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View Jack Harris Profile
NDP (NL)
Thank you, Chair.
View Jack Harris Profile
NDP (NL)
Thank you, Chair.
I want to thank both of the witnesses for appearing today—Mr. Mercer and Ms. Johnson. I should note that Ms. Johnson and I, along with Ms. Jones, served in the House of Assembly of Newfoundland and Labrador, so we have experience with each other in another forum. It's good to see you both here today.
First of all, I want to note that it's been almost 30 years, or will be almost 30 years, since offshore safety was actually put in the hands of the C-NLOPB, the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board, and taken from the provincial and federal departments of labour that were formerly in charge of occupational health and safety in the offshore. That has been very disappointing to the unions from day one, in my experience, as I was in the House of Assembly when that was done in 1992. It was not until 2014 that there were actually enforceable regulations put in place.
These are the first attempts to do that in an enforceable way to provide the protection of the right to refuse unsafe work, to be able participate and have a say in the situation, and to have the same level of protection as you would have onshore.
It's particularly concerning that this has taken so long. I wonder if we had in place an independent offshore safety board, as recommended by Justice Wells of the Offshore Helicopter Safety Inquiry, whether there would be this delay of six or seven or eight years since 2014 to get these regulations in place.
Could both Mr. Mercer and Ms. Johnson comment on that, because Justice Wells asked for a separate, powerful, independent, knowledgeable body equipped with expert advice that would be devoted only to ensuring that the offshore health and safety regime were adequate.
Would that be in place now if we had that separate board? What's your opinion, Ms. Johnson and Mr. Mercer?
View Jack Harris Profile
NDP (NL)
Mr. Mercer.
View Jack Harris Profile
NDP (NL)
The question is not a question of the expertise, I guess, but a question of focus. It's been a long time and it hasn't been finished. Now the federal government obviously has responsibility.
What about the advisory board, Mr. Mercer? Was your organization consulted on the appointment of representatives to the federal or the provincial board?
View Jack Harris Profile
NDP (NL)
Thank you.
View Jack Harris Profile
NDP (NL)
Thank you, Chair.
I'm pleased to have an opportunity to speak to Minister O'Regan this morning.
Thank you for joining us.
I share with you, of course, the memories of the Ocean Ranger tragedy and the Cougar helicopter tragedy. I attended the hearings of both of those inquiries. In fact, I had standing at the offshore helicopter inquiry run by Justice Wells. I know how important offshore safety is to everybody, but only in 2014 did we have enforceable regulations for safety in the offshore in the same way they occurred on land, so it's very important that they be in place.
I understand that they're complicated, and it takes time to get these put in place, even though 300 pages is not really a lot for regulations. Nevertheless, what galls me and I think many people is the fact that this regime was allowed to lapse on December 31 of last year. The regulations since then are unenforceable in the same sense that they were. That's spelled out in the legislation itself. No one can be convicted of an offence under the regulations if it occurred between January 1 of this year and whenever this law is put into place. By the way, we want to put them in place as quickly as possible, and we support that.
Can the minister explain how it is that these offshore safety regulations were allowed to lapse in the Newfoundland and Labrador offshore? It wouldn't happen to any other regulations. Is this a case of someone being asleep at the switch or not realizing the importance of these regulations in the Newfoundland and Labrador offshore?
View Jack Harris Profile
NDP (NL)
I want a short answer, not a long answer. I want a precise answer, because I have only a few more minutes left.
View Jack Harris Profile
NDP (NL)
Thank you, sir. I think we saw it in the offshore before there were any regulations, that, “oh, we can enforce them; we can shut down the rig”. Of course, that never, ever, ever happened, and wouldn't happen under this regime right now.
Minister O'Regan, one of the other important points in the 2014 legislation was the appointment of offshore joint worker and employer and government advisory committees. They've had since 2014 to put those in place as well. There isn't one for the Newfoundland and Labrador offshore as of yet, although I'm told by you, of course, that the federal appointments have been made. There is one in Nova Scotia. That was put in place in 2019 and has been meeting.
Why has it taken since 2014 to put in place these advisory committees, and why have the unions not been consulted on the appointments?
View Jack Harris Profile
NDP (NL)
Can I ask Mr. McLean to look at the front of his bill. Mine says Bill S-3, as passed by the Senate, February 16, 2021.
View Jack Harris Profile
NDP (NL)
I was concerned about that as well.
However, I do have a question, which is related to.... I guess it's in clause 3, “Coordinating Amendments”. I have a question.
View Jack Harris Profile
NDP (NL)
View Jack Harris Profile
NDP (NL)
Yes. I see that that says if the act “receives royal assent” this year, then “sections 1 and 2 are deemed not to have come into force and are repealed”, and then a new section is added.
Can someone explain this regime here? What now takes place? Does that reinstate the transitional regulations?
View Jack Harris Profile
NDP (NL)
That's the retroactivity clause, the one that reinstates them as of January 1.
View Jack Harris Profile
NDP (NL)
Okay, thank you.
View Heather McPherson Profile
NDP (AB)
I would like that.
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