House of Commons Hansard #16 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was arctic.

Topics

Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Transport

moved that Bill C-3, An Act to amend the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to stand and speak to this very important legislation. I want to thank the House leader for recognizing just how important this bill is for the environment in the precious north.

The Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act is a small but important symbolic piece of legislation. Our vast Arctic region remains a Canadian icon known the world over. This government has taken unprecedented and historic steps toward keeping Canada's north safe. Bill C-3 is another example of this action.

Protecting Canada's Arctic waters from pollution is one of our government's key priorities. Our proposed amendment would double the geographic application of the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act from 100 to 200 nautical miles midway between Greenland and the islands in the Canadian Arctic.

Presently, the discharge of waste is permitted at internationally agreed levels in the area between 100 and 200 nautical miles. Our proposed changes would disallow this practice and further strengthen the pollution protection regime in our Arctic region.

This was an important commitment that the Prime Minister made when he travelled, not just to Inuvik but also to Tuktoyaktuk on the Beaufort Sea to show his commitment to the Arctic and to environmental protection. This increased range would allow Canadian environmental laws and shipping regulations to be enforced to the fullest extent and give us greater control over the movement of ships through the Northwest Passage.

With this amendment, we are sending a message that Canada is tremendously serious about protecting our Arctic sovereignty and keeping northern waters clean. This complements other Arctic initiatives that this government has already put in place under the health of our oceans components of our national water strategy and initiatives, such as outfitting Arctic surveillance aircraft in order to help us track polluters.

In August 2008, the Prime Minister had the opportunity to travel to the Northwest Territories where he announced our intention to move in this important regard and today, once again, like the Prime Minister always does, he followed through with specific action.

Our Prime Minister reinforced that we believe in the “use it or lose it” policy when it comes to our Arctic regions. We made it clear that in Canada's Arctic we will play by Canada's rules.

The baselines around Canada's Arctic Archipelago were formalized in 1986 and are consistent with the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and with the 1996 Oceans Act, which established an exclusive economic zone of up to 200 nautical miles off Canada's coasts, including around the Arctic Archipelago. Canada has jurisdiction regarding the protection and preservation of the marine environment, which is an incredible sensitive ecosystem, including the ice covered waters within the exclusive economic zone.

In 2003, Canada became a party to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Article 234 of the convention enables a coastal state to put in place special requirements for pollution protection in ice covered areas within its exclusive economic zone.

Extending the pollution protection from 100 to 200 nautical miles would enable Canada to exercise enhanced jurisdiction with regard to pollution control north of the 60th parallel. This extension will be consistent with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea's article 234.

In addition, this government will act to ensure that new regulations under the Canada Shipping Act are in place for the 2010 season. These regulations will require the mandatory registration of vessels entering this expanded zone. There is nothing more fundamental than the protection of our nation's sovereignty and security and our government will continue to rigorously defend Canada's place in the world and our rightful territories, and the Arctic is no exception.

Canadians see in our North an expression of our deepest aspirations: our sense of exploration, the beauty and the bounty of our land, and our limitless potential. For too long, the federal government ignored the North. Its potential is still untapped.

One of our greatest prime ministers, John George Diefenbaker, made a tremendous priority of Canada's north. He, in fact, was one of the inspirations for the founding of Inuvik where the Prime Minister and I and a good number of members of the cabinet travelled this past August. The Arctic was also close to Prime Minister Chrétien, but the most leadership we have seen in this last century has been from this Prime Minister with respect to ensuring Canada's sovereignty is protected in the north.

To this end, our government has established a northern strategy that rests on four key pillars: northern economic development, protecting our fragile northern environment, asserting Canada's sovereignty in the Arctic and providing northerners with more control over their own destiny.

The expansion of coverage of the Arctic shipping legislation is directly linked to this strategy which commits our government to ensuring a sustainable and comprehensive approach to Arctic shipping.

The first pillar, northern economic development, is designed to encourage responsible development of the North's bountiful economic resources, ensure the health and good governance of Northern communities and provide jobs and opportunities to those living in these communities.

Strong worldwide demand for our natural resources increases the viability of resource exploration and extraction in Canada's Arctic. It is estimated that Canada's north possesses 33% of our remaining conventionally recoverable sources of natural gas and 25% of the remaining recoverable light crude oil. The discovered resource of the Arctic basin approaches 31 trillion cubic feet of gas and 1.6 billion barrels of oil. The potential for resource extraction in the area is thought to be approximately 14.7 billion barrels of oil and approximately 433 trillion cubic feet of gas.

The second pillar, environmental protection, aims to protect the unique and fragile Arctic ecosystem for future generations. We must remain vigilant, especially in our north. Our northern environment is fragile, something people living there have always known. Potentially longer operating seasons and the increase in northern resource development may mean maritime activity in Canada's Arctic will soon increase and the passage of this important legislation will have a part in that.

In 1970, we acknowledged the fragility and special circumstances of waters north of 60 and established stringent measures of 100 nautical miles from shore, further than any country at the time. The original application of the act has not kept pace with the international convention and, as a result, Canada has not been able to exercise the full authority under the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea. The extension of the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act would eliminate that gap.

The third pillar, sovereignty, asserts and defends Canada's sovereignty and security in the Arctic. Our government recognizes the challenges Canada's sovereignty in the Arctic could face in the future. In the coming years, sovereignty and security challenges will become more pressing as the impact of climate change leads to increased activity throughout this ecologically sensitive region. The defence of Canada's sovereignty and the protection of territorial integrity in the Arctic remains a top priority for our government.

To support Canada's position whereby waters surrounding the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, including the various traffic lanes known as the Northwest Passage, are internal waters, Canada has to exercise, and be seen to exercise, effective control over foreign merchant shipping in the Canadian Arctic.

Such control means having the ability to deny passage or facilitate shipping in Arctic waters and, at the most elementary level, to enforce Canadian law in the Arctic Archipelago and within the territorial sea of Canada and the surrounding exclusive economic zone.

The waters of the Arctic Archipelago are internal waters of Canada by virtue of historic title. This means that Canada has sovereignty over these waters. Canada must therefore move quickly to affirm and protect its sovereignty over this archipelago, including the navigable waters in it. We are working to strengthen our Arctic maritime security in the future. After all, maritime activity is critical to our Arctic communities. Getting fuel, food, medical and other supplies all depends on reliable and effective maritime shipping.

Arctic security is also key to Canada's security as a whole. All of these will assist in detecting and preventing criminal and terrorist activities that may pose a serious threat to national and international security. It also allows us to find those who pollute our waters and harm our northern environment. To that extent, our government has introduced new Arctic patrol ships and expanded aerial surveillance that will guard Canada's far north and the Northwest Passage.

Funding has also been committed for a new polar class icebreaker for the Canadian Coast Guard. Most important, Mr. Speaker, and I know you will be very pleased to be reminded of this, it will be named after former Canadian Prime Minister John Diefenbaker and for the Arctic seabed mapping. Amendments to the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act would expand for an additional 100 nautical miles control over pollution and shipping compliance.

The last pillar looks at providing northerners with more control over their own destiny.

The 19,000 Inuit residing in the 15 communities along the coast of Ungava Bay and the eastern shore of Hudson Bay inhabit a territory with an enormous potential. With its wealth of resources and abundant fish and wildlife, Nunavut offers a world of possibilities to its inhabitants in terms of mining, outfitting, tourism, fishing and much more.

Our government is determined to ensure that those who live, work and raise children there can fully benefit from these significant opportunities.

With this amendment our government will help address concerns from Inuit communities regarding pollution in waters surrounding their homes and workplaces. Expanding the application of the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act to 200 miles improves Canada's ability to prevent ship source pollution from happening, helping to keep the Arctic waters clean.

Northern communities support clean and sustainable economic development in the north, as do all Canadians who want to protect the integrity of Canada's Arctic waters.

When I talk to constituents in my constituency of Ottawa West—Nepean, far away from the Arctic, there is a real sense of the value, that this is an important part of our great country, a precious part of our world. They believe we have a collective responsibility to ensure this important part of our country is kept clean and is kept free from the mistakes that we have made far too often over the last 200 years in southern Canada.

The north is relevant and important to all Canadians. Obviously, it is particularly relevant and important to northerners. The Minister of Health has brought this view to the cabinet table. I have had good discussions as well with the member for Western Arctic and the member for Yukon.

We have important responsibilities in this place to ensure we do everything we can to promote sound environmental practices and to ensure that we assert our sovereignty. That is more than just in a military sense, it is more than just in a natural resource sense, it is more than just in a fisheries sense, it is also very much in an environmental sense. That is why this piece of legislation was presented in the first session of this Parliament and has been reintroduced in the second session.

I want to thank members from all parties. There have been good briefings and discussions. I think Canadians would be very pleased if they looked at the work done by the transport committee in the last session of this Parliament and the constructive work that it has already begun to undertake in this Parliament.

I look forward to hearing from all members of the House and to advancing this important piece of legislation so that we can put this important law on the statute books.

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3:25 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, the speech on Bill C-3 by the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities sounded like an economic development speech. That may be the weakness in this bill. The Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities was also the environment minister for a few years. Something here is very troubling. It is true there may be major reserves of oil and gas in the ocean’s depths. On the other hand, though, we are talking about the last reserves in the world.

I did not get the sense in his speech that we need ultimately to be continuing the fight against greenhouse gases, both for the people living in the Arctic and for the rest of the world’s population, so that there will be more ice in the Arctic—not less—and we do not make it disappear in order to have a shipping channel.

I certainly want this to happen, but the reality is that we are in one of the most sensitive areas in the world, and there was no sense in the minister’s speech that the Conservative government wants to attack greenhouse gases and try to restore a balanced climate to the Arctic. I would appreciate it if he could expand on what he thinks about this.

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3:30 p.m.

Conservative

John Baird Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from the Bloc for his comments. I am on the same page as he is. It is true that the fight against climate change is very important to the people living in the North and to all Canadians.

I totally agree with the member opposite. One of the concerns is that we must take mitigation measures. More natural gas is a key part, for example, in many strategies to reduce the reliance on coal-fired electricity. My province is looking to phase out all of the coal and is turning to renewables, to more nuclear, but also some high efficiency, cleaner natural gas, which is an important part.

We do have to look at adaptation to climate change. There will be more ships in our far north in the years to come. Let us not wait for a problem to arise for us to respond to it. Let us be proactive. There are ships. I talked to representatives in Manitoba. The first ship from Russia came into the port of Churchill. Let us not wait for this to be a problem. Let us be proactive in ensuring that the full extent of Canadian law and enforcement is in place to prevent any mistakes from happening so that we do not have to deal with them afterward.

Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, let me compliment the minister in making his case. I do not know whether it is completely made, but I do not think he is going to find many people disagreeing with the extension of Canadian sovereignty over its own territory and over its own waters.

I noted that he took special pains to explain in his presentation and again in answers to my colleague from the Bloc that a focus of his would be not only environmental, but essentially economic and developmental in nature.

Given the areas under question and the difficulties in accessing them, is he already preparing an agenda for building infrastructure in order to extract the natural gas and the light crude that he and others expect would be there?

Has he already developed a plan with interested capitalists who would be prepared to engage in a partnership with the government in developing these potentials?

I focused only on natural gas and light crude because those are the ones that he took particular delight in bringing forward, especially in the context of his former portfolio as environment minister.

Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

John Baird Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, we are looking, with respect to infrastructure and in my capacity as Minister of Infrastructure, at public infrastructure, whether they be things like schools, highways or transmission lines so that we can get communities onto the grid and not using diesel-powered electricity. Economic development is something that has been highlighted as being of particular importance from all three premiers in the far north.

My colleague, the Minister of the Environment, has responsibility for issues such as pipelines and environmental approvals of this nature in the Mackenzie Valley. This has been something which has been pursued for many years. It has gone through a very lengthy environmental assessment.

Obviously we signalled in previous government statements that it is something we certainly support, but we should protect the environment first. That is why, particularly up in the Northwest Territories, we have done a significant amount on land conservation, including the work that hopefully soon will lead to the successful conclusion of the expansion of Nahanni National Park. We looked at the work done in the Ramparts in the East Arm of Great Slave Lake. We looked at work around the community of Fort Hope, which has fought for special designations to ensure that those sensitive ecosystems are protected long before any new natural resource extraction proceeds.

In the years 2007 and 2008, particularly in the Northwest Territories, we made great strides on that environmental protection. We did a whale sanctuary in Nunavut, which is another important example of conservation.

This is a natural extension of that, so that we can have the capacity to legally enforce and send a message that we will not tolerate ships polluting our waters.

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3:35 p.m.

NDP

John Rafferty Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for his invitation to ask him a few questions.

This bill certainly supports the NDP position on Arctic sovereignty by increasing the level of environmental protection in the Arctic. it increases Canada's claim to the Arctic waters through peaceful means. Further, Canadian law will protect the Arctic more than international law will and what is allowed now under UNCLOS.

Is the minister prepared to ensure that the appropriate funding is in place for increased enforcement?

Some nations, I am assuming, will dispute this bill and the subsequent Canadian action to enforce it. Is there a plan to deal with this on an international scale?

Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act
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3:35 p.m.

Conservative

John Baird Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, those are all good questions. Let me address them one at a time.

Obviously, we are making additional investments in our Coast Guard with respect to capital and supports to ensure that we are in a position to do that. With respect to environmental enforcement, the government has included substantial increases in the number of environmental enforcement officers in the last two budgets, so we have more boots on the ground. Some 110 new environmental enforcement officers are being trained over two or three years. Coincidentally, they are trained at Algonquin College in the great riding of Ottawa West—Nepean and then they fan out right across the country. They do a great job. That started a good number of years ago before I arrived in this place. There is also a significant desire to work with northerners to ensure that we promote that sovereignty. The Prime Minister regularly uses meetings to talk about Canada's sovereignty.

However, we need to do more than talk. We need to act, and this is one more step in that act. I do agree that it does not all have to be; I think that the military is an important presence in Canada's Arctic. Weather stations, climate change research and scientific work are all important, but so are environmental protections, of which this is a small part.

Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will make my question very brief. The minister has done a great job and we are so thankful for the work he has done. Could he tell us what the proposed changes would mean for the overall northern strategy of the government and this country?

Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act
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3:35 p.m.

Conservative

John Baird Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, we think it fundamentally will mean two things. It will strengthen our ability to enforce Canadian environmental laws off our coasts. That is tremendously important whether one is looking at the eastern Arctic or western Arctic or throughout the Northwest Passage. It is also another example of our efforts to assert sovereignty over Canadian Arctic waters.

Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I indicated in my questioning just a moment ago, and I now want to reiterate, on balance this does not look like legislation that we would have any difficulty in at least studying further at committee and perhaps supporting.

Why would I say that? I do not think there is a Canadian in the country who would not agree that we should extend our sovereignty over waters that we have traditionally considered to be our own. As the minister says, these are part of waters that we have thought to be our internal waters. They are part of the Arctic Archipelago and therefore they are Canadian territory.

As for the part that goes beyond that, and think about this for a moment, we are, with a stroke of the pen, reasserting what we have already agreed with all our partners in the United Nations, and that is this is our territory, it is our right to extend our jurisdiction to the full 200 kilometres. That is great. We want to do that. It is good for us. We expect that as part of Canadian sovereignty we would give notice to the entire world that these waters are now our waters.

Just so you know, Mr. Speaker, because I know you come from that province, this is equal to the entire land mass of Saskatchewan that we are, with this bill, advertising to the world is now territory water, aquatic territory, over which the Canadian government, the state of Canada, will now exercise its jurisdiction.

I know members have read the bill in great detail. It is about 10 lines long, yet it generated from the minister a speech of about 15 minutes. My compliments to him. I listened through it all, hoping to hear something more than “looking at”. I think the minister, perhaps to his credit but certainly to the advantage of his party, indicated that the government was looking at a whole stream of things that would be made possible with the passage of the legislation.

We would be delighted to help him along. In the process, however, we would want to ask a few questions. He talked about four pillars upon which the legislation would be based. I was looking, for example, at the mechanisms, the processes, the moneys, the resources that he and the government would be putting in place in order to, first, effectively exercise the jurisdiction which we are claiming as is our right under the Conventions of the UN over this entire territory.

For example, how many more ships are we prepared to buy, to lease, to engage in protecting the territory that, as I said a moment ago, is the size of the province of Saskatchewan, which is bigger than almost every other country in the world, save maybe the top 10?

If we are not to have more ships in aquatic territory, how does the minister expect Canadians to feel assured that they will exercise greater sovereignty over this great expanse of further territory? It is not that Canadians do not want to, because we do. We have already established that we feel it is our right, it is part of our territory, and we do want to protect it. We want to exercise sovereignty over it.

We want to, as well, as the minister suggested, ensure that there is greater security. For that, aside from the satellite beams that we will be engaging to help us track where ships might be, because I think we are talking about ships in aquatic territory, we are not really talking about tanks, we are not talking about land rovers, we are not talking about boots on the ground, as he mentioned, we are also talking about ocean-going vessels, whether they are below surface or above surface. However, there is no indication that resources will be put at the disposal of the Canadian government and its enforcement agencies to ensure they can do the job that the bill would have them do. Otherwise it is meaningless.

To say that we are now extending our sovereignty over additional waters, the equivalent size of Saskatchewan, without being able to put resources to effect that sovereignty is empty rhetoric. It is a looking at rather than doing.

In my question for the minister, who is courteous enough to listen to debate in the House, I mentioned a second thing I was looking for, and perhaps he might want to address this.

We must remember that we are extending sovereignty over an aquatic territory. If this is going to be an economic development exercise in economic development, we are not only going to claim our sovereignty over this vast expanse of water, but we are going to take claim an authority over whatever is underneath the ocean bed.

The minister has suggested that an additional 33% of all the natural gas deposits in the northern part of the western hemisphere are resident in this area. I guess some of the science has speculated that is where it would be. The minister has made a similar observation about light crude and its availability for the energy requirements of tomorrow. I want to accept this.

That is all the more reason why I ask this. Where are the resources in the bill to ensure that Canadian businesses and Canadian residents in the three Arctic territories and beyond have the right of first development of those natural resources? Where is the plan? Can we look at, speculate and plan? Yes, we can do all of these three things, but where is the plan? Where is the how to that tells us that we would, through the bill, be engaging in the development of the future interests of Canadians not only in the north, but everywhere? I do not see that. I do not see the resources.

It is a bit disconcerting because here we are in the midst of a debate about the budget implementation bill. I know Bill C-3 is not a part of that, but we are still seized in the House with ensuring that the budget implementation bill and all of the tens of billions of dollars that this Parliament would authorize the government to expend for the purpose of stimulating the Canadian economy and for developing the future assets of Canada's potential resources are spent. There is not a penny, not a dollar, not an indication of a specific agenda item.

There is though, if I might digress, some value in rhetoric, but there is a lot of rhetoric. I am not sure rhetoric is going to buy the credibility that Canadians so desperately want when it comes to engaging in particular actions.

A third pillar the minister says is an environmental one. The environment that he has talked about up until this point has to do with ocean-going vessels polluting the waters they traverse. By that pollution, I am not sure if he is talking about greenhouse gas-type emissions. I suspect he is talking in greater detail about hard pollution that goes from the ship into the water and affects the marine life and anybody who is dependent on that marine life. The minister has talked about that at great length and he has talked about how we will protect that.

Canadians, or at least the ones who had the good fortune to exercise their vote for me, did not see from the government in the last Parliament any substantive action on pollution abatement, on pollution restriction, or on going after polluters in our backyard.

Will we now believe the Conservatives when they say that they will get those people who pollute waters, which are about the size of the entire province of Saskatchewan, but that they will not spend a dime to do it? They will stand in the House of Commons on Bill C-3 when everybody is watching them. Because they say that they will do that and because they say that the environment is one of the concerns they will try to address with Bill C-3, everybody will believe them and will back off. I find that difficult to believe.

One reason why I find it difficult to believe is that even the casual reader will know that over the course of the last summer and fall, various other countries have taken a special interest in the Arctic waters, waters which we claim as our own. In fact, we have always said they have been our own. However, they extend to countries like Norway, Russia, Denmark, Greenland and the United States. They all have competing claims, competing interests and overlapping concerns about the environment and about pollution. The environment and pollution appear to be the umbrella under which everybody operates when they want to talk about interests and development.

I have not seen anything anywhere in the bill that says that we have engaged any of those countries in any bilateral discussions about how we will enforce our sovereignty, especially with respect to environmental and pollution type issues in the Arctic and in these waters in particular. I do not see that anywhere and there has not been any indication that the government has actually engaged in those kinds of discussions. Not only that, there is no indication that the government has raised these in the United Nations forum.

I understand the Prime Minister is at the United Nations today. During question period, one of my colleagues asked the government side a question about an agenda. In response none of those items were on that agenda, but it was asked during question period, not during answer period. Perhaps the minister would care to elaborate on specifically which items related to the bill and, more specific, to the environment and pollution will be raised by the Prime Minister with counterparts in the United Nations so we can get the compliance of the countries that have a more immediate interest in the geography in question under the legislation.

If we do not have a forum in which to raise these issues with a receptive series of countries, and it is important that they be receptive, then we go back to one of my very first items of concern, which is: where are the resources to ensure that we have the military capacity to protect the sovereignty that we claim with the bill?

Are we spending more money in defence? Are we buying more vessels? I heard only one for Coast Guard increased capacity. One Coast Guard vessel, or turning it to a land example for our purposes, would be about three 18 wheelers, maybe four. If we dropped four 18 wheelers, one after the other, in the middle of Saskatchewan, who would notice? Not very many. It would take a while for those four 18 wheelers, one right behind the other, to patrol a territory the size of Saskatchewan.

We do not even have an indication that is what we will do. In a time when we are asking jurisdictions to spend tens of billions of dollars, along comes legislation that says the government will take care of this. It will be its territory. It will take care of the environment, catch all polluters and develop the economy in the area.

We could probably build infrastructures for three months of the year, so it would take a substantial amount of time to do infrastructure that might, in other places, take three or four years. However, there is no indication of resources. How seriously can we take the government on this?

We hear the usual story about trying to help people locally. Yes, we want to help people locally and we want to give them greater authority over all of this but we need to remember that this is a bill about aquatic territory. The minister explained how this would do great things for people in the north, especially in those areas where they are resident about 1,000 kilometres from the shore. We, too, have great interest in ensuring that the economies and the sovereignty of people indigenous to the area are protected and enhanced.

However, we do not want to blow smoke in their eyes when we are talking about something else. We would like to have a bit of direct honesty about what it is we are going to do with them specifically that will enhance their sovereignty, give them greater autonomy and make them full partners in the development of that economic exercise that he says is one of the four pillars of this particular bill.

He says that Bill C-3 would give us control over those commercial shipping lanes, not that they are already available. They do not go through 12 months of the year. The depth of the ice is still such that it prevents that from happening. However, has the government given us an indication of how many ships use these shipping lanes? How will we monitor them?

For example, members may recall just recently the great activity by pirates just off the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. It is in the papers every day. The first thing that all countries, which have merchant marines operating in the area, tell us is that the ocean is so vast that it is impossible for anybody to monitor or keep track of all these pirates. In Canada we would say polluters because that is what the minister focused his attention on.

Where are the resources to ensure that an aquatic territory that is vastly larger than the seas off Somalia and Saudi Arabia will be any safer for all of us? He said that we need to protect the security of Canadians from terrorists and from criminal organizations. Does he have an indication of which ones? Has he given us an indication of how much of that activity is currently going on and what means we need to engage in order to put an end to it?

I am shocked. If the minister could indicate to us that all of this is actually taking place, why have we not done anything so far? Is a piece of legislation that is some eight lines long, which gives us the authority to exercise jurisdiction that is already ours by UN convention, going to solve that problem? I would think not.

I would think that the minister would probably say that we need to do this, that we need to expend this amount of money, these hundreds of millions or billions of dollars, to ensure that Canadian sovereignty is firmly established, that security for all Canadians is protected in this area, and he would show us how. He would show us the vessels that we would engage, the satellites in which we would invest and the additional marines, RCMP or soldiers that we would engage in the area. He would show us the plan that is already in place to develop the economy with the hope that it will produce X number of jobs and X number of activities that will generate the economy in the area.

After all, the object of the day, in passing the action plan in this House, is to ensure that the tens of billions of dollars that Canadians are willing to invest go for the benefit of Canadians, not just today but down the road, and that they do it in an environment that gives them security and addresses the concerns for the environment and pollution, which are also very much on everyone's minds, and finally, that they provide the indigenous populations that are resident in the territories adjacent to this vast aquatic area with the future that we want them to take for granted.

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3:55 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I did mention in my remarks the new icebreaker named after Prime Minister Diefenbaker, the new vessels for the Coast Guard, the resources going to the Department of the Environment for environmental enforcement and the new folks being trained to provide additional support.

There are significant investments in infrastructure. The Northwest Territories is one out of two or three of the provinces and territories that is moving the most aggressively with respect to infrastructure. The premier presented me with his list of infrastructure projects, which was approved within two or three hours. Premier Floyd Roland is moving very aggressively on infrastructure. We are there as a partner, providing more money for northern infrastructure than any government in our history. We recognize that the circumstances in northern Canada are different and are providing up to 75% funding.

The new government in Nunavut was recently elected and it is having a cabinet retreat this month. It will be moving forward aggressively with infrastructure and we are standing ready, willing and able to support it in that.

With respect to other northern infrastructure, we need to provide support for the men and women who live there and who will do this important work, whether it is in housing, schools, in my department or in the department of northern development. A new northern development economic agency is also important.

We have seen significant economic growth in the Northwest Territories. Some years its economic growth rate, on a percentage level, has rivalled that of China. The work done in the Yukon by Premier Fentie has also been important and very focused on economic development. The Minister of Health is also doing good work in Nunavut. I could go on and on but I just wanted to put those comments on the record.

I have been a minister in many different portfolios, federally and provincially, for many years and that member was the first member to ever ask me an actual question about the supplementary estimates when I appeared before committee. I was stunned, not only that he was asking questions on the matter before the committee but that they were very well researched ones. I congratulate the member.

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4 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will try to answer that with a straight face. I thank him for his observations, especially in my own personal regard. Let it not be said that we are excessively humble.

The minister has taken great pains to recite a series of very general initiatives that are resident in the area by the governments in each of the three territories.

I might have said the same thing. In fact, the reason that I could is, as he pointed out in his speech, that the government, which proceeded his, actually began all of this activity, a lot of it in mining and in petroleum extraction, but a lot of it also in construction. We have some of the finest airports and airport runways in the north capable of handling some very heavy duty haulage.

All of that is activity that preceded Bill C-3. What I am asking the minister, which I know he will not be able to answer because his time is up, and to repeat what I said a few minutes ago, is to have a how to plan. We want the specifics, the resources that had to be associated with this bill, in order to give those of us on this side of the House the comfort level that the objectives enunciated in the four pillars are actually ones that, number one, are workable, but, number two, to which we can also put a timeline on the full-time equivalent jobs over a long period of time. However, that has not happened.

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4 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I just asked the minister a question about climate change. The bill is supposed to prevent pollution in Arctic waters. One of the reasons why we are talking about this, though, is that shipping is possible now because the climate is changing, it is getting warmer and the ice is melting.

In the last election campaign, the Liberals and their leader, the hon. member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, had a green plan. Now that the Liberals have changed leaders, they are looking more and more like the Conservatives. It was no accident that they supported the budget.

I would like to hear from the Liberal member who sits with me on the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. What is his position on the importance of fighting climate change and on the fact that we do not want less and less ice in the Arctic but more and more?

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4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wish to thank my hon. colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel for his comment. In the spirit of friendship we are seeing today, with ministers complimenting members of the official opposition, I would like to follow suit and compliment my hon. colleague, who has been sitting at the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities for many years. He does an outstanding and commendable job. I know that he will appreciate my comment as well. I am one of those generals who never fight a battle that has already been fought.

Regarding the environment and the platform in the last election, we always agree on the principles that should guide the policy of this party, and perhaps that of the government. I have never changed my mind, and I see no reason to do so today.

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4:05 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague talked about the establishment of northern airports and the role of the federal government. He is correct but they were devolved to the territories a number of years ago and have struggled since. The conditions of climate change have changed the nature of our ability to provide air services throughout the north. At the same time, the federal government under the Chrétien Liberals cut back on many of the weather services that were essential to keeping these airports safe and reliable for the transport of goods and people.

Does my hon. colleague not agree that the situation with Arctic airports is changing and they need attention as they are part of the overall development of a reliable transportation system in the north? They need to adjust to the changing conditions that we have in the north.