Evidence of meeting #65 for Finance in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was that's.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Mirko Bibic  Executive Vice-President, Chief Legal and Regulatory Officer, BCE Inc. and Bell Canada
  • David Coles  President, Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada
  • Gary Wong  Director, Legal Affairs, Data and Audio-Visual Enterprises Wireless Inc., Mobilicity
  • Bruce Kirby  Vice-President, Strategy and Business Development, Public Mobile
  • Simon Lockie  Chief Regulatory Officer, Wind Mobile
  • Len Zedel  Memorial University of Newfoundland, As an Individual
  • Bob Kingston  National President, Agriculture Union
  • Philippe Bergevin  Senior Policy Analyst, C.D. Howe Institute
  • David Skinner  President, Consumer Health Products Canada
  • Matthew Holmes  Executive Director, Canada Organic Trade Association
  • Richard Wright  Manager, Exploration, Oil and Gas, Nalcor Energy
  • Richard Steiner  Professor, University of Alaska, Conservation and Sustainability Consultant, Oasis Earth Project, As an Individual
  • Erin Weir  Economist, United Steelworkers

8:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Rajotte

Thank you very much for your presentation, Mr. Weir.

We'll begin members' questions with Ms. Nash, please.

May 30th, 2012 / 8:30 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

Thank you very much to all of the witnesses.

I want to start off by saying to each of you that you're all experts in your field. You're given five minutes to present here tonight, and we each get five minutes of questions to you, including answers. It's a bit jammed.

One of my colleagues on the committee was saying that many of these issues have been studied many times over the years, but in this particular Parliament, for many of the 308 elected members who are now representing Canadians, it is the first time they are dealing with these issues. So to truly represent their constituents...we feel there is so much jammed into this bill.

Tonight, of course, we're dealing with the Coasting Trade Act and offshore seismic surveys, food inspection, Investment Canada, the Food and Drugs Act, the Seeds Act, and of course we've been dealing with many other topics over the last few days.

I regret that we're not able to fully examine each of the areas in which you have expertise, but we do appreciate you being here this evening.

I'd like to begin with Mr. Steiner and your comments. We've heard from Dr. Zedel regarding offshore seismic surveys, and Mr. Steiner, you talked about the Deepwater Horizon and the inadequate regulation that ultimately led to a climate disaster and a disaster for the U.S. economy, and certainly for the environment and for the people who were affected.

Can you give us a sense of the economic impact of that disaster? What kind of regulatory action did the U.S. government take to try to prevent a similar disaster from happening again?

8:35 p.m.

Prof. Richard Steiner

I appreciate the question. That could take many hours.

We learned our lesson the hard way with Deepwater Horizon, as we did 23 years ago with the Exxon Valdez , right here in Alaska. We got tanker shipping fixed after that, by and large, but we did not fix offshore drilling and the risks imposed by that. We learned the hard way.

We are hoping that Canada does not have to likewise learn the hard way. Seismic exploration can cause a lot of both acute and chronic long-term injury.

You asked about the economic implications of Deepwater Horizon. They were obviously enormous. It was the largest accidental oil spill in human history. BP, I believe, has already paid out something like $30 billion to $40 billion U.S., and they are faced with another $20 billion or so in natural resource damage claims. So it's going to be—before it's all said and done for BP—a $50 billion or $60 billion bill.

I would certainly encourage Canada to review your financial liability statutes with regard to exploratory drilling. It's important to note that the Deepwater Horizon was engaged in exploratory drilling. It was not a production facility. There's a greater risk in deep water exploration.

I hope that's responsive to your question in the short time we have.

8:35 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

Yes, thank you for that.

I guess I can take from your answer that you would agree with Professor Zedel that at a minimum we should be maintaining our regulation, and perhaps even re-examining it, to make sure we're fully protected, and perhaps enhancing the regulation that we have to protect Canadians, our economy, and our environment.

8:35 p.m.

Prof. Richard Steiner

It is my position that both the United States and Canada need to enhance...we need to raise the bar on environmental regulation of the offshore oil and gas industry, and particularly the oil spill risk that it imposes, but also the risks and impacts we know about from seismic exploration, which are pretty well documented.

8:35 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

Thank you very much.

I would like to ask a question of Erin Weir, but I have about—

8:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Rajotte

You have 20 seconds.

8:35 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

I would like you to comment on the Investment Canada Act. For situations like the U.S. Steel takeover, for example, where Canadians were never able to find out the terms of that agreement—I think we eventually learned about it through a court case. Do you think Canadians ought to be able to find out exactly what the commitments are to Canadians?

8:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Rajotte

Just a brief response, Mr. Weir.

8:35 p.m.

Economist, United Steelworkers

Erin Weir

I think it's very important to disclose that information as a matter of democracy, but also as a practical matter of being able to hold companies to the commitments. The commitments don't mean anything if they're secret.

8:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Rajotte

Thank you, Ms. Nash.

Mr. Hoback, please.

8:35 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Prince Albert, SK

Thank you, Chair.

Again, I'd like to thank the witnesses for coming this evening and being part of this very important process. What you say does have an impact on how we go through...and the implementation of the budget is a very important matter for Canadians as a whole.

I come from the province of Saskatchewan. In the last five years the province of Saskatchewan has gone through tremendous change. It's gone through a tremendous amount of growth. It's seen policies that have created growth. It's the only province in Canada that has balanced its budget. It has a premier who has allowed business to flourish, who has encouraged growth, and who has gone around the world trying to get employees. He was just in Ireland, trying to get employees from Ireland to go there, because we need specific trades; we need people to fill all the jobs that have been created.

In the early 2000s, when I was in Saskatchewan under an NDP government, we saw families moving out of Saskatchewan. Mr. Jean probably enjoyed that year, because in his riding everybody who worked there was either from Newfoundland or Saskatchewan. Now I know a lot of Saskatchewanians are moving back home and joining their families. I find it really interesting.

Mr. Weir, I'm going to direct this to you. You've been quoted as saying that Premier Wall is fanning the flames of western alienation because he dared to speak out against NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair's attack on the Saskatchewan resource sector. I'm just baffled by that. First, Mr. Wall did not start this debate; it was Mr. Mulcair. Mr. Wall was just defending the growth that's happened in Saskatchewan. I'd also like to point out that the growth in Saskatchewan has had tremendous spinoff effects right across Canada.

You can't honestly say we'd be better off without a strong resource sector. Is that what you're saying?

8:40 p.m.

Economist, United Steelworkers

Erin Weir

No, that's not what I'm saying. I'm not sure what this question has to do with the Investment Canada Act or the omnibus budget bill.

8:40 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Prince Albert, SK

Actually, it has a lot to do with your credibility as a witness.

8:40 p.m.

Economist, United Steelworkers

Erin Weir

Having said that, I'm happy to answer it.

Will you give me a chance to—