moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.
She said: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to safeguarding Canada's seas and skies act. This project focuses on five key initiatives: amendments to the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, the Marine Liability Act, the Canada Marine Act, the Aviation Industry Indemnity Act, and the Aeronautics Act. Today, I would like to speak specifically to the proposed changes to the Marine Liability Act and the Canada Shipping Act, 2001.
First, turning to the Marine Liability Act, the proposed amendments will implement the commitments of the Hazardous and Noxious Substances by Sea Convention, helping to ensure Canadians are adequately compensated for the damage caused by spills of hazardous and noxious substances from ships. For this reason, I highly encourage the passage of the bill so it can be adopted as quickly as possible.
The proposed amendments to the Marine Liability Act will fill an important gap in the current liability and compensation regime for ships, because they protect Canadians against the financial consequences of hazardous and noxious substances and spills from ships. They will also ensure that shipowners carry the appropriate amount of compulsory insurance for the risks associated with the cargoes they carry. Finally, they will provide Canadians access to an international fund to provide compensation beyond the shipowners limits.
Canada has an extensive history of seeking economic gains from international trade and, in particular, through international shipping which, worldwide, is responsible for the carriage of 90% of the world's goods. With the world's longest coastline bordered by three oceans and a wealth of natural resources, this will surely continue to be the case as Canada looks to move those resources to existing and new markets.
Given this, it is important to have in place the appropriate legislation and regulations to minimize the risks associated with marine transportation. Spills of hazardous and noxious substances from ships can be costly to clean up and this government is taking action to ensure that Canadians are insulated from these costs. Shipping is inherently a global industry and it is critical to the practical functioning of global commerce. With the international nature of this industry, it is important to advance an international framework and contribute to the uniformity of international maritime law.
Canada has had a long-standing tradition of multilateralism with regard to international shipping and Canada's heavy involvement in the advancement of the Hazardous and Noxious Substances by Sea Convention is indicative of that long-standing tradition.
The 2010 Hazardous and Noxious Substances by Sea Convention would provide roughly $400 million in compensation for a spill of hazardous and noxious substances, which is currently not available. It would establish strict liability for the shipowner and would introduce compulsory insurance for the liability for the pollution damage caused by a spill of hazardous and noxious substances from a ship. This is a major improvement over the current regime as, currently, shipowners are not required to carry insurance for their liability in relation to a spill of hazardous or noxious substances. Should damages exceed the shipowner's insurance coverage, the convention would provide access to an international fund that would pay compensation for pollution damage caused by such spills.
The international fund, once established, will be paid into by cargo owners. By sharing the responsibility between the two principal parties involved, this convention supports the very important polluter pays principle, one that our government seeks to enshrine in law whenever possible.
The convention covers a wide variety of substances, some 6,500 hazardous and noxious substances, that are carried in bulk packages and containers along our coasts and through our ports. We have a robust maritime governance regime and we have implemented some tough prevention measures, but, even so, in the unlikely event of a spill, these amendments would allow affected individuals to submit claims for compensation. This would include claims for cleanup costs, economic losses, damage to property, and environmental damages.
Through these amendments and by joining the convention, businesses that could be directly impacted by a spill would have access to compensation from the polluter. This includes the fishing and tourism sectors that are usually the most affected economically. It would also see that compensation would be available for environmental restoration.
These changes would also include loss of life and personal injury claims, ensuring that compensation would go to those who were affected in the worst possible way. People who are hurt, or worse, by an explosion of a hazardous substance on a ship, including oil, would receive proper compensation. This protection would be extended to both the crew on board the ship and any innocent people affected outside the ship. Currently, there is no such compensation available. Victims must pursue shipowners in courts.
When the bill was being discussed in committee, the members heard from many witnesses who strongly supported these amendments. It was well-recognized that this was an important step forward and filled a crucial gap in the current liability and compensation regime. Those stakeholders reminded us that this convention was a significant improvement over what was currently available, which we believe is woefully inadequate.
In the case of an incident involving hazardous and noxious substances today, the shipowner is not held strictly liable. That means victims are required to prove fault or negligence on the part of the shipowner. These amendments would remove that burden and guarantee that compensation would be available.
The shipping industry is supportive of the convention because it gives them certainty and the ability to ensure against a known risk. The convention is viewed as the most efficient way to offer coverage for a ship-source chemical spill.
Such conventions avoid negative impacts to the ability for ships to trade internationally, as these are mobile assets that trade across the world on a continual basis. Therefore, the convention pools the risk and the financing of paying compensation to victims among a large number of players. This minimizes the costs of insuring the risk. The access to the international fund allows higher amounts of compensation than what shipowners alone can provide. The international nature of the fund means that all major industries that trade in hazardous and noxious substances are sharing the financial burden of paying for compensation.
To attempt to do this nationally would mean that Canadian industries could never offer the same levels of compensation as the international fund could. Of course that would put Canada at a competitive disadvantage and consumers would end up paying for a system that is ineffective.
For those reasons, I highly encourage the passage of this bill, which contains these amendments to the Marine Liability Act.
The bill being discussed today is an important component of our government's plan to enhance the safety of shipping in Canadian waters and protect our marine environment. We expect our international trade to increase in the coming years as demand for our national resources grows. With this growth, comes higher volumes of vessel traffic.
For this reason, it is becoming more and more important than ever to ensure that Canada has appropriate measures in place to protect people and the environment from potential oil spills. That is why on March 18 of last year we announced our intention to create a world-class tanker safety system. It is a comprehensive approach. It is made up of several measures which are all designed to prevent spills from happening, ensure that proper response is there if they do occur, and make polluters pay.
These measures also include the proposed amendments to the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, that are now before the House as part of Bill .
Since last March we have already taken action to protect people and the environment from potential oil spills. To give an example, Transport Canada has increased inspections of foreign tankers in our waters to ensure that they meet internationally accepted standards. Our government has increased flight hours for the national aerial surveillance program. This is a great program. It is a program that allows us to detect ship-source oil spills in all three of our oceans and the Great Lakes, and significantly contributes to our ability to hold polluters accountable.
In February, I had the opportunity to participate in a surveillance flight. I can assure the members of the House that this is a very effective program.
In addition, we appointed a tanker safety expert panel last March. It has submitted a report on ways to improve tanker safety south of 60° north latitude. Our government is currently consulting with all parties about these recommendations. Next fall, the panel will submit a second report. This one about the regime in the Arctic and hazardous and noxious substances.
These measures and others are an important part of how we plan to ensure that Canadians benefit from a marine environmental regime that is truly world class.
The proposed amendments to the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 that I am now putting forward for third reading are a key component for our efforts to build a world-class tanker safety system. These amendments were debated by the House during second reading. I am encouraged that members of the House generally recognize that our proposed measures would improve safety in our waters. They would enhance government oversight of industry, and they would increase our enforcement powers.
The amendments have also been reviewed by the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, which heard directly from stakeholders, as it did with respect to amendments under the Marine Liability Act. I am pleased that the reaction from industry has been favourable. That shows that stakeholders understand the value of the measures we have proposed. Their support confirms that these changes are practical and they are achievable.
I would like to remind the House briefly to what these amendments relate: providing immunity for agents of response organizations, strengthen the requirements for oil handling facilities, and extend application of administrative monetary penalties.
Under the current marine oil spills preparedness and response regime, the polluter is responsible for cleaning up oil spills. The Canada Shipping Act, 2001 protects response organizations from civil and criminal liability as they carry out their work on behalf of the polluter.
The first proposed amendment will clearly provide immunity for certain certified Canadian response organizations when they respond to a spill that occurs when an oil handling facility is unloading or loading oil to or from a vessel. This would clarify that they are covered by the act when responding to these particular situations.
A further amendment would provide the agents of a certified Canadian response organization with the same level of immunity when responding to an oil spill in Canadian waters. These agents would be able to proceed with the cleanup and know that would they have the same level of protection as the Canadian response organizations that engaged them. This would expedite their response, which is a significant advantage in a case of an emergency. Since this coverage would also extend immunity to non-Canadian responders, this measure would increase Canada' s access to international resources.
If there should ever be a large-scale oil spill, these additional resources could really complement our own environmental response capacity, and that would help ensure the fastest, most efficient response possible, eliminating possible bureaucratic, jurisdictional hang ups that could further impact lives and the environment.
Bill also puts forward amendments that would strengthen the regime governing oil handling facilities during the loading or unloading of oil to or from a vessel. Currently, under the Canada Shipping Act, oil handling facilities are required to prepare oil pollution prevention plans as well as oil pollution emergency plans, and they have to keep these plans on site. The plans have to detail who is responsible for taking specific action to prevent oil spills and to respond adequately if they do. The amendments would introduce new requirements for these facilities, and that would help enhance government oversight.
To give an example, we are reinforcing the requirements that the operator at the oil handling facility must ensure that its plans are kept up to date. We would also require that the operators of existing oil handling facility notify me, as , of their operations. This is simple and it would help ensure that oil handling facilities set out in the regulations would be identified. This requirement would facilitate regulatory oversight and ensure that all of these facilities would meet a sufficiently high safety standard in their operations.
New facilities will also have to submit their plans to me before they begin operations, as would those who were making significant changes that might affect the loading or unloading of oil to or from vessels. Examples of this are changes to capacity, changes in equipment, changes in design or the type of product that they are transferring.
Under the proposed amendments, operators of oil handling facilities will also have to demonstrate how they comply with the act and the regulations.
In addition, the changes give me and any future minister of transport the authority to direct an operator of an oil handling facility to take the necessary measures to adequately prevent marine oil pollution. That is going to include the authority to require an operator to repair, remedy, minimize, or prevent pollution damage from these facilities, or to stop the loading or unloading of oil to or from vessels.
Taken together, these amendments will significantly increase oversight of the operation of oil handling facilities, both existing, and new ones as well. It will help ensure that oil spills are prevented whenever possible, and that appropriate measures are in place if a spill should happen.
Lastly, Bill addresses enforcement of the legislative regime to promote compliance. Enforcement should be adaptable to the seriousness of an offence. Marine safety inspectors in my department will be able to issue administrative monetary penalties for contraventions of part 8 of the act and its regulations. This ability, in addition to the existing enforcement powers under the act, only strengthens Canada's marine oil spill preparedness and response regime.
In conclusion, this is a bill that is an important step in our government's comprehensive plan to develop a world-class tanker safety system in Canada, and in particular off the west coast. I look forward to having all members of this House support the safeguarding Canada's seas and skies act.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill .
Before I start, I would like to commend my colleague from for the extraordinary work he has done on this bill.
It is important to take a look at what this bill does. It has a rather long title: . This bill involves a number of different acts.
Since the bill already involved a number of other laws, we requested that it be expanded and be a little more open, so that we could take a good look at what is going on with environmental protection.
The Conservative government has made cuts that affect the environment, particularly in western Canada, in British Columbia, but also in the east, where the government has closed rescue stations. The government's actions contradict its claims that it wants to protect the environment.
We lobbied, we wanted to talk and we wanted to see meaningful action. Unfortunately the government refused to listen to us.
Yes, this bill is a step in the right direction, especially in terms of marine protection and safety. That is why we will support the bill at this stage.
However, the committee heard testimony from a number of experts. We made very reasonable suggestions to improve the bill. Unfortunately, once again, the government refused any amendment from the opposition.
Unfortunately, this bill is yet more proof that the government does not have an open approach. Not only did it refuse to expand the scope of the bill, but it also refused to listen when we scrutinized the bill and made suggestions based on expert studies. Unfortunately, this is not the first time this has happened.
The bill has four rather major parts dealing with separate issues. The first part deals with the aviation industry indemnity. This allows the to compensate certain airlines for any losses, damages or liability caused by events known as war risks. We support what has been proposed on this issue. It is a solution to a problem that was there before.
The second part amends the Aeronautics Act to give the airworthiness investigative authority the power to investigate aviation accidents or incidents involving civilians and aircraft or aeronautical installations operated by the Department of National Defence. In the event of military-civilian occurrences, this part gives the airworthiness investigative authority the power to conduct investigations.
However, we have noticed a problem. In the past, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada used to carry out the studies and investigations. At the end of the day, since the board was responsible, the report was made public. In this case, the report will be submitted to the Minister of National Defence. The minister will be able to see the report, but he will not be required to make it public.
The NDP proposed to force the government to make the report public so that anyone who has questions can be informed and the public is reassured. Once again, unfortunately, the government rejected our amendment. However—and this is not in defence of the government—we heard that it is in the interest of the Department of National Defence to make these reports public.
They are telling us that the reports will be made public on an administrative level. If the information is confidential—for example, if the reports are talking about strategic or other types of military issues—we can understand why they would not be made public. However, nothing prevents the government from making these reports public. Even the officials from the Department of National Defence who testified in committee said that all existing reports on these types of investigations are made public.
Why did the government not take the NDP's proposal to make these investigations public? Our proposal took into account that the reports would not have to be made public if they contained confidential information or strategic national security information, and the government already has that right. This government already does it. Most of the time, when the public wants to see a report or investigation, only a part of the report will be disclosed—not the full report.
This is in the interests of transparency, which is very important to the NDP. Unfortunately the government did not accept our proposal.
I would now like to talk more about part 4, which we think is one of the most important parts. As the minister mentioned, this part will fix a problem that existed before with respect to compensation for victims or others who have to pay in the event of disaster. Here is what is going on. Canada was a signatory to the convention.
Canada was a signatory to the HNS Convention, and what we are doing here is actually implementing the convention. The reason for the convention and the reason we are supporting part 4 is that we are moving forward. We need to have these rules, these regulations, to make sure that the convention is applied. We want the convention to be applied here because it would actually allow us to access a fund. It is an international fund for HNS, hazardous and noxious substances. In case of a spill, we would be able to use money from that fund.
Also, the bill would actually limit the responsibility of the shippers. Just to make it simple, if a spill happens with HNS, the shipper will be responsible up to a certain amount, which is approximately $230 million. That amount changes. I will not go into detail about why, but that is the amount.
The information we have from the Library of Parliament is that the other amount will be covered by the convention. The fund will cover up to $500 million. In excess of that, what happens? That is the question we were asking. What happens if there is a spill that exceeds $500 million in terms of liability, in terms of damages? Basically, the answer from witnesses, and also now from the minister, is that it might not happen.
What if it happens? Before all the oil spills, we were saying that it was not going to be a problem. Everything was safe. However, when we saw what happened with the Exxon Valdez, for instance, and when we saw what happened in Lac-Mégantic, where in terms of insurance, the company did not have enough insurance, who ended up paying for it? It was the taxpayers. What is worse, the people who have to do the cleanup are going to be on the hook for that.
A fund already exists. Duties were taken for oil, so the fund exists already. We wanted to make sure that at the end of the day, it will not be the taxpayers who have to pay. We could use that fund to make sure that we protect Canadians. Unfortunately, again, the government refused our amendment.
It is really hard for me to understand why we do not want to make sure that Canadians are off the hook, especially when the government has said that polluter pays is really important. In this case, if something happens, again, Canadians could be on the hook.
It is an amendment we thought was reasonable and would make sure it was in the right direction. The response from the government was not satisfactory. We do not understand that position.
I would like to come back to the fact that the bill contains some good features, including part 5, which is an interesting part because it sets out further safeguards. Operators of oil handling facilities will have to meet some additional obligations, such as submitting an emergency or response plan to the department to ensure that they have a plan for their operations. When petroleum is moved from one source to another, be it by boat or by train, there is a transfer here, which is when we want to be covered.
In addition, a certain form of liability will provide some freedom to the first responders on site in emergency or problem situations. In other words, response organizations will be entitled to some immunity, which is important. Indeed, in committee, the first responders told us that this was important to them too, which is why we are supporting it.
However, we can do more and look at the government's way of doing things. I will make a parallel with what is happening in rail safety. There are regulations in this sector that the government says are strong. However, in practice, what we have is deregulation. Companies are increasingly being allowed to self-regulate and self-inspect.
The Auditor General clearly stated that Transport Canada did not have the resources needed for the inspections, which is what concerns me in this case. Indeed, we are taking a step in the right direction with the legislation by providing for inspections and an obligation to submit response plans. However, if we look at the budget and how the government is doing things, there has been no follow-up at all on that. For example, there was no increase in the last budget to ensure protection in rail safety.
Once again, inspectors are being given more duties without necessarily being given the resources they need. The Auditor General was scathing in his report. The department said that it would follow-up. We are waiting to see this follow-up to determine whether the government is committed to protecting Canadians first and foremost. Although this is a step in the right direction, the government's actions suggest otherwise.
When a response plan is produced, what co-operation will there be? What information will we have as interested parties to find out whether the government is doing its job?
It is easy to draw a parallel between this issue and rail safety because we started studying that issue in committee after the Lac-Mégantic tragedy, which concerns the same department, the Department of Transport. That is why we are trying to identify the real shortcomings. We have to admit that Lac-Mégantic opened our eyes. We saw that there were shortcomings not just in the measures implemented by the government, but also in how laws are managed and implemented.
Now, on the one hand, we are headed in somewhat the same direction by enforcing the laws and asking companies to submit a plan to us. On the other hand, we do not have the resources to ensure that these plans are safe.
Once again, I am drawing a parallel with emergency response plans. After the Lac-Mégantic tragedy, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada asked that these plans be put in place. However, we do not know if these plans will be put in place correctly because Transport Canada does not have the resources to check everything. We believe that is a problem.
Furthermore, there is a lack of transparency in the government's approach. If I am drawing so many parallels with rail safety, it is because we have clearly discovered shortcomings.
In this case, the same type of system is being put in place. That is where the problem lies. The government is presenting a plan. However, neither the public nor parliamentarians can obtain all the information.
We asked the government to ensure that municipalities, for example, have all the necessary information about dangerous goods transported by rail through their area. We were told that it would be a step in the right direction to ask companies to submit the list of dangerous goods, albeit after the fact. In other words, people will be told what has already passed through their area, but will not be told what is soon going to pass through. This would have allowed municipalities to have the information they need to ensure that they have the necessary resources in place.
Unfortunately, the minister at the time said that if the municipalities wanted that information they would have to use the Access to Information Act. That is just ridiculous. Once again there is a lack of transparency. We believe that this approach unfortunately does not show any goodwill on the part of the government or any concern for informing the public and working with the municipalities to ensure that everyone has the information needed to move things forward.
That is why I am making a comparison with rail safety. As I explained, that is what the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities is now studying. In this case, we had very little time to study the bill. We had a few meetings. Still, we did make requests to flesh out the bill so that we could study other issues. This bill addresses some problems with liability. Implementing an international convention is a good thing.
However, there is nothing about protecting our coasts. Some of my colleagues are very worried about how the government operates and the measures it introduces. As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The time for that is now. Unfortunately, the government is refusing to listen to what the opposition has to say and what its concerns are. Several MPs from eastern Canada, and many from western Canada, are very concerned about everything to do with supertankers. They are very worried about the coastlines. They are very worried about the government's approach, about the lack of transparency and especially about the government's failure to protect our coasts and the environment.
This would have been a good opportunity to study this issue. Since this bill already affects four other laws, why did the government not take the time to do something good? The minister replied that it was time to take action, not to do more studies or think long term. We are asking the government to take action to protect the environment.
Taking action does not mean cutting the services, resources and personnel that are meant to protect us. What we are asking the government to do is reverse those cuts because they have serious consequences. If problems come up after those cuts are made, the government will realize that it made a mistake. That is why environmental protection is so vitally important to the NDP. It is terribly unfortunate that the government did not listen to us. That is why we will continue to fight to protect our coasts and the environment.
Mr. Speaker, that is a wonderful starting point for my speech this afternoon on this bill, Bill , which is a follow-up to Bill from the last session of this House.
In truth, this is a bill that should have been dispatched some time ago. It was not, because of the very long prorogation brought in by the Conservative government.
It is a technical amendment bill in many respects. It makes a number of good, positive contributions to improving transportation. However, my remarks this afternoon will be couched in a broader context, and I think it is important for us to keep in mind how these changes are but a step forward in a transportation environment that is, in my view, in a very serious and precarious state in Canada today.
It is a conclusion I and our party do not come to lightly. It comes from many dozens of witnesses who have appeared before committee. It comes from the exhaustive and detailed report from the Auditor General on rail safety released late last fall, which can fairly be described a scathing indictment of the Conservative government's performance on rail safety over the past eight years.
In some respects, Canadians are not surprised, because this is the fifth minister in eight years. What we have had is a succession of ministers transiting through the transport portfolio. Whether they are transiting upwards or downwards or out is another question, but what it shows is that those five ministers have not been paying attention to their brief. They have moved through, and Transport Canada's systemic problems remain.
When my colleague from the NDP persists with his seatmates to point to the private sector as the bad guys, or the bad gals, what it really demonstrates is the fundamental problem with the NDP, which is that it has a difficult time with the free market and a difficult time with free market operators. It does not understand that in today's world in the 21st century, companies derive their licence to operate not from any one order of government—not from the federal government or a provincial government or a municipal government—but from the Canadian public.
It is a concept that is widely known as the social licence to operate, and woe befall a company that crosses the Canadian public. However, that said, the notion of a safety management system as put forward by the Auditor General and as put forward by many actors who participate in safety management systems is that it is a partnership, a partnership between the regulated and the regulator. In this case, the regulator is the Government of Canada, through Transport Canada, the department responsible for transportation and transportation safety.
It is a partnership. It takes two to tango in a partnership.
The thrust of my remarks this afternoon is as follows. One of the partners is falling well short of its responsibility in making sure the safety management system is working, whether it be in the marine sector, the airline sector, the rail sector, or the road transport sector. That partnership, that point at which the regulated company and the regulator come together, is why we are studying safety management systems at the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities today.
Let us talk a bit about the role and purpose of government.
The NDP believes that there should not be this kind of partnership with the private sector. I believe that is a mistake. I believe there are efficiencies, good faith, goodwill, and many other drivers in the private sector that can be harnessed in a partnership to make sure that conduct is appropriate and that things remain safe.
On the other hand, the Conservatives believe that the real role and purpose of government in the 21st century is to withdraw government. I believe the is what I would describe as a constitutional purist. He does not believe the federal government should be involved in many areas where it is involved today, and he is—by stealth, by subterfuge, hidden behind the scenes—removing the federal government from very important areas. That is manifesting itself in this sector.
That is why, when we look at the public accounts for 2012-13, this is what we learn. The numbers do not lie.
The will get up and say, for example, that the government has spent $100 million on safety since 2009. It sounds like a big number, except that it spent $600 million on advertising over those same years. It spent $550 million on outsourced legal fees. Let us set that into context and look at the public accounts.
The office of Infrastructure Canada was cut 17%. VIA Rail was cut 15%. Aviation safety was cut 11%. Marine safety, which this bill addresses most specifically, was cut 25%. Road safety was cut 5.5%. Rail safety has a very marginal increase at a time when we are seeing great stress and pressure on our railway system, particularly as it relates to the transportation of dangerous goods like oil and diluted bitumen. There is pressure from Canada's oil sands and from the Bakken oil shelf in North Dakota and from southern Saskatchewan. Many different sources are now putting lots of pressure on our rail safety system.
What would we expect of a government that believes in the role and purpose of government and believes in getting the big things right, such as safety? What would we expect it to do in full knowledge that there is increased pressure on our railway system and our marine system because of increasing traffic? We would expect it to invest more, not less, in safety. However, we have seen systematic cuts in investments in safety.
Crude oil shipped by rail in Canada has increased 32,000% since 2009. The government has known that for eight years. It was given this information when it received its briefing books when it formed the government back in 2006, so we have to ask what has happened since then.
The most definitive voice we can rely on, as Canadians would agree, is the Auditor General of Canada. That is the most trustworthy and objective voice we have so far. There will be more to come, I am sure, as more information is made available.
Let us take a look at the Auditor General's incredibly important report, because it has a bearing on this bill and whether or not this bill goes nearly far enough to deal with the crisis in rail safety.
Moments ago the minister stood and said, quoting the Auditor General, that the concept of SMS is sound. She is right in quoting the Auditor General. That is what he wrote. He wrote that the concept of safety management systems is sound, but then he went on to eviscerate, to make plain, to expose to the light of day the absolute failure of the Government of Canada under the Conservatives to make sure its side of the partnership is upheld in the notion of these safety management systems.
Here are the fundamental conclusions that the Auditor General of Canada has reached. This is undeniable. The government knows it, all members know it, and Canadians know it.
First, Transport Canada does not have an audit approach that provides a minimum level of assurance that federal railways have implemented safety management systems to manage their safety risks and comply with safety requirements. Wow. It does not have an audit approach that provides a minimum level of assurance. That is conclusion number one.
Next is conclusion number two, and it gets more serious as we move forward in the report. On safety, here is what the Auditor General said explicitly, in words in black and white. In speaking of safety, he said that despite the department's discussions with the industry, it does not have clear timelines. The report says:
...it does not have a formal process to set clear timelines for overseeing significant safety issues from the time they are identified until they are resolved.
The report goes on to state:
We found that the work plans are vague in terms of timelines for monitoring progress on important safety issues.
Conclusion number three is as follows:
...the Department was missing other important risk and performance data to supplement inspectors’ knowledge gained from previous inspections.
Unbelievably, here is the list. This is in the wake of the Lac-Mégantic tragedy. This is what we learned.
We are missing the federal railways' own internal risk assessments. That is a fundamental part of the safety management system of our railway system.
We are missing information on the sections of track that are used in transporting dangerous goods. We are missing information on the condition of railway bridges, which are carrying tens of thousands of cars carrying dangerous goods, and we are missing the financial information of privately owned federal railways. That is not publicly available. Therefore, we cannot even assess the financial status of many of the companies that are being regulated and are participating in the safety management system.
There is something else, and it is perhaps the most egregious aspect. It really is shocking.
The Auditor General looked at Transport Canada over three years. It took 36 months. The report said that the department set up a three-year cycle for auditing the safety management systems of each federal railway. There are 31 federal railways, and that cycle is supposed to be completed once every three years for each railway.
In three fiscal years, Transport Canada completed 14 audits on eight federal railways—not on 31, but on eight. That is according to Transport Canada's own determination.
Inside, it says it needs to perform way more audits than it actually did. How many did it perform? How many did it complete out of the number it said it had to complete? It completed 26%. Just one-quarter of the audits that Transport Canada itself said had to be performed to keep railways safe were performed.
Just to set this in context for Canadians, four million passengers a year ride VIA Rail, and that is a good thing. We want to encourage people to use light transit. We want to work toward reducing our greenhouse gases and make our transportation system more efficient.
In the three years it was audited by the Auditor General, VIA Rail and its safety management system was not audited once. Four million passengers a year and not one audit was performed by Transport Canada. That is very serious business.
The Auditor General goes on to say at the conclusion:
These findings indicate that Transport Canada does not have the assurance it needs that federal railways have implemented adequate and effective safety management systems.
That is where this is falling down. It is the responsibility of the Conservative government to invest in the capacity it needs at Transport Canada to do its job, not to work toward fictitious and arbitrary deadlines for the elimination of deficits so the Conservatives can run on it in the 2015 election campaign. As they do this, we see behind the scenes what they are doing to transportation safety. It is undermined.
The Auditor General says that even the methodology being used to determine the number of inspections it is supposed to perform is outdated and flawed, and it goes on. This is how serious it is right now.
The Auditor General's office examined whether there were enough inspectors inside the department to perform the inspections they had to perform on aviation, on marine, on road, on rail, on all forms of transportation for which the government is responsible.
The Auditor General found, according to Transport Canada, that it needed 20 system auditors to audit each railway once every three years. How many did Transport Canada have on staff over the three-year period audited by the Auditor General? Ten. One half of the actual amount of inspectors and auditors it required to do the audit required is actually on staff.
It gets even more challenging. Not only does it have half of the inspectors it is supposed to have on staff, on top of that Transport Canada is now responsible for overseeing another 39 non-federal railways. That is 31 federal railways and 39 non-federal railways for which it has responsibility.
For the 10 inspectors it had on staff during the three-year audit, Transport Canada did not know whether the inspectors actually had the required skills and the competencies to do their jobs. It says that inspectors and managers are not trained in a timely basis. It cannot even warrant that the inspectors who are there are objective and independent because they come mainly from the federal railways that are regulated.
In short, we have a government that does not get it. It does not get the role and purpose of government in the 21st century. It is about cut and withdraw, and what happens? We compromise cherished Canadian public services and values.
It is the responsibility of a government to get the big things right. That includes safety in the transportation sector, but we have no evidence, and we have waited for it, that the government will take it seriously. I hope, beyond all hope, that it does not take another tragedy like the tragedy at Lac-Mégantic to get the government's attention.
Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill , an act to enact the Aviation Industry Indemnity Act, to amend the Aeronautics Act, the Canada Marine Act, the Marine Liability Act and the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 and to make consequential amendments to other acts.
The length of the bill's title would suggest that it is quite a comprehensive bill, but in fact, one of the opposition's primary criticisms of the bill is that it is too modest an approach. It was a missed opportunity here to broaden the scope of the bill to make comprehensive changes to protect our coasts.
As deputy fisheries and oceans critic for the official opposition, I have heard many concerns over the past years about how the current government has closed B.C.'s oil spill response centre and shut down the Kitsilano Coast Guard station and is shutting down Marine Communications and Traffic Services centres in Vancouver, Tofino, and Comox. Many of these closures fly in the face of conventional and practical wisdom.
During second reading of the bill, I spoke at length about the closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard station in Vancouver. There was a lot of anger and frustration among British Columbians when the minister made this decision and shut the station down. This anger and frustration only continued as expert after expert stood up and said that this decision was a bad idea and was guaranteed to put people's lives at risk. These experts included the Vancouver police chief, the Vancouver fire chief, the mayor of Vancouver, and the premier of B.C. Yet the Conservative government chose to completely disregard the facts and the evidence. Instead, it sped up the closure and dismantled the station as fast as possible.
Put simply, it is increasingly difficult to trust that Canadians' concerns are being taken seriously.
In terms of the bill before us today, I acknowledge that there are some positive parts in it. The NDP is pleased to see a few new measures for increasing tanker safety, including increased inspections of foreign tankers, expanded aerial surveillance designed to monitor ship traffic and detect oil spills, a review of tug escort requirements, and expanded research into the science of oil spills. However, British Columbians are very concerned about the preservation of our coast and the way of life in coastal communities.
In 2012, our province was reminded of the very real threat of a catastrophic oil spill when two major shipping vessels ran aground on the west coast. Given the Conservative government's apparent desire to end the moratorium on north coast tanker traffic, the threat of a spill is something our province must seriously prepare for. That is why I introduced a private member's bill to ban tanker traffic in this important and sensitive area off B.C.'s north coast. It is why so many British Columbians are opposed to the Enbridge northern gateway pipeline proposal in the north and the Kinder Morgan pipeline proposal in the south.
If an oil spill or a spill of hazardous and noxious substances were to happen, Canadian taxpayers should not be on the hook for cleanup costs and damages following a spill.
The bill before us today would amend the Marine Liability Act to implement in Canada the International Convention on Liability and Compensation for Damage in Connection with the Carriage of Hazardous and Noxious Substances by Sea, 2010, to which Canada is a signatory.
The HNS convention establishes a liability scheme that limits shipowners' liability to approximately $230 million. Damages in excess of shipowners' liability are to be paid by an international HNS fund, up to a maximum of $500 million. My concern is that in the event of a spill of hazardous and noxious substances, the cleanup bill is likely to exceed these limits.
The opposition has attempted to work with the government to improve this part of the bill. The proposed reasonable amendments are to prevent Canadian taxpayers from being responsible for damages exceeding $500 million. Unfortunately, the Conservatives rejected our proposal to make the bill more comprehensive.
I would like to read into the record a quote from the Union of British Columbia Municipalities' submission on Canada's marine oil spill preparedness and response regime.
Our members have a strong interest in the changes to the federal oil spill preparedness and response regime given the proposed pipeline and liquid natural gas projects in our province. B.C. Local governments have indicated that environmental protection is a top priority, and have supported several resolutions with respect to a polluter pay principle, environmental issues and restoration, working with local governments, and the need to increase federal agency staffing and training.
B.C. municipalities support the polluter pay principle, and they do not believe that current environmental measures are adequate to clean up damages caused by these types of large-scale spills or disasters.
The bill before us today is by no means ideal. Its scope could have been broadened to include more comprehensive measures to safeguard Canada's coasts.
Despite the bill's shortcomings, I intend to vote in support of moving it forward. I suppose a modest improvement in marine security is better than no improvement at all.
If the opposition had its way, the bill would have been vastly different. It would have reversed the government's reckless cuts and closures in marine environmental safety.
I should also mention that I am splitting my time with the member for .
I have already spoken about the Kitsilano Coast Guard station and the three MCTS centres in British Columbia that are slated for closure. The NDP wants to see a reversal of these Coast Guard closures. We want to see cuts to the MCTS centres cancelled. We also believe the government should cancel the closure of B.C.'s regional office for emergency oil spills responders.
A number of environmental NGOs have highlighted Canada's insufficient safety measures in regard to oil tanker traffic. Unfortunately, Bill focuses on administrative organization and is lacking in actual environmental improvements.
British Columbians are very concerned about maritime safety. The Conservative government has demonstrated time and time again that it does not take these concerns seriously. Conservatives ignore first nations. They ignore fishermen, and they ignore our coastal communities. I do not believe that the bill will serve its intended purpose of convincing British Columbians that the federal government takes coastal safety seriously.
While I will vote in support of this modest attempt to play catch-up with industry regulations, I would ask the federal government to start listening to British Columbians' concerns. Stop gutting marine safety resources and spending millions on trying to sell the people of British Columbia on risky oil pipeline projects that will see tanker traffic increase exponentially.
I held a series of town hall meetings in my riding of and in Port Moody. I heard these concerns. In fact, I had a follow-up focus group in Port Moody, which is right on the Pacific Ocean, in Burrard Inlet. They are very concerned about marine safety. They are very concerned about an increase in tanker traffic. They are very concerned about pipeline projects that are proposed for our area. In fact, a pipeline project is proposed to go through Coquitlam, and there is a staging area in the park of one of our sensitive areas. This is right on the other side of my riding, which borders the Fraser River.
These are very real concerns to the people living in my riding. They have concerns. They have expressed them to me. When I hold public sessions, when I consult, when I ask for feedback, I time and time again hear how important it is to protect our coastal communities, our way of life, and the concerns that are raised on these projects. I am trying to bring forward these I think reasonable and modest amendments to the government to make these changes. Unfortunately, we do not see the government listening and incorporating these changes.
I hope the government will listen to the people in my riding who have these concerns and make changes going forward. The way I think we could have a productive Parliament would be to have this exchange, and I am not seeing it. I hope the government will listen not only to the opposition but to the people in my riding. Those concerns are real, and they want to see those changes made.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to speak on behalf of the constituents of Surrey North. Before I get to the bill I do want to mention something else that has come up. As you are aware, Mr. Speaker, we have recently raised awareness about organ donations in our country. Organ Donation Week took place a few weeks ago, with Canadians signing up to donate their organs to have them available for those who need them at a particular time. One such drive took place in Toronto.
Members of the Amar Arts of Life Academy, with Amarjit Rai, who is a founding member, along with Balvinder and Amendeet Rai, and over 200 volunteers signed up over 1,200 members of our community to be organ donors. This is a huge accomplishment that took place in Brampton around the Vaisakhi Khalsa Day parade. I congratulate the Amar Arts Academy for taking this initiative and signing up organ donors.
It is a pleasure to speak to this bill. I spoke to the bill at second reading. At that time, I was hoping the government would listen to the opposition and critics to improve the bill. Unfortunately, as we have seen, the Conservative government has failed over and over to listen to the opposition and critics, academics and experts, to make the bill better so that our environment, our pristine waters off the coast of British Columbia that provide employment for hundreds of thousands of people throughout British Columbia and the rest of Canada, are protected and safe for travel.
Tourism on our waters is a huge industry in British Columbia. There could be an impact on tourism. Also, fisheries is a huge part of British Columbia. As the previous member, the member for , has pointed out, the government has not taken into consideration jobs related to our coast in British Columbia that could be affected by the bill. We wanted to broaden the scope of the bill to include a number of other initiatives that could be taken to protect our waters off the west coast of British Columbia and across the country.
I know I have a limited time, but I want to speak to a particular part of the bill that really concerns me. I will share that, not only with members in the House, but also with the audience of Canadians at home. This concerns part 4 of the Marine Liability Act, to implement in Canada the international convention of liability and compensation for damage in connection with the carriage of hazardous and noxious substances by sea. The HNS convention establishes a liability scheme designed to compensate victims in the event of a spill of hazardous and noxious substances. Basically, the shipowner's liability is limited to approximately $230 million and there is an additional fund available that caps the liability for these hazardous materials spills to about $500 million.
I brought up this story before, just to put it in perspective. A total liability of $500 million is not enough when a hazardous or noxious material is spilled, or there is a disaster. I talked about this before and I am going to bring an example from my family, from my young children. It will highlight that if a 7-year-old can understand the economics of disaster, why is it that the Conservatives cannot understand?
Here is the scenario. I have two children. I have a seven-year-old son and a seventeen-year-old daughter. My son is a typical seven-year-old. He likes to not take responsibility. He was playing around with his toys, they were all over the place, around our living room and the kitchen. He thought he would pull a fast one when mom asked him to clean up his mess. He cleaned up a bit of it, but he said, “No. My sister should do it. My sister should clean up my toys.” When he asked his sister she said, “No. It's your mess. You made this mess, you clean it up.” Both of them went to their mom and my wife understood that. She said, “Well, Jaron, it's your mess, you clean it up.” My seven-year-old understood that it was his mess and he should clean it up.
Therefore, if there is a hazardous material spill of a noxious or hazardous substance, here the government is only limiting the liability up to $500 million when we know that disasters cost a lot more to clean up. It is in the billions of dollars. The Conservatives want Canadian taxpayers to pick that up. If a seven-year-old can understand, I am sure the Conservatives understand that liability should not be put on taxpayers. That is of huge concern to me.
There are many other related issues that we could have addressed in this bill. We want to broaden this bill to address a number of issues that have been plaguing our coasts, east to west and up in the north. What are some of the things that the Conservatives could have or should have done or not made cuts to? They made cuts to the Kitsilano Coast Guard station. The summer season is coming up. There will be a lot of activities in our harbours. I know that Vancouver is a very busy place during summertime. We get quite a bit of traffic in Burrard Inlet. What did the Conservative government do? It cut the very measures that allow for safety in our harbours.
Those are the kinds of things that the government needs to address in order to ensure that we have safe and secure passageways in our waters. Time after time, we have seen the government step away from its responsibility to ensure that we have those waters off our coasts protected.
Another thing that the government has done is cancel cuts to the marine communications and traffic services centres, including the marine traffic control communications terminals in Vancouver and St. John's. We have heard stories where sailors in distress would pick up the phone and the call goes into some third country. We do not know whether the people who take the calls will be able to communicate in English or French. These are the kinds of cuts the government is making that are putting the lives of sailors, shippers, and leisure cruisers in danger. These are the kinds of steps the government can take in order to improve safety and security in our waters.
The government cuts include the closure of the B.C. regional office for emergency oil spill responders. We talked about the increase in tanker traffic in the last 10 years in British Columbia alone. That will have an impact on tanker safety. Therefore, we need to ensure that this government, at the federal level, puts measures in place to ensure the safety of our waters. Time and time again, the government is failing.
The list goes on. I can go on and on about cuts to environment, fisheries, and a number of other safety measures that we could have worked on and included in this bill. Time after time, we have seen the government shirk its responsibility to ensure our waters are protected, that we can protect jobs, that we can protect tourism, and protect fisheries.