities or individuals. It also grants the National Energy Board the authority and resources to assume control of a response to any incident, in exceptional circumstances, if a company is unable or unwilling to do so. The NEB would also have new tools for recouping cleanup costs, which could go so far as charging the entire industry.
Unfortunately, the government left some leeway here with decisions that would be left in the hands of cabinet and the National Energy Board, an agency that, on occasion, has demonstrated a lack of credibility. Instead of establishing a responsible regime, with a strict framework, the government is leaving too much leeway for politically motivated decisions, cabinet decisions and backroom agreements that would obviously not be made public between operators and the NEB. Of course, we will question the government about these discretionary measures. It is important to hold the government accountable to Canadians. We are disappointed in the scope of the bill. I hope the Conservatives will be open to the amendments that will be proposed in committee.
Given the limited scope of the bill, we are concerned that polluters will not have to bear the full cost of the damage and that Canadians will end up footing the bill. If so, that casts doubt on the true scope of this bill. What happens if there is a problem establishing fault or negligence? Will Canadians have to pay in such cases? We are talking about possibly billions of dollars. That is a lot of money, and it is not up to Canadians to pay the bills for companies that may have been negligent in their operations. It is all well and good to introduce a bill that focuses on figuring out who is liable, but we also have to be proactive and do as much as possible to prevent oil spills. This bill does not do that.
We need better regulations and increased monitoring of pipelines. In addition, we need to rebuild the robust environmental assessment process that has been dismantled by the current government over the past few years. With the huge expansion in the production and transportation of crude oil, we need enhanced safety protection, regardless of the method of transportation. To that end, we need to increase mandatory inspections, implement adequate regulations, and enforce these standards. Public safety and environmental protection must be among our top priorities.
My colleagues and I firmly believe that Canada must take steps to ensure that we are developing and transporting our resources in a safe and secure way that serves the interests of all Canadians. To that end, all pipelines need to adhere to the highest possible safety and environmental standards consistent with the principles of sustainable development. To ensure that oil companies and pipeline operators adhere to the regulations, we need to put in place robust laws and establish credible environmental assessment mechanisms.
Furthermore, given that transportation affects the provinces, municipalities and communities, we must ensure that the government consults them and establishes partnerships with them. If everyone works together, Canadians can be assured that all of these projects will be implemented and will respect the principle of sustainable development and that the approval process will be as fair as possible, in order to strengthen the accountability of everyone involved. The provinces will continue to develop their natural resources. The issue is knowing how to develop those resources sustainably, while protecting the environment and creating value-added jobs in Canada.