Debates of March 12th, 2001
House of Commons Hansard #26 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was judiciary.
- Corrections And Conditional Release Act
- Canada Shipping Act, 2001
- Juno Awards
- Commonwealth Day
- Kyle Challenge 2001
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- Canada Foundation For Innovation
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- The Francophonie
- National Defence
- Richard Legendre
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- Jurgen Seewald
- Auberge Grand-Mère
- Newspaper Industry
- Media Concentration
- The Environment
- Newspaper Industry
- Free Trade Area Of The Americas
- Economic Development
- National Defence
- Organized Crime
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- Presence In Gallery
- Points Of Order
- Order In Council Appointments
- Parliament Of Canada Act
- Criminal Code
- Questions On The Order Paper
- Judges Act
Corrections And Conditional Release Act
Private Members' Business
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)
The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired. As the motion was not selected as a votable item, this item is dropped from the order paper.
Canada Shipping Act, 2001
March 12th, 2001 / 11:55 a.m.
Canada Shipping Act, 2001
Brent St. Denis Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Transport
Mr. Speaker, I wish to inform the House that I will be splitting my time with the member for Malpeque who will speak on behalf of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.
I am pleased to speak to Bill C-14, the Canada Shipping Act, 2001.
Transportation has always played a vital role in our history and it continues to do so today. The means of travel have changed from the days of the canoe, wagon and steam engine. Canoes are still important today but much has changed in terms of modes of transportation.
The facts of Canadian geography and economics remain much the same. We are a country of distances and space, a comparatively small population spread across a vast land mass, relying on trade with other nations for our prosperity. Those are the facts of Canadian life and they are the reasons transportation continues to be so important.
Transportation remains essential to our lives and to our economy. Transport Canada has examined every aspect of our transportation system in recent years to determine what tools the economy needs to thrive. In turn, the government has worked to improve the legislative framework governing air transportation, railways and ports. It is time to bring Canadian shipping into the 21st century.
The Canada Shipping Act is the principal piece of legislation governing personal safety and environmental protection in the marine sector. No one can deny the pressing need to review and overhaul the legislation. I say pressing need because the legislation is sorely outdated and a successful marine industry, essential to our prosperity, needs modern legislation.
We are a maritime nation with three coasts and vast interior waterways. We are a trading nation and we depend on shipping to move much of our trade. Transport Canada data indicates that in 1999 the civil marine industry directly employed approximately 31,000 people and shipped a total of 334 million tonnes of cargo.
The shipping industry moved imports and exports worth $83 billion in 1999. Over 90% of marine tonnage derives from bulk commodities such as coal, ores, petroleum, grain and forest products. International shipments comprise about 84% of total traffic, a number expected to grow in the future.
Despite that impressive record, Canada's shipping industry will find it increasingly difficult to compete internationally unless we implement transportation policies that are based on sound, modern legislation and consistent with those of our trading partners. We can readily see that transportation is vital to Canada, that the marine industry is important to our economy and that the Canada Shipping Act is outdated and needs revision.
What about the proposed legislation before the House? How will it answer the needs I have outlined?
The objectives of Bill C-14 are stated clearly in part 1 of the bill. The objectives are threefold: First, to protect the health, safety and well-being of individuals; second, to protect the marine environment; and third, to encourage viable, effective and economical marine transportation and commerce.
To support those objectives a complete reform of the Canada Shipping Act was undertaken. The reform had three goals: First, to simplify the legislation by replacing outdated terminology with plainer language, harmonizing it with other regimes and taking out excessively prescriptive details.
Second, to make it consistent with federal regulatory policies, reducing reliance on regulations and permitting alternative approaches, such as compliance agreements, performance standards and voluntary industry codes which are much more consistent with today's regulatory practices.
Third, to contribute to the economic performance of the marine industry by reducing prescriptive elements and the administrative burden imposed by the current legislation, and by giving the industry the increased flexibility it needs to maintain safety and to increase business.
The current act is, without exaggeration, antiquated. The act came into law in 1936 and was based on the 1896 British merchant shipping law. Many parts of the existing act are so out of date they would be amusing if the act were not a crucial piece of legislation.
The act is also supported by an extensive regulatory regime composed of at least 90 separate regulations. The sheer size, difficult language and vast coverage of the legislation make it as difficult to enforce as to follow. Canada needs modern legislation that will benefit, not hinder, the marine sector in Canada.
Bill C-14 is the result of several years' work by the Department of Transport in conjunction with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Industry and other affected parties and stakeholders. It is not a mere retrofitting of the old act. It has been built, much like a vessel, from the keel up. We call Bill C-14 the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 because it reflects a complete break with the past.
The bill is a crucial step toward ensuring that the Canadian shipping industry has legislation that reflects modern industry practices and keeps up with technological advancements.
A joint effort by Transport Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Bill C-14 was developed through unprecedented consultations with stakeholders. This consultative process is an excellent example of co-operation between the government and the marine communities to achieve the shared objective of improving our marine system.
On behalf of the government, I take the opportunity to thank the interested parties that brought forward their views on the many issues addressed in the legislation. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Transport Canada crossed the country five different times holding discussion groups and listening to the ideas of individuals and industry. In June 1999 a draft bill was shared with the industry.
The two departments listened carefully to stakeholders and, wherever possible, accommodated their concerns. They drew the line only where accepting a proposal would have undermined their ability to protect the marine environment or the health and well-being of those who work in the marine industry.
The legislation before the House is appropriate. It incorporates most of the concerns presented to the government by diverse groups with differing views from across the country. The aim of the bill is to make Canada's marine legislation a tool that benefits all Canadians, to enable industries to be more competitive and to protect the marine environment.
Bill C-14 was drafted to be accessible and comprehensible to all Canadians. In keeping with this goal, the language of the new act is simpler. The legislation is more concise and logically organized. The number of sections has been greatly reduced and, as requested by the marine community, Bill C-14 contains a preamble that states the overall objectives of the act and makes it simpler and easier to understand.
The legislation also clearly delineates the areas of responsibility between the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Transport Canada. For instance, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has responsibility for pleasure craft and Transport Canada has responsibility for all non-pleasure craft.
Both industry and Transport Canada require a mechanism to address rapid technological change. Unlike aircraft or locomotives, ships are most often built one at a time. This requires flexibility in how we administer regulations, a flexibility that must be tempered within the bounds set by parliament.
Bill C-14 clearly outlines the powers of a proposed marine technical review panel which would replace the existing board of steamship inspection. The panel would be empowered to grant an exemption only if it were in the public interest and would not jeopardize marine safety or the environment. Any exemption would need to result in an equivalent or greater level of safety before the panel could approve an application or an exemption.
Bill C-14 clarifies the shipmaster's responsibility to ensure the vessel is adequately staffed with properly qualified and trained personnel. Also clarified is the master's authority to maintain good order and discipline on board a vessel. In response to stakeholder concerns, the right of seafarers to place a lien against a vessel for unpaid wages remains in the bill.
Labour provisions in the existing act, the Canada Labour Code and provincial statutes, often overlap. To avoid this, the department's ability to regulate in the area of occupational health and safety is restricted to matters not identified in the labour code.
Part 4 of the bill is primarily concerned with the safe design, construction, inspection and operation of vessels. Detailed provisions in the existing legislation have been moved to other regulations or standards. Antiquated provisions were eliminated.
In consultation with stakeholders, industry supported Transport Canada's retaining responsibility for setting minimum ship safety standards. It was also agreed that the responsibility for safety and compliance should be shared among those working on a vessel and that these responsibilities, particularly those of the master, should be defined in the act.
Bill C-14 allows Canada to fulfil its international obligations respecting various international conventions, such as safety of life at sea and the international safety management code, by allowing the department to implement these instruments via regulation.
The legislation before us focuses on safety and covers all Canadian waters and fishing zones. Provisions related to marine liability have been transferred to the Marine Liability Act, introduced as Bill S-2, which will hopefully soon be before committee.
Commitment to marine safety and protection of the environment has been reinforced by Canada's commitment to port state control. As a port state, Canada is permitted to board foreign vessels to inspect them regardless of the currency of their safety certificates. That means that whoever comes into our ports will be inspected, no matter what flag they fly. More than 25% of all vessels that dock in Canadian ports are inspected, with the focus being on ships with potential safety concerns.
In 1999 Canada inspected 1,076 vessels from 86 registered countries. Of those, about half had deficiencies in such major areas as lifesaving, navigation equipment and safety in general. The greatest number of deficiencies was in the area of fire safety measures. In 1999, 125 vessels were detained until deficiencies were rectified. To ensure the safety of ports and of vessels using Canadian waters, we must maintain vigilance.
One of the main objectives of the proposed legislation is to protect the marine environment. Bill C-14 contains regulation making authority regarding preventing and responding to pollution of the marine environment. Transport Canada and Fisheries and Oceans officials have worked closely with all interested parties to ensure that the legislation's pollution preventing provisions are modern and consistent with other domestic and international standards. The departments have also worked together to ensure that the penalties for non-compliance are competitive and effective.
Transport Canada takes all pollution matters seriously. The proposed legislation enhances the ability to protect the marine environment. Measures to prevent marine pollution and improve maritime safety are addressed by the International Maritime Organization. The measures are implemented in Canada through the Canada Shipping Act.
Most of the department's efforts focus on preventing pollution by setting regulatory requirements for ship based equipment such as oil-water separators, inspection and certification of Canadian vessels, and inspection of foreign vessels calling at Canadian ports.
When ship sourced pollution is detected in the marine environment Transport Canada investigates in close co-operation with Environment Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard. When sufficient evidence is collected charges are laid using regulations under the Canada Shipping Act or other Canadian statutes depending on the source of the pollution incident.
The proposed legislation provides appropriate deterrents and an effective enforcement scheme which includes penalties for minor and serious offences relating to the environment. For major pollution offences the penalty provisions contained in the proposed act are modelled on the current Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999.
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is also a high priority for the Canadian government. Marine transportation contributes only about 3% of all transportation related emissions. That makes marine transportation an important part of a sustainable transportation system. We as members of parliament must encourage its use wherever possible.
At the same time even those emissions can be further reduced. Transport Canada will continue to have authority to regulate emissions from large vessels and will continue to make that a priority.
There is also a need to protect the marine environment from harmful aquatic organisms and pathogens that enter our waters in ship ballast water. Transport Canada continues to lead national and regional working groups on ballast water. A commitment has been made to have Canadian regulations on ballast water in place by 2002. Having a Great Lakes riding, I can appreciate the importance of regulating ballast water that comes from our oceans through ships.
I now turn to an aspect of the economic regulations of shipping and navigation, namely the Shipping Conferences Exemption Act. For the purposes of this discussion I will say SCEA from here on in. Amendments to SCEA are found in part 15 of Bill C-14.
Part 15 addresses an important aspect of transportation supporting the Canadian economy: the movement by ship of Canada's overseas containerized trade, as well as some general cargo. This is specifically known in the industry as the liner trade. International shipping lines offer regularly scheduled liner services between ports around the globe. A shipping line has the choice to join a shipping conference or to remain as an independent operator.
A shipping conference is a group of ocean shipping lines acting collectively to set rates and offer services on specific trade routes. Shipping conferences are recognized throughout the world and they contribute to reliable service and stable rates.
Many of Canada's trading partners, such as the United States, Europe, Australia and Japan, accommodate conferences through special legislation. Recently they have reviewed their conference legislation and concluded that, while it should be retained, more competitive provisions can be accommodated.
The Shipping Conferences Exemption Act exempts shipping conferences from certain provisions of the Competition Act and sets the rules for their operations. Amendments to SCEA are now required to keep Canada's shipping conferences legislation and rules in balance with Canada's major trading partners. The amendments encourage a more competitive climate within conferences and also streamlines the administration of the act.
Canada enacted its first Shipping Conferences Exemption Act in 1971. SCEA was updated and replaced on two occasions, in 1979 and again in 1987. Both revisions added new competitive provisions in the act. SCEA was last reviewed by the National Transportation Act Review Commission and the Standing Committee on Transport during the years 1992 and 1993. It was concluded that, while conferences run counter to the general government policy of encouraging competition, the act should be retained on grounds that the economic uncertainty created by its elimination would not be in Canada's best interests.
While liner shipping represents only 15% of Canada's international marine tonnage, this figure does not adequately reflect the importance of liner shipping to Canada as lower value bulk commodities, like grain and coal, dominate the tonnage statistics.
In general, commodities in the liner trades consist of higher value products, such as electronic and telecommunications equipment and automobile components.
The container business is also a major contributor to the prosperity of ports, such as Vancouver, Montreal and Halifax, Canada's three main container ports. It is therefore in Canada's interest to continue to attract the shipping lines while at the same time encouraging affordable ocean transportation and an adequate and reliable level of service for Canadian industries.
It should be understood that even though a shipping conference may be entitled to an exemption under SCEA, the act does not suspend the application of the Competition Act for any conference agreement if any party to the agreement conspires, agrees or arranges to engage in predatory pricing or other anti-competitive behaviour.
While anxious to protect the interests of Canadian industry, the government must be mindful of the need for a balanced approach to conference legislation. Radical anti-conference measures or a departure from compatible international rules could result in unfavourable repercussions for Canadian industry and Canadian ports.
I mentioned that the amendments to SCEA, as contained in part 15, will encourage a more competitive operating climate within shipping conferences and will provide added flexibility for shippers in dealing with conferences. Shippers will have the ability to more quickly access rates and services offered by individual conference lines. Meanwhile each conference member will be able to negotiate service contracts with shippers without adhering to terms and conditions set by the conference.
The amendments are also designed to streamline the administration of the act. Hence, tariff filing by conferences with the Canadian Transportation Agency will be replaced with public electronic access to conference tariffs and other conference information.
By adopting these changes to SCEA, Canadian legislation pertaining to shipping conferences will remain in balance with our major trading partners. Shippers will benefit from the injection of greater competition into the practices of conferences while conferencing will continue to have a limited exemption from the Competition Act.
In conclusion, the bill will help make Canada's waterways a safer place for both seafarers and the public and will ensure a competitive industry. It is a product of unprecedented consultations with industry and other stakeholders, a process that has helped us to craft legislation that will protect safety and the environment through a graduated series of fair and appropriate penalties retaining always prosecution for serious offences.
Politics is the art of the possible. We have practised that art balancing the needs and concerns of Canadians with different interests and protecting the environment and those who work at sea. The results are an effective piece of legislation that will replace an act long overdue for renewal and give Canadians the modern, efficient framework we need for the 21st century.
I urge the House to support the bill and speedily send it off to committee.
Canada Shipping Act, 2001
Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-14, the Canada Shipping Act, 2001. This is a major piece of legislation early in this new parliament. We do not know if it will last a full millennium but the contents of the bill will stand for decades. I say that based partly on past experience.
The old act has been on the books and has received only minor changes since 1936 and has served us reasonably well. However it became apparent within Transport Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada, as well as to our marine industry and stakeholders, that a newer, more comprehensive and modern version of the act was needed to keep Canada's marine activities globally competitive and environmentally sustainable.
As members have been hearing, the bill is a major overhaul of the old legislation, almost from top to bottom. It clearly sets out the roles of both the Minister of Transport and the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. The thrust is to simplify the legislation and clarify regulatory authorities which will contribute to economic viability and environmental sustainability in our marine industries.
From the standpoint of fisheries and oceans, the legislation clarifies and strengthens important areas of responsibility, in particular, ensuring the safety of navigation, including pleasure boating, and the protection of the marine environment.
Arriving at this point took many years of work both within government and with stakeholders across the country. Those industries and individuals who must live under the law every day had an unprecedented opportunity to improve the legislation before this final version of the bill was written. From commercial shipping and supertankers to the recreational boating community, everyone had a chance to participate in the review of this important legislation.
What we have before the House today is the government's tangible proof of leadership and of commitment to the marine sector.
Today I want to urge all hon. members to assist us in proceeding quickly with the final track of this much needed reform. When passed by parliament, the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 will be a modernized act, one that will satisfy the regulatory needs of the marine community and marine stakeholders for years to come. It will enable government and stakeholders to work better together to ensure a clean marine environment.
Three of the department's long term priorities and goals are directly related to the bill. The legislation goes a long way toward strengthening our ability to make these goals a reality.
First, there is the priority of maintaining marine safety. This means safe practices on the water which is essential for saving lives and preventing accidents. We are proud of what we have accomplished in the past but we know that the tools in this bill are essential for us to go even further toward ensuring safe, clean waters to which we can all have access.
As the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport said in his speech, marine activity is on the rise very dramatically. We have to be able to respond so that we not only maintain but also improve on past performance. The bill will contribute to enhanced marine safety through new provisions covering vessel traffic services, aids to navigation and clear definition of the department's responsibilities for pleasure craft. It also sets out the department's responsibilities for pollution prevention and response and search and rescue.
The second long term goal of the department relating to the bill is to facilitate marine transportation, commerce and ocean development. The bill is in large part a response to demands for much needed clarification and modernization.
The government demonstrated leadership in undertaking this massive task in consultation with many stakeholders. The result before the House today is a document which, I am confident to say, satisfies the regulatory needs of the marine community within an environmentally sound framework.
Marine traffic is increasing at a tremendous rate, from huge ocean going commercial vessels to the vast increase in the number of recreational vessels on our waters. We need to be in a position to handle these movements safely and efficiently. The bill before the House provides us with the authority to do just that.
Finally, there is the third priority of pollution prevention and response. This means working closely and effectively with industry in fulfilling our commitment to manage and protect the marine and freshwater environment.
The bill will be an invaluable tool in helping us prevent oil spills. It will also help us respond quickly and effectively in case the unthinkable occurs despite all our best efforts. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans will take the lead in this part of the act. DFO is responsible for ensuring that oil handling facilities have oil spill prevention plans in place in an arrangement for response with a coast guard certified response organization to control the consequences just in case. As sometimes happens, the best laid plans go awry.
The bill maintains the legislative basis for an innovative government industry partnership, which now enhances Canada's national oil spill preparedness and response capacity. It also allows Canada to fulfill its international commitments in co-operating with other countries on measures to strengthen our national oil spill preparedness and response system. It allows for greater public scrutiny of the actions that government and industry undertake to protect the environment.
I want to emphasize that when I talk about provisions concerning response to pollution incidents, I do not mean to imply that accidents are the norm in the marine environment. They are not. Rather, my point is to show that this is a balanced and realistic piece of legislation that focuses on safety by emphasizing prevention first and foremost, while at the same time prudently recognizing that one must always be prepared for accidents.
Marine safety relies upon wisdom which dictates that a combined approach is best, an approach that focuses on both prevention and response to save lives and protect the environment.
In closing, let me add a few more general observations on the importance of the bill. The minister and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans are guided by three key objectives: safety, efficiency and environmental protection.
The Canadian coast guard plays a key role in ensuring that the department meets these objectives in regard to activities in the marine environment. The coast guard will be instrumental in assisting the department to make sure the new act is implemented smoothly and effectively.
What the bill really provides is an important piece of regulatory framework that allows DFO to get on with doing its job of providing key services that benefit Canadians. The Canadian coast guard is guided by the motto “Safety first, service always”. That is precisely what the bill is all about.
In 1999 the coast guard carried out nearly 6,500 search and rescue operations and saved 3,500 lives at risk. That is an impressive record but of course we want to improve by reducing the need for this kind of performance.
The aim of the bill before us today is to enhance our preventive capacity so fewer lives are endangered in the future. In short, the administrative efficiencies and increased safety aspects of the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 will be a benefit for all who work or play on the water.
I call on all members to do their part to make this proposed legislation a reality. Those who come from maritime communities know firsthand the importance of clear rules, safe waters and shared responsibility. The Canada Shipping Act, 2001 covers all of these aspects, strengthening the government's regulatory role where needed while placing increased responsibility on industry and on those who enjoy our waterways to plan for good practices and safer environments.
As I said, the studying and planning that went into the bill have taken many months. Now is the time for the House to take on its responsibility, show leadership and pass the bill as quickly as possible.
Canada Shipping Act, 2001
Andy Burton Skeena, BC
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise this afternoon to address Bill C-14, an act respecting shipping and navigation and to amend the Shipping Conferences Exemption Act, 1987 and other acts on behalf of the official opposition.
It is indeed an honour to be standing before the House today giving my maiden speech. Before I express my opinion on Bill C-14, please allow me a moment to say a few words about my riding of Skeena, my constituents and the people who have helped to get me elected.
Let me say thanks to my wife Ann, who is in the gallery today to support me. Without her love and understanding I would not be here today. I want to thank our children, Bart, Joann, Lynne, Joy and Gail and their families also.
My sincere thanks go out to the residents of Skeena in northwestern British Columbia, the beautiful and vast area encompassing almost 250,000 square kilometres stretching from Bella Bella to Atlin, the Queen Charlotte Islands to Telkwa, bordered by Alaska and the Yukon in the northern half. Skeena is also the largest riding in British Columbia and one of the largest in Canada.
I am indeed proud and honoured that the constituents of Skeena chose me to be their representative in parliament. I pledge to do my very best to represent them and their interests in Ottawa.
With regard to Bill C-14, the government's summary of the bill states:
This enactment overhauls and replaces the Canada Shipping Act, other than the portions that concern liability, with modernized legislation that will promote the safety and economic performance of the commercial marine industry as well as ensure the safety of those who use pleasure craft. Key changes to the existing legislation include improvements to provisions to protect and support efficient crews, ensure passenger and vessel safety and protect the environment. A new administrative penalties scheme provides an alternative means for dealing with certain contraventions.
The enactment clarifies the marine responsibilities between the Department of Transport and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
The enactment organizes the contents, updates the terminology and streamlines substantive requirements to make the law much clearer and easier to understand.
The enactment amends the Shipping Conferences Exemption Act, 1987 to inject greater competition within shipping conferences, to streamline the administration of the Act and to ensure that Canadian legislation covering international liner shipping conferences remains in harmony with that of Canada's major trading partners.
I wonder if it would be possible for the government to be any more vague when contemplating the title of such an important piece of legislation. Who thought of the title, an act respecting shipping and navigation and to amend the Shipping Conferences Exemption Act, 1987 and other acts?
Bill C-14 is significant in that it represents a complete overhaul of the updating of Bill C-35, which was first introduced in the 36th parliament and died on the order paper when the election was called. Bill C-35 was rightly entitled the Canada Shipping Act, a bill that has served as a cornerstone for shipping activity in Canadian waters.
The Canada Shipping Act has been in dire need of review for many years. I commend the government for undertaking such a monumental task. Bill C-14 contains some 334 articles and is just under 200 pages in length.
I imagine the introduction of this bill must have been a gratifying moment for its authors. I can appreciate their enthusiasm for getting the bill through the House and to committee, with the hope of finally seeing the bill passed into law. This is evident in that the bill was only introduced on March 1, one day prior to the House rising for the break week and here we are our first day back and Bill C-14 is already at second reading. Enthusiasm I can appreciate. Attempting to railroad the parliamentary process I do not.
The speed with which the government has moved from first to second reading suggests to me one of two things. Either the government does not have complete faith in the legislation that it has introduced and is concerned about it getting a proper review, or the government is so devoid of new legislation that this is the only activity on the horizon so it had better run with it.
I realize the government opposite has become so used to rushing bills through the House that it has become second nature to it, but I fail to see the national crisis that will be averted by the lightning speed passage of this particular bill.
Being a maritime nation, I am confident that there are numerous stakeholders that have been waiting patiently for the introduction and passage of this bill. I say that they have been waiting patiently because they already know what the bill contains as a result of an uncharacteristic move by the Department of Transport.
As a result of the bill's complex nature and the apparent inability of Transport Canada officials to adequately prepare new legislation, the bill was released in draft form to a limited group of stakeholders for review and input, and before the final version was prepared for introduction in the House. I support and appreciate the need for public consultation when it comes to revising and updating our nation's legislation but, as a member of parliament, I take exception when the government deliberately circumvents the parliamentary process by handing out copies of the bill prior to members of parliament even being made aware of its existence.
I am concerned that this has set an extremely dangerous precedent. The continued disregard for parliamentary procedure and attempts to reduce the power of the elected members of the House should not be tolerated.
In yet another fine display of parliamentary disregard, the government has chosen to incorporate changes to the Shipping Conferences Exemption Act, 1987 or SCEA into a bill that when introduced last session only dealt with shipping regulations. By only the broadest stretch of the imagination do these two bills have anything in common. It is very convenient for the government however to attach such a contentious amendment to the SCEA bill to Bill C-14, since Bill C-14 is a bill that shipping interests have been calling for.
SCEA is contentious in that it allows ocean shipping lines to collude and form cartels that determine the scheduling and pricing for freight movements into and out of Canadian ports. By its provisions, the shipping lines are exempt from the provisions of the Competition Act, a move that was originally intended to ensure that Canada was well serviced by the shipping lines.
Some groups have come forward and questioned the necessity for the continuation of SCEA. I am confident we will be hearing from those groups as the debate on the bill progresses.
Despite the concerns I have raised regarding the manner in which the bill has been introduced, we will be supporting the referral of the bill to committee where I am confident it will undergo a very detailed paragraph by paragraph review to ensure that the members of the House are satisfied with its contents.
With regard to shipping, I would like to make some comments relating to my riding of Skeena. Skeena has a long history of shipping, principally the ports of Prince Rupert, Kitimat and Stewart. However, I will begin by painting a picture of my riding for the benefit of those members who have not had the pleasure to visit this vast and beautiful area of Canada.
The riding of Skeena is a wonderful area in which to live, rich with fish and wildlife, rich in potential for new mineral resource extraction and new opportunity in value added forestry operations and oil and gas development. One of the best kept Canadian trade secrets is a transportation corridor through northwestern B.C. en route to Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and the eastern U.S.A. This port-road-rail link, which is underused and is frankly not well known, has the potential to provide tremendous opportunity to large areas of Canada.
The potential is there for shipping much more grain and coal through the Ridley Island terminals of Prince Rupert, as these facilities are vastly underutilized, as is the bulk loading facility at the port of Stewart, Canada's most northerly ice free port. Kitimat also has major dock and shipping facilities.
Transportation is critical to the social and economic fabric of the country, whether it be a seaport, an airport, a rail line or a highway. Transportation infrastructure is an economic engine that not only sustains growth but actually generates economic prosperity.
My riding of Skeena is also home to many aboriginal communities which face intense challenge, as do most other small resource based communities such as Stewart, my home for many years. Although Skeena riding offers a great lifestyle, the economy of today is creating hardship for families. For many it is a difficult place in which to earn a living.
The results from the recent election show very clearly that the west and the north feel alienated and are not satisfied with the treatment being received. Tough love does not cut it. We must be recognized as a contributor to Canada's growth and economy, which we truly are and can be in the future.
An issue of major concern to all northerners, and I suspect most non-urban dwellers right across Canada, is the badly flawed Bill C-68. Hunting is a way of life for most of rural Canada's population. Putting people who have been around firearms all their lives, responsible people, in the position of being criminals is neither acceptable nor right. Changes to this legislation are needed if Canadians are to respect and abide by this law.
My riding of Skeena, in northwestern British Columbia, is currently in the throes of a horrendous economic downturn due in part to circumstances beyond anyone's control. However, the recognition of the difficulties and possible steps toward some solution is a federal government necessity and responsibility.
In today's world market economy, recognition of the impact of pulp and paper prices, lumber prices, gas, oil and metal prices on resource based economies is essential. There are opportunities that must be recognized by government and the federal government should not ignore them.
For instance, in co-operation with the province of B.C., the current moratorium on offshore oil and gas exploration in B.C. must be lifted. The potential oil reserves of that area alone are 10 times Hibernia, at 9.8 billion barrels. Gas reserves could exceed 25.9 trillion cubic feet. There is added potential in both the Bowser and the Nechako basins. These options must be pursued and the moratorium on exploration status quo position taken by the government is not acceptable. Development on the east coast was acceptable, why not on the west.
Steps must be taken to revive the mining industry in B.C. The temporary exploration investment tax credit in October's teeny budget provides some incentive for B.C. mining interests to invest in the ailing mineral exploration sector. However aboriginal land claims and permitting processes such as the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and Department of Fisheries and Oceans concerns have huge ramifications for the mining industry. The government has a role in dealing with such issues. Cutting red tape and turn around time lines for permit approval would assist greatly.
The uncertainty of security of mineral tenure because of the land claims issue creates a major detriment to investment in the mining industry. Investor perceptions are that elected governments, both federal and provincial, have lost control over allocation and management of resources. The implied concept of aboriginal veto power over development must be rejected. Let us keep mining in Canada, not chase it away.
The March 31, 2001 expiry of the Canada-United States softwood lumber agreement requires a strong position from the government. The recent formation of the Canadian Lumber Trade Alliance is a significant move in dealing with a united approach to Canada's position on free trade in softwood lumber with the U.S.A.
B.C. accounts for over 50% of Canada's softwood lumber exports to the U.S. to a value of over $5 billion annually. Some of the producers in my area had no U.S. quota due to Asia being their principal market. That Asian market has collapsed, creating layoffs and shutdowns. In the current agreement, access to a U.S. market is based on historic shipping levels: no history, no quota.
It must be recognized that policy changes are necessary to reach free trade in softwood lumber between the U.S. and Canada. I ask that the government work with the Canadian Lumber Trade Alliance to achieve that goal.
Last year, on the north coast of B.C., the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans weak stock management strategies of upper Skeena coho, which represent only one-quarter of 1% of the total Skeena River fishery, shut down a $30 million sockeye fishery, a tremendous blow to the economy of Prince Rupert and area.
DFO and the minister must be more cognizant of local situations and of the difficulties being caused by allowing the Alaska coho catch to affect access to Skeena River sockeye runs. An agreement needs to be reached on a mutually acceptable reduction of interceptions, that is, a reduction of Canadian interception of Pacific northwest salmon stocks in return for reduced interception of Canadian stocks in Alaska. Life is not easy on the north coast these days and a more realistic implementation of the Pacific Salmon Treaty would allow our people the opportunity to earn a decent living.
Areas of western Canada have been sadly ignored by the government, especially the northwest. Airports in Smithers, Terrace and Prince Rupert are concerned over the proposed reintroduction of an increased level of emergency response services, whereas levels were reduced only a few years ago. This highlights the concern that the federal government did not bargain in good faith when downloading airports. Safety is paramount, but a realistic approach to the operation of these smaller, low traffic operations is needed to keep them economically viable.
The airport at Terrace has been for some time attempting to have an instrument landing system installed. Such a system would allow 75% of the flights missed due to bad weather conditions to actually be completed. The failure numbers exceed over 200 on an annual basis, at huge cost to the carrier and excessive inconvenience to the travelling public. For example, on my last trip home, last week, after the long journey from Ottawa the flight I was on from Vancouver to Terrace could not land. After actually seeing the runway at Terrace we flew the 500 miles back to Vancouver to stay overnight. Thankfully I was able to get home the next morning but, as I explained, I actually had to fly 1,500 miles to make a 500 mile flight. It was very frustrating for me and for the many other passengers and business people trying to make their way to northwestern B.C.
On another topic, the number of business closures in northwestern B.C. is another indicator of just how troubled the economy is. Over 50 businesses have closed in the city of Prince Rupert in the last few years. Regional rental vacancy rates range from 20% to 75%. The cost to our employment insurance and other social benefits is staggering, and a serious review of programs and policies is badly needed in order to determine a better way to meet the economic development needs and potential of our northern communities.
Having spent most of my life in the north, I am fully aware of the boom and bust cycles that have been so prevalent. Lately we have seen much more of the latter, creating devastation in the communities of the north. Recognition of the west, and especially the northwest, must be a priority for parliament. We want to be a part of Canada and recognized and rewarded as such, not through handouts but through good sound decisions based on common sense and sound economic principles.
The wealth of Canada has traditionally been generated in the north. Government imposed restraints to developing opportunities and creating economic well-being must end.
In closing I will get back to the legislation at hand, Bill C-14, an act respecting shipping and navigation and to amend the Shipping Conferences Exemption Act, 1987, and other acts. I will quickly summarize my comments on the bill. I recognize that the Canada Shipping Act was in desperate need of updating and that stakeholders as well as industry have been calling for such amendments. However, I do not see the need to rush the legislation through parliament. It is a large and detailed piece of legislation needing much review and analysis, both in committee and in the House.
I would expect that government backbench members would also want sufficient time to review the bill's contents and consult industry for its opinions. One sitting day between first and second readings is absolutely insufficient time for review and analysis of such an intricate piece of legislation.
In that regard, I lodge this complaint and send the following message to the government: when it rushes legislation through the House, as it has begun to do with Bill C-14, it sends the wrong message to Canadians and to industry, a message of arrogance and complete disregard for democratic parliamentary procedure. It also makes one wonder what the government has to hide and, frankly, what is wrong with the legislation that the government needs to rush it through without proper analysis and debate. As well, to tack on amendments to the Shipping Conferences Exemption Act in this bill is completely irresponsible, since the government well knows its amendments spark much debate and controversy.
The official opposition looks forward to reviewing every detail of this bill in committee. The government can certainly count on that.
Canada Shipping Act, 2001
Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC
Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Bloc Quebecois, I am pleased to comment on Bill C-14, the Canada Shipping Act, 2001.
This bill modernizes the legislation that will improve the safety and economic performance of the commercial marine industry as well as ensure the safety of those who use pleasure craft. Key changes to the existing legislation include improvements to provisions to protect and support efficient crews, ensure passenger and vessel safety and protect the environment. A new administrative penalties scheme provides an alternative means for dealing with certain contraventions.
The enactment clarifies the marine responsibilities of the Department of Transport and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. The enactment organizes the contents, updates the terminology and streamlines substantive requirements to make the law much clearer and easier to understand.
The enactment amends the Shipping Conferences Act, 1987 to inject greater competition within shipping conferences, to streamline the administration of the act and to ensure that Canadian legislation covering international liner shipping conferences remains in harmony with that of Canada's major trading partners.
There are 14 parts to this bill. The first defines certain terms and provides details on its application.
Part 2 includes provisions with respect to the registration, listing and recording of vessels. This part comes under the responsibility of the Minister of Transport.
Part 3 includes provisions with respect to the qualifications and conditions of employment of crew members. This part also comes under the responsibility of the Department of Transport.
Part 4 includes provisions with respect to the safety of passengers and crew members. This part also comes under the responsibility of the Minister of Transport.
Part 5 includes provisions with respect to navigation services, the creation of VTS zones and the obligations of vessels in search and rescue operations. This part comes under the responsibility of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.
Part 6 deals with incidents, accidents and casualties. It determines the right to claim for salvage services, the obligations of vessels in case of collisions and the authority to inquire into causes of death. This part comes under the responsibility of the Department of Transport.
Part 7 has to do with wrecks, specifically their ownership and disposition. This part comes under the responsibility of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
Part 8 determines the responsibilities of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans with respect to pollution and establishes rules for prevention and intervention.
Part 9 determines the responsibilities of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans with respect to pollution prevention.
Part 10, which has to do with pleasure craft, comes under the responsibility of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
Part 11 concerns the application of the act and the various powers given the Minister of Transport.
Part 12 includes a variety of provisions, including provisions on proceedings initiated under the act.
Parts 13 and 14 contain transitional provisions and amendments in co-ordination with other laws.
All that to say the this bill, which died on the order paper at the last session, remains, in our opinion, a fine example of the pointlessness of the latest federal elections. Good bills were being studied, of course. This bill on shipping was one, as was Bill S-2 on maritime liability.
Members have obviously understood that the government is reintroducing, with great show, a bill that gathered dust on the shelves of the last parliament and died on the order paper because the federal government decided to call an election that was too early, according to some, and unnecessary, according to others.
I hope that the government is not waving the flags over these bills that are bursting out in great pomp at the start of this parliament. The work was already done. I know that my Bloc Quebecois colleagues worked on the bill, which appears as C-14, identical to what was introduced in the last parliament and debated then.
I must also point out the Minister of Transport said in a press release on March 1, when this bill was introduced, that its intent was to promote growth in the shipping industry.
Obviously, the Bloc Quebecois mentioned on a number of occasions and reiterated its position that the only way to achieve this objective of promoting economic growth in the shipping industry was to establish a real federal shipbuilding policy and to act in support of the shipbuilding industry.
There is nothing in this bill, which is a carbon copy of the legislation introduced in the last parliament, to support the shipbuilding industry. We, the members of the Bloc Quebecois, have made numerous representations to indicate that the industry is experiencing serious difficulties all across Canada.
Shipbuilding used to be a thriving industry. Today, it is only operating at 25% of its capacity. This means that millions of dollars are not being invested in the regions, and that has significant impact, particularly where there is a shipyard, such as in Lévis, on Île-aux-Coudres and in Les Méchins.
Shipbuilding has become a high tech sector that creates thousands of well paid jobs. However, the number of these jobs keeps decreasing. There are currently 2,750 people working in the sector, compared to over 12,000 at one time. Canada's shipbuilding industry urgently requires new support measures. Canada must be able to face international competition and better position itself in this respect.
The frequent media reports on the problems at the Lévis shipyard may give the impression that this shipyard is the only one experiencing difficulties. We can see, both in Vancouver and in Halifax, the lack of federal involvement. The Lévis shipyard is but one example of the federal government's laissez-faire approach in the industry. The fact that all Canadian shipyards are experiencing problems and are already operating below capacity confirms the need for a true federal shipbuilding policy.
Here are the elements that are to the advantage of Canada's shipbuilding industry and that justify federal assistance to that industry.
First, Canada's manpower is qualified and less costly than that of most competing countries.
Second, the majority of Canadian shipyards use very modern equipment and advanced technology: two of them meet the ISO-9001 standard, while four meet the ISO-9002 standard.
Third, shipyard managers and other stakeholders in the industry have felt for at least ten years that the federal government has abandoned them and they claim that they are penalized compared to other sectors, including the aerospace industry.
Fourth, with direct access to three oceans and to the world's longest inland waterway, shipbuilders and shipowners wonder why Canada chose to let the industry down.
Fifth, marine transportation is the most economical and environmentally friendly means of transportation.
Sixth, a number of shipyards are surviving at the present time because of provincial government intervention, although this is an area of federal jurisdiction. Quebec has tax measures, including a tax credit; Nova Scotia has a specific program of financial guarantees; and British Columbia has encouraged the acceleration of its aluminum ferry program.
Seventh, Canada's shipbuilding industry is at a disadvantage compared to its Asian competitors who receive government subsidies of up to 30% of the amount of their contracts, the Europeans who receive about 9%, and the Americans who benefit from protectionist measures. Yet Canada has neither subsidies nor protectionist measures; we have missed the boat.
On October 14, 1999, the hon. member for Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière introduced a private member's bill, Bill C-213, on shipbuilding. His bill provided a clear illustration of the framework required to assist the shipbuilding industry, as indeed it must be assisted. It drew upon the consensual demands from the various stakeholders in the industry, from the unions to the Shipbuilding Association of Canada.
Believe it or not, the Liberal government succeeded in declaring Bill C-213 non-votable. This bill, intended as it was to promote shipbuilding in Canada and to enhance the competitive capacity of Canadian shipyards, was deferred and struck from the order paper by the government of the Liberal party.
Today, I would like to list the advantages that were offered by Bill C-213 and continue to be concerns for the industry and the major stakeholders.
First, Bill C-213 called for a loan and loan guarantee program, something for which the Bloc Quebecois is still calling. Canada's shipbuilding industry everywhere ought to be able to benefit from loan guarantees.
More specifically, the bill called for the establishment of a program whereby a maximum of 87.5% of the money borrowed by a company from financial institutions to purchase a commercial ship that would be built in a shipyard located in Canada would be guaranteed by the federal government in the event of default in the repayment of the loan, bear a rate of interest comparable to that available for loans from financial institutions to large and financially strong corporations, and be repayable on terms comparable to those usually granted by financial institutions to large and financially strong corporations for the repayment of their loan. Therefore, nothing beyond what other major industries in Canada could claim was asked.
Second, Bill C-213 sought to have new vessels excluded from the lend-lease regulations. Revenue Canada's lend-lease regulations eliminate lend-lease purchase of ships in Canada. Revenue Canada significantly reduces the amounts that may be deducted annually from taxable revenue as depreciation in the case of lend-lease financing. Under the terms of lend-lease, only the notional principal of the loan may enter into the calculation of the depreciation.
As interest primarily is repaid in the first years of the lease, the depreciation permitted is minimal. It is therefore carried over from the first years to the final years of the useful life of the ship, something that runs contrary to the economic realities of the owner operator, whose major expenses come primarily in the first years, with things improving in the final years.
By increasing from the outset the tax burden of shipowners who use the lend-lease option, Revenue Canada's lend-lease regulations make it rather unappealing if not squarely uneconomic to use a lend-lease option to buy and finance a ship built in Canada. More specifically, the bill proposed to amend the provisions of the Income Tax Act and of its regulations to make tax provisions on lend-lease more beneficial when buying a ship built by a shipyard located in Canada.
The third major component of Bill C-213 was the creation of a refundable tax credit as asked, again, by stakeholders and the industry.
In 1997, the government of Quebec announced tax incentives to stimulate the shipping industry. These incentives are based on a tax credit that the federal government should use as a model. The Quebec government raised the refundable tax credit for shipbuilding, around since 1996, from 40% to 50%. It also introduced a tax credit for the conversion or major refitting of ships, and it extended this measure to oil rigs, in addition to making some adjustments to the measure to reduce capital taxes.
The Quebec tax policy is essentially based on a tax credit. Eligible expenses include primarily salaries relating to the building of a ship, drawings and specifications, and also half of the costs of contracts relating to construction. This tax credit amounts to 50% of eligible expenses, but it cannot exceed by more than 20% the costs at the end of a taxation year that have been incurred to build the ship. A tax credit for similar eligible expenses is also provided for the conversion or major refitting of ships.
The Liberal government refuses to harmonize federal tax measures with those of Quebec, as it agreed to do, among others, for the motion picture and television production industry. By taxing provincial tax benefits granted to the shipbuilding industry, Ottawa eliminates the positive effect of the deductions granted by Quebec to stimulate the industry. Not only does Ottawa not bother to come up with more beneficial measures, it also adversely affects the policy put forward by the Quebec government.
People often say “If you are not able to help, quit always making matters worse”. That is what the federal government is doing right now: it is not helping the industry and it is making matters worse for this industry where Quebec's tax credit is concerned.
Bill C-213 specifically suggested amending the provisions of the Income Tax Act and the Income Tax Regulations in order to allow owners of vessels and shipyards a refundable tax credit for a portion of the costs relating to the construction or refit of a commercial ship in a shipyard located in Canada or the conversion of a ship in such a shipyard. Under Bill C-213, these people could have obtained tax credits.
Once again, I repeat, the Liberal government decided to reject this bill. It will not debate it and there will not be a vote. This wonderful initiative by the brilliant Bloc Quebecois member for Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière has therefore been put off indefinitely. It will not be used by the government. Once again, the Government of Canada is passing up a wonderful opportunity to breathe new life into the shipbuilding industry, which was the pride of Canada and which is now operating at only 25% of its capacity.
Although the Bloc Quebecois agrees with the reference of Bill C-14 to committee for discussion, we regret that the government did not take the opportunity to re-examine this text which had already been considered in the last parliament and which involved no work on the government's part. It could at least have used the opportunity to add a complete chapter on assistance for shipbuilding, which would have eased the plight of this industry in Canada.
Canada Shipping Act, 2001
Norman E. Doyle St. John's East, NL
Mr. Speaker, it gives me a great deal of pleasure to say a few words today about Bill C-14, the Canada Shipping Act.
The minister's press release when he introduced the bill stated that the bill would update, modernize and streamline Canada's marine law, and that it would clarify the roles of the Department of Transport and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
The minister indicated that the bill would allow the entire marine community to operate in a manner that is safer, more efficient, environmentally sound and responsive to the needs of Canadians in a global community and in a global economy. Those are aims that we in this party can support.
The Canada Shipping Act also promotes the safety and economic performance of the marine industry and ensures the safety of those who use pleasure craft. Key changes include improvements to provisions that protect and support crews, ensure passenger and vessel safety, and protect the marine environment from damage due to navigation and shipping activities. We support all those aims and objectives as well. We hope the bill will be able to fulfil what it maintains it will.
The government claims it has consulted widely with all the stakeholders in the development of the Canada Shipping Act. Generally speaking that is very good since often we see legislation come before the House and pass without consultation with the people most directly affected by it.
The bill amends the Shipping Conferences Exemption Act, 1987. Shipping conferences, as we are all aware, are composed of groups of shipping lines operating collectively under an agreement to provide scheduled service on specific trade routes based on agreed rates and services.
Conferences play an important role in Canada's foreign trade by providing stability and reliability in shipping services for Canadian shippers, importers and exporters.
The proposed amendments to the Shipping Conferences Exemption Act, 1987 are designed to encourage greater competition and generally streamline the administration of the act. The amendments are to be supported because they bring the legislation more in line with that of our major shipping partners.
As I stated earlier, the Canada Shipping Act clarifies the roles of Transport Canada and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. That is very important and should not be lost on the maritime community. From now on the Department of Transport will be responsible for all commercial vessels regardless of size. Previously, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans handled matters with regard to small commercial vessels.
The Department of Transport will now create an automated small vessel registry tailored to the needs of small commercial vessels, that is vessels under 12 metres in length which will not require a tonnage measurement certificate.
That will be a change for many fishermen in Newfoundland and Labrador because many of our commercial fishing vessels are under 35 feet in length. While most people consider vessels of that size to be inshore fishing vessels, the reality in Newfoundland waters is that many of these vessels fish, especially for crab, in waters that are more than 100 miles offshore.
The current rules of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans will not allow fishermen with certain types of fishing licences to lengthen or build larger boats. Given the fierce competition for very limited fish and crab resources, that has meant that many small inshore vessels operate in waters far offshore at considerable risk to life and limb.
I would be curious to know if the transport department is aware of these facts and if it intends to make any changes. I realize that vessel size restrictions have to do with the control of fishing licences and the conservation of fish stocks, but reality has outstripped theory in that area. Simply put, we have too many vessels under 35 feet in length fishing in waters too far offshore. I would contend that safety, in addition to fisheries conservation, must be a major consideration here.
I also hope the new vessel registry will not become a bureaucratic nightmare for fishermen and small tour boat operators who must comply with the requirements of the act. We are all too familiar with the long gun registry system which was supposed to be simple and efficient in its operation. We all know what can occur on the journey between theory and reality.
Bill C-14 introduces new enforcement tools of an administrative nature, monetary penalties and assurances of compliance with Transport Canada retaining the right to prosecute if necessary. The theory is that enforcement practice will eliminate the need to go to court in all but the most critical of cases. Central to the enforcement approach will be the appointment of an adjudicator who will have the power to review administrative decisions by the minister that impose penalties or affect the status of documents issued by the minister.
In this case I hope the appointment of an adjudicator will not be done in any sort of partisan way. It is essential that people holding these offices be seen as experts in the field. To date, the record of the government in making appointments has been very partisan. I hope that will not be the case here.
Under Bill C-14, the department of fisheries, through the Canadian Coast Guard, will continue its responsibility for marine communication and tracking services, marine navigational aids, search and rescue, shipwreck, and pollution prevention and response. DFO will derive powers from the act to protect shipwrecks of historical significance in Canadian waters. The department of fisheries will also maintain its current responsibility for all aspects of pleasure craft, including construction standards, safety equipment, licensing and the discharge of sewage.
I assume that the splitting of jurisdictions between the transport department and DFO meets with the approval of all stakeholders involved. If not, I am sure I will be informed by the fishermen's union and other representatives of the Newfoundland fishing industry. If they have major concerns there will be further opportunity in committee to seek clarification or amendments to the bill.
The bottom line on Bill C-14 is that it is to modernize Canada's shipping legislation and make its shipping conference legislation more compatible with that of our major trading partners. I have no problem with that and I generally support the thrust of the legislation.
Earlier when I referenced Transport Canada's new small vessel registry, I pointed out my concern about the size and safety of Newfoundland's small fishing vessels which operate long distances offshore. I have another couple of concerns.
As I mentioned earlier, the Canadian Coast Guard will have jurisdiction over marine traffic and pollution. To help with that, the armed forces maritime patrol aircraft have been used extensively to patrol waters inside our 200 mile limit. The recent news from the defence department that the number of flights will be reduced was not well received in Atlantic Canada. I would ask the parliamentary assistant to take that concern to the Minister of Transport. Having jurisdiction over pollution is one thing; being informed of high seas polluters in a timely manner is another. There are rules in the bill about the discharge of waste at sea, but all the rules in the world will not help if we lose the ability to keep track of polluters.
The federal government's recent cutting back of the number of Aurora aircraft doing patrolled surveillance, especially around the Atlantic Canada area, did nothing to help what the Minister of Transport is trying to do in the bill. As I said earlier, we can have all the fancy rules and regulations we want contained in a bill, but if we do not have enforcement backup and enforcement potential then everything we say in a bill like this is all for naught.
We have to keep track of these high seas polluters. Every year thousands if not tens of thousands of seabirds wash ashore. Invariably they are covered in oil. However, most of the casualties among our fish and waterfowl populations do not come from the dramatic breakup of an oil tanker at sea, although we see that reported a lot in the news. An oil tanker breaks up at sea and then for days and days the media will cover how waterfowl, seals and birds of all kinds are being washed ashore covered in oil.
However, most of the casualties among our fish and waterfowl do not occur because oil tankers happen to break up at sea. Most of the damage is done quietly at sea by these unscrupulous sea captains, these bandits, these pirates, flushing their bilges at sea in contravention of the act. We need more surveillance flights around the Grand Banks area, not less. The Grand Banks happens to be the most environmentally sensitive area in the world for fish spawning.
However, here we have the federal government coming in with a bill that talks about polluters and pollution at sea when two weeks ago we had an announcement by the minister of defence in which he said the government was cutting back on patrols in these very areas, that it was cutting back on Aurora aircraft. What kind of scam and sham is that? We can have all kinds of fancy bills coming into the House, but if we have one department working against the other department they serve no purpose whatsoever.
These unscrupulous sea captains have to be caught and dealt with in regard to all the damage they have done. They have to be brought into the courts and fines have to be doubled and tripled. The penalties have to be doubled and tripled for people who do that kind of thing. We are needing more surveillance, not less, as the minister of defence is cutting back on the number of aircraft patrolling the waters.
The Canada Shipping Act can contain all the best intentions in the world and can promote modern enforcement methods, but if we cannot in a timely manner catch these people in the act, it has no effect at all. After all, these people are out there in ships, not rockets. We should be able to catch a big oil tanker that is plying the waters around the Grand Banks in Newfoundland and blowing its bilges at sea. We should be able to catch these people in a timely manner by using aircraft, but how can we do it when the minister of defence has cut back on the number of patrols?
As I said a moment ago, we can have all kinds of well meaning legislation but if it is ineffective then there is not much point in bringing it in here.
Another concern I have is that although we are busy updating and modernizing our shipping legislation, most of the ships doing the shipping are built elsewhere in the world. After World War II, I believe Canada had the third largest navy in the world after the United States and Great Britain. During those years we were heavily involved in supplying Britain and Europe with war supplies by sea. We had a lot of ships and we built a lot of ships, but not any more. Canada's shipbuilding policy is virtually non-existent.
I am saddened that as a trading nation we are not maximizing our shipbuilding potential. That is too bad because we have a lot of potential in the country with which to develop a great shipbuilding nation. The current Minister of Industry has undertaken to do a review of this. I sincerely hope he comes up with something practical, something quick, and something soon as many of our shipyards are pretty well on their last legs. It is a disgrace that a trading nation like Canada, with all of its ports and its endless coastlines, does not have a modern, competitive shipbuilding industry.
I support this legislation the minister has brought in today. I hope the minister will pay some attention to some of the concerns I have raised, especially as they pertain to the enforcement of the act, to polluters at sea and to the unscrupulous seagoing captains who blow their bilges at sea. I sincerely hope that the Minister of Transport, with the Minister of National Defence, can develop some kind of enforcement policy to make sure that these people are held accountable for the deeds they become involved in.
Canada Shipping Act, 2001
Werner Schmidt Kelowna, BC
Mr. Speaker, I was very impressed with the detailed knowledge the hon. member demonstrated in his remarks with respect to the bill before the House, Bill C-14. The demonstration of his knowledge of the shipping industry, shipbuilding and marine life on the east coast was beneficial for all of us, particularly his advice for the Minister of Transport. I congratulate him for that.
I would like to ask him about a particular part of the bill which apparently now includes an amendment that was not there when the bill was presented sometime last year, I believe. I am referring to the Shipping Conferences Exemption Act. I notice that this particular addition to the bill is really an add-on. It looks almost as if it is sort of tacked on, as if somebody had a bright idea and thought that maybe the government had better put this in there because it wanted to get this thing done.
I would like to ask him if he could address some remarks to that particular part of the bill, which really suggests that some of the amendments do not in fact meet the concerns and wishes of the stakeholders involved in the shipping industry. In fact, some of them are suggesting that many of those controls now being suggested in that particular part of the bill should in fact be reviewed so that they could have greater freedom to enter into contracts directly with shipping companies and also with shipping.
Could the hon. member refer to that part of the bill and give us some advice?
Canada Shipping Act, 2001
Norman E. Doyle St. John's East, NL
Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question and sincerely wish I could give him some advice in that area. I myself have been waiting to get the bill before committee in order to delve into a number of these areas. A number of people in the shipbuilding industry have contacted me recently with respect to some of these exemptions the hon. member is talking about.
Shipping conferences, as we are all aware, are composed of groups of shipping lines which operate collectively under an agreement to provide scheduled services on these trade routes based on agreed rates. I understand that some of the people involved in the shipping industry are very concerned about that and want to talk about it. I would have been a little more detailed in my remarks in that area if I knew anything more that I could impart to the hon. gentleman. However, I do not and I am waiting to get before committee myself to have a go at this with the minister and to satisfy the concerns of the people who have contacted me in regard to this.
Canada Shipping Act, 2001
Rick Casson Lethbridge, AB
Mr. Speaker, I would like to get the hon. member to expand a little on one of the things he alluded to, which was the environment and how this bill would help protect our marine environment. This bill was designed to come into line with what the Americans are doing.
Would the member comment on whether he thinks it brings us up to par or is better than what they are doing and indeed deals with the issue of protecting our marine environment?
Canada Shipping Act, 2001
Norman E. Doyle St. John's East, NL
Mr. Speaker, I have been reading over the bill and I think the minister has good intentions in trying to protect the environment. I sincerely hope the parliamentary secretary will bring the minister up to speed on some of the things I have said here today.
We can have all the good intentions we want with respect to the bill, but if we do not have the enforcement capability to protect the environment in the way it should be protected the bill is simply of no use whatsoever.
I am glad the hon. member has given me the opportunity to hammer home the point. Prior to the minister introducing the bill in the House of Commons, the Minister of National Defence, only a few weeks ago, cut back on Aurora aircraft surveillance in Atlantic Canada.
We have many instances where ocean going tankers are blowing their bilges at sea. We do not have the ability to catch them in the act. Therefore it is very difficult to convict them in a court of law.
We should have that ability. It should be a fairly easy thing for us to do. I know we have hundreds of thousands of miles of coastline. If we cut back on our ability to catch polluters that are blowing their bilges at sea and are causing all kinds of difficulties for seabirds and water fowl of every kind, we would essentially have an act that does not have the necessary teeth to enforce these laws.
I sincerely hope the Minister of Transport and the Minister of National Defence will be able to come together and get some kind of co-operation going between the two departments to allow us to catch these people. What is a good act if it cannot be enforced?
Canada Shipping Act, 2001
Jim Gouk Kootenay—Boundary—Okanagan, BC
Mr. Speaker, I was very impressed with the detail and passion with which the hon. member spoke. Coming from Atlantic Canada, he is very concerned about marine environment, and rightly so.
The member continually referred to the Grand Banks. Could he tell us if he feels this is a concern of equal weight in all parts of the country? He mentioned the overblowing of problems with the breakup of oil tankers at sea as compared to other problems he outlined in some detail.
On the west coast we have shipping lines that take tankers fairly close to our shore. I am not sure they have the same problem on the east coast. Does he think the bill gives equal consideration to both shores? Should there be some differential to deal with differing problems on the east coast versus the west coast?
Canada Shipping Act, 2001
Norman E. Doyle St. John's East, NL
Mr. Speaker, I think the member makes a very good point. Canadians from all parts of the country are very concerned when it comes to pollution and to protecting our environment. There is no less concern in the west than there would be in the east for this kind of thing.
I mentioned the Grand Banks in particular because it is a world fishing resource. That area off the coast of Newfoundland has some of the most sensitive spawning areas in the world. Tankers are passing that way almost on a daily basis and are doing damage. They have very little concern for the environment when they blow their bilges at sea, to which I have referred on a couple of occasions in debate.
All Canadians are concerned about that kind of activity. They want the minister to put teeth in the bill to ensure that the people who are responsible are brought to justice.
Canada Shipping Act, 2001
Jim Gouk Kootenay—Boundary—Okanagan, BC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-14, the Canada Shipping Act.
I would have liked to have been able to put some questions to the hon. member from the Bloc Quebecois who spoke earlier on the bill. I thank him for restoring my faith a little in the Bloc Quebecois after that diatribe from his colleague this morning on Bill C-233. I was shocked and I thought surely those members do not do this on everything. I felt that perhaps they were slipping away. He has partially restored my faith by sticking to the subject and speaking with great passion and interest on something that has certainly a big impact on his province.
The bill is really two bills in one. It sounds like one of those old Doublemint chewing gum TV commercials. We get two for our money. First, there is the Canada Shipping Act which is an old bill. Like many things the government has done in the past, it brings forward legislation and tells us when it is introduced that it is so important that the House must get going. It is so concerned about its legislation and feels it is so urgent to get it through that it has brought in closure 70 times since I have been in the House.
In the past the government brought forward a lot of legislation like the Canada Shipping Act. It has come forward with legislation and then diddle around with it until the clock ran out. It would either prorogue the House to get rid of legislation it knew was bad and was embarrassed by or, as it has done twice since I have been here, prematurely call an election which also torpedoed its own bills.
I cannot say I blame the government. Some of its bills are pretty bad and should be torpedoed. If I may use an analogy, it is interesting to use torpedo when we are talking about a shipping act. I have to be careful because we have enough problems with our shipping act right now without starting to talk about things of that nature.
As I have mentioned, the bill has two parts. One is the Canada Shipping Act which is regulatory in nature. The other one is the Shipping Conferences Exemption Act which is primarily a financial consideration. This was what the hon. member spoke to at some length. Coming from Quebec he mentioned his concern about shipbuilding, about trying to get more ships built in Canada or at least in his province, and having better tax flows in Quebec and from the federal government toward the shipbuilding industry. Certainly we want to see it preserved in British Columbia. He did make one particular reference to shipbuilding in British Columbia that I will come back to in a couple of minutes.
The Shipping Conferences Exemption Act is primarily financial in nature. It is something we should look at, particularly with regard to Quebec and funding for shipbuilding there. Part of the problem of getting funding is the collection of taxes and since this is the shipping act we should be looking at the shipping industry.
In Quebec there is a company known as Canada Steamship Lines which ironically is owned by our own Minister of Finance. He is one of the principals in this company. It is a very big company, a huge company with tremendous assets.
I would imagine that taxation on those assets would provide tremendous revenues for the federal government. Hopefully in its compassion it would provide some to Quebec and other regions to help with the shipbuilding industry. Canadians should be very proud of our shipbuilding industry, which is slowly slipping away from us.
As the hon. member stated, Quebec is putting quite a bit of money into this area already. There are many demands on tax dollars as we all know. Whenever Quebec does that, it is draining it from other areas where it perhaps would like to use it. Is it not ironic that the man in charge of raising taxes, who has such a wonderful asset located in the province of Quebec, has all those ships registered in other countries so that no taxes are paid on them in Quebec and in Canada? I was hoping to have the opportunity to ask the hon. member if he felt that was fair.
Before we start talking about the Shipping Conferences Exemption Act, we should examine some of the exemptions that we already have. We have a Canadian based company that has all its ships registered in foreign ports to specifically avoid paying fair taxes in Canada toward the very industry that spawned those ships that are hidden away in foreign ports. I would love to hear the hon. member's comments on that. Perhaps under questions and comments he may be able to shed some light on his feelings in that regard.
The hon. member also mentioned British Columbia when talking about shipbuilding which has a great shipbuilding industry as well. We are very proud of it. Some tremendous ships have been built and there is the capacity to continue doing so long into the future. Certainly we like to be diversified in British Columbia. We have some problems out there right now, aside from government, in terms of employment, our industry and our economy.
If one flies over the province of British Columbia one may wonder if there are any towns, particularly in the interior. All one sees are forests. We are a province covered in great stands of timber. My region particularly has a very forestry dependent economy. We have had a great deal of trouble in our province because of the softwood lumber quota system. It has been absolutely devastating.
As we come to the end of the five year term we are now looking at the possibility of trade wars. The Americans have basically put us on notice that they intend to put countervailing duties in place, tariffs, to devastate an industry upon which British Columbia depends.
It would be excellent to get our shipbuilding industry and many other things going to diversify the economy in British Columbia and to soften at least some of the impact we will likely look at because of future problems with softwood lumber.
Notwithstanding that we have gone through the World Trade Organization's dispute settlement mechanisms three times to deal with the fact that Americans are making false claims against our product in British Columbia, they still end up threatening to do it yet again. It is very expensive for both the government and the industry to deal with these charges. I would like to see the shipbuilding industry flourish in British Columbia.
When the hon. member mentioned shipbuilding in British Columbia he made specific reference to ongoing aluminum shipbuilding, which is a bit of a sore point to British Columbians right now. The notorious aluminum shipbuilding involved the provincial government building three aluminum fast ferries to serve as a link between the mainland and Vancouver Island. Notwithstanding the incredible abilities and dedication of the shipbuilding industry in British Columbia, they were a tremendous anomaly. These things were an unmitigated disaster.
I spoke earlier about the Shipping Conferences Exemption Act being financial in nature. We will probably never know the final figure, but the aluminum ferries the government saw fit to build have blown somewhere between half a billion and a billion dollars.
Do we know where the ferries are? They are tied up. The government is trying to sell them. The last I heard, it was trying to get $35 million for them. There are a lot of people in British Columbia who feel so incensed about this that they came to me with an idea as to how we can deal with it. They suggested that rather than trying to sell the ferries, even for $35 million, we should donate them to the government of British Columbia because it is about to be outgoing. As it has its final caucus meeting it might consider getting on board one of the ferries and heading west at a high rate of speed. We will see how sound they are once they get out on the open ocean.
I apologize to the hon. member from the Conservative Party. I realize it is a different type of pollution that we would be sending into the marine environment, but I hope he would agree that it might be a worthy exemption for this and perhaps we can let it go. Maybe it would not be quite as bilious as an oil slick. If it is we will need to boom it up, chain it up, take it away and hope that it never comes back again.
Another thing I am concerned about is that the bill is being rammed through in such a hurry. The government, as I mentioned earlier, has used closure so many times to rush forward bills and here is yet another one it is rushing forward. As the hon. member from the Conservative Party said, there are so many other things that need to be done, both in conjunction with this and with other issues entirely.
In terms of defence, at a time when we are talking about marine safety and the environment and doing a better job of looking after our oceans and our coastlines, the government is cutting down on patrols by the military off our coasts to ensure there is enforcement of our regulations and that the coastline is properly protected.
It is a little hard to do some of the things that are necessary in the marine environment with some of the equipment we have provided to our military. Sea King helicopters are a prime example. It would be appropriate if perhaps the Liberal caucus one day arranged for a little tour over the ocean, in rough weather, ideally, so it could get a sense of what it is really like in a Sea King helicopter. I think that would be good for a variety of reasons. I will let your imagination decide what the possible advantages might be.
There are so many other things that are such a priority to Canadians that one must wonder why the government is rushing forth with a bill like this. The bill failed before because the government let it sit there. It had the opportunity to bring it forward but obviously it was not a priority for it. It did the same thing with the Young Offenders Act.
From 1997 right up until the election call the Minister of Justice said that the Young Offenders Act was her highest priority. My God, if that is her highest priority I would hate to think what her low priorities are. Somehow this bill is a priority for the Liberal government when there are still things like the Young Offenders Act to be dealt with.
There are things like the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. This morning we talked about a simple amendment that could make it much better but the government has absolutely no patience for a good amendment that was put forward by my colleague from Surrey North. It just wants to rush forward with something like this, which it obviously thinks has a much higher priority than the basic rights of victims. I think that is rather shameful.
We have organized crime in the country, particularly in Quebec. We talked about it this morning. The hon. member from Quebec, who talked about the Canada Shipping Act, is, I am sure, also concerned about organized crime. It is a problem in the province of Quebec and all across the country. Why is the government not bringing forward legislation that deals with organized crime as a priority instead of Bill C-14? It is sometimes very confusing as to what the government is really concerned about.
When we start talking about the marine system, the ports themselves are very much affected by federal legislation dealing with labour. We have had ports shut down on both our coasts. We have had them in labour strikes in Quebec. What does the government do about labour strikes? It waits until the whole thing shuts down. As if our poor farmers on the prairies do not have enough problems, if a port on either the east coast or west coast is closed down they are devastated. As bad off as they are now, they are 100 times worse off after a port gets shut down.
The government has done absolutely nothing to introduce legislation that would put into place some form of dispute settlement mechanism to ensure a fair settlement for workers in the ports and other places without having a labour disruption that is devastating to people all across the country. It is absolutely shameful. It is puzzling why the government is in such a rush with this bill when it is passing up on many other areas as well.
This bill is a transport issue put out by the Minister of Transport. What about the other things in transport that need to be dealt with? We are talking about regulations to make the marine environment a lot safer.
The hon. member from the Conservative Party talked about environmental issues. He specifically mentioned the freighters that flush their tanks out in the ocean and what a despicable thing that is. However VIA Rail, the government owned passenger rail system, has no holding tanks in any of its passenger rail cars. As they travel down the track, everything goes straight out onto the tracks.
There have been a lot of complaints already from workers from both CN and CP who work on the rails. They are very concerned about their safety because of what they must in some cases work in on the rails, which is quite disgusting, and the environmental problems that it brings forth. Never mind the poor fishermen on the river underneath a train trestle as a VIA Rail passenger train happens to go over it. That makes quite a statement. It is almost applicable coming from the Liberal government. I hear them firing up now. It is a kind of statement on that poor fisherman, “You-know-what on you”. There are so many things the minister could be working on instead of this bill.
Air Canada is an irony for both the east and west coast. We have regulatory agencies right now telling Air Canada it cannot cut its fares as much as it has done to certain parts of Atlantic Canada because it is anti-competitive. Ironically, at the same time they are telling Air Canada it must stop gouging British Columbians so much and that it must cut fares on some of its routes because it is overpricing and gouging Canadians.
Where is the regulation to deal with that? That is much more harmful to Canadians right across the country at this time. We need a general overhaul of the air regulatory system. Much of this bill is regulatory in nature. When there are so many things of a regulatory nature that need to done, why are we focusing so much time on this one while disregarding all the other things that need to be done?
The bill certainly deals with some issues that have worth. We think there could be a lot of improvements. As we have pointed out to many people, we do not write the legislation. Any legislation we ever get, good or bad, must come from the government. There is no other way. Sure, we can try a private member's bill, but we saw what happened this morning on that. The hon. member for Surrey North came out with a very good piece of potential legislation that was slapped down and made non-votable. Therefore, it automatically dies no matter how good the arguments that are brought forward.
We must live with legislation brought forward by the government any time something needs to be changed. If we need a change to the Young Offenders Act we need a piece of legislation from the government, even if it is bad. We need that to be the impetus to get us to start. We can then try two things, as we will do with this bill. We can first bring the attention of the public to the shortcomings of the bill. We can consult with the public, find out their concerns and listen to the changes they think are necessary. Once the bill gets to committee we can ensure that a consultative process goes on and that, ideally, the government listens to what comes in.
I have always found this an irony in the past. I remember one transport bill where over 100 witnesses appeared before the committee. There was a clause dealing with the dispute settlement mechanism that most witnesses found offensive. It happened on the Canada Transportation Act. I do not know the exact number, but over 90% of the witnesses who came forward were very clear that they did not want that clause in the agreement and he government ignored them. This begs me to ask why it bothered to consult. Why did it spend all the money and waste the time of this parliament consulting if it does not listen to what Canadians say?
We will support getting the bill through second reading so it gets to committee, where we hope the government will do the consultative process. We hope this time it will also listen to people who come forward to point out things that need to be changed in the bill, and that it will support the amendments no matter where they come from.
The government can bring in its own amendments or accept our amendments, but it should recognize that we are not here for partisan purposes. Once bills get back to the House they are here to serve Canadians, and we need to do that together. I hope government members will work with us in committee to ensure that the bills and the legislation reflect the needs and wishes of Canadians.
Canada Shipping Act, 2001
Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC
Mr. Speaker, in response to my representations and speech earlier, my Alliance colleague asked me a question on guidelines and on all that does not appear in the bill and, among other things, with regard to shipbuilding, why the government has not analyzed the tax havens available to shipowners in all this concept. I think this is a very interesting idea.
According to what my Alliance colleague told me, we must understand that, concerning the industry of the shipowners, the Minister of Finance apparently has investments in the business. I hope it is not embarrassment that is preventing him from investing and having the Government of Canada give tax credits to shipbuilding.
As I was saying earlier, shipbuilding in Canada is operating at 25% capacity. The Canadian economy is doing without millions and millions of dollars because the Government of Canada has decided not to support this industry. The governments of Quebec, Nova Scotia and British Columbia decided to support the shipbuilding industry in Canada by giving it tax or other forms of credit.
My colleague from the Alliance is exactly right. The shipowners should, through taxes due the provinces and the Government of Canada, do their part in the revival of shipbuilding.
I hope that, if our research went deeper, we would not realize that companies belonging to Canadian shipowners are having ships built in Asia, for example, where they are getting investment credits of 30% more than what they would get in Canada. In Europe, the industry gets 9% in government support.
I hope that we would not discover that Canadian shipowners are having ships built outside the country, where the industry is subsidized, because—