House of Commons Hansard #70 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was tax.

Topics

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-3, an act to amend the Canada Shipping Act, the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act and the Oceans Act, as reported (without amendment) from the committee.

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10 a.m.

Edmonton Centre
Alberta

Liberal

Anne McLellan for the Minister of Transport

moved that the bill be concurred in.

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10 a.m.

The Speaker

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

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10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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10 a.m.

An hon. member

On division.

(Motion agreed to)

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10 a.m.

The Speaker

When shall the bill be read a third time? By leave, now?

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10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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10:05 a.m.

Edmonton Centre
Alberta

Liberal

Anne McLellan for the Minister of Transport

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

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10:05 a.m.

Scarborough—Agincourt
Ontario

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to the third reading stage of Bill C-3, an act to amend the Canada Shipping Act, the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act and the Oceans Act.

The bill reflects the Prime Minister's commitment announced on December 12, 2003, to rationalize responsibility for marine safety policy under the Minister of Transport.

Since 1995, responsibility for marine safety has been divided between the Minister of Transport and the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. Those ministers and their departments have worked closely together regarding vessel safety on water and to protect marine environments.

In spite of this excellent collaboration, the division of responsibility has presented difficulties. The complete separate regimes for pleasure craft and for commercial vessels were particularly problematic. There were operational challenges to decide which departments personnel were responsible for a particular vessel and which rules applied.

More important, the split was not convenient for stakeholders, the marine industry and millions of Canadians who use our vast waterways for recreational purposes. It engendered unnecessary complexity and ambiguity, making it difficult for stakeholders to know which department they should be dealing with. The bill responds to stakeholder concerns and is welcomed by both commercial and recreational boating interests.

Policy responsibility for marine safety and protection of the marine environment has now been consolidated at Transport Canada. The policy responsibilities transferred from the Canadian Coast Guard, held since 1995, include the responsibility for regulations governing pleasure craft safety, marine navigation services, pollution prevention and response, and the protection of navigable waters.

As well, certain operational and program responsibilities, such as boating safety, promotion and awareness programs, have moved into the Transport Canada portfolio.

With these new responsibilities, the governor in council transferred certain parts of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to the Department of Transport. These changes make Transport Canada the single service window for Canadians for input on marine safety policy, standards and legislation. The changes also permit the Canadian Coast Guard to focus on its service delivery role, including navigation services and search and rescue.

The government's purpose in rationalizing marine safety responsibility is to improve efficiency in both aspects of safety regulation, policy and operations. For example, bringing together the safety requirements for pleasure vessels and commercial vessels will, as far as practicable, promote harmonization of the rules.

The amendments in Bill C-3 affecting oil pollution prevention and response will resolve much of the complexity in the responsibilities for responding to critical situations which threaten environmental degradation.

It needs to be emphasized that, while important functions and responsibilities have been transferred, the content of the functions and responsibilities remains the same. The rules governing marine safety have not changed. There are, therefore, no financial considerations, no environmental impacts and no considerations of international relations.

Bill C-3 is needed to reflect, in legislation, the changes in responsibility decided by the Prime Minister. The bill makes clear to government officials, industry and to the public where the duties and accountabilities lie.

Although this is a machinery of government bill with no new policy content, it is nonetheless important. It is important because it clarifies and improves the legislative and administrative framework for regulating marine activity in the interests of safety and the marine environment.

Transport safety and efficiency are vital to Canadian competitiveness and marine transportation has been a major part of the Canadian transportation network. Improved clarity and efficiency in the legislation contributes to the competitiveness of our transportation system and the productivity of our industry.

Maritime commerce is national and international and we must have an international vision in our regulations of that trade. The improvements made in the legislative framework by Bill C-3 facilitate our participation in international decision making about the content of conventions and treaties for the protection of marine safety and the marine environment, as well as our ability to implement international norms.

The bill would amend the Canada Shipping Act, the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act and the Oceans Act.

The Canada Shipping Act conferred responsibilities on the Minister of Transport and the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to oversee marine transportation and to implement marine safety, navigation services, pollution prevention and response, and other aspects of this vast, important industry.

The existing statute contains much that is out of date with revisions dating from the day of sailing ships with wooden hulls. It is to be replaced by the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, which was passed by the House in 2000 and to come into force in 2006.

Like its predecessors, the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, confers functions and duties on the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Minister of Transport to manage the regulations of marine transportation and the shipping industry.

The Canada Shipping Act, 2001, was meticulously drafted to draw as clear a distinction as possible between the responsibilities of the two ministers as they were in dispute at the time. Accordingly, Bill C-3, although simple in conception, involves many small detailed amendments to carry out the desired changes without adversely affecting the logic of the statute.

Bill C-3 has been drafted to implement the Prime Minister's decision on December 12, 2003, in order to set out clearly for all concerned the following: the responsibilities of each minister and department; establish overall policy responsibility for safety and environmental protection on the waterways at Transport Canada; enhance the efficiency, coherence and transparency of the marine regulatory framework for all Canadians; improve service to stakeholders and other Canadians on marine matters; ensure that the same duties and functions are being carried out by the government in whatever department they may reside; continue the role of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to carry out its operational role; ensure that the powers, duties and functions newly conferred upon the Minister of Transport are clear in order to prevent confusion and litigation; and ensure that the logic and coherence of the statutes are preserved.

The legislation promotes the government's vision of the best transportation system for Canadians, a transportation system that is safe, efficient and environmentally friendly in order to contribute to Canada's economic growth and social development while protecting the physical environment.

The bill has now been reviewed in the Standing Committee on Transport. I would now like to seek the support of the House for Bill C-3, an act to amend the Canada Shipping Act, the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act and the Oceans Act.

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10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Niagara Falls, ON

Mr. Speaker, as members know, Bill C-3 is an act to amend the Canada Shipping Act, the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act and the Oceans Act.

Bill C-3 was one of the first bills introduced in this Parliament. It was of particular interest to me because at that time I had just been named my party's transportation critic. The previous critic for our party was the member for Port Moody--Westwood--Port Coquitlam. He has a veritable wealth of knowledge in the area of transport issues so I was very pleased to work with him. Quite frankly, I am also very pleased that he has now resumed the responsibility of being our transport critic.

Bill C-3 was tabled on the Friday before the break for Thanksgiving. It is interesting to note that it has now come back to Parliament on the Friday before another break for Parliament.

The parliamentary secretary indicated that the bill is of importance to the Prime Minister. He mentioned twice in his speech that the Prime Minister made the announcement of these changes on December 12, 2003, so it must be important if it happened on the day the Prime Minister was sworn into office. I am sure he was preoccupied by many things on that day, but it was the day on which he announced the changes to the Canada Shipping Act and related statutes that have now become Bill C-3.

I did not have any prior consultation concerning the bill before it was introduced into the House, but when I did have a look at it I was a little surprised at its content. I thought the subject matter of the bill was already within the purview of the Department of Transport.

On further investigation, I found that this was in fact the case up to 1995. Some changes were then made which removed that responsibility from the Department of Transport and placed it with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Eight years after that move was made, the government realized a mistake had been made. In fact, what is taking place here is a re-organization to correct what I think most people would agree was a mistake.

As transport critic, I recommended in the House that we should support Bill C-3. I think that is and should be the spirit of the 38th Parliament. This is a minority Parliament, and I think the responsible role for members of the opposition is to look at whatever is proposed in the House and, if it makes sense for Canada, if it is good for Canada, support it. After having looked at the bill, I have no hesitation in recommending to my colleagues that this is something we should support.

One of the objectives of Bill C-3 is to free up the Coast Guard to focus on its operational mission. I could not agree more with that. Quite frankly, I am of the opinion that the Coast Guard should be doing an awful lot more than it is doing at the present time. I have raised this matter in the House before.

The Government of Canada is not doing enough for border security, particularly along the waterways that separate Canada from the United States. I have made it very clear to the House that I have been upset over the years after realizing that the Niagara Regional Police Service has to take up much of the international security responsibilities in the waterways in the region of Niagara, including parts of Lake Ontario, the Niagara River and parts of Lake Erie.

In my previous incarnation as a regional councillor for the City of Niagara Falls, having looked at the Niagara regional police budget, I was shocked to see how much money it is paying to patrol the waterways. Good heavens above, I said, we do not have to be constitutional experts to figure out that this is the responsibility of the federal government. Whether it is the RCMP, the Coast Guard or other elements of Canadian security, the federal government should be responsible for this.

At the same time, I want to be very clear that the Niagara Regional Police Service has never complained about taking up this or any other responsibility. It is one of those police forces that steps to the front, assists the public and does what is right for whatever role it is given. Nonetheless, in my opinion this is not right.

Bill C-3 focuses on the Coast Guard and on allowing it to get back to its operational responsibilities. Let me tell members that I think its operational responsibilities should be far more extensive than they are. Far more resources should be going to this. The government was very quick after 9/11 to start imposing taxes for national security. Indeed, the Minister of Transport will tell the House about the hundreds of millions of dollars the government made off the security tax just at the airports. Hundreds of millions of dollars come into government coffers and Canadians would like to see some of those dollars get back to what they are supposed to be doing, which is protecting this nation. I will continue to raise this and push for that in the House.

With respect to the bill, it is a step in the right direction. It corrects a mistake that was made back in 1995. Indeed, as I have said before, I wish all the mistakes of the government could be so easily corrected. It is too bad that we could not have some kind of an omnibus bill to reverse all the mistakes that have been made by the Liberal Party in its eleven and half years in office, but we can perhaps save that for another day.

That would be an interesting piece of legislation, would it not? It would probably be a very big bill. That is why I say that to correct all the mistakes that have been made it would have to be an omnibus bill. Certainly this bill would correct one of them and the official opposition will support it.

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10:20 a.m.

Bloc

Raynald Blais Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak on Bill C-3 at third reading.

I cannot begin my speech without referring to some of the comments just made. With regard to the 1995 mistake—transferring responsibility from the Department of Transport to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans—I get the feeling that, 10 years later, they are going to correct the first mistake by making another one.

Here is the second mistake. Upon consideration, Bill C-3, obviously, is only an administrative change. The Canadian Coast Guard's problem is not administrative in nature, but rather due to a lack of consistency and funding. This is a major problem—I will have the opportunity to talk about this in detail during my speech—given its numerous responsibilities.

I do not get the feeling today that the government is behaving responsibly by introducing this purely superficial and administrative change. There is no attempt to get to the bottom of things and I will talk about this for the next few minutes.

I just want to remind the House why we think that this bill at third reading, in the end, presents no new solutions instead of doing what needs to be done. We have looked at documents published by the Library of Parliament, which simply say that the administrative bill clarifies the December 2003 transfer of powers for marine safety from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to the Department of Transport. It consolidates policy responsibility for all aspects of marine safety in Transport Canada. It improves the responsiveness, coherence and consistency of the marine regulatory framework in Canada. It enhances service delivery on marine matters for all stakeholders. It ensures that the roles and responsibilities of the government remain the same in whatever department they are found. It preserves the authorities of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to carry out the operational role assigned to it. It ensures that the powers, duties and functions transferred from DFO to Transport Canada are unambiguous, in order to prevent disputes and it preserves the logic and coherence of the affected statutes.

Examining each of these elements or parameters, I can see, on the face of them, that we cannot support the bill as presented. It is purely and simply an administrative change that will do nothing to correct the situation.

The situation is as follows. In September 2000, the Canadian Shipowners Association wrote the following about the Coast Guard:

The Canadian Coast Guard provides a series of services which impact on the commercial fleet. The maintenance of aids to navigation, icebreaking services and dredging are all services utilized to some extent by CSA members. Faced with budget reductions, the Coast Guard has begun to introduce new charges for the delivery of all these services.

This has been going on for the past several years. The government has been irresponsible and has done absolutely nothing about the problem of charges to the shipping industry.

The Coast Guard began introducing new charges. The passage continues:

These new costs taken together amount to substantial new operating costs at a time when other transportation services have been able to drastically reduce costs through regulatory reforms and closure of facilities.

This refers to a situation that arose in 2000. As you will see, the situation persists, unfortunately.

New Coast Guard service fees are a national issue effecting users across the country. Together with western and Atlantic marine transportation industry representatives, the CSA participated in the National Marine and Industrial Coalition to provide a common approach to negotiations with the government.

The report continues:

In 1998, consultations were held on the Coast Guard's plans for icebreaking fees. A report of the Marine Advisory Board (MAB) recommended a uniform transit fee with a cap on the maximum number of chargeable transits—. The Coalition responded with a modified proposal. Following a series of meetings with Minister David Anderson and his officials, the Minister agreed to reduce the Coast Guard's target revenue for icebreaking by half. In addition, the Minister agreed to freeze charges at this level fort hree years—

The three-year freeze on fees also applies to charges for aids to navigation. CSA members have argued that the industry no longer requires all the services being offered by the Coast Guard, that efforts to reduce operation costs must increase and that these new costs will negatively impact industry competitiveness.

The Coast Guard re-introduced the dredging services fee in 1998 for one year. Originallyintroduced as a “interim fee” —

This is the Liberal government's usual tactic: interim fees, interim measures. We have heard more than enough of them in connection with employment insurance.

— for commercial ships in the St. Lawrence river in 1997, the fee was extended to September 1, 1999. The government also established an Advisory Committee to review this matter.

One might well call this a ghost committee. This was written back in 2000.

Now I will read an excerpt from Maritime Magazine , a shipping magazine. In its winter 2005 issue, editor Pierre Terrien updates the situation. This is in fact the heart of the problem and where Bill C-3 is needed. The bill number is of no importance, but what is important is some real responsibility with respect to the Coast Guard.

According to Mr. Terrien, the debate on Coast Guard cost recovery, already underway a number of years ago, has used up a lot of newspaper ink and a lot of energy. Even the Commissioner of the Coast Guard is opposed to this accursed federal policy—not my words, they are used in the article—but the only good thing about it is that it will bring together the various bodies concerned with defending and promoting shipping. It has also led to the creation of several coalitions that have brought together around the same table stakeholders from the industrial and manufacturing sectors as well as the usual spokespersons for the shipping sector.

This goes to show that there can be several sides—two and sometimes three—to an argument.

For the marine community, this pulling together of the forces in the field has proven to be the most appropriate change of the past decade, as it gave more consistency to its image and voice.

Nevertheless, this is an “accursed” policy. It is unfortunate to have to use such language, but we can clearly see that, as the years go by, this issue is definitely not progressing, far from it. It is not with the $276 million over five years recently announced by Fisheries and Oceans Canada that we can expect everything to be resolved.

Even Canadian Coast Guard Commissioner Adams acknowledged that an investment of $140 million per year would be required to properly upgrade the Coast Guard. We are not talking about luxuries here. We are not talking about ships that would look like luxury liners. We are talking about major investments, to the tune of $140 million per year, just to achieve at a decent level.

What was announced today for the Coast Guard is interesting. It may sound like a lot of money, but it is really $275 million over five years. Things being what they are, the dividing factor being a mathematical model that cannot be disproved, we realize that the amount being spent is very small in comparison with what is really needed. I think that, on this file, an administrative change will not successfully resolve the fundamental problem.

We are now at third reading. This bill amends four existing pieces of legislation, namely the Canada Shipping Act, the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act and the Oceans Act. The enactment transfers powers, duties and functions from the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to the Minister of Transport.

I will remind the hon. members that history shows what may be, at the end of the day, the Liberal approach. In 1995, the reverse happened: the powers, duties and functions of the Department of Transport were transferred to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

And now the transfer is happening again. There may well be disputes. The government must make sure that the powers, duties and functions of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans being transferred to the Department of Transport are clear so as to prevent disputes. Is that the case? I am not sure.

They are taking one step forward, one step back. They can pedal all they like, they are in neutral. In other words, they are marking time. Meanwhile, problems are piling up. In terms of not only marine safety but safety generally, it appears they are missing the boat. Because, with respect to needs—I repeat, because it is important to emphasize this—they announce a mere $275 million over five years, when the needs estimated by the Commissioner of the Coast Guard, Mr. Adams—I am willing to accept him as an expert in the field and someone who knows what is going on when he talks about the needs of Coast Guard services—amount to some $140 million per year.

As far as democracy is concerned, they are denying the existence of the parliamentary standing committee which issued a unanimous report on the Coast Guard a few years ago, in 2003. In the report, the committee recommends, among other things, the creation of an independent civilian federal agency. There are other recommendations, and I will read them.

I would like to say more about this unanimous report by the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, whose members, I remind the House, come from all political parties. In the end, in introducing Bill C-3, which is purely administrative and cosmetic, the government is completely ignoring this report.

The committee recommends among its 18 recommendations:

That funding to the Coast Guard be increased.

The report does not call for a cosmetic increase. The amount of $275 million over five years may look enormous, but five years goes by quickly, and this is clearly insufficient to meet the real needs.

The committee also recommended:

That the Government of Canada, through the Canadian Coast Guard, guarantee stable, long-term A-base funding for the Office of Boating Safety at a level fully sufficient for it to meet its responsibilities.

That the Canadian Coast Guard be governed by a new Canadian Coast Guard Act that would set out the roles and responsibilities of the Coast Guard.

That the government establish the Canadian Coast Guard as the lead federal agency among the several federal departments involved in marine pollution prevention.

That the Coast Guard be given all the necessary resources and powers to conduct surveillance and collect evidence necessary for the effective prosecution of contraventions.

That, prior to any decision to de-staff lightstations, affected communities and stakeholders be consulted.

That a renewed Coast Guard be established as an independent civilian agency; that the government make an immediate commitment—

This was in 2003.

—that the Canadian Coast Guard receive an injection of capital funding to pay for fleet renewal, upgraded and modernized shore-based infrastructure and the implementation of new technology.

To some extent, this is the context in which we now find ourselves, at third reading. It is the second time that I have risen in the House to address this issue. But for a few exceptions, my comments are essentially the same today. Indeed, the Coast Guard issue requires more than mere cosmetic or administrative changes. It requires significant improvements that are adequate, relevant and that meet existing needs.

It is important to meet those needs because, as members know, we are surrounded by three oceans. I am more familiar with one of these oceans. Since I come from the riding of Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine and represent it, I know the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of St. Lawrence well.

I can say that, for the past number of years, when people think about the Coast Guard, the question that comes to mind is: when will the next cut be made? This is more or less the context in which we find ourselves now.

With respect to marine services, specifically marine safety and people who might perhaps experience problems at sea and so forth, it does not appear that the Canadian Coast Guard can truly fulfill its mandate. I am not the only one saying so. The fishers, industry stakeholders and even the commissioner of the Coast Guard, the big boss, are saying so too.

There are not enough ships and the Coast Guard's real needs are not being met. That is why, in a last-ditch effort, we are asking the House to vote against this bill and ensure that the current Liberal minority government goes back and does its homework.

Turning its back on its responsibilities and completely ignoring the fact that the Coast Guard requires so much more makes no sense and would result in another scandal to add to the Liberal Party's collection. Ensuring that real resources are allocated and that there is a real consistency in terms of responsibilities is a matter of respect and dignity. This problem cannot truly be resolved by tossing it back and forth between Transport Canada and DFO.

In conclusion, I want to say that the people of Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, the people who rely on the services of the Canadian Coast Guard, truly need real changes, not a superficial and administrative bill, to ensure that they have a Coast Guard able to protect them and improve on its services. For this reason, neither the marine industry nor the people and the fishers should have to pay the price. I hope too that they will not have to pay with their lives.

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10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's South, NL

Mr. Speaker, I know my colleague has a great interest in facilities generally, particularly as it relates to his fishermen.

Occasionally we see in various budgets commitments to invest in infrastructure. However, the infrastructure is in such bad repair across the country and the needs are so great that as good as the commitments seem to be, they have a very minimal effect.

Two years ago people from Small Craft Harbours told us it would take $400 million just to bring their solely owned facilities up to date. Under pressure from the standing committee, it put in $100 million above and beyond. It did not make a dent, and we are still falling behind.

Does the member find that in his region, as in mine, funding provided by government is not meeting our needs?

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10:40 a.m.

Bloc

Raynald Blais Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague very much for his speech and his question. This gives me an opportunity to talk about what is happening in everyday reality. As hon. members know, when a roof is leaking it needs to be fixed or the entire house may be lost. When it comes to the Canadian Coast Guard—the analogy also applies to small craft harbours—the current situation is terrible.

In 2002, Fisheries and Oceans estimated—and the estimate is not mine. If it were mine or that of an independent external company, the figures would have been double or more—that $400 million was needed for repairs and restoration. We are not talking about building new facilities, but restoring old ones. The estimate was $400 million.

According to DFO figures, in 2004 and even in 2005, the figure has reached $500 million. The roof continues to leak, and the cost keeps going up. Repairs are increasingly large, and the situation is quite bad across the board.

I have already had an opportunity to talk about this a few times in committee and I will repeat, here in the House, what is happening in Grande-Vallée, in Saint-Georges-de-la-Malbaie in the riding of Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine or even in Percé. Percé is known for its beautiful rock with the hole in it. The wharf to the rock is falling apart. The wharf that enables people to visit Percé Rock is getting holes in it.

Such is the terrible situation in 2005. That is why, when money is announced, for whatever period of time, it may seem like a lot, but it does absolutely nothing to fix what is happening right now.

The situation is getting worse, even dangerous. It is scandalous. It is similar to the scandalous situation in the case of small craft harbours and what is going on with the Coast Guard, because the needs are so great. It is not by patching things up and providing band aid solutions that they are going to truly resolve the situation. They risk simply worsening the situation, as they are doing with the small craft harbours.

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10:45 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, may I first begin by complimenting you on the judicious way you are bringing great credibility to the chair in your performance today. Having said that, I hope you will give me great latitude in the comments I am about to make regarding Bill C-3.

I begin my remarks on behalf of the NDP by paying tribute to the contribution that our critic, the member for Churchill, has made in her tireless efforts to improve Bill C-3 at the committee stage. I also want to recognize the contribution that the NDP member for Sackville—Eastern Shore has made in the context of the Coast Guard and of maritime issues generally and certainly even more pointedly, in the context of shipbuilding which I may come around to within my comments.

I am looking forward to explaining perhaps in a roundabout way the position of the NDP on the bill. We should note the unique nature of the bill. It reverses the choices made in 1994 by the Liberal government when it reversed the changes made to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Transport Canada. This puts me in mind of a number of changes made in the way the country was run during that era.

It was a very prolific era in terms of reform. In the fullness of time and having had the time to look back and review things, most choices made during that period have been catastrophic. They warrant being reversed by this bill, or perhaps some omnibus piece of legislation could be brought in to mop up after the Liberals because of that era.

In the context of debating Bill C-3, it would be negligent not to point out other things that were happening in that same period of time. For instance, that is when the superportfolio was created at Human Resources Development Canada which lumped together an almost impossible shopping basket of portfolios, programs and areas of jurisdiction such as the Canada pension plan, EI, and training. All of those things were lumped into a superportfolio which we learned later was an unmanageable portfolio. Half of the budget of Canada fell under that portfolio because of the breadth and extent of the jurisdiction. We have learned that was a bad idea. It was bad management.

At the same time there was a scheme to unite the OAS and the GIS. It triggered a blue rinse revolution across the country, much like when Brian Mulroney when he was prime minister tried to deindex the pension. Senior citizens across the country rose up and told the government to put the brakes on that one and the government had to reverse it. There were devastating EI cuts during that period of time which we are still reeling from today. We are incrementally putting that program back together after it was systematically dismantled by the Liberal government.

It has taken us a decade of fighting back to finally repair the effect of those early years of the Liberal mandate. In speaking to Bill C-3 we have to be cognizant of the other failed initiatives of that era.

The bill will have real implications on the ground for environmental protection and enforcement. It has given great cause and concern to members of our caucus for that reason. It deals specifically with pleasure craft. We could support the moving of the management of pleasure craft and its environmental enforcement into the ministry of transport on the assurance that the provinces would be properly consulted and properly compensated if enforcement responsibilities flow with this with added costs and expenses.

I raise this because I personally have had negative experiences with the cross-jurisdictional nature of administration of laws dealing with small craft, pleasure craft and small working boats. I will give one graphic illustration to point out some of the pitfalls of what we are going into today with Bill C-3.

Not too long ago there was a very tragic case on Lake Winnipeg. A 19-year-old man was killed at work on a small fishing vessel. It was the young man's first day at work and he was killed on the job. It should be a routine matter that some agency would get involved in a situation like this to investigate what was a workplace accident, to do a proper inquest, to make recommendations so it could never happen again. It would have helped the family bring some closure by having an investigation into this death, other than the police's cursory investigation to make sure there was no foul play and that it was an accident.

Complications arise when dealing with small vessels inland on the freshwater fishery. With the crossover of jurisdiction, nobody has a clue whose job it is to investigate these things. I personally tried to work with workplace safety and health with the province first of all, but I was told it was a federal transportation issue. I went to the federal jurisdiction under the Canada Labour Code, but was told it was not that jurisdiction either. It was not the Coast Guard's jurisdiction. People at the Department of Transport said they could not help.

The family in this case was reeling with shock because nobody wanted to take any responsibility for what was a tragic event of a young 19-year-old boy killed on his first day of work. It was a workplace industrial accident on a fishing boat, which is a workplace; I do not care if the boat is 16 feet long or 60 feet long, it is a workplace. Nobody knew whose jurisdiction it was.

I am drawing this as a parallel because we now contemplate transferring the jurisdiction for all pleasure crafts under this bill. I am pointing out the very real concerns we have about the question of jurisdiction, the complication of jurisdiction, and sometimes the competing interests of jurisdictions. It should be noted that DFO and Transport Canada have completely different priorities, completely different mandates, completely different and sometimes competing agendas.

The room for complication, crossover, lack of clarity and lack of certainty is going to be compounded by what we seek to do here today. With all of these things I am simply saying that any possible conflict between the management of these areas of jurisdiction and the enforcement by the Coast Guard need to be explored thoroughly.

I began by pointing out our general observations about how this is a reversal of work done in 1994. In light of these complications I am addressing today, I can say simply that the bill would have been welcomed in a far more enthusiastic way by the NDP if we had raised the Coast Guard in the context of recognizing the very real need for growing our Coast Guard, for giving our Coast Guard the tools it needs to do an increasingly difficult job and to meet the increasing expectations that we have for our Coast Guard.

Like most of the opposition members present, I expected far more in the federal budget for the Coast Guard than $275 million over five years. This is a paltry recognition of the need. I come from Winnipeg where maritime issues are not always top of mind, but as a Canadian I am well aware that we have the largest coastline of any country in the world. We have a Coast Guard fleet that is not capable of offering any of the services that we expect as a maritime nation. The modernization of the fleet should have been a topic of debate for today if we were serious about reform.

We clearly do not have the ships to meet the needs and the demands of the Coast Guard. Yet, the expectations of our Coast Guard continue to grow.

By way of background, in our involvement and position on the bill, I would like to point out that back in December 12, 2003, the Prime Minister announced that the responsibility for policy on marine security and safety would be centralized under the Ministry of Transport.

To that end, when some parts of marine safety and security were transferred from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to the Department of Transport, these policy responsibilities gave some consternation to anyone involved. It was at that time I first heard the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore sound the alarm that something was brewing.

It was a rather veiled announcement that the Prime Minister made at that time. It was difficult to determine to what extent the Prime Minister would be going. Was this going to involve navigation services, pollution prevention, or other issues like safety and awareness programs? The scope of what was being proposed was not certain until October 8, when the government introduced Bill C-3, an act to amend the Canada Shipping Act.

At that time our member for Churchill, also fully engaged in this issue, sought amendments at committee regarding environmental enforcement. One of our real concerns was, with this shift of enforcement duties, would environmental safety be first and foremost? Would it get primacy, if you will, in our application of these regulations? We were very concerned it was not.

We believe that pollution properly belongs with the Minister of the Environment. The Ministry of the Environment has the tools and the mandate to protect our environment. The Department of Transportation again may be at cross interests, and now, with a new task and a new obligation to enforce environmental integrity, how does that conflict with other aspects of the Ministry of Transportation? These are some of the obvious contradictions that come to mind when we look at what, on paper, looks like a simple administrative transfer of duties and regulations. It is not that simple.

In the field where it matters and on our waterways it is not that simple. We are not sure who we look to. Ship source environmental pollution is a sore point with the government. We know that. The largest environmental fines ever given out in this country were to do with ship source pollution. It was a ship owned by Canada Steamship Lines in Halifax Harbour. This is why I know it is an irritant and the Liberal government would rather downplay it and not make reference to it.

It is a huge problem. With pleasure craft, commercial craft and even military craft from other countries, we find ship source pollution to be a significant worldwide issue that is not satisfactorily addressed. It properly belongs under the environment ministry because it is the Ministry of the Environment that can levy those heavy penalties for ship source pollution.

I am only pointing out some of the reservations made by our critic, the member for Churchill, who at committee valiantly made the case against significant opposition for keeping the environmental aspects for marine pollution protection and prevention with the Ministry of the Environment. Those amendments were ruled out of order.

That is an illustration of the difference between a minority government and a majority government, because at that time in October 2004 there was a majority Liberal government which would not accept common sense amendments. Getting an amendment through at committee six or eight months ago was a very novel thing because of the attitude that the majority will rule in spite of reason and logic.

Canada Shipping Act
Government Orders

11 a.m.

The Speaker

I am afraid it is time to move to statements by members. The hon. member will have 5 minutes remaining in the time allotted for his remarks when this matter resumes, plus, of course, 10 minutes for questions and comments.