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View James Maloney Profile
Lib. (ON)
I will call the meeting to order.
Thank you, all, for coming today.
I will skip over the usual pleasantries and try to accelerate the process here, because we're running 15 minutes behind and we're tight for time. We have three 40-minute segments in this meeting, the third of which is the clause-by-clause, which we would like to complete today.
In the second segment, we have with us our minister, who is supposed to be joining us at 11:40 for 40 minutes.
Our first panel, of course, is here with us, consisting of the Newfoundland and Labrador Oil and Gas Industries Association and Charlene Johnson. We also have Unifor local 2121 and Mr. Dave Mercer.
Each of you is given up to five minutes to speak. You can speak in French and/or English. Translation is available, as we know by now.
I will jump right in.
Ms. Johnson, why don't you start us off for five minutes, please?
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Charlene Johnson
View Charlene Johnson Profile
Charlene Johnson
2021-05-10 11:17
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Thank you so much, Chair and committee members. Thank you for the opportunity to address this committee today.
My name is Charlene Johnson. I am the CEO of the Newfoundland and Labrador Oil and Gas Industries Association, more commonly known as Noia.
Our association represents member companies that are involved in the offshore oil and gas supply and service sector. Noia members are very diverse. They include those who operate supply vessels and helicopters, human resource agencies, safety and environmental companies and even those involved in the hospitality industry, which also receives numerous spinoffs from the offshore here.
I appear on behalf of those members to offer my comments on Bill S-3, an act to amend the Offshore Health and Safety Act.
This is my second time speaking with the natural resources parliamentary committee about this issue, and I certainly thank you for the opportunity. My remarks are reflective of my comments when I presented to the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources back in February.
I would like to note that Noia was appreciative of the actions of the Senate and similarly appreciative of the Department of Natural Resources for acting quickly upon the Senate passing the bill and providing an opportunity for Noia to provide comments on new regulations. This is exactly the type of expediency we were hoping for, and I hope the legislation and regulations can be passed and enacted before the end of the calendar year.
Noia has spoken a lot, including to many federal officials, about competitiveness and timelines. As I appear before you, my message remains the same. The process to institute new Atlantic occupational health and safety initiative regulations for the offshore has taken far too long. It is another symptom of the disease of delay that has permeated our industry and hindered our growth.
Thankfully, in this current situation, the actions of those involved in the offshore, including offshore operators and the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board, coupled with the protections provided by the Atlantic Accord and the Accord Implementation Act, have ensured that safety has remained a priority in the offshore oil and gas industry.
The industry is already carrying on with performance-based standards and international best practices to ensure the safety of workers. While the regulatory process has taken long, we have comfort in action taken by all of those who participate in this industry and their commitment to safety. That has been, and I believe, will always remain paramount; however, we need to complete this process and similar processes more quickly.
To give a quick example of industry safety, which the offshore is a leader of in Newfoundland and Labrador, both Hibernia, the oldest facility, and Hebron, our newest facility, had loss-time injury rates of zero in 2018.
With that said, I would like to point out that the Nova Scotia Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Council was appointed in March 2019, and, to my understanding, has been meeting twice a year. The corresponding committee for offshore Newfoundland and Labrador is not yet established. In the best interest of everyone, this should be corrected as quickly as possible.
The international industry monitors the speed of our processes, and protracted delay influences their interest. Continual delay, inconsistent regulation and the ever changing and ever moving goalposts impact decisions to participate and invest in the Canada and Newfoundland and Labrador offshore. We need to overcome these significant hurdles.
In that light, Noia is supportive of efforts to advance and complete this process, and supports Bill S-3, yet, while we need to get this done, it needs to be done right. We do not wish to see a protracted process, but we also do not wish to be back to this process again in short order. I believe the process undertaken by NRCan in the last two months can accomplish just that.
Additionally, we need to ensure that the occupational health and safety regulations we enact now avoid unnecessary duplication with other legislation. Most importantly, we must not lower any standard of health and safety in the offshore.
In essence and to conclude my remarks, Noia supports the completion of this process in a timely manner, one that includes a holistic approach to offshore regulations and considers the demonstrated commitment of the industry to ensure the safety of each and every individual who works offshore in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Thank you, and thank you again for your time.
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View James Maloney Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you very much.
We will move on to Mr. Mercer.
I was remiss at the beginning in forgetting to welcome Mr. Harris.
Thank you for joining us today.
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View Jack Harris Profile
NDP (NL)
View Jack Harris Profile
2021-05-10 11:22
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Thank you, Chair.
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View James Maloney Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Mercer, you have the floor for five minutes.
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Dave Mercer
View Dave Mercer Profile
Dave Mercer
2021-05-10 11:22
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Thank you and good afternoon, honourable members of the Standing Committee.
My name is Dave Mercer. I'm president of Unifor local 2121 and a member of the Newfoundland and Labrador oil and gas industry recovery task force.
On behalf of Unifor members in the energy sector, I would like to thank the members of the Standing Committee on Natural Resources for inviting me again for the second time to comment on Bill S-3, an act to amend the Offshore Health and Safety Act
Unifor represents nearly 800 workers in the offshore oil sector, including members of local 2121 who work on the Hibernia and Terra Nova FPSO. Our members in the offshore industry know first-hand the importance of the sector to the economy of Newfoundland and Labrador and just how much of an impact the COVID-19 crisis has had on workers in this province.
Since the crisis began last spring, more than 400 of our members have been laid off from the oil industry. They are part of a group of thousands of workers who work directly in the offshore oil and gas sector who have been laid off. There are possibly thousands of jobs in the industry and service supply sector that have been lost as well.
From the very start of this crisis, Unifor has tirelessly advocated for measures to kick-start the recovery of the offshore oil and gas industry while ensuring the return of decent, good-paying jobs to the province. The members of Unifor recognize the immense importance of the Offshore Health and Safety Act, which was introduced in 2014 to clarify a maze of offshore regulations, fill in gaps between federal and provincial jurisdictions and to provide offshore workers with the protections that are at least equal to those that exist for onshore workers.
We therefore agree with Senator David Wells—
I'm sorry, can you hear me? Something keeps coming up.
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View James Maloney Profile
Lib. (ON)
We can hear you. We can't see you, though.
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Dave Mercer
View Dave Mercer Profile
Dave Mercer
2021-05-10 11:24
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Okay.
We therefore agree with Senator David Wells that to allow the transitional regulations to lapse at the end of 2020 has been a dereliction of duty by the current federal government, which has had six years to develop and implement permanent regulations. This is particularly the case in light of the tragedies that offshore workers have experienced in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador due to the absence of sufficient health and safety regulations in the past.
All of you are probably familiar with the collective trauma experienced with our communities after disasters such as the Ocean Ranger and Cougar Flight 491 Well, today we're right back where we started. Our members in the offshore sector have worked within a regulatory void for over four months with no occupational health and safety regulations to protect them.
While we understand this is a complicated process to implement permanent regulations, the offshore industry has advanced far beyond where it was in 2014, and it is more important than ever to have updated regulations in place to protect our members. Six years is more than enough time. I'm glad to see that the Senate amended the bill to reflect the idea. This should be the final extension for the deadline, and permanent regulations should be in place by the end of the year. Unifor also supports the requirement that the Department of Natural Resources submit a progress report to the Senate by June 15 outlining a clear implementation schedule.
I urge Parliament to pass Bill S-3 as soon as possible so that the transitional regulations are revived, even if only until the end of the year while permanent regulations are being sorted out. Our members in the offshore industry work in a unique environment with significant safety challenges, and many workers had to lose their lives for the health and safety regulations to get to where they are today.
However, I'll also ask the government to do more to investigate how these regulations can be strengthened as part of the development of permanent regulations to ensure that companies cannot simply shirk their responsibility to conduct preventive maintenance and repairs by pausing operations as they have done during the COVID-19 crisis. In March, Unifor submitted detailed recommendations to strengthen these regulations as part of the stakeholder consultations. Unifor believes that solutions to health and safety issues are best resolved with full participation of workers' health and safety representatives of the joint health and safety committees in all workplace activities related to occupational health and safety. Workers have a right to know about hazards in the workplace. They have a right to fully participate in workplace health and safety, and of course, workers always have the right to refuse.
Because offshore work is so remote, workers are not always protected by the intersection of workplace occupational health and safety inspectors who may be hours or days away. The offshore workplace is one where the internal responsibility system, or IRS, must be strong. We believe that the amendments we are proposing to the regulation enhance the IRS by giving the workplace joint health and occupational...and the worker representatives more tools to work with helping employers solve sometimes very complex safety issues while protecting—
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View James Maloney Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Mercer, I'm going to have to ask you to wrap up if you can, please.
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Dave Mercer
View Dave Mercer Profile
Dave Mercer
2021-05-10 11:28
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I am.
I also want to see the government provide companies with financial and logistical support to conduct this critical work, which would keep some of our members employed and put the industry right back on its footing for a restart. The fact of the matter is that the question of health and safety becomes a moot point for our members in the offshore oil and gas industries if companies simply walk away and decide to lay everyone off. There is plenty of health and safety work that needs to be done, and our members are ready to do it. Let's make sure that this work is completed and that vital health and safety regulations are put in place permanently to protect our workers in the offshore industry.
I will be happy to take any questions and provide further insight into our members' experience in the offshore industry.
Thank you for your time.
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View James Maloney Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Mercer, and to both of our witnesses.
We're going to start with Mr. McLean. We'll go through one round of six-minute questions here, and then we'll move into the second panel.
Mr. McLean, we go over to you.
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View Greg McLean Profile
CPC (AB)
View Greg McLean Profile
2021-05-10 11:29
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Thank you very much.
Thank you both for coming before this committee today. I apologize on behalf of all of the government that we're late in getting to this.
I want to talk about that gap that exists at this point in time, and I'll ask you both. Can you tell me how this four-month gap between when the regulations ended in December 2020 and now, or when we pass this bill—which hopefully will be as soon as possible—is affecting the workers and your industry? I'd like to hear from both of you on that.
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Charlene Johnson
View Charlene Johnson Profile
Charlene Johnson
2021-05-10 11:30
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I can start, Dave, if you want.
In terms of the safety of the workers offshore, I don't see any impact in the interim four months or even until we get to the end of the year. The Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board, which regulates the industry, is in the process of issuing—and it may have done this already—an addendum to each of the offshore operators' authorization basically indicating that each operator must continue to follow the provisions that are contained in the transitional offshore regulations even though they have expired.
CAPP, the Canada Association of Petroleum Producers, actually went above and beyond that and developed six industry best practice documents. They have now become actual codes of practice that the C-NLOPB has adopted.
I'm not fearful for the safety of the offshore workers, but it just comes down to the fact that something as paramount as safety really shouldn't be taking seven or eight years. It's time we get it done and move on. We always look to international best practices. We want the best, most modern safety regulations there are for people working in very remote, harsh environments.
I'm confident that all the safety measures are still in place as per the operation authorities of these operators. It's more, as I said in my opening remarks, just another thing that takes so long to get done in our offshore. Especially when it comes to safety and the offshore, it shouldn't take this long.
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Dave Mercer
View Dave Mercer Profile
Dave Mercer
2021-05-10 11:32
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If I may, I will just jump in here and mirror the image that Charlene was talking about. Yes, the C-NLOPB is in full force there and it is the regulator, but speaking on the members side of it, I can say that it's confusing for them. We had to have meetings with them offshore and explain to them that all of the regulations that were in place should still be in place and that they should always follow up with us if there are any questions for the C-NLOPB or any other questions.
They were kind of confused for the most part because they didn't know if they were left without any at all. For us, it was more for information and to ensure that they knew that somehow they would be covered.
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Charlene Johnson
View Charlene Johnson Profile
Charlene Johnson
2021-05-10 11:32
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If I could—
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View Greg McLean Profile
CPC (AB)
View Greg McLean Profile
2021-05-10 11:33
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Go ahead.
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Charlene Johnson
View Charlene Johnson Profile
Charlene Johnson
2021-05-10 11:33
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I would just add, Mr. McLean, that we were really pleased to see how quickly the Department of Natural Resources was in touch with us following the Senate meeting. We did commit at that time to contacting our members. We will ensure that if there's a 30-day turnaround, we will get you responses in 30 days. It came out quickly; it went back quickly, and we're looking forward to the next round.
In the meantime, while this process is unfolding, there is something that can happen in conjunction that would definitely help in the area of safety, and that is expediting the appointments of qualified candidates for the occupational health and safety advisory council here in Newfoundland and Labrador. As I said, that has been in place in Nova Scotia since March of 2019. I don't see any reason why that needs to be held off as we're going through this process, and it's something that should be done.
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View Greg McLean Profile
CPC (AB)
View Greg McLean Profile
2021-05-10 11:33
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Thank you.
I know these regulations had to go through the provincial legislatures as well, and they didn't seem to receive that much of a delay. Somehow at the federal level it's taken six years since the bill was introduced in Parliament and we're still dealing with retroactive legislation in order to make this pertinent for the period during which it has lapsed.
What's taking the federal government so long when the two provincial governments seemed to get through a little more quickly? Either or both of you can answer.
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Charlene Johnson
View Charlene Johnson Profile
Charlene Johnson
2021-05-10 11:34
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I guess that is the question. I'm not sure. I understand that it was noted back in early 2020 that we should have a draft by March of 2020, consultation take place, and then regulations in effect by the end of 2020.
Now, I'm not sure why two years more than was originally intended would be needed when it was going to be done in eight to 10 months. I would only surmise that Bill C-69 was a major priority at that time. I know it got through in a fairly quick manner, but I guess I can't answer the question.
Whenever we have been consulted, we have been very expeditious about getting back. I understand that the province is doing the same. My understanding is that the minister said they're waiting for this too. I wish I could provide you with more answers, but I don't know.
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View Greg McLean Profile
CPC (AB)
View Greg McLean Profile
2021-05-10 11:35
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Thank you.
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View James Maloney Profile
Lib. (ON)
You have 20 seconds left, Mr. McLean.
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View Greg McLean Profile
CPC (AB)
View Greg McLean Profile
2021-05-10 11:35
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Mr. Mercer, do you have anything to add?
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Dave Mercer
View Dave Mercer Profile
Dave Mercer
2021-05-10 11:35
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Yes. All I'll say is that we were told a long time ago that this would be pretty easy to do and to get done, but it keeps getting pushed ahead and pushed ahead and pushed ahead. When they started it back in February and tried to put something together, everybody who was involved jumped on the bandwagon and tried to push this. I don't see why we're stalling now.
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View James Maloney Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thanks, Mr. Mercer and Mr. McLean.
I'm going to stick very close to the timelines here, guys, so that we can try to get everything in.
Ms. Jones is up next, assuming her headset is working. If it's not, then I believe Mr. Lefebvre will go ahead.
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View Yvonne Jones Profile
Lib. (NL)
View Yvonne Jones Profile
2021-05-10 11:36
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Mr. Chair, I still don't have my headset. IT is working on the remote access to my computer. I may have to pass this to MP Lefebvre.
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View James Maloney Profile
Lib. (ON)
Are you talking through your headset now? I'm hearing you loud and clear.
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View Yvonne Jones Profile
Lib. (NL)
View Yvonne Jones Profile
2021-05-10 11:36
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No. It's not connected. I'm on my iPhone. It's fine, but I don't think it will work for translation.
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View James Maloney Profile
Lib. (ON)
I don't think so either.
Madam Clerk, can you just verify that?
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Hilary Jane Powell
View Hilary Jane Powell Profile
Hilary Jane Powell
2021-05-10 11:36
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Ms. Jones, can I ask you to say a few more words? We'll see if interpretation is able to hear you or not.
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View Yvonne Jones Profile
Lib. (NL)
View Yvonne Jones Profile
2021-05-10 11:36
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Okay. Great.
I'm connected remotely from Labrador west today. We have IT issues in our office. Welcome to the world of technology. I was hoping to be able to participate—
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Hilary Jane Powell
View Hilary Jane Powell Profile
Hilary Jane Powell
2021-05-10 11:37
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You can.
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View James Maloney Profile
Lib. (ON)
That works?
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Hilary Jane Powell
View Hilary Jane Powell Profile
Hilary Jane Powell
2021-05-10 11:37
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Yes. The interpreters have told me that they can make do.
Thank you.
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View James Maloney Profile
Lib. (ON)
All right.
Ms. Jones, you're on for six minutes.
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View Yvonne Jones Profile
Lib. (NL)
View Yvonne Jones Profile
2021-05-10 11:37
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Wonderful. Thank you very much.
First of all, Ms. Johnson and Mr. Mercer, I would like to welcome you to committee today. It's great to have you both here. I know how difficult this past year has been for the industry. I really want to compliment you on the stellar job you've been doing in keeping the industry going in Newfoundland and Labrador, but most of all for supporting so many workers who have been affected by COVID.
I have just a couple of questions. First of all, with regard to the bill, is there anything in this bill that is of tremendous concern to you that you want to make us aware of up front?
Ms. Johnson, I'm wondering if you can clarify for the committee what the jurisdictional issue is with regard to offshore oil and gas exploration and development in Newfoundland and Labrador—whether it's federal and provincial as equal partners or whether either of those partners can act unilaterally in doing what needs to be done within the industry.
I'll leave it at those two questions, Mr. Chair. If there's enough time, I do have some others.
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Charlene Johnson
View Charlene Johnson Profile
Charlene Johnson
2021-05-10 11:38
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I guess the general concern with this bill is that it isn't done yet. In terms of the specific issues, the list is dozens of pages long. I'm not an expert in the specific areas. You'll probably be hearing from the Atlantic director of CAPP, Paul Barnes. The type of feedback that comes to us from our members is around lifeboats, diving, accommodation quarters, lifting of materials on cranes and documentation. It's all-encompassing. As I mentioned, they are already in place. The operators have to abide by the transitional regulations that were in place, but it's just getting this over the finish line to the end-point.
With regard to your question, Ms. Jones, I think you were asking if this can be done unilaterally. My understanding is that it cannot. This is a joint process between the province and the federal government as per the Atlantic Accord act.
Did you have something more specific than that? I'm not sure if I answered your question.
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View Yvonne Jones Profile
Lib. (NL)
View Yvonne Jones Profile
2021-05-10 11:39
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Does this lend itself to two layers of approvals that would have to occur, and is it a more time-consuming and more expensive process? That's one question. As well, how has COVID-19, especially in the early days, affected the industry from an administrative and technical work front? I know there's been difficulty. You spoke about it publicly early on.
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Charlene Johnson
View Charlene Johnson Profile
Charlene Johnson
2021-05-10 11:40
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Yes, my understanding of the way the process works is that the federal government is doing all of the drafting of the regulations, and it is keeping the province informed. My understanding is that there is some consideration for allowing the general public and the province and associations like ourselves to see the draft at the same time. I'm not sure if that is the case. I know that's one of the things being considered by the department to streamline and speed up this process so we can get it done in a year.
As for COVID and its impacts, Dave, you might be able to speak to this more. We've seen, as with everyone and every industry, that many people are pivoting in different ways and it's really advancing things by years that we didn't know could have been done before. There are some great examples because companies have already been focusing on digitalization and moving staff onshore who used to have to be offshore. You may be aware that Exxon have a control centre onshore now. Those are folks who would have had to be offshore before are now home in their beds every night. From the safety perspective, that's positive.
I think some of this got advanced because of COVID. In this sense, some positives come from COVID as well, but just generally, COVID has had a significant impact on our industry because of the reduction in demand for the oil product and then, of course, the resulting reduction in price. I won't get into that here today because that's not about safety, but there's a page long list of deferrals and delays and cancellations that have happened in our offshore that have resulted in the thousands of layoffs Dave referred to in his opening remarks.
Dave, maybe you can get into more specifics about COVID and technology.
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Dave Mercer
View Dave Mercer Profile
Dave Mercer
2021-05-10 11:42
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Thank you.
You were doing a wonderful job on it. You can keep going if you like.
Yes, so to add to Charlene's points, I remember starting in Hibernia back in 1997 and I remember the OIM at the time having a meeting with us and saying that in 20 years' time, this facility wouldn't be the way we saw it, because a lot of the work would be done from onshore. He was right. Things have improved and technology has advanced and ExxonMobil has their own CR set-up now in their office, in their building here in St. John's. Yes, people do get to go home at night, but for the most part, many workers still work offshore. Although technology has changed in that way—
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View James Maloney Profile
Lib. (ON)
I'm going to have to stop you there, Mr. Mercer. I apologize but we have to move to our next questioner.
Mr. Simard, over to you.
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View Mario Simard Profile
BQ (QC)
View Mario Simard Profile
2021-05-10 11:43
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Could you tell me how much time I have left, please?
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View James Maloney Profile
Lib. (ON)
You have six minutes.
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View Mario Simard Profile
BQ (QC)
View Mario Simard Profile
2021-05-10 11:43
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I have a brief question for you, Ms. Johnson.
Does this mean that since December 31, the industry has been regulating itself in matters of health and safety?
Mr. Mercer, my next question is for you. I'd like to understand the distinction between the permanent regulations and what we are presenting as transitional provisions.
Does this mean that the transitional provisions would be inadequate to ensure worker health and safety?
I don't know if you have any specific cases like those. I don't understand why we can't establish permanent regulations. It seems to me that it's taking a long to reach consensus on this matter. Can you explain why?
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Charlene Johnson
View Charlene Johnson Profile
Charlene Johnson
2021-05-10 11:44
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The industry is regulated by the C-NLOPB, who are the ones responsible for issuing that addendum to the operators offshore. My point was that operators are just going to continue with the practices they have as per the transitional regulations. Hence, I wouldn't call if self-regulating. They're still definitely regulated by the C-NLOPB.
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View Mario Simard Profile
BQ (QC)
View Mario Simard Profile
2021-05-10 11:45
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The next question is for Mr. Mercer, but you could answer it too, Ms. Johnson.
I'd like to know what this distinction between transitional provisions and permanent regulations really amounts to.
Does this mean that the transitional provisions are not adequate at the moment to ensure the safety of workers?
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Dave Mercer
View Dave Mercer Profile
Dave Mercer
2021-05-10 11:45
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I think there have to be permanent regulations put in place so that we can make amendments to them, going forward. Why should we have temporary regulations in place and never have them put...? This is taking too long. I certainly believe that having permanent regulations in place would help solidify all of these regulations. If we're going to make any amendments to them, at least we have something sound and factual to make them to. Right now, we don't have any permanent regulations in place. Frankly, our workers' lives offshore depend on the occupational health and safety regulations.
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Charlene Johnson
View Charlene Johnson Profile
Charlene Johnson
2021-05-10 11:46
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Further to that, it's about having clarity. In some of the drafts that we've seen to date—and again, CAPP is more the an expert on this—some of the language that is being proposed for the permanent regulations was duplicative and inconsistent with some offshore regulations. It's about fine tuning all of that and getting it right so that there is extra clarity.
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View Mario Simard Profile
BQ (QC)
View Mario Simard Profile
2021-05-10 11:46
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Would you be prepared to say that management and the union are part of the consensus on your point of view?
Is there a form of consensus on the safety rules that need to be put in place?
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Charlene Johnson
View Charlene Johnson Profile
Charlene Johnson
2021-05-10 11:47
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On the specific regulations, CAPP was working with the business community, and unions, doctors, offshore workers and offshore health and safety committees. I think each one of those would have responded in their respective areas of expertise. I certainly get the sense that there is a lot of consensus among them. I wouldn't want to speak for everyone, but there's nothing that comes to mind with respect to a regulation where one group is at odds with the other. I think there's full consensus that we need to get this done so that we can have the clarity and the consistency for those who are operating and working in our offshore.
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View Mario Simard Profile
BQ (QC)
View Mario Simard Profile
2021-05-10 11:48
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Mr. Mercer, did the union make any particular demands with respect to permanent regulations?
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Dave Mercer
View Dave Mercer Profile
Dave Mercer
2021-05-10 11:48
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I wouldn't say that we hit the mains. When the draft of the occupational health and safety regulations came out, we were able to make comments on it. It was due at the end of March, I believe. We made lots of comments and there were lots of ideas put forward. I'll give you one example. Offshore right now, we have first-aid programs for personnel with injuries—broken arms, broken legs, etc.—but we don't have anything in the regulations that covers mental health. There is no training offshore for mental health, only for first aid, so we wanted to implement and add physical and mental health training for mental illness.
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View Mario Simard Profile
BQ (QC)
View Mario Simard Profile
2021-05-10 11:49
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A person on an offshore platform is there until…
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View James Maloney Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Simard, you only have 10 seconds. I'm going to have to stop you right at the end of that.
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View Mario Simard Profile
BQ (QC)
View Mario Simard Profile
2021-05-10 11:49
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Mr. Mercer, you mentioned mental health.
Generally speaking, when people are on an offshore platform, how long do they have to stay there?
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Dave Mercer
View Dave Mercer Profile
Dave Mercer
2021-05-10 11:49
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Basically, when you go offshore, you go for 21 days; then you're home for 21 days.
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View James Maloney Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, I'm going to have to stop you there.
Mr. Harris, we'll go over to you for six minutes. You'll be the last person asking questions in this panel.
Thank you.
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View Jack Harris Profile
NDP (NL)
View Jack Harris Profile
2021-05-10 11:50
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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?
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Charlene Johnson
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Charlene Johnson
2021-05-10 11:52
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I don't know where the delay lies, so I don't know if we can land that in the hands of the C-NLOPB , or if it's within the federal Department of Natural Resources. I'm not privy to know where those delays lie.
I do know that the C-NLOPB gets accolades around the world from the operators here for their expertise in safety and environment. They're spoken really highly of. However, as you know, Mr. Harris, they are also responsible for things like land sales and maximizing the recovery of the resource, so there was a suggestion to separate the two.
I've been saying for a number of years that we need an entity in this province that focuses solely on maximizing the recovery of the resource just like U.K. Oil & Gas Authority and the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate have done. Maybe that is for the C-NLOPB as well, but with more resources. Maybe it's for somebody else in the C-NLOPB that focuses on safety and environment only.
We don't have a position as to who should do what. It just needs to be done in a manner that safety and the environment are first, and then there is that focus on developing our resources in a timely manner. I say this because when it comes to regulations—not just occupational health and safety, but also numerous other ones—with the time it takes in Newfoundland and Labrador and in Canada, compared with other jurisdictions, we are way behind other jurisdictions. That makes us less competitive.
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View Jack Harris Profile
NDP (NL)
View Jack Harris Profile
2021-05-10 11:54
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Mr. Mercer.
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Dave Mercer
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Dave Mercer
2021-05-10 11:54
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To add to Ms. Johnson's remarks, the C-NLOPB has been doing a great job from the standpoint of protecting the offshore workers, yes, and following the regulations and ensuring that the operators are following them as well. As you can see from when Suncor was shut down, they went in and shut it down because there were violations.
The answer to Mr. Harris's question is that they still need enabling legislation. If there has to be a separate one, let's make a separate one. The fact of the matter is that we have to do whatever we possibly can to make it easier to protect the people in our workplace offshore. If we have to put an independent one in place, then so be it.
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