Bill C-7 (Historical)
An Act to amend the Marine Liability Act and the Federal Courts Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts
This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in December 2009.
John Baird Conservative
This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.
Opposition Motion—West Coast Oil Tanker Traffic
Business of Supply
December 2nd, 2010 / 4 p.m.
Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB
Mr. Speaker, at the end of the day this is going to be a dead deal in terms of the pipeline being built because the tanker traffic is just too risky, based on the route we are talking about, as the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley indicated before.
In addition, the government has changed the Marine Liability Act under Bill C-7, tripling the amount for victims' compensation from $500 million to $1.5 billion. Since insurance is the grease that runs business, when the underwriters for reinsurance companies in London, England, discover how risky this tanker route really is, they are going to refuse to insure these ships.
As an example, for a number of years in Manitoba we had a problem getting ships into the port of Churchill. In that day, the premier and the cabinet had to go cap in hand to London, England to explain to the underwriters why insurance should not be denied. That is the only way we were able to get those ships through. When the underwriters find out how risky this route really is, how risky pipelines are, because pipeline accidents have been hidden over the years, the insurance industry itself will shut down this operation.
November 1st, 2010 / 4:15 p.m.
Chair, Committee on Pollution and the Marine Environment, Canadian Maritime Law Association
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I am speaking to you from Quebec City. I was not able to be with you in Ottawa today.
I would like to thank the committee for allowing me to participate in this session by teleconference.
My name is John O'Connor, and I am the chair of the environmental committee of the Canadian Maritime Law Association.
Unlike some of our colleagues here, the Canadian Maritime Law Association has been around for many years, long before the federal Department of the Environment was commenced. In the marine field, as a matter of fact, one of the more important years was 1967. That was the year of the huge pollution, the very large oil pollution, in Europe that led to an international convention that is enforced today in Canada. This very important convention, which we call the civil liability convention, is enforced in this country. Canada is a member to this convention.
That was in 1967, and we, the Canadian Maritime Law Association, commenced our environmental committee immediately after that accident. We participated with the Government of Canada in the adoption of that convention, or at least in having input into the adoption of that convention, in 1969.
Canada did not join the convention, by the way, until 1989, but we did eventually become a member.
In the meantime, in 1973, Canada put together what was then part XX of the Canada Shipping Act, which was the very first piece of federal legislation in the marine field that had anything to do with civil liability and oil pollution.
Our committee has been around for a long time. I personally have chaired it for many years, and we have spoken to many bills. I must say that today is a fun experience for me. I'm always somehow in the group of the industry people who are usually speaking negatively about bills. Today, to hear all these committees speak positively about it, it's heartening. We too support much of the bill.
Our view is that many of the frustrations and problems that other areas of the environment have encountered are less present than in the marine field. In the marine field, when there is an unfortunate accident, or pollution, it's often very high-profile. The government does not sit back and do nothing. On the contrary, our experience is that not only is the Department of Transport very active but also even the Department of the Environment itself has taken a great interest in marine activities over the years.
Just as reference, you may think of Bill C-15 in 2005 and Bill C-16 in 2009. I was flattered to be asked to speak to those bills in both the House and the Senate, by the way.
I think what I would like to do, in the time I have, is simply underline that our association is in favour of anything that will assist in reducing pollution or improving the environment. The bill, then, certainly is not something we're against. However, there are three points I'd like to raise, because I think there are three flaws in the bill and I just want to bring them to your attention. Perhaps this committee will be able to address some of these problems.
First, you have to understand how the bill is divided. Clause 16 creates the environmental protection action. Clause 19 talks about remedies. Clause 22 talks about a true judicial review under the Federal Courts Act in section 18.1. Finally, clause 23 creates a new civil action.
It's a bit complex, the way they've done it, but I've heard people today talking about “patchwork” application. To my mind, patchwork application means that in different parts of the country there are--or there are not--different pieces of legislation available for use in environmental matters. But patchwork doesn't just mean horizontal. It can also be vertical. The problem we have in Canada is that with all the good faith we have in trying to settle these problems, we have built overlapping levels of legislation. This is a problem that the CMLA has spoken to before.
In other words, we adopted these international conventions, which are very strict and very clear. We tried to create clear and obvious remedies for when environmental problems involve vessels. Then we'd go and adopt Bill C-15 and Bill C-16, which give almost overlapping remedies without any clarity as to whether the convention should overrule or be overridden by the legislation.
I'm sure you know that Parliament is sovereign enough that if it enacts a piece of legislation, the fact that it may have adopted an international convention does not mean that the convention overrules. It's the contrary: Parliament is so sovereign that it can decide not to respect its international obligations, if it wishes.
Our view is that we should have some clarity on how the conventions and the legislation fit together. To do so, we have addressed three points.
The first is in clause 19 of the bill. Where we're talking about the remedies under clause 16, there seems to be something that I personally do not understand. Subclause 19(2) says, “If the Federal Court finds that the plaintiff is entitled to judgment”, it may “(a) suspend or cancel a permit or authorization” of the defendant.
Yet clause 16 clearly states there's only one defendant; ìt's called “the Government of Canada”. The Government of Canada does not hold permits, so I'm wondering how subclause 19(2) fits into the scheme. I think it may be a bit of an oversight, unless I'm misunderstanding something.
My second point has to do with clause 23. Clause 23 creates a civil action. The Canadian Maritime Law Association feels that the civil action that is created in the marine field is not necessary, for the simple reason that we already have civil actions under our CLC, the civil liability convention. Then they added civil actions under the environmental legislation that was amended under Bill C-16 and Bill C-15, notably the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, and the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994, both of which allow a civil action that seems to overlap the CLC action, which is enacted under the Marine Liability Act. Now we're adding a new civil action.
We do not speak out for any environmental section except marine: we don't believe it's necessary to have a new additional civil action in clause 23 for the marine world. But again, we're not speaking about other sectors of the environment.
We noted that subclause 23(3) clearly states that it “is not a defence to a civil action” that the activity was authorized by an act of Parliament or a regulation. This is in contradiction to the Ontario legislation and frankly seems a bit surprising. If there is federal legislation on the table saying you are supposed to or you are enabled to do something, and it somehow comes into a pollution question, at least in the marine field, it's difficult to understand how this would work. You would say that you're going to have someone taking a civil action and that you cannot set up a defence that it's permitted by legislation.
You will also notice that paragraph 23(3)(b) goes on to say “there is no reasonable or prudent alternative”. Unlike other sectors, you can think of certain pollution in the marine field that is unfortunately absolutely necessary. For example, a vessel is unable to have a propeller that's turning unless there is some lubrication of the propeller shaft.
It's provided for in federal legislation that this small amount of pollution is legal. It has to be. Otherwise, the ship would not be able to function Therefore, it's baffling as to how this would work. You would have someone saying you're polluting because of your propeller shaft. We would be saying that it's provided for under the legislation and under the international conventions and someone would say that's not a defence.
With regard to clause 23, we would suggest that it be limited to fields other than the marine field. At the very least, it would seem that subclause 23(3) goes one step too far.
I would like to conclude by talking about international conventions. We've heard people speaking about international conventions this afternoon, and in our submission to Parliament we have added a suggested clause, which is on page 3 of our submission. It's in English and in French. Simply, why not add a clause to this act stating that it is intended to complement our international convention obligations and rights, not to over-ride them? That way we would at least know that Parliament intends to have the international conventions it has adhered have priority over this act.
As a final point, I would like to say--and this is my own error, as I put this together in great speed and haste to try to get it to the committee in time--that on page 2, I refer to sections 54, 55, and 57 of the Marine Liability Act because I was looking at my own handwritten copy. But in fact that was changed with Bill C-7 in 2009 and should read sections 48 and 78. I apologize for that error; it is entirely my own.
The other thoughts I've expressed are those of my committee.
Once again, thank you for the opportunity.
Extension of Sitting Hours
June 9th, 2009 / 10:30 a.m.
Rodger Cuzner Cape Breton—Canso, NS
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join in this debate on the extension of hours. I take the government House leader at his word. I believe he is sincere when he says he is disappointed that he is not able to speak at greater length. However, I did not see that same degree of disappointment on the face of his colleagues.
I think we can frame the debate this way. As a hockey nation, Canada is seized by the playoffs. We are in the midst of the finals right now, and we are seeing a great series between the Detroit Red Wings and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
I know the people in Cape Breton—Canso are watching this with great interest, as Marc-Andre Fleury, formerly from the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, who had a rough night the other night, and Sidney Crosby, from the Cole Harbour area, are still in the thick of things. They are looking forward to seeing the outcome of tonight's game.
I am going to use the hockey analogy. If we look at the last game--and I know the member for West Vancouver is a big hockey nut--with a five to nothing outcome, what the government House leader is asking to do would be similar to Sidney Crosby going to the referee after a five to nothing score at the end of the third period and saying, “Can we play overtime?”.
The die has been cast on government legislation through this Parliament. Pittsburgh did nothing in the first two periods that would warrant any consideration for overtime. Maybe if they had done the work in the earlier periods, they could have pushed for a tie and overtime, but there was nothing done. Certainly there was every opportunity for the government to bring forward legislation, and it missed at every opportunity.
Former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien said, “You know, they never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity”.
If there is such importance now in passing this legislation, we can look back, even to last summer, when every Canadian knew, every economist knew and every opinion rendered then was that we were heading for a tough economic downturn and the Prime Minister took it upon himself, with total disregard for his own law that he advocated and passed, that elections are to be held every four years, to drop the writ and go to the polls in the fall.
During that period, the economy continued to sputter, Canadians lost jobs and hardship was brought upon the people of Canada. It was an unnecessary election. Nonetheless, we went to the polls and a decision was rendered by the people of Canada.
We came back to the House. We thought at that time that the government would accept and embrace its responsibility and come forward with some type of measure that would stop the bleeding in the Canadian economy. We understood that there were global impacts. We felt it was the responsibility of the government to come forward with some incentive or stimulus, a program that would at least soften the blow to Canadians who had lost their jobs.
However, it came out with an ideological update, and it threw this House into turmoil and chaos. I have never seen anything like it in my nine years in the House.
It is not too often that we get parties to unite on a single issue. However, the opposition parties came together because they knew that Canadians would not stand for the total disregard for the Canadian economy exhibited by the government through its economic update. Canadians had to make a strong point.
In an unprecedented move, the NDP and the Liberal Party, supported by the Bloc, came together and sent the message to the government that this was not acceptable, that it was going to hurt our country and hurt Canadians. We saw the coalition come together.
There were all kinds of opportunities for the Prime Minister. The decision he made was to see the Governor General and to prorogue Parliament, to shut down the operation of this chamber, to shut down the business of Canada for a seven-week period. For seven weeks there was no legislation brought forward. If we are looking at opportunities to bring forward legislation, I am looking back at the missed opportunities. That was truly unfortunate.
The House leader mentioned that there has been co-operation. I do not argue that point at all. When the budget finally was put together and presented in the House we, as a party, and our leader, thought the responsible thing was to do whatever we could to help as the economy continued to implode and sputter.
Jobs were still bleeding from many industries in this country. We saw the devastation in forestry. We saw the impacts in the auto industry. People's entire careers and communities were cast aside. Time was of the essence, so we thought the responsible thing was to look at the good aspects of the budget and support them. There was ample opportunity to find fault in any aspect of the budget, and it could have had holes poked in it, but we thought the single best thing we could do was to make sure that some of these projects were able to go forward, that some of the stimulus would be able to get into the economy so that Canadians' jobs could be saved and the pain could be cushioned somewhat.We stood and supported the budget, but we put the government on probation at that time.
We continue to see the government's inability to get that stimulus into the economy. The evidence is significant. The FCM, the mayors of the major cities, premiers of provinces, groups advocating for particular projects for a great number of months are looking for the dollars to roll out and they are wondering when that will be. It is just not happening. There is great concern.
We do know that part of the problem is the Prime Minister's and the government's inability to recognize the severity of the problem. When we look at some of the comments over that period of time that we were thrust in the midst of an election, a TD report, on September 8, 2008, said, “...we believe the global economy is on the brink of a mild recession”. Scotiabank forecasted recessions in both U.S. and Canada.
The Prime Minister was denying it back then and saying there was going to be a small surplus. In November he said we were going to have a balanced budget. Then with the budget, he said maybe there will be a small deficit. With the ability of the Conservatives to calculate and their ability with numbers, we can see how far the government has fallen short, because the week before last we saw that a $50 billion deficit is now anticipated this year.
For the people at home, people who pay attention to these issues, that $50 billion is significant.
Just to get our heads around it, I remember three weeks back there was a very fortunate group from Edmonton who threw their toonies on the table and bought some quick picks and the next day they won $49 million. They won the lottery and that was great. If they were feeling charitable and brought that $49 million to the Minister of Finance to apply to the deficit, and then the next day they bought another bunch of tickets and won another $49 million and gave it to the finance minister, if they were to do that day after day, week after week, month after month, and if we factor in that we do not charge interest on this deficit, it would take 20 years to pay off that $50 billion deficit.
That deficit was supposed to be a small one. Two months before that, it was supposed to be a balanced budget; and two months before that, there was supposed to be a small surplus.
We have done our best. We have worked with the government as best we can to try to get that stimulus into the economy, to try to help generate some kind of economic activity within this country so that jobs can be saved and Canadians can continue to work. We know that we have had some successes here. Some 65% of the legislation put forward by the government has been passed.
We have worked with the government. We supported the war veterans allowance and the farm loans bill. Bill C-25, one of the justice bills, came through here the other day and was passed unanimously on a voice vote. We had Bill C-15 last night and we had the budget.
Regarding extending the hours, disregarding whether it was incompetence or whatever the political reasons and the rationale were to call the election and to shut down government through the prorogation, there were plenty of opportunities to avoid that and bring forward legislation.
I thought the government House leader was generous in his comments last week when he himself recognized in his comments on the Thursday question:
...I would like to recognize that, to date at least, there has been good co-operation from the opposition in moving our legislative agenda forward, not only in this chamber but in the other place as well.
That shocked a lot of people on this side of the chamber.
I want to thank the opposition for that co-operation.
We have certainly done our part over here, but we have great concern about the extension of the hours and the additional costs with that. We think the legislation that is coming forward now in various stages can be addressed during the normal times here. Certainly on this side of the House we want to make this chamber work. We want to make this Parliament work and will do all in our power to do so.
As of last night, seven of eight bills originating in the House, for which the government wants royal assent by June 23, have been sent to the other place.
Bill C-7, on the Marine Liability Act, passed third reading in this House on May 14. The transportation and communications committee in the other place is holding hearings on that now, so that is fairly far down the road.
Bill C-14, concerning organized crime and the protection of the justice system, passed third reading in the House on April 24, and it is in committee right now in the other place.
Bill C-15 just passed third reading. That is on the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
Bill C-16, An Act to amend certain Acts that relate to the environment and to enact provisions respecting the enforcement of certain Acts that relate to the environment, passed third reading on May 13, and committees are already being held in the Senate.
We want to try to continue to work in these last days of the session. Certainly we want to continue to nurture and support the relationship on legislation that we can believe in, that is not totally offensive. In a minority Parliament, sometimes all parties have to put a little bit of water in their wine. We are certainly willing to do that. In our past record we have demonstrated that we are willing to do that and we will continue to do so.
However, we have a great deal of difficulty with regard to the extension of hours. We are not sure about the other two opposition parties, but just judging by the questions that were being posed today, I would think they are probably like-minded in this area and they are concerned about this proposal being put forward by the government.
We will be opposing the extension of the hours, and that is how we will vote on this particular issue.
Marine Liability Act
May 14th, 2009 / 11:35 a.m.
Joe Volpe Eglinton—Lawrence, ON
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Yukon for raising some very important issues in the context of this legislation. There are several, but I will pick up on one of the latter issues, and that is all of that which is resident under the permafrost is under the ice.
My colleague from Yukon has mentioned on several occasions, with respect to this bill and Bill C-3, that it is important to protect the environment and the interests of the aboriginal communities there. I note people in the audience are following this debate attentively. They picked up on that issue as well.
My colleague from Yukon knows very well that one of the issues we attempted to raise with Bill C-7 was that vessels would potentially go through the Northwest Passage. He made reference to the fact that potentially a great number of scientists and geophysicists would look at the latent, vast deposits of petroleum resident in that part of Canada.
For example, the 2008 U.S. geological survey found that 13% of all the untapped, undiscovered petroleum deposits were resident in Canada's Nordic lands under the ice sheets. Further, it found that 30% of the natural gas deposits worldwide were resident off the shore of Yukon and northwest of Nunavut. Indeed, 20% of all liquefied natural gas products were resident in that same place. When we have an environmental accident, where vessels that are not prepared to assume their responsibility travel through these waters, the potential for environmental disaster is huge.
My colleague from Yukon mentioned a moment ago that all such vessels travelling in this area ought to carry a liability of some $2 billion. The bill does not go that far. Could the member elaborate on the relationship between the liability that must be carried by these commercial operators and the environmental requirements of not only the north but all of Canada?
Marine Liability Act
May 14th, 2009 / 10:30 a.m.
Sukh Dhaliwal Newton—North Delta, BC
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak in favour of Bill C-7, which represents some badly needed updates to the Marine Liability Act. These updates are essential in an age when Canada's waterways are becoming some of the most hotly contested in the world.
Whether it concerns land, sea or air, the world has undergone a revolution over the past 20 years with regard to making polluters pay. Responsibility never seems to be properly demonstrated to organizations or individuals until the perpetrators are hit in their pocketbooks.
Bill C-7 would bring Canada into line with several international conventions that have come into effect in recent years.
In British Columbia the threat of accidents occurring as a result of oil tanker traffic is always of great concern.
In terms of oil spills, the Exxon Valdez disaster will remain in our minds forever. It spilled 41 million litres of oil, one-sixth of the oil it carried, and polluted 2,000 kilometres of coastline. Hundreds of thousands of birds, fish and animals died right away, including somewhere between 250,000 and 500,000 seabirds, thousands of sea otters, hundreds of harbour seals and bald eagles, a couple of dozen killer whales, and a dozen or more river otters.
Over the past two years there has been furious discussion in my home province about the validity of the federal government's statement dating back to the early 1970s in regard to a moratorium on oil tanker traffic along the B.C. coast. While I am not going to delve into that particular debate in my speech today, I am going to try to point out that we as a country must be better prepared to mitigate any future incidents should they occur. With this in mind, I am pleased that the first convention this bill would ratify is the Protocol of 2003 to the International Convention on the Establishment of an International Fund for Compensation for Oil Pollution Damage, 1992.
More specifically, this change to the act would provide an additional tier of compensation for damages resulting from the spill of persistent oil, mainly crude oil, from tankers from about $405 million to $1.5 billion per incident. In citing this provision, let me attempt to properly convey the sensitive nature of British Columbia's fragile and pristine coastal areas.
According to Statistics Canada, the total cargo handled at Canadian ports and marinas in 2006 was 466.3 million tonnes. The domestic tonnage handled in 2006 represented 136.2 tonnes. What must also be noted is that these figures do not include vessels that are used for recreation, tourism, or purposes other than cargo transport.
This leads me into the next provision of the bill that is extremely important for British Columbia, namely, the exemption of liability for the marine adventure tourism industry.
Before I talk about this industry and its growth potential, I want to point out one simple fact. All marine adventure tourism operators are required to have a minimum of $1 million in liability insurance, and a certificate of insurance must be delivered prior to a license being issued. This requirement alone is reason enough for operators to be exempted from part 4 of the act. Combine this with the fact that waivers are a standard practice for water-based adventure tourism activities that are inherently fraught with danger, and there are enough guarantees in place to ensure safety associated with that industry.
Operators cannot always be at risk of frivolous claims, particularly with activities where one of the main attractions is the risk involved. The fact is that the west coast of British Columbia provides an unparalleled setting for ecotourism, adventure travel, nature tourism or sustainable tourism. These are currently the fastest growing segments of the tourism industry on the west coast. They present risks, but they also create jobs in British Columbia. By current projections, the estimates for anticipated labour demand in the area of adventure tourism and recreation will be 13,100 workers by 2015. This is nothing to scoff at.
This bill is an indication that Ottawa understands the unique nature and characteristics of operators within marine adventure tourism. This is a substantive bill. Although I have only had time to touch upon a couple of main issues, I would like to make a couple of salient points to conclude.
Bill C-7 represents the culmination of many years of important work that parliamentarians on all sides of the House have engaged in. It is very specific in its amendments to the Marine Liability Act and therefore is very limited in the kind of attention it might garner. However, these are the kinds of amendments that can make industries more globally competitive and more important, protect Canadians from dangers that often only become apparent when it is too late.
This is an important bill. It has been a privilege to stand today to articulate my support for it.
Marine Liability Act
May 14th, 2009 / 10:15 a.m.
Andrew Kania Brampton West, ON
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Newton—North Delta.
I have the honour to speak today to Bill C-7, An Act to amend the Marine Liability Act. I will restrict my comments to the maritime lien that is proposed in clause 139.
I am not a member of the transport committee but I have attended four different meetings. I was a substitute at the first meeting and I noted a serious problem in the legislation, so I came back for three other meetings to see if we could fix it. I proposed amendments specifically with respect to this maritime lien and those amendments were discussed on May 7. I am disappointed to say that the government voted against them so I am here today to explain the situation and ask the Conservatives to reconsider them. However, at a minimum, Canadians need to know that they voted against these proposed amendments and why they did.
Specifically, clause 139, the maritime lien, which is what we call a right, states:
A person, carrying on business in Canada, has a maritime lien against a foreign vessel for claims that arise
(a) in respect of goods, materials or services wherever supplied to a foreign vessel for its operation or maintenance, including, without restricting the generality of the foregoing, stevedoring and lighterage; and
(b) out of a contract relating to the repair or equipping of a foreign vessel.
It is a lot of language but, in short, it means that if a foreign vessel comes into Canada and a person supplies services to it, the person has a right to get paid and attempt to exercise that right against the actual ship.
The next question is whether this right actually does anything for the person. The problem is that it does not because, in most circumstances, that right would be meaningless. Although the person would have the right to get payment, how would the person actually do it because, generally speaking, people will have extreme difficulty trying to get the money?
We need to look at this on a very practical basis. If people are owed $200, $500, $2,000 or whatever it may be, how will they get their money? Although this proposed maritime lien would give people the right to try to get the money, what do they need to do? With the way the current system is written, which has a gap in terms of the remedy, people must sue. Therefore, if there is a foreign vessel in a port that owes people money and it is about to leave, there is nothing people can do about it. If it is from a foreign country, people will need to hire a lawyer and try to sue somewhere even if a judge will accept jurisdiction in a foreign country. This is not a practical right because there is no way to exercise this.
Even if the ship were to remain in Canada, people would need to hire a lawyer, which means money. Whatever the bill may be, whether it is $400, $500, $800 or more, people need to hire a lawyer in order to sue, pay a filing fee and then try to get an order to stop the ship or sell the ship in order to get their money. People would then need to prepare motion material, which means a notice of motion, an affidavit or two and a documentation order, that is assuming they could even find a lawyer who can get it into court. Even if they do find a lawyer who can get into court, they then have to wait. It could be a number of hours and the lawyers charge by the hour. Assuming they could even find a lawyer and even find a judge, they may end up spending a few thousand dollars trying to enforce a debt of a few hundred dollars that is owed. People will not do it.
Once again, I am not on this committee but I kept coming back because I thought this would be better for Canadians. Sections 128 and 129 already have a provision for a designated officer to direct a ship to stop and to issue a detention order if it looks like something untoward has occurred. What that would really mean is that some problems would be solved. First, a ship escaping or leaving Canada would be stopped. Once it is here it would not be able to go anywhere, which means we are preserving that right and that lien.
Second, if a detention order were issued, part of it would say that the foreign vessel must pay a certain amount of money before it could be released. It just keeps the status quo. It keeps it there. The owner can pay the money and go or go in front of a judge, which puts the onus on the foreign vessel owner to actually do something. At least Canadians would be protected.
With the amendments that I proposed, which I am disappointed to say that the Conservatives voted against, ships would be kept in Canada and they would either have to pay or go before a judge. That would skip the first layer of having to actually hire a lawyer and spend all that money.
The Canadian Bar Association had a representative who said that he was opposed to these amendments. I understand that because I am the former secretary of the Ontario Bar Association representing approximately 17,000 lawyers. The job of the Ontario Bar Association and the Canadian Bar Association is to represent lawyers. I am particularly disappointed with the parliamentary secretary, the member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca, who is also a lawyer. He said that he knows how a court works, and I believe him, but he was supporting lawyers. In essence, he said, “You can hire a lawyer, you can pay a lawyer and you can get into court and we'll leave things the way they are”. That means that people who cannot afford a lawyer or people who have very small claims will not have any fair redress. I am very disappointed with that because our job is not to represent a particular constituency group, but Canadians in general. Although I am lawyer, I am here to represent the people of Brampton West and Canadians. I am very disappointed with the government for this.
I would like to read some specific quotes by the parliamentary secretary when he was at the committee on Thursday, May 7. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure gave examples and said, “You've got a large, expensive ship...with a small bill, whatever it may be, owed to Canadians, and I just don't see that as being appropriate”.
In essence, he was siding with the foreign vessels and with the lawyers over Canadian citizens who may be owed money but, for some unfair reason, the foreign vessel has refused to pay them. I do not see that as appropriate for a member of Parliament.
A second quote by the parliamentary secretary reads, “I believe lawyers can be called on a phone--I know I was available most nights until midnight--and can do a lien and find a judge in time to do it, even after hours”.
What he is saying is that we will not be changing the system, we will not be making it better for Canadians and constituents. We will keep it with lawyers. We will keep this as an expensive system even though the amounts in question are so small that either people will not bother and, therefore, will be treated unfairly, or they will not be able to afford to exercise their right. I find that quite disappointing.
The legal counsel for the Department of Transport acknowledges that this change would be something that would be added to the legislation. He says that it would be an element to the way in which a maritime lien is enforced and a positive step to help Canadians and our fellow constituents.
Despite that comment, the parliamentary secretary and the government, for whatever reason, just voted against all of this to defeat what I think would be a very positive change for Canadians.
Although this may seem complicated, it is not. It is as simple as this. There is a new right, a maritime lien under clause 139. There would be no way to practically use this unless there is a substantive change. It just would not happen on an everyday practical basis.
I proposed a substantive amendment that would create a remedy so Canadians could enforce and use this maritime lien. It would help Canadians, who we should be focusing on, and innocent service providers, not advocacy groups, such as the owners of foreign vessels or lawyers. There is nothing wrong with lawyers making a decent living but we can cut out the first step for the benefit of Canadians and still require a court as a second step. This would save money and protect the rights of Canadians.
Marine Liability Act
May 14th, 2009 / 10:15 a.m.
Bernard Bigras Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak today on Bill C-7, An Act to amend the Marine Liability Act and the Federal Courts Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts
This bill affects a number of regions of Canada. I should start by saying that, naturally, the Bloc Québécois is in favour of this bill in principle. This bill follows on the signature by the Government of Canada of the International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage, 2001, as well as the protocol of 2003 to the International Convention on the Establishment of an International Fund for Compensation for Oil Pollution Damage, 1992,
It was high time that the government honoured its international commitments. Not only does integration of these new instruments and principles into federal law guarantee higher compensation to victims of marine accidents, but it will also have positive repercussions on the Canadian compensation fund.
Withdrawing the prohibition for adventure tourism activities to use waivers in order to be exonerated of civil responsibilities toward their passengers is a good thing for us as well. By their very nature, these activities involve a degree of risk that participants must assume. Although this change may at first glance seem to be sufficient, it will be necessary to evaluate its repercussions in committee. The creation of a maritime lien for Canadian ship suppliers against foreign vessels was equally desirable, but again it is essential that it be studied in committee because that will make it possible to determine the scope of this addition and to suggest improvements to it as well.
I will close by stating that the Bloc Québécois is in favour of this bill.
The House resumed from May 13 consideration of the motion that Bill C-7, An Act to amend the Marine Liability Act and the Federal Courts Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the third time and passed.
Marine Liability Act
May 13th, 2009 / 5:10 p.m.
Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT
Madam Speaker, I thank all those who applauded me from across the House. That is very nice. It really speaks to the goodwill that came out of the transport committee in bringing forward the third reading of this bill to amend the Marine Liability Act.
I may not have served as much time as many of my august compatriots on the transport committee but in the time I have been here I did feel that this bill was a good example of parliamentarians working carefully on a bill that had very little partisan aspects to it and very little ideology. It is a pretty straightforward bill that would put into place certain international conventions and then ratify them. These conventions have been around for a very long time in which Canadian law has picked up, in one way or the other, over that time and there are provisions within those conventions.
The bulk of the bill's importance was within the conventions but that did not necessarily translate into the time the committee spent on those particular aspects of it. More of the committee's time was spent on the Adventure Tourism aspect of it and the opportunities for establishing liens against foreign vessels in Canadian waters.
The committee's work should be applauded by all members of the House because it does represent good work together. However, it is not like this committee does this all the time. We have differences. Quite clearly, the debate that took place over Bill C-9, the amendments to the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, showed that when the issues are controversial and they speak to differences in ideological direction on the committee there will be a healthy debate and a strong presence by all parties.
The functioning of the committee is good but this is a committee that is also in charge of infrastructure. What I have seen here on the committee is a failure to deal with infrastructure issues. We saw that quite clearly with a vote at the last committee meeting on a motion brought forward by a Liberal member to examine right away the aspects of the infrastructure stimulus moneys that had been put forward in the budget. The motion was defeated because there was a reluctance on the part of two of the parties to deal with a very important part of parliamentary business, for which this committee is responsible. The committee has a responsibility to Canadians to ensure that the work that is going on under the infrastructure stimulus program is well understood and well expressed in the committee.
I find that these types of issues sometime need to come back to Parliament as well. We need to have exposure of what we are doing on the committee in order for the committee to work properly and for individual members on the committee representing their parties to understand that there is are reactions to the positions they take.
I was quite willing to accept that with Bill C-9. I had to come and stand up again in Parliament to debate amendments to try to bring sense to the bill as I saw it. I exposed the workings of the bill because I considered it inappropriate but I suffered the consequences in the vote and did not get what I wanted. Nonetheless, the House understood what was going on in the committee and it understood what was happening with the bill, which is a better situation for everyone. Infrastructure is important and I hope the committee will come around, as it has come around with Bill C-7, to work on the issues that are important and in front of the committee.
I mentioned earlier that two aspects of the bill were under some degree of scrutiny and that they were clearly understood by the committee as to their impact on citizens in Canada. The impact of ratifying conventions when enormous sums of money may or may not be utilized for the purposes of cleaning up oil spills or other types of pollution that occur in waterways was probably not that well understood by the committee and we simply accepted the good advice that came from a variety of witnesses and experts in international law who gave us the assurance that these larger issues matched up to what was good for Canada.
There is background to this. In May 2005, Transport Canada put forward a marine law reform discussion paper in which many of the points in the bill were brought out so that the legal communities had many years to take a look at it and understand what was happening with the larger conventions.
When it comes to the smaller issues, such as Adventure Tourism, there were many more grounds for improvement in the bill and the government, in bringing forward a number of amendments, admitted that, which was a good step forward. We have come to a better understanding of how Adventure Tourism waivers will work in the system and how this bill would enhance the ability of the industry, which is not a huge industry and a very seasonal industry.
I understand the Adventure Tourism industry because in my hometown of Fort Smith, Northwest Territories, we have probably one of the largest whitewater rivers in Canada with class six rapids. For many years we had Adventure Tourism with rubber rafts on that river but the nature of the risk involved with these rubber rafts, bringing people in and putting them on the river, made the business of Adventure Tourism very difficult and expensive to operate.
Adventure Tourism is not a gold mine of opportunity and the cost of insurance is a drag on the system. The opportunity to use waivers to allow people to engage in Adventure Tourism is with the understanding that they take on the risk themselves for the activity that they are involved in as long as the operator provides a certain measure of safe conditions, equipment, professional conduct and trained guides. When those are in place, the waivers are acceptable and there is a prior understanding by the people involved in the Adventure Tourism that the waivers are something they can either accept or not participate in the activity. They have that knowledge prior to showing up at the river's edge with their families for the Adventure Tourism opportunity.
All of those things were discussed. We went through them in detail in committee and heard from many witnesses and I think we came to a satisfactory solution on Adventure Tourism. However, this would be the third attempt by Parliament to come to grips with it. There was a law in place prior to 2000, then another law was put in place in 2000 and now we have another law in 2009. This subject is not perfect and will not likely to be perfect but it is the third iteration of the understanding of the nature of the liability that Adventure Tourism operators take on.
This subject is not perfect, and not likely to be perfect, but this is the third iteration of the understanding of the nature of the liability that adventure tourism operators take on. We worked on it and I think in all conscience all parties tried to come to a good understanding on this issue.
Then we took on another issue that was controversial, and a number lawyers were present to debate this with us. This issue was the nature of maritime liens and whether maritime liens, as outlined in the bill, would be effective to ensure Canadian suppliers would get their money out of foreign boats before they escaped to the high seas.
There was considerable debate on this. There was a sense that if we gave it to the lawyers, it might not be good enough because lawyers might not be available, their fees might be too high, the timing might not work right and the foreign vessel would escape Canadian waters and the Canadian supplier would be out the dollars for whatever type of provision had been given to the boat. There were differences of opinion on it, but they were differences of opinion that were primarily technical. They were not going to stop a ship supplier from putting a lien against a boat. They might make it a little more difficult, they might make it expensive, but it was there for the ship supplier to do it.
This was the compromise we finally achieved in putting the bill forward to Parliament. My Liberal colleagues made valiant presentations about the nature of the lien and the nature of work of lawyers, and I thank them for that. The Liberal Party is well supported by lawyers. They like those intricate details of how these things work. I appreciate the work they did. I think we have came to a solution on that one.
The bill is now before us. The good work of the transport committee in agreeing to put the bill forward, with the unanimous support for it at the end, suggests it should pass through Parliament just like a foreign vessel slipping out of Canadian waters without paying its bill.
We are not at the end of debate at the transport committee. We saw this in the previous Parliament when the safety management system in the bill to amend the Aeronautics Act was fought tooth and nail by my party, and to good success. We kept it from coming back and being foisted upon the Canadian public in a fashion that it could have been without the hard work of the New Democratic Party. We stood day after day and debated the issue to ensure it did not go forward.
That kind of work will continue in the transport committee when the occasion requires it. At this point in time, though, we can be congratulatory and we can be happy about the work we have done. Parliament now has the opportunity to move forward in a consensual fashion with the Marine Liability Act.
Marine Liability Act
May 13th, 2009 / 4:40 p.m.
Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on behalf of the Bloc Québécois to speak to Bill C-7, An Act to amend the Marine Liability Act and the Federal Courts Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.
During the few minutes I have to speak, I would like to take the time to go over the entire bill in order to ensure that our viewers have a clear understanding of this bill.
First of all, our party will be supporting this bill.
I would like to read part of the summary, which can be found on the first page of the bill, after the title:
This enactment amends Parts 3 and 4 of the Marine Liability Act to clarify certain rules of the limitation of liability of owners of ships for maritime claims and liability for the carriage of passengers, in particular the treatment of participants in adventure tourism activities.
The articles affected by this bill relate directly to liability and insurance. The bill limits the liability of shipowners in cases of maritime claims. This is a rather complicated text for shipowners. Among other things, it limits them to 2,000 units of account, because before the change, certain excesses in applying the act forced the industry to appeal to the government, asking that the legislation conform to international standards. That is the purpose of this bill.
The same applies to “liability for the carriage of passengers, in particular the treatment of participants in adventure tourism activities”. The act was amended in 2001, and all passenger carriers were required to have insurance. The Marine Liability Act makes shipowners liable and requires them to have insurance.
Shipowners wanted their claims limit to be the same as the international standard, so one sector in particular, the adventure tourism sector, approached the government. The sector has been having major difficulties since the amendments to the Marine Liability Act, which I mentioned earlier, came into force in 2001. Given the requirements for insurance and coverage, the premiums got so high that businesses had to close their doors or operate without insurance, becoming outlaws.
That is pretty hard to understand, unless we realize that adventure tourism operators are often small and medium-sized businesses. I will try to explain because I am not sure that all of the committee members have understood.
In his speech, the minister said that discussion of these amendments began in 2003. A committee considered the matter in 2005. The reason things are not any further ahead in 2009 is that we have had minority governments. It started back in the days of the Liberals, and the government has not had a chance to amend the bill.
The industry was under pressure from insurance companies, and their sky-high insurance rates were adjusted. Earlier, one of our NDP colleagues said that prices fluctuated in the insurance industry. Oddly enough, premiums have gone down this year because this bill is before the House. That is a fact. Faced with the fact that this bill will not apply to adventure tourism, insurance companies have finally talked to each other and decided to stop that kind of exploitation, which is exactly what it was. In terms of accidents, it has been shown that there are far fewer accidents related to adventure tourism than to waterskiing and downhill skiing, for example.
Adventure tourism covers river rafting operations, but some Niagara-based businesses take their clients right up to the falls.
We now have adventure tourism. I am smiling because I am a notary and sometimes we joke with our lawyer colleagues. One of the lawyers was saying that when he goes on an adventure tour, he wants to be safe. He wants to be on a boat that he knows is insured. He said he had gone on a whale-watching expedition. There are some on the St. Lawrence. Adventure tours now use small vessels for whale-watching, the same kind of boat used for river rafting. They can get closer to the whales but the risk is greater. There is a market for such expeditions. Some people like to take greater risks. If the lawyers do not wish to take risks, they can go on the big cruise ships, which carry insurance. Those who want a bit more excitement and adventure will take the smaller boats and try to get closer to the whales. That is the reality.
I was not referring to my colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin because taking risks does not bother him. I have seen his photographs and he is not afraid to get close to the animals. He went on a photo safari and you have to be careful when you get close to the animals.
Adventure tourism is a growing market. We know that Quebec is lucky to have hundreds of thousands of bodies of water, lakes and beautiful rivers. There are many small and medium-sized companies in this sector and the lawyers mentioned that in Quebec many companies do not have insurance. They do not have the money to pay for the insurance. However, there is a market for this type of tourism and this bill addresses the situation. It excludes adventure tourism from this requirement, but not just haphazardly.
We must take the time to read section 37.1 of the act, on page 5 of the bill, which states:
This Part does not apply to an adventure tourism activity that meets the following conditions:
(a) it exposes participants to an aquatic environment;
(b) it normally requires safety equipment and procedures beyond those normally used in the carriage of passengers;
Of course, if the rafts go close to the whales or people go downriver in speed boats, passengers wear rescue belts and get some training before beginning the activity so that they are aware of the danger. People can always decide not to go if they do not want to. The operators have measures in place. The same clause also says that:
(c) participants are exposed to greater risks than passengers are normally exposed to in the carriage of passengers;
Yes, there are whale-watching excursions on bigger vessels on the St. Lawrence. People who do not want to take any risks go on those boats. Those boats have insurance. There is no problem. However, people who do want to take more risks are aware that they have to take more safety precautions. They have to wear their life jackets, which is not the case with cruise ships or day boats. I will read the next part of the clause:
(d) its risks have been presented to the participants and they have accepted in writing to be exposed to them;
All participants have to sign a document saying that they understand the risks and will not hold the operator responsible in case of an accident. The bill continues:
(e) any condition prescribed under paragraph 39(c).
This is about mandatory training, a short preparation course. That is how it works. It is not true that some people will not be covered. There are requirements. I think that people who have signed the document are aware that the activity requires more safety precautions because they are required to wear life jackets at all times. Sometimes things are done differently than on cruise ships or day boats. These people know that they are participating in adventure tourism and that if a serious accident happens, which nobody wants, after they have signed the waiver, they cannot sue the operator.
Of course, I can understand that people who do not take part in such activities will be thinking that they will end up not being covered by insurance if they are on a cruise ship. That is not what it is all about. We are talking about activity that is far closer to the aquatic environment. That is the reality. Think of white water rafting, but also of boats that go close to falls, like the ones at Niagara Falls. People want to see them up close, as close as possible, and things can go wrong.
It is the same thing when a person goes out whale-watching in an inflatable, in order to be able to get as close as possible. There have been reports on this. We have to respect aquatic life, but this is far closer than a person can get with a cruise ship or a day boat in order to observe marine life. We could name other similar activities. Those watching can surely think of a lot of other activities that take place on water.
When we are engaged in this type of activity, adventure tourism, and we have to sign a waiver in case of accident, i.e. something indicating that the operator will not be held responsible, we always have the choice of just not going. We have a choice not to take part in this activity, to say that we are not prepared to take responsibility on ourselves for what might happen. That does not mean we are unfriendly, and the operator will understand that. It is a reality, but we cannot prevent an industry from developing, especially in Quebec with all its waterways. There is such potential, and operators have succeeded in developing a clientele.
I might add that the young generation—which I hope I can still count myself as part of—wants a little more excitement in their lives and their activities. There is a whole generation of skateboarders and wakeboarders, and I know my colleagues have said how dangerous this is. People get hurt all the time doing water skiing and wakeboarding. I have a lakeside property and I know that. These, of course, are private properties and people who engage in these sports are responsible for their activities.
At present, there is real potential for activities that are much more participatory than passive, in other words, involving sitting and watching. Some people prefer to get more involved. We must recognize that. When legislation forces businesses to insure themselves, it is like winning the lottery. Insurance companies tell themselves that the legislation will force people to pay, either to their company or to another. They are charged so much that they cannot even operate, grow or even make a profit.
Of course, this bill addresses more than just that. I will continue reading from the summary, which can be found before the first page, and I quote:
It also amends Part 6 of that Act to implement the Protocol of 2003 to the International Convention on the Establishment of an International Fund for Compensation for Oil Pollution Damage, 1992 as well as the International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage, 2001. The enactment continues, in Part 7, the Ship-source Oil Pollution Fund and modernizes its governance.
I am sure we all remember the Exxon Valdez disaster off the coast of Alaska, which of course had certain repercussions for Canada. In order to avoid another situation like that, it is important that the oil pollution fund, created in Canada, is well funded, that enough money is collected, that the fund is properly governed and of course, that it is modernized to conform to international standards under the 2003 international protocol. This will allow us to renew it.
As I said, studies were conducted in 2005 and the industry had no criticisms in this file. Both the legal community and the industry agree. This file suffered too many delays to be passed quickly. Both the Liberals and the Conservatives have been dragging their feet on this. They could have passed it quickly, but no, they delayed until 2009.
We have to modernize this fund, because we never know what sort of accident could happen. No one wants oil pollution. The Conservative government is looking at developing the Arctic. There is ice and there is the Northwest Passage. A lot is happening in this regard. But there could also be oil and fuel spills and shipwrecks.
We are taking more and more risks, and that always surprises me. There should be ice in the Northwest Passage. If people were really thinking about their children and grandchildren, the rest of Canada would have done as Quebec has done for a long time: it would have tried to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and complied with the Kyoto protocol. Then we might not be talking today about developing the passage through the Arctic for marine traffic. We would be talking about a good sheet of ice, a good ice floe. That would be good for us, for our children, for our grandchildren and for future generations. That is not what the Liberals started. They started making the ice melt in the north. The Conservatives have picked up where the Liberals left off, and they think that everything is great. That is a fact.
This is what happens when we do not take action to reduce greenhouse gases and we always say that it is not our fault and that things are worse elsewhere. We blithely talk about running ships through ice floes. And we create funds because there could be oil spills. The government is not developing the north and the Arctic for the sake of the people there, despite what it would have us believe. In fact, it is because of the undersea oil there. That is the real reason. There is a reason why the Russians are trying to take some of our land. While this is going on, we have to stand up.
As I said, if Canada had fought to reduce greenhouse gases, there would be nothing but ice in the Arctic and we would not be discussing this today. One day, people who are fed up will pass judgment on the Conservatives and the Liberals. Their children and grandchildren will tell them that when they were in the House of Commons, they did everything they could to despoil the planet.
Fortunately, the Bloc Québécois is Quebec's conscience in this House, At least, the written record will prove that we warned them. That, too, is a fact.
And now for the last part of the bill. Part 8 includes:
—general provisions relating to the administration and enforcement of offences under that Act and creates a maritime lien for Canadian ship suppliers against foreign vessels and establishes a general limitation period for proceedings not covered by other limitation periods.
This has given rise, once again, to debate between the legal community and the industry on the maritime lien, although not necessarily on the need for one, but on its implementation and the text that was tabled. The request was made by our Quebec and Canadian suppliers.
The United States has a lien. Some Canadian vessels must be repaired or may wish to obtain or purchase services or goods from American suppliers. If they do not pay, a lien is created and the ship can be seized. That is not the case in Canada. It does not apply to American vessels that arrive here. If our suppliers were not paid, there would be no way of asserting our rights or creating a lien on the ship. Canadian shipowners told us that we needed this legislation to be fair but that our Canadian vessels should not be covered by this legislation. We are asking for reciprocity with the United States. Having said that, we did not reach an agreement.
I will read the applicable clause of the bill because it is not that long. This is what clause 139 says about a maritime lien:
139. (1) In this section, “foreign vessel” has the same meaning as in section 2 of the Canada Shipping Act, 2001.
(2) A person, carrying on business in Canada, has a maritime lien against a foreign vessel for claims that arise
(a) in respect of goods, materials or services wherever supplied to the foreign vessel for its operation or maintenance, including, without restricting the generality of the foregoing, stevedoring and lighterage; or
(b) out of a contract relating to the repair or equipping of the foreign vessel.
My colleague for Manicouagan is quite aware of this because he spends his time in such ports as the ones in Sept-Îles or Baie-Comeau. Thus—