House of Commons Hansard #136 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-65.

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The House resumed from October 5 consideration of the motion.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

October 18th, 2005 / 7:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

I would like to remind hon. members that in June 2005, new rules governing private members' business were adopted. The provisions under Standing Order 97(1)(2) provide for a one hour debate for the consideration of a motion to concur in a committee report containing a recommendation not to proceed further with a private member's bill.

Tonight the House will consider a motion to concur in the 20th report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts presented to the House on Wednesday, October 5, 2005. The report contains a recommendation not to proceed further with Bill C-277, an act to amend the Auditor General Act, audit of accounts.

During the debate no member shall speak more than once or for more than 10 minutes. There is no question and comment period.

In accordance with Standing Order 97(1)(2), the motion to concur in the report is deemed to be proposed.

The motion reads as follows:

That the 20th Report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (recommendation not to proceed further with Bill C-277, An Act to amend the Auditor General Act (audit of accounts), presented on Wednesday, October 5, 2005, be concurred in.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

7:10 p.m.

Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak this evening with great pleasure in connection with this rather special and original report, since I am the member who initially introduced Bill C-277.

We have had occasion to debate it several times. If a report has been tabled not to proceed further with Bill C-277, it is not because it was no longer valid, or that its substance and value were no longer important. It is merely because, pursuant to the parliamentary procedures of this House, another party has also found it of great interest. Bill C-277 enabled the Auditor General to audit the main foundations and crown corporations—those in excess of $9 billion. That party was the Liberal Party.

In this year's budget, the Liberal Party took Bill C-277 word for word, or very close to it, and included in the budget Bill C-43—in the Minister of Finance's 2005 Budget Implementation Act.

Since the government has upstaged me by allowing the Auditor General to have that control, which she had been demanding for the past four or five years, and which the committee had recommended twice in two or three years, I felt I needed to publicly acknowledge in this House the occasional good things our political adversaries do. They should do them more often. So I felt they more or less deserved thanks for having understood that there was a need to restore a bit of the public's confidence in its elected representatives, particularly after the sponsorship scandal. This bill is a credit to them. It was necessary, and needed to be implemented urgently and promptly.

I was therefore pleased to propose to the committee that the bill be withdrawn.

In closing, I want to add that it is all well and good that the foundations receiving federal funding, such as the foundations for innovation, the millennium scholarships and all those with $9 billion in their coffers, are now subject to scrutiny by the Auditor General.

However, once I had achieved this, I continued to examine the public accounts and I realized that there is now another area that deserves our full attention. I am talking about the transfer of funding by departments to not-for-profit organizations. For example, the Canadian Unity Council gets nearly $12 million per year from Canadian Heritage, and its internal audits are extremely compromising.

This will be another hobbyhorse for the members of the opposition. I hope that the Liberals will show the same open-mindedness and allow the Auditor General to consider all of these files. At present, she can do so in the case of the Canadian Unity Council, but the internal audits of each department should be tightened up and redone so as to ensure the proper management of public finance.

I am pleased, therefore, to see that the essence of the bill has been recovered and that the wording from the budget legislation has been copied. It is therefore my pleasure to withdraw Bill C-277, particularly since it has been in force since June.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

7:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

7:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

7:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, debate on the bill has concluded.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Committees of the House
Adjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.

Conservative

Greg Thompson St. Croix—Belleisle, NB

Mr. Speaker, a couple of weeks ago I asked a question of the Minister of Transport on the proposal to build an LNG terminal on the American side of Passamoquoddy Bay. I want to remind the House what that question was. I said:

Mr. Speaker, there are a number of proposals for the construction of an LNG terminal on the U.S. side of Passamoquoddy Bay. All of these proposals would require LNG tankers to pass through internal Canadian waters. Head Harbour Passage is the most dangerous waterway to navigate on the entire east coast.

I suggested that allowing passage of those tankers would expose our citizens, our environment and our economy to a high level of risk and asked the government, in this case the Minister of Transport, whether the government was prepared to say no to the transport of those LNG tankers through internal Canadian waters.

The minister stood on his feet in this House and completely reversed the position that the Liberals had taken a year or so ago. I should not say reversed. Let me clarify. He changed the position they had a year ago when this question was first raised. A year ago the government said that it would only take a position on the transport of those LNG tankers through Head Harbour Passage when there was a formal application to build an LNG terminal on the American side of Passamoquoddy Bay.

Now there is more than one formal application to proceed with the construction of those terminals. Now the government has changed its position. The minister is now saying that we will only make a decision on the transport of those LNG tankers through Head Harbour Passage when the proponents of the project request passage of their ships through internal Canadian waters. This is simply not acceptable. I believe the Government of Canada is obligated now to state its position. The government has to err on the side of our citizens, our environment and our economy, which all would be at risk if this terminal were to proceed on the American side of Passamoquoddy Bay.

The Americans themselves recognize that Canada at the end of the day will have a legitimate right to say no to the transport of those tankers through our waters, internal Canadian waters. In fact, the director of FERC, the federal agency in the United States which actually regulates the building of these terminals, has suggested the same thing.

During a meeting that he held in Robbinston, Maine, U.S.A. a couple of weeks ago, the director, Richard Hoffman stated, “If Canada decides to stop it”-- that is the proposal to build an LNG terminal in the United States of America--“it is my personal opinion that they can stop it”. They can stop it. He recognizes that this is a sovereignty issue where Canada has every right to say no to the transport of that dangerous cargo through our waters, Canadian waters.

I am not satisfied with the government's response. I look forward to the parliamentary secretary's response.

Committees of the House
Adjournment Proceedings

7:20 p.m.

Miramichi
New Brunswick

Liberal

Charles Hubbard Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, the Government of Canada is aware of the proposal to construct liquefied natural gas receiving terminals in Passamaquoddy Bay near the New Brunswick-Maine border and the fact that LNG tankers would have to transit Canadian waters through Head Harbour Passage, New Brunswick to gain access to these terminals in the state of Maine.

The government is also aware of the concerns of the local residents related to the perceived associated risks, the impact on the resource based industries of the area, such as fisheries, tourism and aquaculture, and the protection of our natural environment.

A number of Canadian communities in the area have requested that Canada refuse the passage of LNG tankers through Canadian waters. When considering the question of the risk associated with transportation of LNG, the 1976 decision to restrict the use of Head Harbour Passage by oil tankers carrying more than 5,000 cubic metres of oil was made only after studies conducted at that time by the federal government indicated that there were considerable environmental risks.

It should be noted that LNG is not a specified marine pollutant and does not present the same level of risk to the marine environment as crude oil. LNG is largely composed of methane cooled to its liquid state. Unlike oil, which is persistent in nature, if LNG escapes, it immediately starts to vaporize, leaving no residue. The vapour is colourless, odourless and non-toxic. The main risk would be of fire in the case of a spill.

Across Canada there are currently seven proposed LNG terminals. Two have received federal and provincial environmental assessments and approval, the ones at Canso Strait in Nova Scotia and in Saint John, New Brunswick. There are others under consideration in Goldboro, Nova Scotia, in Beaumont, Quebec, in Gros Cacouna, Quebec, in Kitimat, British Columbia, and in Prince Rupert, British Columbia.

Although LNG is a non-polluting, non-persistent hydrocarbon and is not considered a pollutant under the Canada Shipping Act, the government is initiating a study to examine the full range of impacts that the construction of an LNG terminal would have on Passamaquoddy Bay, and especially its effects on the Canadian side. This study would include environmental, transportation and socio-economic considerations. When the results of this analysis are completed, the government will make a decision based on the findings and other relevant factors.

On the question of whether Canada could prohibit LNG tankers from transiting Head Harbour Passage, section 562.1(1)(e) of the Canada Shipping Act does allow for the prohibition of navigation under very specific purposes, such as promoting safe navigation, protection of the marine environment and protecting persons, ships, shore areas, et cetera. However, justification to support a prohibition under this section is not readily apparent at present, given that cargo ships currently transit the area, LNG is not a pollutant, LNG tankers will be permitted in other regions of Canada, and risks can be reduced through a number of controls.

Nevertheless, our government is planning to undertake a comprehensive risk assessment study to best be able to respond to the current LNG proposals.

I can assure the hon. member that Transport Canada is closely monitoring the situation. Transport Canada will thoroughly review any LNG terminal applications and work in consultation with other federal departments, the provinces, the United States authorities, the project proponents and other stakeholders.

I can assure the member--

Committees of the House
Adjournment Proceedings

7:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The hon. member for New Brunswick Southwest.

Committees of the House
Adjournment Proceedings

7:25 p.m.

Conservative

Greg Thompson St. Croix—Belleisle, NB

Mr. Speaker, I cannot believe what I am hearing from the government on this issue.

The Government of Canada did studies 30 years ago and it said no to the transport of oil tankers through that very passage. History and the environment have not changed that much in 30 years. It is still the same passage. It is still the most dangerous passage in all of eastern Canada. I cannot believe for a minute that the government would dismiss the risks to our citizens and our environment in transporting a very dangerous cargo through those very dangerous waters in ships the size of which have never gone through that body of water. I cannot believe what I am hearing from the Government of Canada.

On top of that, at the end of the day the government never knows when to say yes or no to the Americans. This is just another example of where it is offside.

Committees of the House
Adjournment Proceedings

7:25 p.m.

Liberal

Charles Hubbard Miramichi, NB

Mr. Speaker, I can only say that the 1976 decision was based upon oil as a pollutant. We know that other ships are transiting that same passage. We know it is narrow. We know that the Port of Bayside uses that for shipping extensively. We know, also, that in terms of LNG there are 136 LNG tankers worldwide. They transit some 120 million metric tonnes of LNG each year. They have done that worldwide for some 40 years. As of this date, we have not had any serious incidents, in terms of the shipping industry and the transmission of LNG.

Committees of the House
Adjournment Proceedings

7:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7:27 p.m.)