An Act to amend the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in December 2009.

Sponsor

John Baird  Conservative

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992, in order to enhance public safety — the safety of human life and health and of property and the environment.

The main amendments fall into two categories: new security requirements and safety amendments. These amendments include the following:

(a) requirements for security plans and security training;

(b) a requirement that prescribed persons must hold transportation security clearances to transport dangerous goods, and the establishment of regulatory authority in relation to appeals and reviews of any decision in respect of those clearances;

(c) the creation of a choice of instruments — regulations, security measures and interim orders — to govern security in relation to dangerous goods;

(d) the use of industry emergency response assistance plans approved by Transport Canada to respond to an actual or apprehended release of dangerous goods during their transportation;

(e) the establishment of regulatory authority to require that dangerous goods be tracked during transport or reported if lost or stolen;

(f) clarification of the Act to ensure that it is applicable uniformly throughout Canada, including to local works and undertakings;

(g) reinforcement and strengthening of the Emergency Response Assistance Plan Program; and

(h) authority for inspectors to inspect any place in which standardized means of containment are being manufactured, repaired or tested.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

  • March 25, 2009 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
  • March 23, 2009 Failed That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following: “Bill C-9, An Act to amend the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992, be not now read a third time, but be referred back to the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities for the purpose of reviewing Clause 5.2 with a view to reviewing the procedures on security clearances.”.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992
Government Orders

March 23rd, 2009 / 3:15 p.m.
See context

Fort McMurray—Athabasca
Alberta

Conservative

Brian Jean Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, it is with absolute pleasure that I rise today to address the House at third reading of Bill C-9, An Act to amend the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992.

An amended Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act will give us the proper mechanism to prevent and appropriately respond to security incidents during the import, handling, offering for transport and transport of dangerous goods, just as is currently done for safety incidents.

The bill before us today is the result of extensive consultations with the public, industry, unions, first responders, and provincial and territorial governments. I am very happy to say that the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities also conducted a thorough study of Bill C-9. We heard from a variety of stakeholders, including representatives from industry and unions, such as the Teamsters and the Canadian Trucking Association. I can say with certainty that all of the witnesses who appeared before the House committee strongly supported this bill and indicated that it was very necessary at this particular time.

Some witnesses talked about potential technological research and innovation that may actually provide long-term security solutions to help, for example, track the movements of dangerous goods. Others spoke strongly on the need for Bill C-9 and their belief that it is essential to have an effective security program in Canada. We in this government also believe it is very important to have the security of Canadians as our first priority.

The industry stakeholders supported the bill's security prevention and response program, including a security clearance program, especially one in which one single background check is accepted by our trading partners, such as the United States and others, for all transport workers. This bill, along with the work currently done in Transport Canada with our North American partners, that is, Mexico and the United States, will enable us to do just that.

Other witnesses spoke about the important role a safe, secure and efficient transportation of dangerous goods program plays in the Canadian economy and the good-paying industry jobs it provides. Many people in Canada work in this industry. In fact, in 2007 total dangerous goods sales in Canada were estimated to be about $50 billion. That is right, $50 billion, a great sum. Canadian chemical sales accounted for $36 billion of the aforementioned total. Of the Canadian chemicals sales in 2007, 75% of the sales were to international markets. Exports to the United States rose by 17% while offshore exports rose about 29%. This is a growth industry which is very important to the Canadian economy.

Today there are over 26 million commercially available chemicals being sold around the world and over 46 million organic and inorganic substances registered with the Chemical Abstracts Service of the American Chemical Society. Growth in the registration of new chemicals continues exponentially. Add to that, in Canada there are over 30 million dangerous goods shipments made every year. These shipments are absolutely critical and vital to communities nationwide.

Some of the chemicals enable, for instance, municipalities to provide safe drinking water to their citizens, doctors to provide their patients with access to vital and important nuclear medicines, manufacturers to produce plastics that are used in our clothes, homes, cars, boats and cottages, and everyday Canadians, on those beautiful summer days, to cook their favourite meals on their backyard propane or gas barbecues. That is one of my personal favourites.

The Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act is criminal law and has serious consequences as a result. It applies to all matters relating to the importation, handling, offering for transport, and the actual transportation of dangerous goods. Provincial legislation addresses mostly local transportation on highways. The federal regulations, which are multi-modal, are adopted in one manner or another by each province and territory. It is a cooperative effort, and this government works in cooperation with our other partners in the provinces and territories. The current act and regulations are enforced by federal and provincial inspectors.

The Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act provides the federal government with the authority to develop policy, to verify compliance, to conduct research to enhance safety, to guide emergency response, and to develop regulations and standards to manage risk and promote public safety during the transportation of dangerous goods.

An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure, and we are working at the start instead of just the end. Before a shipment can be made, the person who offers for transport or imports the dangerous goods must, and I repeat must, submit an emergency response assistance plan to the transportation of dangerous goods directorate. These plans are reviewed by experts and if they are satisfied that the plans would be able to appropriately respond to an emergency, they are approved.

There are currently about 1,000 approved emergency response assistance plans that industry uses to respond to accidental release of dangerous goods. These important emergency response assistance plans assist local emergency responders by providing them access to 24-hour technical experts and specialized equipment in the event of an incident involving dangerous goods.

The plans are required to explain how specialists and other personnel with knowledge, equipment and skills will be available to respond following an incident involving their dangerous goods.

Prior to the changes put forward in Bill C-9, these plans would not be available to governments or first responders should there be a security incident involving dangerous goods. That is right; prior to these changes these plans would not be available.

These new changes will enhance public safety, and most Canadians would agree, by enabling a response to a terrorist incident involving dangerous goods just like that of an incident following an accident. In addition, the bill will enable the government to authorize a person with an approved emergency response assistance plan to implement the plan in order to respond to an orphaned release of dangerous goods when the identity of the responsible person is not known. This is important.

In committee we heard from industry that it supports the use of its emergency response assistance plan to respond following a government request to security incidents involving dangerous goods.

Industry testified that it sought recovery of its costs associated with response and that the government provide indemnity protection during the requested response time. This is important for the industry because those costs can be prohibitive in some cases. This is what Bill C-9 does and this is why industry supports it so strongly.

There was a lot of discussion in committee about the important and new security prevention program proposed in Bill C-9. The prevention program includes: requiring security plans and security training; providing the authority for transportation and security clearances for the dangerous goods, as well as an appeals process; providing for interim orders and security measures; authorizing regulations to be made to require that dangerous goods are tracked during transport; and authorizing regulations to be made to require that dangerous goods be reported if they are lost or stolen during their importation, their handling, their offering for transport, or their transport. These are five very important provisions to keep Canadians safe.

Bill C-9 would provide the authority to establish performance regulations for security plans and training based on international and United Nations recommendations and aligned with existing U.S. regulations. It would also enable regulations to be made to establish security requirements for tracking dangerous goods as well as regulations to be made to require companies to report lost or stolen dangerous goods.

In August 2005 the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users, or better known as SAFETEA-LU, came into force in the United States. This act requires commercial motor vehicle drivers licensed in Canada or licensed in Mexico transporting dangerous goods into and within the United States in truckload quantities to undergo a background check, much like the security clearance we proposed. These are similar to those required for United States truck drivers transporting truckload quantities of dangerous goods in the United States. Quite frankly, it makes sense.

Canadian drivers are currently satisfying these provisions if they have been accepted into the free and secure trade, FAST, programs of the Canada Border Services Agency and the U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection. However, the United States still expects Canada to implement a long-term solution. This government has a long-term vision and long-term solutions for the best interests of Canadians. The bill before us today will provide the authority to establish the long-term solution by establishing a transportation security clearance program.

There was much discussion in committee on this component of the prevention program. Industry and union representatives all indicated a preference for a Canadian program, one where an appeal application and appeal are done in Canada as the preferred clearance program. This is what Bill C-9 provides. This is what industry wants and it is what we are delivering for Canada, a Canadian program.

We also heard from witnesses that with the upcoming Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics there is a strong need for Bill C-9. An amended Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act will provide the right tools to support a safe and secure Olympic games. This is important for Canada on the world stage.

Witnesses spoke to the committee specifically on the importance of passing this legislation as quickly as possible so that Canadians can be protected should Canada be a target before, during, or after the Olympics of a security incident using dangerous goods. With the passage of Bill C-9, government, acting on intelligence provided by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police or the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, would be able to use immediately the emergency regulatory instruments in Bill C-9, the use of interim orders and security measures, to prevent an incident during the transportation of dangerous goods.

They would also be able to provide help to first responders during the response to a terrorist incident involving dangerous goods using industry's Transport Canada approved emergency response assistance program, again a Canadian-made program for Canadian interests. Canada has a strict and vigorous dangerous goods program, one that was built primarily on preventing safety incidents during the transportation of dangerous goods, but also covering responses to actual or anticipated releases of dangerous goods.

With the passage of an amended Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, public safety will be enhanced through the inclusion of a world-class security prevention and response program to the existing safety program. This is important. These enhancements are important to keep Canadians safe.

In conclusion, Bill C-9 is extremely important for the promotion and enhancement of public safety. In fact, our international and domestic partners have been waiting for these changes for some time.

I commend the committee on bringing this bill forward as quickly as possible. I encourage all members to vote to pass this bill so that our colleagues in the other place can start the process of reviewing this bill without delay and we can get one step closer to this very important bill becoming law. Together we can take one step further to protect Canadians and Canadian interests.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992
Government Orders

March 23rd, 2009 / 3:35 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Newton—North Delta, BC

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-9, An Act to amend the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992.

The Liberal Party is committed to assuring and improving the safety and security of all Canadians. It was the Liberal government that initiated a series of studies in 2002 and consultations in 2004 in order to lead to the proposed legislation we have before us today. We are glad that the Conservative government is finally bringing forward the proposed amendments to the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992.

Canadians are at risk every day from accidental exposure to dangerous goods. In fact, two train derailments involving dangerous goods, one in Winnipeg and one east of Toronto, occurred just this weekend.

Each year roughly 30 million shipments of dangerous goods occur in Canada. This means that approximately once every second a dangerous good is being transported. Our current system is good, and there is no suggestion here that we should be overly alarmed. However, we live in a very different world today than we did when this bill was originally written.

In committee, Liberal members examined the proposed legislation to see if it accomplished the following five objectives. First, does it reinforce the existing emergency response assistance plan systems? Second, will it require security training and screening for all personnel who are handling and transporting these dangerous goods? Third, since this is enabling legislation, how will the regulations that would follow improve the safety and security of workers and the public? Fourth, will the amendments in the legislation give us a clearer handle on the companies, products, and associated security protocols that move dangerous goods around the country? Finally, the fifth objective, will the enforcement of this legislation be consistent throughout the entire country, east-west, north-south? As a result, will it be uniform in its application and its demands for all shippers and transportation companies?

From our perspective, the most important issue is to make sure that we have qualified people handling these shipments of dangerous goods. It is not the transportation of dangerous goods itself that poses a public risk. Rather, it is the people who are involved in the transportation of these goods where our attention must be focused.

We must know that all individuals involved in transporting these goods are qualified, that they are appropriately trained, screened, and capable of dealing with emergencies should there be an accident.

We also must know that companies involved in transporting dangerous goods have foolproof systems in place to track the goods, remembering that approximately once every second a dangerous good transportation is being sent out.

The proposed legislation will require security training and screening of personnel working with dangerous goods. However, the exact regulations and requirements will not be known until the government moves to bring them forward.

In committee, we heard from witnesses who had concerns and views about the regulations that would stem from the proposed bill.

The Teamsters made it very clear that workers who would require security clearances be treated fairly and with sensitivity and that the regulatory framework respected their rights.

The Canadian Trucking Alliance expressed concerns about the costs and overlaps involved in the proposed requirements for transportation security clearances and for security plans and security training.

AC Global Systems, from my home province of British Columbia, is working with the Transportation Security Administration in the United States on future regulations. It suggested that Canada develop a parallel tracking system for hazardous materials shipments, including the mandating of vehicle shutdown technology and driver authentication technology.

Finally, L-1 Identity Solutions suggested that Canada use fingerprinting technology to screen the prospective haulers of dangerous goods.

All the witnesses brought great depth and value to the committee considerations. It is striking that most of the discussion related not to the legislation being considered, but rather to the future regulations that this legislation would enable.

The potential controversy with the proposed legislation lies in the regulations that will be revealed in the future.

We were pleased therefore that the Liberal amendment to the bill, that the transport committee be mandated to review future regulations made under the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, was passed in the committee stage of the bill.

We will lead the charge in scrutinizing and studying each and every regulation that stems from the bill to ensure that our national safety and security and our individual rights are defended with equal vigour.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992
Government Orders

March 23rd, 2009 / 3:50 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-9, An Act to amend the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992. We will be looking at this bill together. However, we should look at its history and remember how, in this Parliament, it takes time to adopt a bill that has unanimous support across Canada and, above all, which has had the full support of Quebec since 2002.

My Liberal colleague was quite right: the Liberals introduced the bill in 2002, there were consultations in 2004 and, since then, a series of elections have prevented passage of the bill. The Liberal government elected in 2004 lasted about 18 months. Although they introduced the bill, it was not a national emergency. The Liberal government did not do everything it could to move this bill forward.

An election was called and the Conservative government came to power. It was not a national priority for it either. In the Conservatives' first term, from 2006 to 2008, it was not urgent. Thus, the bill did not go through all the stages.

The Conservative government was re-elected and it seemed that it wanted to move the bill forward because, as some colleagues pointed out, it had the support of all provinces and territories. The transportation of dangerous goods is an urgent matter that we must deal with.

I will take this opportunity to read Bill C-9's summary, which states:

The main amendments fall into two categories: new security requirements and safety amendments. These amendments include the following:

(a) requirements for security plans and security training;

(b) a requirement that prescribed persons must hold transportation security clearances to transport dangerous goods, and the establishment of regulatory authority in relation to appeals and reviews of any decision in respect of those clearances;

(c) the creation of a choice of instruments — regulations, security measures and interim orders — to govern security in relation to dangerous goods;

(d) the use of industry emergency response assistance plans approved by Transport Canada to respond to an actual or apprehended release of dangerous goods during their transportation;

(e) the establishment of regulatory authority to require that dangerous goods be tracked during transport or reported if lost or stolen;

(f) clarification of the Act to ensure that it is applicable uniformly throughout Canada, including to local works and undertakings;

(g) reinforcement and strengthening of the Emergency Response Assistance Plan Program; and

(h) authority for inspectors to inspect any place in which standardized means of containment are being manufactured, repaired or tested.

When we read that summary, we realize that this bill should have been passed long ago. I find it amusing that, throughout the committee stage, the Conservatives have insisted that it was urgent that the bill be passed because of the Vancouver Olympics. This bill has been on the shelf since 2002, and consultations were conducted in 2004. At that time, it was urgent that the bill be passed.

Some of the bill's clauses will not apply to the 2010 Olympic Games. That is a cold hard fact. I do not know whether there is a problem within the Conservative Party with the implementation or passage of this bill respecting the transportation of dangerous goods. I do not know if the party is trying to sell to its rank and file the idea of passing a bill because of the 2010 Olympic Games, but this particular bill ought to have been passed long before now. It should have been a priority of this government but was not, when it was elected in 2006.

I indicated that it would not be possible to pass a number of provisions contained in the bill. One reason for this is the serious implications with respect to transportation security clearances.

I will read the new subsection 5.2(1) because it is worth reading:

No prescribed person shall import, offer for transport, handle or transport dangerous goods in a quantity or concentration that is specified by regulation—or that is within a range of quantities or concentrations ... --unless the person has a transportation security clearance granted under subsection (2).

Truckers wishing to transport dangerous goods must have a security clearance. This measure is in force in the United States, with all of its attendant advantages and disadvantages. I am sure that some of my colleagues will talk about the impact of that measure.

The text states very clearly: “No prescribed person shall...”. The problem is that there is not enough time between now and the start of the Olympic Games to implement the transportation security clearance domestically. It can be implemented for international transportation, but the Conservatives and their band of supporters are trying to sell us on this idea and to convince us that we need transportation security clearances for cross-border transportation of goods because, they claim, if some disaster were to occur, it would originate in the United States.

Forget that. The Americans already have their own security clearances, and there is no way a catastrophe originating in the United States could strike the games in Vancouver. If something were to happen, it would originate in Canada. Many other countries have already called our borders porous because of our huge navigable waterways and our extensive borders. Even individuals can move freely between the United States and Canada.

In terms of security, RCMP officers have been replaced at the Conservatives' instigation. They are the ones who removed RCMP officers from airports, ports, and so on. Those officers were replaced by security guards. That is a fact.

In theory, if the government really wanted security clearances to protect the Vancouver games, such clearances should also apply to interprovincial transportation and the transportation of goods within Canada. Transport Canada officials have told us that there is not enough time between now and 2010 to implement the new rules and to have all truckers take the tests.

The company that the Americans asked to give tests to all the truckers carrying dangerous goods to the United States was questioned and it was discovered that between 10% and 15% of the truckers had not obtained their security clearances for the reasons decided on by the countries. We will also have to pay attention, therefore, and the industry will have to ask itself some questions. Everyone seems to agree on that and I do too because what matters to us in the Bloc Québécois is what Quebeckers think.

Transports Québec has been involved in this entire discussion since 2004 and agrees completely that it is taking too long to pass this legislation. As I said, though, the objective cannot be 2010 because it would take three to five years to implement a measure like this on interprovincial transportation within Canada. It was the public servants who came and told us that.

When it says here, “No prescribed person—” the first people involved will be those who transport goods back and forth to the United States and have easier access to it because of their accreditations. Once Canada issues these security clearances, the American will accept them and it will be easier to transport dangerous goods between Canada and the United States.

Once the security clearances and accreditations have been issued, the Americans will recognize Canada’s and vice versa. It will be easier therefore. I have a lot of problems, though, with the fact the government is trying to sell this by saying it is for the 2010 Olympic Games. I had a lot of problems with it as soon as I saw it and I still do today. Regardless, though, this bill should be passed and the Bloc Québécois will be responsible and do all it can to ensure it goes as quickly as possible.

That brings us to the fact that if this passes, we know very well that regulations will be produced along the way. It is true. Some of our colleagues have asked questions, amendments have been proposed, and some questions still need to be asked about the regulations. Insofar as the security clearances are concerned, these questions include the fact that it says they are for prescribed persons.

This means that after the bill is passed, regulations will be adopted by the Department of Transport. They do not have to go through the House of Commons. That is where abuses could arise. Since the Conservatives came to power, many members have felt that their right-wing ideology is very dangerous when legislation is left in their hands. By dangerous, I mean that respect for human rights and freedoms is not always their cup of tea.

So in some respects, it is true that it is not easy, because the department still has to have some leeway. In fact, the types of dangerous goods will also be determined by regulation. There is a whole slew of new products, and it is not easy to create enabling legislation that covers everything that might happen in the industry. It is only natural to leave it up to the government or the minister, regardless of who that may be at the time, to pass regulations to protect people.

In committee, the Liberals introduced an amendment that everyone supported. We supported it, and so did the party in power. I want to read the proposed subsection 30(3). This is on page 26 of the English text:

Section 30 of the Act is amended by adding the following after subsection (2):

(3) The Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities of the House of Commons or, if there is not a Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, the appropriate committee of that House may review any regulations made under this Act, either on its own initiative or on receiving a written complaint regarding a specific safety concern. The Committee may hold public hearings and may table its report on its review in the House of Commons.

We wanted this amendment to be added to the bill so that if a complaint were ever filed with Transport Canada, it would be referred to the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, which could conduct an investigation. We have to be careful, because the transportation of dangerous goods poses a problem not only for people who have to deal with highways or major railways in their areas, but also for people who see the St. Lawrence River and the St. Lawrence Seaway being used to transport dangerous goods.

The purpose of the bill is simple: to force companies to have an emergency response plan, in order to ensure that everyone who handles these materials is authorized to do so and has the proper security clearance. It is not enough that they have the skills. It is important to ensure that they do not have any history of evil plans that they could act on.

Clearly, the interest is there, but there is no real transparency, and that is for two reasons. People do not want the information to be made public: for instance, on a given date, a certain quantity of a given substance is going to be transported by road, by rail or by ship. We must not give any ideas to people who may have evil plans. So this information remains secret. The reverse situation is also true: it prevents people from worrying about the transportation of hazardous materials and prevents protests and public outcries about the fact that hazardous material is being transported within our borders.

It was time, however. As I was saying—it is not because of Vancouver 2010—passing such bill was a matter of a national urgency. Indeed, we live in a chemical and technological era, and companies whose business involves selling, transporting and delivering hazardous materials must be obliged to have an emergency response plan, that is, a method for taking action.

This means that, should extremely dangerous goods ever be transported within our borders, Transport Canada would automatically receive the company's plan. The company is responsible for ensuring safety in the event of a spill or explosion when it is transporting explosives or something of the sort. It is therefore up to the company to arrange for all fire brigades along the way to be contacted. It is required to demonstrate to Transport Canada that it is able to respond to an emergency.

My earlier remarks were to the effect that passing this bill is a matter of national safety. This should have been done years ago. I will not get into the details of why, after dragging their feet for four years, the Conservatives have now decided to use the Olympics as an excuse to get their rank and file to support it. The fact is that, when dangerous goods are transported on our roads, railways or seaways, it is imperative to have an emergency plan. Other countries around the world have emergency plans. The United States and Europe already have theirs. Canada is always lagging behind when it comes to that sort of thing. It is time that we have a plan.

This bill deserves to move forward. That is why I read clause 30, which says that the committee must receive complaints and intervene accordingly at all times. All of the provinces and territories have approved the application of these regulations. The text, particularly paragraph (f) of the summary, reads as follows: “clarification of the Act to ensure that it is applicable uniformly throughout Canada, including to local works and undertakings”. That is not as easy as it sounds.

Quebec has its own inspection and verification procedure. We have our own network of surface transportation inspectors, known as “les Verts”, for those familiar with the term. We have our police force, the Sûreté du Québec, and we have ministry of transportation inspectors who are regulated by Quebec and intervene as required. In Quebec, public safety is the Government of Quebec's responsibility. The bill could simply not be enforced or supported without the Government of Quebec's support, which has been granted.

We must also ensure that the government can provide compensation if the bill gives rise to additional expenses for the territories and provinces. I am also the infrastructure critic and I have had discussions with municipal representatives while touring Quebec. Bills and changes to the Criminal Code have been adopted that have resulted in additional expenses for big cities dealing with crime. The money never arrives at its destination. Bills are adopted and when the laws are implemented it is the communities, towns and provinces that have to foot the bill. Money was provided to help fight street gangs but it was not enough, given how the problem has grown. That is an example of additional expenses.

All too often the federal government passes laws. This type of bill does not provide for any assistance to the provinces and the territories. I hope that the government realizes that it is making more work for inspectors working in Quebec. I hope that it will not create an inspection service that, once again, will duplicate Quebec's inspection services or will create a new federal inspection service when one already exists in Quebec. If it does, it must provide compensation for the work done by the province in order to comply with the legislation.

The Bloc Québécois will support this bill, which should have been adopted in 2004. The government can count on our full support to move this bill forward.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992
Government Orders

March 23rd, 2009 / 4:10 p.m.
See context

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-9, which seeks to amend the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act and to provide certain measures that relate to the security of the transportation system.

This bill was presented in the beginning as a way to protect Canadians. Many of the provisions within it may serve some purpose in that way. As such, we in the NDP have not really taken exception to many of the things within the bill.

Where we have trouble with the bill lies in the provisions under proposed section 5.2, having to do with transportation security clearances. That has been a focus of our attention to the bill.

We recognize that many of the other aspects within the bill are important and will continue to be developed over time through regulation, but where we saw this bill going was contrary to perhaps even the way the minister described it in the beginning. When the minister spoke to the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities on February 24 of this year, he indicated that the problem in terms of transportation security clearances, one of the main purposes of the bill, lay with international trade with the United States.

In 2005, when the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act was put in place in the United States, it required commercial motor vehicle licensed operators in Canada and Mexico to go through a background check under the U.S. regulations before they were permitted to bring their goods into the United States.

The minister went on to describe that Canadian drivers are currently doing this, but what the government really wants to do is set up a system within Canada that can satisfy the U.S. requirements under this act. He said:

Canadians enjoy access to the American market through the FAST program, and this will continue. But it is essential that we have long-term solutions to guarantee access to important markets for Canadian manufacturers, producers, and shippers.

This is a bit of a smokescreen in terms of what the bill actually offers up under proposed section 5.2.

After detailed questioning in committee, the minister and his departmental officials indicated that they were going to put in place a bill that would expand security clearances to any Canadian who handled or transported dangerous goods. When I asked why this was going on, they said they did not want to limit this to international travel.

Quite clearly, the way the bill was presented by the minister and the way it is actually written are quite different things. In reality, that is what the minister and the department were looking for. They chose to present it in a certain fashion, which certainly made the work in committee more difficult and also perhaps brought us to the situation today where we have a bill that, as it stands, we in the NDP have difficulty supporting.

Why do we care whether transportation security clearances, as outlined in the United States, would be permitted to be used across the board in Canada? Let us look at who could be caught up by a law like this.

Remember that, in the United States, as witnesses testified in committee, many of the people transporting dangerous goods in the U.S. lost their ability through the licensing and security clearance process. They could be farmers who pick up loads of fertilizer, workers in warehouses who move pallets of car batteries, aboriginal people who buy ammunition and take it to their communities, or home heating fuel delivery people.

I know these perhaps seem extreme, but the bill would allow that to happen. Why would we want to have these privacies invaded? Where is the protection for the little guy who Conservative members always are saying they are defending?

I have a letter from the Canadian Association of Agri-Retailers. It is very concerned with the contents of the bill and what it will do to its costs and ability to compete. As retailers, they are looking for compensation for the type of changes the bill will permit. What about those people in the transportation industry? What about the people who may lose their ability to operate in Canada as a result of this rather wide-ranging legislation?

At committee, we put forward amendments to limit the scope of the transportation security clearances to simply those instances in Canada where Canadians were engaged in international traffic of goods. Those were defeated, which gives us a great deal of difficulty in supporting the bill.

The International Longshore and Warehousemen's Union of Canada is battling against the privacy invasion the government wants under the Marine Transportation Security Act right now. The case is scheduled for hearing in the Federal Court of Appeal in June of this year. In its brief to the committee, the ILWU said:

The ILWU takes its members' privacy interests and job security very seriously and is consequently concerned about the ramifications of imposing unnecessary invasive background checks on Canadian workers employees.

The longshore workers are particularly concerned about section 5.2(1) of the bill, which states that no worker can handle the transfer of dangerous goods unless the person has a transportation security clearance. This means, if we follow the American model, that the workers will be asked invasive questions about a series of irrelevant personal matters such as credit history, past travel, employment, education and who they associate with, along with their criminal record checks and a number of other things that may or may not be appropriate. They will also be asked to provide information about other family members. This is what we are opening the door to for Canadian workers right across the country in the handling of dangerous goods.

Workers who refuse to answer these invasions of privacy could lose their employment. Then what happens to those who fail their security clearance due to something as simple as a minor criminal conviction from their teenage years? They lose their job.

There is also concern about this invasion of privacy and with whom the information will be shared. This is a great concern to all of us in the House, following many of the things we have had in place since the terrorist incidents of 2001. The longshore workers found that their private information could be shared by CSIS, Canadian Security Intelligence Service, with foreign governments.

We also put forward an amendment that would limit the ability of the government to share any information collected under the transportation security clearances with another government. The amendment was put forward but it was voted down in committee as well.

Once again, our attempts to protect the rights of Canadians in a reasonable and logical sense, not going too far ahead and keeping within the bounds of what is required for security, were turned down.

We know the government has a problem with Canadians defending their human rights. Just look at what it did, under the guise of a budget implementation bill, with pay equity. It stripped women of their equality rights, their ability to deal with important questions like that as the result of a current economic crisis. Imagine what the results of a major security breach in the country could be to Canadian workers? If any kind of security breach occurred, what kind of draconian measures could the minister put forward with the kinds of powers he would be given under the bill?

Therefore, we tried very carefully, after those two amendments failed, to put forward an amendment which would deal precisely with the question of human rights and that any of the regulations that would be struck by the bill and by the minister on the issue of transportation security clearance, which are not complex issues, would come back to a parliamentary committee for examination. This would give us at least an opportunity in Parliament to understand what the laws were doing to the essential rights of Canadians.

The bill does not set out any restrictions on the minister or set out any criteria to determine who will or will not be granted a security clearance.

Transport Canada says that the assessment of whether to grant or refuse a security clearance is based on the global evaluation obtained by the background checks. This means Canadians will lose their jobs based on a subjective process, a process which may never get reviewed by Parliament without the proper amendments.

The Liberal amendment, which we supported, would simply allow, with the support of a committee, us to bring forward regulations for review. It did not ensure that the regulations that would impact the human rights of Canadians would be in front of the committee. It allowed it to happen with the majority support of a committee. Majority support does not always exist in a minority government, where the opportunity at the committee level for the opposition to look at what the government is doing with a critical eye, particularly when the majority on the committee can simply refuse to do so.

In the likelihood of a situation occurring, which would impact on the rights of Canadians under a majority government, the committee likely would not get a chance to review those things. That is kind of the fatal flaw in the Liberal amendment. Our amendment would have ensured that situation did not occur.

Therefore, the Liberals, with their toothless amendment, have satisfied their angst about some of the issues we raised in committee. I felt there was some angst there, but once again the half measure proposed by the Liberals is all we really have in the bill.

The issue of dangerous goods and their safety and handling is very important. We do not deny that. We do not deny that many of the provisions within the bill are correct and they are things that can be worked out between government and businesses. However, the fundamental rights of Canadians to privacy and the respect for their human rights are things that we cannot work out. They are fundamental and they have to be respected.

Our difficulty with the bill is that we have been unable to adjust it so it meets the nod test over a period of time that the bill has correctly outlined and that will work for Canadians. While it will ensure that the present government perhaps will respect the rights of Canadians, it does not give any assurances that the next minister of another government would do the same thing.

That is our problem. We want to ensure that legislation not only fits with this Parliament, not only fits with this government but fits in the future and will ensure that basic rights of Canadians are protected. That is why we are standing today to voice our opposition to what has happened with the bill. I would be open still at this stage to see the bill amended to provide slightly better legislation, and I had talks with the parliamentary secretary about that.

We would encourage the government to simply look carefully at the legislation right now. If it can offer up a solution to some of our issues, we would be very happy to support it in its efforts and bring unanimity to the bill to ensure it serves Canadians well. If the government chooses not to do so, then we are stuck in the position we are today.

Our job is not only to keep Canadians safe, to protect them from harm, but also to protect their rights. There is always a balance that we have to strike. It is difficult. We cannot say that legislation is simple or that the way we outline our rights is simple. The Bill of Rights was only established in Canada in 1982. Much of the legislation we deal with has not got to the point where it matches up to our Bill of Rights, so why would we put forward legislation now that still does not accomplish what was laid out in the 1982 Bill of Rights? Why would we not work together to come up with the solutions that could follow an orderly and good system of governance?

When we talk about providing transportation security clearance across the country to workers, we have another approach within the bill. We did not have to go that way. Because we are asking companies that handle dangerous goods to come up with transportation security plans, we have the opportunity to work them. We can work with them in a selective fashion to ensure that their transportation security planning covers the employees they use to move those goods.

We do not need to have a nation-wide program of transportation security clearance in order to accomplish what we want to accomplish with the bill. Already within the bill there is the option to do it another way.

Those are things we need to take into account when we look at this type of legislation. It has been on the books since 2002. The sense of urgency to get it in place now is simply theatrics. We need to ensure we get legislation right for a change.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992
Government Orders

March 23rd, 2009 / 4:35 p.m.
See context

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Madam Speaker, Bill C-9, An Act to amend the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992, is an important bill.

The folks listening to the parliamentary deliberations today need to know that the problems in the bill, which the member for Western Arctic just spoke about in the House, are issues that all Canadians should be concerned about. It is a given that no one in this House would want to see less security around the provision for dangerous goods. We all believe in an increased level of safety and security for all Canadians. However, the actions of the government clearly show that its tendency is to move to less safety and less security. It is because of that fact, tragically, that we need to look through every bit of legislation that is brought before this House to ensure that the objectives being set out would actually be accomplished by the bill.

When we look at self-managed safety, the famous controversial SMS, where safety was basically handed over to the companies themselves, the corporate CEOs, to police their own safety, we clearly saw that as a decreased level of safety and security for Canadians. The Liberals brought it in under the railway act where it essentially handed over the safety management of the railways to Hunter Harrison and other corporate CEOs. The government basically went out of the business of protecting Canadians.

What happened after? We had escalating derailment rates. In British Columbia, we have been faced with a number of high profile derailments, deaths and environmental degradation, all as a result of the government pulling itself out of safety management and ensuring protection for Canadians.

When the present government moved on the Liberal model, it moved with the same type of agenda. To save a little bit of money, it wanted to cut back on flight inspectors and hand over to corporate CEOs safety and security in the airline business. The NDP said, no, and we stopped that bill from passing in the House of Commons. It was not because we thought every airline would treat it irresponsibly. Of course not. Some airlines would be very responsible but we knew that some airlines would not be.

The past history of fly-by-night airlines clearly showed that when an airline becomes financially troubled, in many cases upper management would decide to degrade safety in order to save some money and keep the airline afloat. That is why we opposed that bill and why we shut it down in two Parliaments. I am pleased to say that there has not been a full implementation of SMS in commercial airlines in Canada because of the NDP. NDP MPs stood in this House with one voice and said that the government could not move forward with SMS, that it could not cheapen and devalue safety for Canadians and that one party in this House would stand up for an adequate level of safety and for enhancing safety for Canadian families.

Now that SMS has been implemented with business aircraft, we have seen a number of tragic crashes. The TSB is now looking into those crashes to see to what extent the farming out of safety to the companies themselves and the role that played in these tragic crashes. We recently heard of other crashes and the drive by the government to implement self-managed safety in other areas, such as helicopters.

What we have seen is a government track record that is not very good when it comes to safety. It is not very good when it comes to general concerns about public safety as well. We have seen cutbacks in the salaries to RCMP officers and cutbacks in prosecution across the country. The government may move ahead with some criminal justice legislation but it does not get the fundamentals right, which is having a system in place that protects Canadians. That is the problem. The skepticism we have is in the track record of the government. It seems oriented toward cutbacks in providing safety for Canadians rather than moving ahead with an agenda that actually makes sense. Because of that, we are naturally going to re-double our due diligence to ensure that the legislation that the government puts forward is legislation that actually does enhance the level of safety of Canadians. We are not a rubber stamp party like the Liberals.

We believe in our role as parliamentarians. New Democrats work very hard because we believe that Canadians should accept no less. They should demand from their members of Parliament due scrutiny and due diligence when it comes to every bit of legislation that is brought forward.

That is the context of Bill C-9. Essentially, our role in Parliament with the triple caucus that we have seen over the last three elections is to duly scrutinize government bills and ensure that they are accomplishing what they set out to accomplish.

We have some difficulties with the overall approach of the government to dangerous goods. One example that has not changed, that was irresponsible under the Liberals and is equally irresponsible under the Conservatives, is the low level of screening taking place for cargo containers coming into Canada from around the world. Fewer than 1% of them are actually screened for contents.

When we are talking about dangerous goods, fundamentally that is something that the government needs to address right up front, rather than this orgy of corporate tax cuts that seems to be its reason for being. It needs to look at the fact that we have millions of cargo containers coming into Canada every year, and essentially we are screening a lamentably small number of those cargo containers to actually find out what the contents are.

If the government moved forward with investments in that regard, it would get the support of the NDP, but it has made no attempt to increase the scrutiny that is required for these cargo containers coming from other parts of the planet.

Therefore, we come to Bill C-9. As the member for Western Arctic, the NDP transportation critic, has mentioned very clearly, one of our grave concerns is clause 5. Under “Transportation Security Clearances”, we have the following:

The Minister may, for the purposes of this Act, grant or refuse to grant a transportation security clearance to any person or suspend or revoke such a clearance.

That is a fundamental problem. When we give the minister a blank cheque and say, essentially, he or she has total control, what does that mean in terms of government operations? Can the government be trusted to use that total control given to the minister to actually ensure that what is put in place is fair to Canadians?

We have seen various attempts by the government to use that blank cheque that can be given to it by legislation in a way that we do not believe is appropriate, most recently refusing immigration entrance visas to people with whom it disagrees, essentially saying, no, it is going to take that overall control that it has and simply say no to certain categories of people.

When there is no system of checks and balances, that is a matter of great concern to us. The amendments in clause 5 essentially give that blank cheque to the minister and do not provide for that system of checks and balances that we believe, in a free and democratic society, is absolutely essential.

That is the fundamental problem and why we have seen, from various parts of the country, issues raised about the advisability of Bill C-9, as it is, going through.

As I mentioned earlier, there are difficulties with the lack of an overall strategy on the part of the government when it comes to dangerous goods. There is a lack of credibility when it comes to safety, when we look at issues such as bringing in self-managed safety, turning over our safety management systems, turning over Canadians' personal safety and that of their families to a corporate CEO who may or may not consider the safety with regard to other issues that are at play.

Particular legislation we stopped in the House also gave, essentially, a get out of jail free card to those who misbehaved or acted in an irresponsible and inappropriate way. We said no to that. Those were the SMS provisions that we stopped in the House. Only NDP members spoke up about that, and now more and more people are speaking out.

Justice Moshansky spoke out earlier this week about the fact that, under SMS, Canadian skies are more insecure now than they were even at the time of the Dryden tragedy of 1989, that essentially we are moving backwards in transportation safety.

It would be even worse if not for the stalwart NDP members who stopped those bills cold in the House of Commons because we knew it was not in the public interest.

Justice Moshansky is speaking out, flight inspectors are speaking out, and increasingly we are seeing the media taking an interest now, because of these tragic crashes, to ensure that Canadian safety moves to a higher standard, not to a lower standard.

The bill has been brought forward. We have heard from the member for Western Arctic that amendments were brought forward to ensure that the legislation was improved and actually did what it was purporting to do. Yet there have been letters, evidence and testimony from groups across the country that continue to have very strong concerns because of the fact that the transport committee did not adopt the amendments by the member for Western Arctic.

The member for Western Arctic is a friendly guy. He is also razor smart. He presented these amendments in an effort to improve the bill, to actually have the bill accomplish what it set out to do.

The Conservatives have a tendency of being really good on the spin and the smoke and mirrors and very poor on the substance. Criminal justice issues are one example of that certainly. SMS is another example of that. In fact, I could spend a full 20 minutes talking about the various methods the Conservatives use to not do what they are trying to do.

Very clearly we have evidence that there are concerns that have been raised in regard to this bill.

The Canadian Association of Agri-Retailers said in a letter dated just two weeks ago, “Confronted with increasing pressure from government regulations and more stringent industry standards, agri-retailers are facing prohibitive costs to keep their businesses compliant with security and safety infrastructure requirements. This financial burden cannot possibly be shouldered by agri-retailers alone. Without government assistance, many facilities will be forced out of the fertilizer market or will have no choice but to pass these costs on to Canadian farmers in an already recessed economic climate. Crop input dealers are still reeling from devastating fertilizer writedowns as a result of a precipitous drop in commodity prices in the fall of 2008”.

Canadian farmers and agri-retailers are concerned about what this means. Because the legislation was not drafted properly and because there is essentially a blank cheque being issued, they are concerned about the impacts. The government has not listened to this so far, but it is never too late to listen to the NDP. We are putting forward these amendments again and trying to get the government to understand that the bill, as is, is not appropriate to deal fundamentally with the issue of dangerous goods.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada has also indicated in a very lengthy letter its concerns about this bill. The letter was written by Tom Dufresne, who is the president of the ILWU. He is from British Columbia, a very articulate leader of his union and certainly has the support of the rank and file.

These are hard-working, dedicated longshore and warehouse workers who work every day. They make sure that things keep moving in Canada. So one would think that the government would listen to them, but it has not yet.

The letter stated:

On review of Bill C-9, the ILWU is immediately and seriously concerned about s.5.2(1) which requires workers who handle and deal with dangerous goods to hold transportation security clearances.

That is clause 5, which I mentioned earlier.

The letter continues:

The ILWU takes its members' privacy interests and job security very seriously and is consequently concerned about the ramifications of imposing unnecessary and invasive background checks on Canada's workers. The ILWU is committed to ensuring the safety of its members and Canada's ports generally, however, the ILWU does not believe that requiring security clearances to transport dangerous goods will further this objective.

That is, as the bill is conceived now, for obvious reasons. Farmers are not the only ones concerned about this bill.

S.5.2(1) states that no worker can handle or transport dangerous goods “unless the person has a transportation security clearance.”

That is what I mentioned earlier and the member for Western Arctic referenced.

This means that workers will be asked to answer invasive questions about a series of irrelevant personal matters such as...credit history and past travel, employment and education and their associations. They will also be asked to provide information about family members.

Those who refuse to answer those invasive personal questions could lose their employment, as others could as well.

We have to wonder how many Conservative MPs would pass this kind of questioning on credit history, past travel, employment, education and their associations. Conservative MPs would not want to go through that kind of in-depth, personal history, yet they are subjecting hard-working longshore people and hard-working warehouse people to doing that.

At that same time, it is important to note that they are simply allowing well over 99% of cargo containers, wherever those come from in the world, to just come right in to Canada.

What is wrong with this picture? We just bring in the cargo containers from wherever, with no screening, no control, no investment to ensure that they are not transporting dangerous goods. But the hard-working Canadians who have spent decades on the longshore will be subjected to a rigorous cross-examination to ensure that they did not smoke a marijuana cigarette when they were in high school or whatever else the Conservatives decide to concoct to try to push those hard-working Canadians out of their jobs.

It is absurd. It is a blank cheque. It is very clear why there would be concerns raised about the blank cheque that the minister gets.

The ILWU goes on to say that it is presently involved in a legal challenge to this requirement that is contained within this particular bill. The letter continues:

Of particular concern to the ILWU is the admissions received during the course of this proceeding from CSIS that personal information collected from employees and provided to CSIS during the background check process could be disclosed to foreign governments

This is one of the issues that the member for Western Arctic raised, that not only are we penalizing farmers for transporting fertilizer, but essentially once this rigorous cross-examination takes place of people who have worked on the docks for decades, the information is sent who knows where? There is no system of control, no system of checks and balances. Essentially the Conservatives are saying they want a blank cheque to do whatever they want.

The letter continues:

There are no set criteria to determine who will or will not be granted a security clearance. Transport Canada explains that “[t]he assessment of whether to grant or refuse a security clearance is based on a global evaluation obtained by the background checks...” Thus, workers may be deprived of their jobs based on subjective criteria.

Obviously, as to letter goes on to say,

This is particularly problematic when it comes to workers who handle dangerous goods since these employees are skilled, full-time, trusted employees who...have the most to lose if deprived of their employment.

The letter concludes by essentially saying that as the front-line workers on the docks of Canada's ports and working throughout the transportation system, they are already subject to a wide variety of security requirements including secured areas, restricted access passes, cameras, water and land patrols, gates, and fences that prevent unauthorized persons from assessing areas in which hazardous goods are unloaded.

As a result of that, the ILWU submits that background checks will do nothing to enhance the security of Canada's ports and transportation system.

The obvious reason is that the fundamentals, as I mentioned, the screening of cargo containers, have not been addressed by the government. The Conservatives do not want to do the investment, but they bring forward legislation that even Conservative and Liberal members themselves will admit is flawed.

The NDP has been offering, in committee and in the House, to improve those flaws so that Bill C-9 actually does what it purports to do. That is our role as NDP MPs, and it is a role that we take on proudly for the interests of Canadians.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992
Government Orders

March 23rd, 2009 / 4:55 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Candice Bergen Portage—Lisgar, MB

Madam Speaker, I am very happy to have the opportunity to ask my hon. colleague a few questions, because it seemed that he was speaking about a completely different bill from the one we have been working on in committee. He mentioned safety management systems several times, which actually has nothing to do with Bill C-9. I was wondering if my hon. colleague was aware of that.

We have worked extremely hard with the stakeholders concerning this bill. We have talked to the trucking industry. We have talked to the Teamsters. We have talked to farmers, who actually will not be penalized with this bill.

It is important for us to protect Canadians. I am wondering why my hon. colleague seems so opposed to protecting Canadians and making sure that dangerous goods are transported in a safe way by people who have the proper licence to transport these goods.

Why is that such a problem for the member? Why is the NDP opposing everything that we are trying to do for the good of Canadians?

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992
Government Orders

February 13th, 2009 / 10:05 a.m.
See context

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-9, a bill to amend the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act. This is a bill that was introduced into Parliament yesterday by the government and which is a very important piece of legislation in many respects. I am very glad to see the legislation coming forward.

Yesterday we had a chance to start debate on a number of issues. I want to take the time right now to comment a little bit on one of the things that I found very pleasing yesterday.

As a New Democratic Party member of Parliament in my second term, I was pleased during the debate to have the counsel of two new NDP MPs, both skilled lawyers in their fields. I speak of course of the new member for Vancouver Kingsway, a person who has had decades of work, although he appears very young, in the labour legislation field and will be a great addition to the House of Commons in identifying issues that surround the rights of working people and the rights of all of us. I was very pleased to see that. That provided an element that perhaps I did not have as much of in the previous Parliament.

To my left I have another lawyer, a very skilled environmental lawyer, our new member for Edmonton—Strathcona, a person I have worked with personally on environmental issues for over 25 years, going back to the days when we worked on issues like the Slave River hydro project in northern Alberta.

These people are a great addition to the House of Commons. When we have new members in Parliament, I think it is incumbent on all of us to understand what they bring to Parliament, what they bring to this place to provide that additional knowledge and understanding that can do so much in making good legislation, ensuring that what we are doing is correct and will serve Canadians over a long period of time, as legislation should.

As to the background on the bill, the public consultation began almost five years ago. There have been meetings on a continuing basis with provincial and territorial governments. I am sure that there will be some continuing consultation after the bill has passed.

The bill is the result of a process that has gone on for quite a long time. The safe transport of dangerous goods will remain a shared responsibility between the Government of Canada, provincial and territorial governments and the industry. It will be based on agreements and understandings, and working together to enforce requirements for protecting the movement of dangerous goods on highways in Canada.

Transport Canada would remain responsible for enforcing regulations that govern transport by rail, ship and air. The federal government still has a very large role to play, not simply in making legislation but ongoing enforcement, ongoing consideration of how best to ensure that dangerous goods are handled and identified in a manner that Canadians can remain protected.

Identification is important as well. I refer to a previous experience I had with the illegal movement of dangerous goods when I was mayor of my small town in the Northwest Territories. We had a case once that came out of a practice in Alberta where there is a black market for the sale of hazardous products.

Individuals could take a 45-gallon drum of hazardous products away and have $1,000 given to them on the black market. If the hazardous waste is taken away, they do not have to send it to the disposal site. We found someone in our community who was doing that and mixing it with home heating oil, burning it in buildings and spraying it all over the community. The movement, identification and understanding of where dangerous goods are is very important. It makes a difference and can make a huge difference to the health and well-being of Canadians if it is not handled correctly or taken care of in a proper fashion. Of course, we are very interested in making sure that this bill does the job it is supposed to do.

However, much of the bill does not talk about safety. Much of the bill deals with security, which is another matter of great importance to people. The government has said that it wants this bill moving ahead for security, the Olympics and a variety of other reasons. Within the bill, it would set up a transportation security clearance system where Canadians would be reviewed for security clearance by the Canadian government. The process would include appeals and disclosure of reasons for denial of clearance, but at the same time the bill is very open on this issue. It is enabling legislation. It does not lay out the conditions for the security clearances. It simply provides that the government can do this.

According to the proposed bill, under transportation security clearances, we see:

5.2 (1) No prescribed person shall import, offer for transport, handle or transport dangerous goods in a quantity or concentration that is specified by regulation — or that is within a range of quantities or concentrations that is specified by regulation — unless the person has a transportation security clearance granted under subsection (2).

(2) The Minister may, for the purposes of this Act, grant or refuse to grant a transportation security clearance to any person or suspend or revoke such a clearance.

It is pretty open-ended. The bill has been presented to us in a fashion that says that, while we currently have inter-country transport between ourselves and the United States, the U.S. has very onerous provisions for security clearance. This would take the responsibility of performing clearances from the United States and put it in the hands of the Canadian government so that shippers who are working in the transportation of dangerous goods across borders would find that their clearance is established within Canada. That is, ostensibly, its purpose.

However, none of this was laid out in the bill. The bill enables the development of transportation security clearances for virtually any part of our transportation net that handles dangerous goods. Of course, that is pretty well the entire transportation net because every carrier, airline, train and ship carries dangerous goods at one time or another. We have an act that enables the minister to make some fairly large and unknown security decisions about Canadians. That, to us, is a bit of a problem within this act, because we have a Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Our sense of privacy here is much different than in the United States. It is much more held in trust by Canadians and by their governments.

This act creates a framework that enables the creation of regulations but gives the Minister of Transport enormous powers to control Canadians and the transport industry. The minister will also be able to enable the use of security measures, in secret, for any perceived situation where dangerous goods may be part of any particular criminal occurrence.

In other words, under this legislation the minister would be able to decide not to move something, not to allow a company to operate, many different things, without any recourse and without anyone understanding the reasons. Some strong powers would be given to the minister, powers that the minister would be able to wield in secret. We do not know how those powers would be defined.

The bill is not a prescriptive bill. It is an enabling bill. In some ways the law would allow the minister to create a secret national security system that would demand of people whatever the minister, through regulation, would set as a security clearance.

Do we know what those restrictions are? The government says it is not interested in doing anything except catching up to our U.S. obligations. This has been reported to me through the department.

The government is not interested in providing security clearance for somebody hauling dynamite from Ontario to Quebec. That is not what the government is doing here. That may not be what the government is planning to do, but the bill would enable the minister, through regulations, to set conditions on security clearances for every aspect of our transportation system that deals with dangerous goods. This is a pretty strong piece of legislation.

The argument against secret laws dates back thousands of years. In 449 B.C. the Romans published the Law of the Twelve Tables creating an official public legal code that had to be published so that ordinary people would know the law. The principle that laws must be public has been the foundation of our law system since then.

The government says we need flexibility to protect Canadians, and this really concerns me. What we need are laws that protect Canadians, that are laid out so that Canadians understand the limitation of the law. Giving ministers this kind of overwhelming control over a situation, I find difficult.

When things are done by regulation, the vital process of public review and debate is short-circuited. Parliament is removed from making the laws. As a democrat, as a person who believes in the rule of Parliament, I find this difficult. I do not believe in enabling legislation. I believe in prescriptive legislation that lays out what we want to accomplish.

Just yesterday Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart delivered a stern warning to the federal government saying she is strongly opposed to any legislation that would allow the mass surveillance of private emails and phone calls. That is part of the government's plan to update Canada's wiretapping laws with new police powers to monitor criminal suspects in the digital era of cell phones and chat lines.

What did the Minister of Public Safety have to say about this? He said:

The concerns of the Privacy Commissioner are quite legitimate. We don't want to have legislation that intrudes on privacy rights and I can assure you we wouldn't come forward with that kind of legislation.

Let me get back to Bill C-9. This legislation would create a situation where the minister would be able to impose, through regulation, conditions on Canadians that may interfere with their privacy rights. It is a difficult situation for any of us who believe in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, civil liberties, the protection of the rights of an individual, and the right to privacy. These are all things that are important to us.

If the security clearance that is required by the United States is put into place by Canada for our people who are involved in cross-border trade and movement of goods, I think we would all understand that. We all understand that we would rather have our Canadians being judged by Canadians rather than by Americans. That is a fair thing and it is good. When it is presented in that fashion and the scope of what can be accomplished by the bill is clear that that is what is at stake here, I do not think we have a problem with that.

I do not think we have a problem with giving those kinds of conditions within a bill, but when we do not have that clearly outlined, when we have a bill that would allow much more than that to happen without the will of Parliament behind it, that is not a correct situation.

There are things that we really need within the bill. This bill is important but it is not important enough to give up the concept of civil liberties, privacy rights and the concern of Canadians to work and live in an environment where their rights as individuals are not threatened. We need to work on the legislation.

To that end, I can see us going along with this legislation moving to committee, but at the same time we do have some serious concerns with the legislation. We do not see that this is a direction in which we want to go, giving a minister of the Crown the kinds of powers without prescription, which the bill represents.

As we move along with this bill, we will see what kind of willingness the government has to support amendments, to support clearly defining what it wants to accomplish. If the government wants to define what it wants to accomplish in this bill, it would make the bill much better and more complete. It would not simply be a way for the government or future governments to intrude into the important aspects of Canadian rights and freedoms.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992
Government Orders

February 13th, 2009 / 10:20 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, as I listened with a degree of interest as my colleague across the way spoke to a number of issues in the bill, I tried to get a real grasp as to his position on the bill. On the one hand, he said that it was a dangerous bill that would give the minister far too much leeway and sweeping powers, but, on the other hand, he said that it was a pretty good bill.

Not only since 9/11 in 2001, but over the past number of years I think Canadians have recognized the need for security, not just from terrorist attacks from outside but also security on our highways and in and around our country. Bill C-9 does deal with security for Canadians, security in regard to dangerous goods that are being transported around our country, not only the goods that are involved in some kind of a terrorist attack but goods such as propane, fuel and hundreds of other products that we see moving up and down our highways every day. Most parties here recognized that there is a real need for this legislation.

I have a bit of a concern with the New Democratic Party when, regardless of what type of bill we bring forward that would give Canadians more security and safety, it seems it is always throwing up roadblocks. This bill has come out of public feedback to the government. I think other parties have recognized that the Canadian public is on the side of protecting Canadians through the transportation of these goods.

What does the member opposite have against protecting Canadians and keeping them safe?

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992
Government Orders

February 13th, 2009 / 10:50 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is more a point of clarification. I have listened with some interest to what the member has been saying. He has spoken about CIDA, about poppies and about Afghanistan, and now he is on a rant about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

I am just wondering whether we have moved off Bill C-9 or whether we are still on Bill C-9. If indeed we are still on Bill C-9, I would encourage the member to bring his speech back to some point of relevance that deals with transportation of goods here in our country and with providing safety and security here in our country, which is what Bill C-9 does.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992
Government Orders

February 13th, 2009 / 12:05 p.m.
See context

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is with some relief that I rise in the chamber today to speak to Bill C-9 in that this bill is long overdue, at least that part in dealing with the issue of transportation of dangerous goods.

The riding that is immediately adjacent to mine is held by the NDP member for Windsor West. It contains several border crossings that are the busiest not only in Canada and the United States, but we believe the busiest between two sovereign countries anywhere in the world. More passenger vehicles and vehicles carrying cargo cross that border daily in numbers that are not matched anywhere else in the world.

The issue of moving dangerous goods in this country has been a long-standing problem from an environmental standpoint. I can remember dealing with this issue over a good number of years. The municipal levels of government, the city of Windsor and the county of Essex, were greatly concerned about the movement through their jurisdictions of goods that were not properly regulated. Safety regulations were not in place. There were no requirements in provincial or federal legislation to identify that dangerous goods were moving through their jurisdictions. Over the years there were a number of incidents where it came to the knowledge of the municipal governments that on a regular basis certain dangerous goods, toxins, and in some cases even radioactive material such as medical isotopes, were moving through their jurisdictions and they had no idea it was happening.

This has been a great concern not just to the elected officials in the municipal governments in my area, but also to our firefighters and police and emergency responders. Oftentimes they are called to scenes of motor vehicle accidents involving goods that are unknown to them in terms of the quantity and how dangerous the goods are. Historically, on a number of occasions, we have been very worried as to whether our emergency responders, police and firefighters have been exposed to toxins and other serious pollutants that would damage their health and the environment in the region around the accident.

This is not something that has been going on for the last few years while consultation on this bill has been going on; it has been going on literally for decades in our area because of its geographic location. Much vehicular traffic moves through our area on a daily basis. In order that people can appreciate the significance, in terms of the numbers, more goods and vehicular traffic goes through our city and crosses to the American side and vice versa on a daily basis than all of the traffic that goes across the Confederation Bridge to Prince Edward Island in a year. Having to cope with that traffic has been a major issue, and perhaps the major issue, in our community for a long time.

It became even more of a concern when the incident of 9/11 took place. It moved from being an environmental and health and safety issue to one of national security. Since 9/11 there has been a significant slowdown in the traffic patterns across the border, at the bridge, at the tunnel, and even with regard to the rail tunnel that moves a huge amount of cargo between the two countries on a daily basis.

The United States has been very adamant and protective of its side of the border. The U.S. refuses to accept that our standards, our safety and precautionary measures are sufficient to respond to the concerns the Americans have. Again, this is around the transport of hazardous waste and goods, but also with regard to the potential for that transportation network to be used by terrorists to attack the United States.

It has been a grave problem for us since 9/11, one to which the government has finally responded. In the last few years the Conservatives and the Liberals before them were very slow to pick up on it. In a number of other ways, we have spent huge amounts of money to deal with national security issues. One can argue that it was probably spent unwisely in a number of areas and that it would have been much better to have spent some more time and to have been more focused on this particular area so that the legislation and standards would have been in place and we could have been moving to deploy and enforce those standards.

I am going to use one example to highlight one of the concerns. The City of Toronto has been transporting huge volumes of municipal waste, general garbage from households in particular, to the state of Michigan. In the last few weeks the City of Toronto has announced that because of some recycling programs it has put into place and other policies around the reuse of items, it has been able to reduce the number of trucks crossing at the border crossings in Windsor and Sarnia by almost 50% in the last year. That is a good development, but one of the reasons it was pushed to do that is that the state of Michigan had taken some very strong measures to prohibit the importation of that garbage into its jurisdiction.

Michigan specifically used the example of the number of times that hazardous goods had gotten through the Canadian side and the American side of the border and ended up in the landfill sites on the Michigan side, and it was discovered only at that point that there was hazardous waste in that garbage. The state of Michigan has now taken steps to pass legislation that has curtailed the amount of garbage that is being transported into its jurisdiction.

This legislation is badly needed from that perspective with regard to environmental and health and safety factors. It is also badly needed to satisfy our concerns on this side of the border with regard to items that are coming in from the U.S. side. By raising our standards here in Canada, we would be able to prohibit goods coming in from the United States that we do not want in our country. That part of the legislation is badly needed. It is a good step forward.

Since 2004 the government has spent an extensive amount of time on consultation. However, that consultation was over in a meaningful way sometime around 2006 or 2007, at least two years ago. This legislation should have been before the House in that period of time. It should have gone through committee, been amended, clarified and refined as necessary, gone back into the House, passed through the Senate and given royal assent. We should have been at that stage at least a year and a half ago, perhaps even as much as two years ago. We could have been at the stage now of deploying the bill and the law and, in particular, putting in place the regulations that would flow under this law so that we could dramatically increase the safety in our communities. I mean safety in terms of the natural environment of my city and county and the national security items that this bill addresses.

There is one significant negative in this bill. Generally, members of the NDP are supportive of this legislation, but we have a significant concern with regard to the methodology that is going to be used by the government with regard to security clearances for truck drivers, but also for personnel at our border crossings such as in my area, but also at our airports to some lesser degree, and most important, at our shipping ports on our coasts. The difficulty we have with the legislation is it would appear on the surface that a good deal of the methodology that will be used to institute the surveillance of employees will be done in secret.

If we are trying to satisfy the Canadian people that we are serious about these security clearances, they will have to be done in an effective, efficient and state-of-the-art way. We have to do it as well as anybody in the world does, and hopefully better. It is hard to imagine how we are going to instill that confidence in the communities most affected by these types of goods being transported through them that we are doing it effectively. We cannot convince people that we are doing a good job unless they can see it. It is an issue of transparency.

I have heard no argument on the part of the government as to why there is this insistence on these regulations that will govern how people will be cleared for this type of employment. How does not telling the general public the criteria that people have to meet and the process they have to go through in any way enhance that sense of confidence in our government and our government institutions, that we are doing a good job in protecting our citizens? I say protecting them both from a personal security basis, that their personal security is assured in this country, but also that the natural environment around their homes and businesses will be protected as well as it can be, and that our emergency responders will be protected as best they can. This insistence on secrecy makes no sense to us in the NDP.

However, there has been a history, and it has been particularly true that some of the tools that we have tried to put in place at our ports to screen employees and the types of methods that were being used were, quite frankly, offensive to our charter of rights, basic human rights and civil liberties. I am going to use one example that came up, I think it was a couple of years ago, when I was a member of the public safety and national security committee.

Transport Canada was proposing at the time to do clearances not only on the employees but on a very wide range of people who were associated with candidates for employment, the candidate's immediate family and extended family, without any reasons for doing that. There would be no suggestion that the person had an extensive criminal record or was associating with people with extensive criminal records. Transport Canada was going on the assumption that everybody was a potential criminal or a potential terrorist, rather than doing the reverse and assuming that unless there was at least some indication that the person was a security risk, it would do a fairly conventional security clearance for the person through our regular police forces.

We are concerned and we will need to take this up, to a significant degree, assuming we can get the government to move beyond its secrecy, almost paranoia, to understand why the security clearances are being done, it appears from the legislation and from some of the comments we have heard from the government, behind the scenes in total secrecy. That does not advance the level of confidence and security in the country. It certainly does not give our citizenry additional assurances that things are being done properly and that we are advancing the level of security, both with regard to environmental issues, health and safety issues and national security issues, if they do not know what is going on.

I can well understand, because of the extensive amount of work I have done in national security since 2004, that there are times when we do need to do things behind the scenes, to do them undercover and to maintain them that way when national security is at issue.

However, I also learned throughout that period of time that oftentimes national security is used as a cloak for breaching civil liberties in this country. It is used as a cloak to, at times, cover up mistakes made within the public service. This, obviously, is a rare exception, but if we start with a system that says that we are entitled to keep everything behind closed doors, that we will not tell the citizenry anything about it nor will we tell members of Parliament about it, we will not even give access to this kind of information, then that is the wrong approach. It is one the NDP will be looking very closely at in committee and moving amendments, if that is necessary.

Business of the House
Oral Questions

February 12th, 2009 / 3:05 p.m.
See context

Prince George—Peace River
B.C.

Conservative

Jay Hill Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I welcome those questions from the opposition House leader.

In a few moments we will be voting on the second reading stage of Bill C-10, the budget implementation act. Also, the House will approve supplementary estimates (B).

I would like to take this time to thank all members for their cooperation in accelerating the consideration and approval of supplementary estimates (B) including and especially my cabinet colleagues who responded with little notice to invitations from the various committees to study these estimates.

After the votes, we will continue with the debate on Bill C-4, not-for-profit legislation; followed by Bill C-9, transportation of dangerous goods; Bill C-5, Indian oil and gas; Bill C-11, an act to promote safety and security with respect to human pathogens and toxins; and Bill C-3, Arctic waters. All these bills are at second reading.

Next week is a constituency week when the House will be adjourned.

As the House is also aware President Barack Obama will be visiting Canada next week. Since the House will not be sitting, I would like to take this opportunity, on behalf of all members of the House, to welcome the President to Canada. We hope he has a productive and enjoyable visit here in our nation's capital.

When the House returns from the break, we will continue with the list of business I mentioned earlier and in addition to these bills Tuesday, February 24 and Thursday, February 26 will be designated as opposition days.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992
Government Orders

February 12th, 2009 / 5:10 p.m.
See context

Fort McMurray—Athabasca
Alberta

Conservative

Brian Jean Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to participate in the second reading of Bill C-9, our proposed amendments to the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992.

Some of my Ontario colleagues might remember what happened on Saturday, November 10, 1979 in Mississauga, Ontario. A few minutes before midnight, CP train No. 54 derailed while carrying a shipment of chlorine and 250,000 people had to be evacuated from that area. Indeed, this particular incident stands as the second largest peacetime evacuation in North America, surpassed only by the evacuation of New Orleans during hurricane Katrina in 2005. Very fortunately, no one was injured in that incident, but the risk was indeed extreme. As is the case whenever we are dealing with transportation of dangerous goods, no chances should be taken.

We can never predict when incidents like that may happen, whether accidentally or on purpose. That is why this government has the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act in place. Originally introduced in 1980 and updated in 1982, it provides the federal government with the authority to develop policy, to verify compliance, to conduct research, to guide emergency response, and develop regulations and standards to manage risk and promote public safety during the transportation of dangerous goods.

In the bill before the House today, our government is proposing amendments to the act as yet another example of how the Conservative government is taking steps to protect and improve Canadians' way of life and public safety in Canada.

Today there are more than 26 million commercially available chemicals sold around the world, and more than 46 million organic and inorganic substances registered with the Chemical Abstract Society. Indeed, more than 30 million shipments of dangerous goods are transported every year in Canada alone. That is right, over 30 million shipments of dangerous goods in Canada alone.

Trade, whether between the provinces or across the border with the United States, continues to grow steadily. Dangerous goods are likewise being transported across national and provincial boundaries more often than ever before.

The provinces approached the federal government to bring forward federal legislation that could help deal with this trade and provide Canadians with the appropriate public safety protections that provincial legislation by itself could not do.

Between Canada and the United States, agreements ensure ease of trade while maintaining safety. In most cases, this permits a shipment of dangerous goods originating in one country to be transported to its final destination in another country without interference, provided, of course, that the shipment is in compliance with the rules of the originating country.

As I said earlier, our transportation of dangerous goods program is based on the premise that proper classification of dangerous goods is absolutely vital to its safe transportation.

Our program is actually harmonized and aligned, as appropriate, to international, United Nations and United States conventions. This new bill will be no different. In fact the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992 is under criminal law and applies to all matters relating to the importation, transportation and handling of dangerous goods.

Provincial legislation addresses mostly local transportation on highways. Federal regulations are adopted in one form or another by each and every province and territory.

The current act and regulations are enforced by federal and provincial inspectors. Agreements on shared enforcement result in the provinces focusing primarily on highway inspections and the federal government dealing with marine, rail and air transport and shipping activities.

When the current act came into force, no one at all could have envisioned a new security environment that would emerge following the terrorist attacks of September 11, the transit bombings in London in 2005, or the attempted bombing of the Glasgow airport in 2007.

The current act is based primarily on prevention of disasters during the transportation of these dangerous substances and right now focuses less on the safety and the response capabilities of the government.

This government's proposed amendments in this bill, on which my colleagues will elaborate further, would significantly expand the measures used by the federal government in cases involving dangerous goods.

By working with our provincial and territorial counterparts, as well as key stakeholders and law enforcement, these new safety and security requirements will keep Canadians safe.

In March 2004, the department began broad-based consultations to provide an appropriate review of the act. Meetings were held with industry shippers, manufacturers and producers, industry associations, unions, provincial and territorial governments, first responders to matters of safety, and the public and cities all across Canada. These consultations generated extensive and substantive input, which is reflected in new Bill C-9.

What is more, in 2005 Transport Canada hosted meetings with officials from provincial and territorial governments to discuss the new concepts and potential amendments to the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992. Discussions continued at each of the twice annual meetings of the federal-provincial-territorial task force on dangerous goods and also at the twice annual meetings of the minister's transportation of dangerous goods general policy advisory council.

Results of the department's consultations with industry, provincial and territorial governments and the public certainly underscored the value and relevancy of the current act while supporting the existing safety program and new security concepts being considered in the amendment of the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act.

Following the tabling in the last Parliament of Bill C-9, the department again met with the federal-provincial-territorial task force and the minister's transportation of dangerous goods general policy advisory council, as well as any interested parties on an individual basis to consult on the contents of the bill. This government wants to make sure that all consultations lead toward the best results for Canadians.

Under this revised legislation, shippers of dangerous goods would be required to submit an emergency response assistance plan, an ERAP, to the federal government prior to shipping dangerous substances. These plans outline detailed actions that would be taken by the shipper in case of an accident, including a list of specialized equipment needed to clean up the area. Preparation is the key to this. The plans also provide on-site assistance to local authorities. In the event an incident did occur, this new legislation would allow the federal government to use the measures and resources outlined in the corresponding ERAP to respond to the situation accordingly.

The proposed changes would also allow the federal government to use resources from the private companies that transport the substances in question to respond to the emergency itself, with the understanding, of course, that they would be properly compensated for whatever they were out.

On the security and prevention side, the bill would provide the authority to establish performance regulations for security plans and for training. These would be based on international and United Nations recommendations and in line, quite frankly, with existing U.S. regulations.

With respect to the safety amendments, consultations to improve the existing ERAP indicated that any proposed bill should include automatic activation as well as an authority for an inspector to activate a plan. I think that makes sense. I am pleased to say that these recommendations are reflected in this legislation.

It would also enable the development of regulations to establish security requirements for tracking dangerous goods, as well as regulations that would require companies to report lost or stolen dangerous goods. With the threat of global terrorism affecting all nations, including Canada, the government's proposed amendments also address the security of dangerous goods while being transported, stored or otherwise.

To do this, we will require: security plans and security training for all personnel handling or transporting those said goods; additional transportation security clearances for individuals transporting dangerous goods, such as truck drivers, et cetera; and the ability to track dangerous goods during transport.

Canada's role on the world stage continues to grow in importance and we are very fortunate to host a greater number of international events here in Canada. As such, there is growing concern about the need for these important security measures to be in place, and as quickly as possible.

The Vancouver 2010 Olympics is a prime example of this. If there is an incident involving dangerous goods, we need to ensure we have the necessary resources and the capacity to respond appropriately.

Under the proposed bill, the minister or deputy minister would be given authority to establish security measures and interim orders. An interim order would be used as an immediate regulation to respond to an urgent and immediate identified threat where the normal regulatory process, for instance, would take too long to protect public safety. The interim order would become public 24 days after Governor in Council approval. Only the Minister of Transport can put in place an interim order, and this interim order can only be established if the government has the legislative authority to currently make a regulation. Let me be clear. An interim order cannot be used to make regulations that the government does not already have the authority to make under the legislation.

The interim orders we are looking to introduce in this proposed bill would work exactly the same way as they already do in 10 other pieces of legislation across federal departments and agencies, including the Public Safety Act.

Conversely, a security measure is a regulation that would be used to respond to an immediate and urgent identified threat where publishing the regulation would compromise its intent and indeed public safety.

Security measures are required to be reviewed every two years to ensure that they are still valid and required, and to determine if at any time they can be made public. If a security measure is no longer required, it can be repealed immediately.

This bill would also give an inspector the authority to access facilities involved in manufacturing, repairing or testing means of containment according to identified standards and procedures. This is absolutely critical and of very great importance to the success of the safety program. Without the access to manufacturers of means of containment, it becomes very difficult and very expensive for the government to verify that the means of containment are built to the required standard. Failure to build a means of containment to standard may lead to major failures, putting public safety again at risk, and this is simply not acceptable to this government. We will not let that happen.

The federal government has consulted with industry, with provincial and territorial representatives and other key stakeholders that wanted to have input and all of them agree that these amendments are necessary.

It is important that we move forward with the amendments to the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act. If we do not move forward, we will not have the tools necessary to promote the security of the Canadian public arising from the modern security environment in which we live, including the risk of terrorist activities involving any dangerous goods.

Moreover, our continental partners are expecting Canada to bring forward security requirements for the transportation of dangerous goods and to do our part to keep North America safe and secure.

These initiatives brought forward today would harmonize security requirements for activities, such as security plans and security training, and enable the government to have a prevention and response security program for what all of us in this place and all Canadians are looking forward to, that being the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.

I must reinforce that not moving forward with an amended Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act may expose Canada on both the safety and the security fronts, two significant trade implications with our North American partners, something this government has no intention of doing, especially during these times of economic challenge and global economic downturn.

This government remains very committed to doing what is right for Canadians to ensure that we have the appropriate security and safety prevention and response program in place, to maintain and enhance public safety around the transportation of dangerous goods.

We look forward on this side of the House to the co-operation and the input of the other parties, as we believe that this is a tremendous time for Canada to move forward to keep Canadians safe, and we are looking for their support in this.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992
Government Orders

February 12th, 2009 / 5:25 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Brian Jean Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have worked with the member for some period of time and his questions have always been excellent, as is this one.

I can assure him that we have been in detailed discussions with all the provinces and territories to ensure we work together to have provinces or territories adopt the part of the legislation they want in their rules to ensure they are consistent throughout the country. Some of the provinces have not done this.

I understand consultations have gone on for some period of time and there is some difference between provinces in their provincial acts, but for the most part they are very happy with the initiatives by this government in Bill C-9.

I understand those consultations will continue on a twice a year basis for one group and another twice a year basis for another group. They will continue.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992
Government Orders

February 12th, 2009 / 5:55 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Ed Fast Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, the former Liberal government was famous for initiating ideas but many times it had difficulty bringing them to fruition. I am glad our government will be taking something, which will be very good for the safety of Canadians, and actually putting it into law. I also am glad to hear that the member is tentatively supporting the legislation.

I must say that in the past Parliament he and I served on the transportation committee together where we did a lot of good work, and he had a lot to do with that. There was a significant degree of consensus on the work that we did. In fact, I think he is probably more Conservative than he is prepared to admit.

One of the studies on which we had a great degree of consensus, which was related somewhat to the bill we have before us today, was rail safety. As members know, we had a number of very high profile derailments across Canada, some cases leading to the degradation of wildlife and fisheries resources, some cases leading to the loss of life and other cases leading to significant disruption of communities, and we were able to come up with some consensus recommendations in our rail study.

How does the member see the work that we did on the rail study as complementing the work that we are now doing on the transportation of dangerous goods, which is before us today as Bill C-9.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992
Government Orders

February 12th, 2009 / 6:05 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on behalf of the Bloc Québécois to speak to Bill C-9, An Act to amend the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992.

First of all, and I will repeat this throughout my speech, it is important to understand that the transportation of dangerous goods is a jurisdiction shared by the provinces and Ottawa. We will support Bill C-9 in principle because, at this stage, that would allow the bill to be sent directly to committee. Then it could be debated and witnesses and perhaps even representatives of the Government of Quebec could be called in order to ensure, once again, that this bill does not meddle in provincial jurisdictions.

The Bloc Québécois continues to be the most ardent defender of Quebeckers' interests. The first thing that we will ensure in this House is that the bill respects provincial areas of jurisdiction. It is important to us that Quebec's jurisdictions be respected. Thus, we have examined Bill C-9 with an open mind and with great consideration for provincial jurisdictions.

I would like to read the summary, provided when all bills are introduced. It gives a good overview of the content of the bill. I will then expand on that.

The summary states:

This enactment amends the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992, in order to enhance public safety—the safety of human life and health and of property and the environment.

The main amendments fall into two categories: new security requirements and safety amendments. These amendments include the following:

(a) requirements for security plans and security training;

(b) a requirement that prescribed persons must hold transportation security clearances to transport dangerous goods, and the establishment of regulatory authority in relation to appeals and reviews of any decision in respect of those clearances;

(c) the creation of a choice of instruments—regulations, security measures and interim orders—to govern security in relation to dangerous goods;

(d) the use of industry emergency response assistance plans approved by Transport Canada to respond to an actual or apprehended release of dangerous goods during their transportation;

The major new element concerns the notorious emergency response assistance plans that the industry should be tabling and that Industry Canada will approve so we can respond to the release of dangerous goods during transport.

(e) the establishment of regulatory authority to require that dangerous goods be tracked during transport or reported if lost or stolen;

(f) clarification of the Act to ensure that it is applicable uniformly throughout Canada, including to local works and undertakings;

They are saying that it will apply uniformly across the country. So it is important that this takes place in a way that respects provincial jurisdictions. We must ensure that the Quebec government is an integral part of each of the bill's planning stages and that it can confirm that it is willing to amend its own legislation to adapt to this legislation.

(g) reinforcement and strengthening of the Emergency Response Assistance Plan Program; and

(h) authority for inspectors to inspect any place in which standardized means of containment are being manufactured, repaired or tested.

It refers to the authority to inspect any place, but we do not want new policies to be implemented that intervene in peoples' personal lives in every way possible. We have to pay attention to that when a new bill is introduced.

When we talk about modernizing a bill about the transportation of dangerous goods, we have to listen, look, read, interpret and get to the bottom of things. It is important because things change and evolve. There are many dangerous goods and we are relying more heavily on nuclear technology, even in the medical field.

We must be careful. This freight, waste or residue is shipped to landfill sites. There is one in my riding that just never stops growing. It belonged to four municipalities. Initially, there was an objective: it would be administered by an inter-municipal board. Now the municipalities have decided to hand the management over to the private sector. The site keeps on growing and now the locals no longer know what is being trucked in there. My riding is crisscrossed with roads full of trucks that bring waste to this site. I hope that a bill like this can make carriers reveal their contents and can find a way to know let people know what is going past their homes on the way to the landfill. Similar examples to mine could be given from a number of different ridings in Quebec and in Canada. Highways that pass through Quebec lead to the Maritimes and Ontario.

According to everything we read, hear and see in the media. it is important to be able to tell people what is passing by their homes, and what is being shipped by truck, train, ship or plane. If there are dangerous goods, it must be ensured that there is a real way of containing and shipping them, whether it is waste or material to be used in a manufacturing process.

It is time this legislation was brought up to date. In the amended legislation, the safe shipping of dangerous goods would remain a shared responsibility, between the Government of Canada, Quebec, the provinces, the territories and industry. Within a framework of agreements, the provinces and territories would continue, in conjunction with Transport Canada, to enforce the requirements relating to the shipping of dangerous goods by road. We must be careful. We pass regulations, but who will be responsible for enforcement?

I take pride in saying that in recent years the Government of Quebec, under the good governance of the Parti Québécois, was able to set up a system of inspection and checking of all vehicles travelling through on the highway system. This entire system, once again paid for by the taxpayers of Quebec, ensures safety. It is important that another inspection system not be set up. If one were set up across Canada, in provinces and territories that might not have the means to do it themselves, the Government of Quebec would have to be compensated for the funds it has invested into highway safety. We do not want duplication or a new network or a new system of inspectors. It is understandable that we would want that.

If there were any chance representatives of the Government of Quebec would appear in committee, we could hear confirmation that everything is being respected. We are in the process of establishing a bill that could respect provincial jurisdictions and require full compensation for services provided directly by the provinces.

The act and its associated regulations are enforced directly by federal inspectors designated under the act, and by provincial and territorial inspectors. When offences are identified, immediate corrective or enforcement action is taken. This could include fines, prosecution or both. Enforcement responsibility would not change with the proposed amendments to the act.

A series of infractions is being added. When an emergency response assistance plan approved by Transport Canada is required, if the industry does not respect that or does not provide such a plan, we must be able to implement a system of offences, corrective action and penalties.

This could go as far as judicial proceedings. We cannot establish an entire system to monitor the transportation of dangerous goods without also including mechanisms to penalize those who break the law. If we did that, as we all know, this bill would be doomed to failure.

It is important to understand that all carriers would need to submit an emergency response assistance plan to Transport Canada before shipping dangerous substances. , Once again, anyone who transports such substances must submit an emergency response assistance plan. That is important. In committee, it will be important to ensure that shippers from outside Canada, for instance from the United States, who cross our borders, would also be required to have this emergency response assistance plan. Thus, it is important to ensure not only that this procedure applies to our domestic shippers, but also that those who transport goods and enter from the United States, for instance, are subject to this legislation.

The emergency response assistance plan outlines actions the shipper would take should an accident occur, and how it would assist local authorities. Emergency response assistance plans must include detailed information, such as a list of the dangerous goods being transported, a description of the shipper's emergency response capabilities, a list of specialized equipment available for use at the emergency site, a list of qualified persons available to advise and assist at the scene, and the communications systems expected to be used.

Of course, the location of an accident cannot be predicted, but it is important to understand that the individual who undertakes to transport the goods must ensure that, at all times throughout the journey, rapid intervention with suitable equipment, if necessary, is possible, and that local authorities can be contacted immediately.

Plans would be required only for substances that are potentially most harmful—certain explosives, toxic gases and flammable substances—and that may pose a widespread threat in the event of an incident. The revised legislation would require that ERAPs also be submitted to cover security incidents.

The committee will have to discuss which substances qualify as potentially most harmful. We need a definition that is consistent with the public's expectations. As I explained earlier, if we want to go forward with this bill and create any kind of framework for the transportation of dangerous goods, we have to ensure that the word “dangerous” is consistent with what our communities and our people expect. There is a reason we have this kind of bill. As I was saying before, in print and electronic media, we see things that happen around the world, and we do not want them to happen here. So, when we are trying to define “substances that are potentially most harmful”, we have to agree on a definition that is consistent with the public's expectations.

The proposed amendments include reinforcing the existing emergency response assistance program, which requires emergency response assistance plans to be in place should incidents occur involving dangerous goods. Assistance plans mean having everything in place to ensure assistance, as well as a financial plan to help communities. Personnel working with dangerous goods would require security training and screening.

Naturally, if we decide to pass this bill, to require companies to submit plans and to ensure that staff working for these businesses and who are in contact with these goods have the necessary training, we will also have to conduct screenings. We were speaking earlier of the transportation of explosives and toxic gases. For that reason, we must screen individuals working with these materials while respecting personal rights. The Bloc Québécois has always been a staunch defender of personal rights. We must ensure that such processes comply with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Once again, only the Bloc Québécois rises every day to defend the rights and freedoms of Quebeckers.

Third, it will establish regulations requiring dangerous goods to be tracked during transport and incidents to be reported if goods are lost or stolen. Regulations must be established in order to ensure that any accident would be automatically reported, which is not the case at present. In reading the summary of the bill, it becomes evident that reporting of incidents is not mandatory at this time. That is worrisome given that all manner of goods are being transported on our roads.

There is the use of security measures and interim orders, in accordance with the Public Safety Act and other legislation. We have to be careful when we talk about interim orders. Such powers are usually given to the minister or other representatives, and they must be clearly defined. There must be no secret as to what they are. Too often, the Conservatives bring in legislation, but there is no transparency. Even though they campaigned on transparency the first time they were elected, I noticed that the Conservatives were no longer talking about transparency during the most recent election campaign. Clearly, they were too embarrassed to mention it. The first time around, people did not know them, but after a year and a half, people knew that transparency was not the Conservatives' strong suit. We have to make sure that if there are interim orders and the minister is given special powers, the general public can know what those powers are, what happened and why.

Then there is the development of a program requiring a transportation security clearance to transport dangerous goods and the change in the definition of importer to specify who, in Canada, is subject to the requirements of the act and regulations with regard to the importing of dangerous goods. As I said, importers need to be made accountable, but so do the people who distribute the goods, who bring them across the border from the United States.

As I said, the Bloc Québécois supports this bill in principle, but feels that Transport Canada should continue conducting extensive consultations to make sure that the jurisdictions of Quebec and the provinces are respected.

Clearly, we would like Transport Canada to come before the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities and report on the hearings held across Canada on this issue, in order to make sure that all partners—governments, companies, carriers—were consulted.

It must be understood that this is a process of modernization. For some companies, having an emergency response plan is a major responsibility. We need to ensure that the industry can support it. If ever there were a problem, we need to see that there is help in place to ensure that companies are able to implement the complete system. What is needed is not only a bill and a series of fines, telling ourselves that if companies do not do this or do not comply there will be criminal proceedings. Yes, we can always send all the CEOs to jail, but that will not be great for the employment situation in our communities.

We need to ensure that our companies are able to cope with the bill. Therefore, they will have to be called before the committee to find out if they are ready, if the people involved in carrying dangerous goods are informed, and if they have been properly consulted. For our part, we will have to ensure that we have the right information and that they are prepared to cooperate fully with the government. We will also have to ensure that the provinces and territories are well aware of the situation, that there is a full inspection system in place, and that the ones that have inspectors in place already will be able to do the job. Compensation would need to be provided if any additional work were required by this bill.

The federal government must ensure that, while it may have to provide the network of inspectors in certain areas, it can compensate the provinces that have their own network and are capable of doing the work. Too often the federal government does this, for example with the Criminal Code. Certain cities are required to have a police service that enforces the Criminal Code. The cities are given more work but are not compensated for it.

We obviously do not want that to happen with this bill. There is a chance that carriers in Quebec could be required to obtain security certificates. Interprovincial carriers need to be aware of that and if ever the expenses were out of the ordinary, a program would be needed to compensate them.

So, we agree in principle, as long as Quebec's jurisdiction is respected. We will ask the necessary questions in committee.