Interventions in the House of Commons
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View Joyce Murray Profile
Lib. (BC)
View Joyce Murray Profile
2018-05-03 16:19 [p.19087]
Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to congratulate the member for Port Moody—Coquitlam for all of his work to protect salmon and salmon habitat, and also for his work to protect the north coast from tanker traffic through an initiative a number of years ago when he was first a member of Parliament.
Earlier in the debate, a Conservative member asked why, when there are so many more tankers on the east coast, there does not appear to be the same kind of concern about the risk there that we have on the west coast. He wondered why we would be concerned on the west coast. What is the difference? I thought I might ask the member if he could share his thoughts about what is unique about our Pacific north coast compared to other areas of Canada and other Canadian coastlines.
View Joyce Murray Profile
Lib. (BC)
View Joyce Murray Profile
2018-05-03 16:25 [p.19087]
Mr. Speaker, I am very grateful for the opportunity to speak today about the importance of B.C.'s north coast and why we are seeking to protect it with Bill C-48.
The area targeted by the tanker moratorium goes from the southern border of Alaska to the tip of continental British Columbia, to the north end of Vancouver Island, and it includes Haida Gwaii.
I will begin by reading from a document written eight years ago:
[This bill] legislates a crude oil tanker ban in the dangerous inland waters around Haida Gwaii known as Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound. It will protect our oceans and communities from the risk of a major oil spill and promote a sustainable economy – one that supports B.C.’s growing fisheries and tourism sectors.
[This] bill responds to the clear voices of British Columbians, [the majority]...of whom support a permanent tanker ban on B.C.’s north coast. First Nations, B.C. municipalities and thousands of businesses whose growth and sustainability depend on a healthy ocean and coastal ecosystem are united in their call for a permanent ban.
To be clear, [this bill] does not apply to natural gas products and will not affect existing deliveries of condensate into Kitimat, B.C. It will not prevent the continued transport of diesel and other oil products to local B.C. communities or in any way affect current or future shipments of oil to Asia and the United States through the Port of Vancouver. The bill does not limit growth in exports of Canadian crude to expanding international markets. And finally, it allocates no new ministerial ability to close other shipping areas in Canada, as these powers already exist under the Canada Shipping Act.
[The bill] does acknowledge that Canadians want communities and wildlife protected and [they want] prosperity. This can be achieved by making smart choices about where and how development takes place.
We have witnessed the environmental, economic and social devastation caused by the Exxon Valdez and BP catastrophes [in the Gulf of Mexico]. One major spill along B.C.’s shorelines would threaten fragile ecosystems, endanger wildlife, harm lives and communities, and jeopardize many of our...[tens of thousands of] coastal jobs. It is simply not worth the risk.
I am reading from a letter that was written to my colleagues when I tabled Bill C-606 back in 2010. Today, I am so grateful and appreciative to our Minister of Transport for having tabled this bill, Bill C-48, which would do exactly what I called for with my bill, Bill C-606.
I had a chance to visit 15 communities up and down our coast, hosting events to hear from community members, including the chambers of commerce, indigenous people, and citizens. There was an overwhelming consensus that the Pacific north coast was a very important internationally significant area that we must protect and defend from the risk of a major oil spill.
I spoke with individuals who showed me pictures of themselves wearing gumboots as they cleaned up oil from sea life and shorelines up in Prince William Sound in Alaska after the Exxon Valdez spill of 10.8 million U.S. gallons of oil back in 1989. Some of those ecosystems have never recovered from that spill, and it affects the economy and ecology of those areas today. I certainly understood the concern the people in the north coast had.
I will explain why that area is so unique, actually risky, and why in my letter I talked about this risk British Columbians did not believe was worth it with respect to the benefits to our province.
I want to give credit to the environmental advocacy groups that raised awareness about the risk of oil tanker traffic and spills in our north coast related to a pipeline that was proposed for the area. It has since been determined not permissible by our government. I want to also thank our Prime Minister for recognizing that our Pacific north coast is not the right route for pipelines and oil tankers.
I was privileged to successfully ensure that the ban on oil traffic in the Pacific north coast was included in two Liberal platforms, one in 2011 and one in 2015: promise made, promise kept.
The marine ecosystems that span the northern coast of British Columbia are unique. The coastline itself with its rugged cliffs and inlets provides an abundant environment for its ecologically rich and diverse animal populations. It is dotted with thousands of islands and etched with deep fjords. The coastal rainforests are places of stunning biological prosperity and diversity, and an environment that deserves protection.
Not only is the north coast geographically complex, it also supports a wide range of distinct marine ecosystems. These ecosystems provide spawning and schooling areas for fish, and is important for a variety of sea birds, marine mammals, and other marine fauna, like humpback and killer whales, and that says nothing about the region's rich flora.
I had a chance to travel in this area as the environment minister for the province of British Columbia. I spent a week on a B.C. Park's boat touring the isolated inlets and shorelines as we sought to discuss with local indigenous peoples the possibility of creating a provincial park and reserve in the Great Bear Rainforest. I had a chance to see just how little human impact there had been on that part of our coast and how it really was a virgin ecosystem, which is expressed in the rich variety of the ecosystem I spoke about.
It was not just the marine areas that were so important to protect, but also the area on land, which a pipeline was proposing to traverse. The pipeline would have crossed hundreds of fish and salmon-bearing streams. It would have crossed wilderness, mountain, and valley areas with virgin forests and ecosystems, which are almost impossible to even hike through as they are so remote and uncivilized, and I say that in the technical sense. So few people live there in such vast areas that are uneroded. It is very important for grizzly bears and other wildlife to live without the impacts of human civilization, which have caused challenges to their abundance in other parts of our province and country.
In the northern coastal area, salmon still runs in the rivers, trees hundreds of years old loom over vast landscapes, and predators and prey keep the delicate balance necessary for these ecosystems to thrive. Our government is committed to ensure that this coast remains a vibrant ecosystem for generations to come. Ecotourism in this area is growing year by year as people from around the world recognize how internationally unique the area is.
The government recognizes that indigenous groups have inhabited the north coast for millennia and continue to rely on its bountiful ecosystems as foundations for their cultures and economies. As I travelled around Haida Gwaii and Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve in a sailboard a few years ago, I spoke to many indigenous people from Haida Gwaii. They were completely and utterly determined that their precious area would not be subject to the risk of a major oil spill by oil tanker traffic. Therefore, this moratorium is very important to those members of the Haida Gwaii community.
Bill C-48 is a significant step being taken by our government to enhance environmental protection for this pristine and important coastline.
The minister also travelled from coast to coast to coast to hear from people about this particular project. From Haida Gwaii to Iqaluit and St. John's, he wanted to hear their perspectives on the oil tanker moratorium and improving marine safety.
Our government has met with stakeholders, non-governmental organizations, other levels of government, and indigenous groups to listen and gather input. I have to recognize that the Minister of Transport has done a full and deep job of consulting with people across the country. As the proponent of Bill C-606 in 2010, which was up for debate in March 2011, I was not able to do quite that thorough a job of consulting, but certainly the majority of people I spoke with felt that this was an important initiative. The minister heard a diversity of views, and the importance of these environmental protections was made abundantly clear.
Coastal communities and industries everywhere in Canada understand the importance of healthy ecosystems to protect the way of life and livelihoods of those areas. In fact, there is a wide range of economic activity that feeds and sustains the Pacific north coast region's economic life cycle. For over a hundred years, we have had logging, mining, fisheries, and canning and processing facilities. Those activities have been important and have supported many communities along the coast.
I want to acknowledge that the Province of British Columbia has really worked hard to consult with stakeholders from environmental groups, communities, indigenous communities, and industy to make sure that its land use planning process reflects where there should be more intensive use of the land and waters, and where there should be more protection of the land and waters. That balance has been found in our province. It can always be improved, but there has been a great deal of emphasis on proper management of the lands and waters in British Columbia since the 1990s, including the government I was part of in the early 2000s.
It is not something our government takes lightly, to ensure that a particular activity, such as a pipeline or oil tanker traffic, will not be permitted there. The jobs that would have been created, I would point out, were not an enormous number. The building of the pipeline would have created some jobs for sure, but once it was built, the number of ongoing jobs would have been far less.
The moratorium would protect the livelihoods of communities on British Columbia's north coast by providing a heightened level of environmental protection, while continuing to allow for community and industry resupply by small tanker, which was an important part of the bill I proposed as well, Bill C-606. We know that these communities and the industry rely on marine shipments of critical petroleum products to sustain their livelihoods. That is why our government will continue to allow shipments of crude or persistent oil products below a certain level, which is 12,500 metric tons.
The moratorium would protect the northern coastline, that whole area and its delicate ecosystems, including Haida Gwaii, from accidents that could upset this fragile region via a major oil spill.
We know that the vast majority of citizens in this area do not believe the risk of that kind of major spill, which we have seen before on our west coast, is worth it. We understand that should something like this happen, our coast would never be the same. On the north coast, there are far fewer services to prevent a spill, to act quickly if a major oil tanker were in difficulty, and to prevent the damage.
This tanker moratorium does not tell the whole story of our protection of the coast and the precautionary approach that we are building in to help safeguard the marine environment in this region. I want to mention the oceans protection plan, which adds another set of protections. The oceans protection plan is a $1.5-billion initiative on which there was wide consultation. I know many members of the Pacific caucus, the B.C. members of Parliament, were asked to provide input into what should be in the oceans protection plan.
It will improve our incident prevention and response regime and address environmental concerns in the event of a marine accident. The oceans protection plan will lift the liability cap for defraying the costs of cleanup, should there be a spill, to unlimited liability. I am referring now to smaller ships. My colleague from Port Moody—Coquitlam read into the record some concerns about the smaller ships that were underneath the cap. There would be unlimited liability and the government would implement a levy on oil shipments to fund compensation, as well as to speed it up, so communities would not be not stuck footing the bill for the cleanup of smaller spills.
In the bill, we recognize that when the delicate balance of this coastline becomes threatened, it upsets relationships between the environment and its inhabitants. It is not just about today's coastal communities. It is also about inhabitants that have spanned thousands of years. The Musqueam first nation, for example, which is on a different part of the coast, the south coast, has a record of habitation and its traditional areas for over 4,000 years. We know there are deep historical and cultural ties to the Pacific north coast that support cultural practices and social structures, and that is also what makes this area worth protecting.
Clearly, the oil tanker moratorium is just one of many initiatives in our comprehensive plan to protect the marine environment, to begin restoring some of the species that have been impacted by human activities over the years, and changes to our oceans, like acidification and warming from climate change, and the warming of streams that are necessary for our salmon cycle. There is so much work to be done, but this is a key part of it for a key part of our country, which is the Pacific north coast.
I hope we will have the full support of all members present for the passage of this bill, to take this important step in protecting one of the world's most diverse and rich regions anywhere on the planet.
View Joyce Murray Profile
Lib. (BC)
View Joyce Murray Profile
2018-05-03 16:46 [p.19090]
Mr. Speaker, I welcome questions about this initiative which, as I have said, I was proud to champion starting in 2009, travelling up the coast and to coastal communities to hear from people and understand how important it is to have this oil tanker moratorium in that area.
Tourists get there by arriving in a number of ways. Cruise ships stop in Prince Rupert. People can bike from Prince George to Prince Rupert, if they choose. There are many ways. Prince Rupert has an airport, and yes, communities do use oil products and will for many decades to come. However, that is not an excuse for putting a pipeline through an essentially untravelled and unimpacted wilderness area of the northern part of our province and impacting 750 streams that are important for salmon.
It is not a reason to say that this is an area where we are going to have massive supertankers in a geography that is very dangerous in terms of the shoals and the storms. No, we have to choose where it makes sense to move our oil products to market—
View Joyce Murray Profile
Lib. (BC)
View Joyce Murray Profile
2018-05-03 16:50 [p.19090]
Mr. Speaker, it is not surprising that the NDP members opposite just cannot take yes to heart as a solution to an important challenge and say that they appreciate it. They need to tie it into other things they would like.
Let us recall the incredible outpouring of concern about the ecosystems of our north coast area with the possibility of having a greenfield pipeline, which means a pipeline that crosses areas that are almost unnavigable or impossible to hike, they are so mountainous, treed, and full of important species that have a refuge in that area. That is just the pipeline route.
The coastal route is one that is extremely concerning in terms of the danger of navigation. There is always the risk of human error. As good as the—
View Joyce Murray Profile
Lib. (BC)
View Joyce Murray Profile
2018-05-03 16:52 [p.19091]
Mr. Speaker, our government has a range of initiatives for the oceans protection plan that are focused on the Salish Sea areas, on the species in those areas, and on doing what has never been done, which is to have steps to recover Chinook salmon, which is food for the southern resident killer whales, and initiatives such as regulating to keep the boats, tourists, and other ship traffic further away from our southern resident killer whales.
The one thing I want to mention is that it is very important that we achieve our Paris targets. We cannot do that without the kinds of measures Alberta has put in place to reduce their planned expansion of the oil sands, including putting a cap on it, increasing their tax, regulating methane, and shutting down coal-fired plants. That is in the national interest. Having Alberta as part of the national plan is in the national interest. Alberta had one requirement for that, and that was access for their oil to Asia.
View Joyce Murray Profile
Lib. (BC)
View Joyce Murray Profile
2018-05-03 16:54 [p.19091]
Mr. Speaker, it is almost difficult to limit this to three reasons. One is that so much of the world is becoming developed. As populations grow and communities spread into former nature, it becomes ever more important that when there are areas that have not had this happen, we say that this is not an area where we can risk a major oil spill or accept the kind of impacts human habitation and concentrated industrial activity result in. It is internationally recognized as a special wilderness area.
Second, we have the spirit bear in this area. It is a unique variant of the black bear. The area around it is incredibly significant, which is why we have a spirit bear park.
Last, the indigenous coastal peoples around the area of this tanker ban formed a group, Coastal First Nations, and came out solidly in favour of the ban.
View Joyce Murray Profile
Lib. (BC)
View Joyce Murray Profile
2017-12-05 10:34 [p.15993]
Mr. Speaker, I note from the debate that the Conservative members are against our modernization of the access to information law.
In his earlier remarks, the President of the Treasury Board commented on the commitment in the 2006 Conservative platform to do what our government is now doing, and yet for 10 years they did absolutely nothing.
What are the hon. minister's thoughts on why the Conservative government failed to take a single action to update this law?
View Joyce Murray Profile
Lib. (BC)
View Joyce Murray Profile
2017-12-05 13:09 [p.16009]
Mr. Speaker, it has been mesmerizing to hear my colleague opposite, and even the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, speak as though the committee did not work on this bill, as if the committee did not pass more than 12 amendments.
For example, one amendment prevents the department from declining to act on a request just because the request failed to state the specific subject matter, type of record, or period. One of the proposed amendments would give the commissioner power of approval before a department declines to act on a request.
Why then is the opposition member implying that the amendments supported by his own colleagues were not accepted?
View Joyce Murray Profile
Lib. (BC)
View Joyce Murray Profile
2017-12-05 13:12 [p.16009]
Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for this opportunity to speak to Bill C-58, and to perhaps set the record straight with respect to some of the remarks of my colleagues opposite. They love to quote criticisms of the bill that took place before the committee study, before amendments were made to address those very issues, and before the bill was even further strengthened to build on the historic improvement to access to information.
Our government is firmly committed to being open and transparent. That is the kind of government Canadians expect and deserve. These reforms were made with that in mind.
We remain committed to upholding this principle, which was first applied in the 1983 Access to Information Act.
Now, 34 years later, our proposed reforms advance the original intent of the act in a way that reflects today's technologies, policies, and legislation, and keeps this an evergreen process as well.
I am proud our government is the government to finally update this act. This is in contrast to the government of the members opposite, the Conservatives, who promised to reform this act in their election platform, spent 10 years in government, and failed to do a thing.
I experienced the former government's control tactics around access to information first-hand as an opposition member of Parliament. I filed an access to information request to find out more about the process for building Canada's pavilion for the 2010 Vancouver Olympic and Paralympic Games. The pavilion was to be built in Vancouver, and there were questions about it in the media. Lo and behold, when I received the response from the government, every line in the document had been blacked out. There was not a scrap of information. I would contend that Canada's Olympic pavilion was hardly a national security issue that had to be protected.
That is what the Conservative government of the day was doing instead of fixing the Access to Information Act. Perhaps it was also too busy becoming the first government in not just the history of Canada but the history of the Commonwealth to be found in contempt of Parliament for refusing to provide information to Parliament.
Let us not forget the extent to which the New Democrats were hesitant to join the trend when the Liberal MPs became the first party to begin a practice of proactive disclosure of expenses. They needed to be dragged along with that. However, I digress.
Our government is acting. We are following through on our election promise to reform the Access to Information Act.
Our efforts started over a year ago. In May 2016, we issued a directive that enshrined the idea of a government that is “open by default”.
Open by default means having a culture across government in which data and information are increasingly released as a matter of course, unless there are specific reasons not to do so.
Now, with the amendments proposed in Bill C-58, we are taking the next step.
Bill C-58 would advance the Access to Information Act in some key areas. It would give the Information Commissioner the power to order government to release records. She has been asking exactly for that. That is a significant increase in the power of the commissioner. No longer is the office of the commissioner simply an ombudsperson. It would now have the power to compel government to release records.
The bill would put the Prime Minister's Office and ministers' offices inside the act for the very first time, as promised, through legislative requirements for proactive disclosure. It would also legislate proactive disclosure for administrative bodies that supported the courts, Parliament, and other government institutions. This dramatically broadens the reach of the Access to Information Act.
The bill also mandates five-year reviews of the act. Therefore, it is an evergreen process of improvement. What is more is that it would require that departments regularly review the information being requested under the act.
This will help us understand and increase the kinds of information that could be and should be proactively published.
We are also developing a guide to provide requesters with clear explanations for exemptions and exclusions. We are investing in tools to make processing information requests more timely and efficient. We are allowing federal institutions with the same minister to share request processing services for greater efficiency. We are also increasing government training to get common and consistent interpretation and application of ATI rules.
We are moving to help government institutions weed out bad faith requests that put significant strain on the system.
By tying up government resources, such vexatious requests can interfere with an institution's ability to do its other work and respond to other requests. However, let me be clear. We have heard the concerns expressed about how we must safeguard against abuse of this proposed measure. In particular, we have heard the concerns raised by indigenous groups regarding land claims.
As the President of the Treasury Board said during second reading debate, “A large or broad request, or one that causes government discomfort, does not, of itself, represent bad faith on the part of the requester.” Broad requests, particularly historical records to substantiate indigenous claims, are legitimate and consistent with the spirit of the act.
However, it was not enough for our government to clearly state our intentions in the House of Commons. Therefore, the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics further strengthened Bill C-58 by amending the bill to make it explicit that no department could refuse a request simply because the subject, type of record or date of record was not specified.
The bill was also amended to give the Information Commissioner veto power in advance over whether a department could reject a request. The committee also passed an amendment that would give the Information Commissioner the power to publish the results of their investigations and orders, giving further leverage to the commissioner's new powers, as was intended by the President of the Treasury Board and requested by the commissioner. Our government firmly supports these amendments.
In addition to the government's duty to assist, which is a fundamental obligation built into the Access to Information Act, our government is fully committed to fulfilling Canada's fiduciary obligation to assist first nations in furthering their land claims.
After 34 years, Canada's ATI system needs updating, and this will be a work in progress.
I am disappointed that the members opposite in both the Conservative Party and the NDP have been playing politics with this very important bill. They have been raising issues that were already addressed at committee, where amendments were passed to put to rest the concerns that were raised.
The Conservatives, who never did anything for 10 years even though they solemnly promised in their platform to update access to information, are acting as though this is a step backward. In fact, it is a step in forward in many respects. It would broaden the scope of the act, respect the commissioner's request to have additional powers to determine if a department could refuse to fulfill an access to information request. It also includes order-making power to ensure the order is published and publicly available to review.
A great number of key steps have been taken to advance the openness and transparency to the Canadian public with respect to information to which they should and will have access.
Members opposite are pretending that no amendments have been made, that the commissioner's report is still valid when it was written before the amendments to respond to her concerns were debated and voted on by committee members, including the New Democratic Party members and Conservative members, and wholly supported by the Liberal President of the Treasury Board and Liberal members. The fact that those are being ignored, that those parties are aiming to confuse and confound the public debate, and mislead members of the public listening to their speeches and questions and answers is very discouraging and disappointing. This is one of those kinds of policy measures that everyone agreed needed to be improved. That is exactly what we are doing, for the first time in 34 years.
To try to confuse the public into thinking that this is a step back, when it is a major leap forward, is doing a disservice to the public. It is providing inaccurate information to the public. It is raising unnecessary fears around individual access to information and around indigenous people's access to information in pursuit of potential land claims. These things have been addressed. We have a great deal of respect for the importance of reconciliation with indigenous peoples right across this country, and one part of that is to support and aid individuals and groups that are seeking access to information to pursue the reconciliation, partnership, and co-operation our government is so committed to.
Therefore, I would request that the members opposite stick to the facts, reflect what happened in committee in terms of the amendments that were made, and reflect the ways in which the commissioner's requests and others were actually built into those amendments by committee. Let us have a debate on the merits of this policy using the actual up-to-date, factual information. That would be a public service on the part of members opposite.
As I said at the start of my speech, I am very proud that it is our Liberal government that is finally following through and giving the Access to Information Act some much-needed reform. There would be a review just one year after the coming into force of this bill so that we would be able to have continuous quality improvement of this very important piece of legislation. This very important aspect of our public policy, whereby reviews are done and improvements are made in a timely way, is built into our new act. We are looking forward to continuing our work to help make government more open, transparent, and accountable.
View Joyce Murray Profile
Lib. (BC)
View Joyce Murray Profile
2017-12-05 13:26 [p.16011]
Mr. Speaker, I am not clear on what the member considers to be draconian about a law, Bill C-58, that would broaden access to information across the Prime Minister's Office, ministers' offices, and many other offices. What is draconian about giving order-making power to the commissioner, enabling the commissioner to determine whether a request can actually be blocked by a department?
I will just add that the previous government had ministers countermanding the provision of information by a department and actually taking the political power themselves to block access to information requests. It was shocking at the time. The sanctimonious comments I hear on the other side of the House are quite surprising, given that record.
View Joyce Murray Profile
Lib. (BC)
View Joyce Murray Profile
2017-12-05 13:29 [p.16012]
Mr. Speaker, we are the first government in 30 years to modernize the Access to Information Act. We know that the NDP does not like proactive disclosure, but we do, which is why we included it in this bill. I would remind my colleague that the committee adopted a dozen or so amendments to strengthen and clarify our government's intention to improve and reform our access to information system, amendments that were surely supported by the NDP members. We are proud of this improvement to our bill and the joint efforts of the committee members. This helped us improve the bill.
View Joyce Murray Profile
Lib. (BC)
View Joyce Murray Profile
2017-12-05 13:32 [p.16012]
Mr. Speaker, let us talk about reality. The reality is that the commissioner asked for order-making power and would be provided order-making power. In the amendments, that order-making power was strengthened in ways the commissioner had indicated would make it even more effective.
Let us talk about reality with respect to the Prime Minister's office and the minister's offices. For the first time ever, the act would apply to the ministers' offices and the PMO. This would lead to better public understanding of government decision-making, fostering more participation and public trust in government. That is advancement.
For the first time ever, the act would apply to 240 federal entities, from the courts to the ports. That is advancement.
This is not just a one-off exercise. It is an evergreen, ongoing rejuvenation. The member opposite, from Skeena—Bulkley Valley, continues to quote comments made before a committee process that vastly improved the bill, with the cooperation of all parties. I would ask him to update his narrative and reflect Bill C-58 as it is today in this House.
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