House of Commons Hansard #56 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was rcmp.

Topics

Environmental Enforcement Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Gail Shea Egmont, PE

(Motion agreed to)

Environmental Enforcement Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

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

Environmental Enforcement Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Environmental Enforcement Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Gail Shea Egmont, PE

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

Environmental Enforcement Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Peterborough
Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the third reading of Bill C-16, the environmental enforcement act, which has been reported to the House by the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development with minor amendments and all-party support for its fundamental principles. I thank the members of the committee for their work on the bill and the improvements they have made to it.

The bill fulfills a Conservative Party election promise to bolster the protection of our environment through tougher enforcement. It complements a number of steps the government has taken since coming into office three years ago, including a $22 million commitment in budget 2007 to increase the number of Environment Canada enforcement officers by 50%, and a further $32 million in budget 2008 over two years to enhance the enforcement operations of Environment Canada and Parks Canada.

Bill C-16 proposes extensive changes to the fine, sentencing and enforcement provisions of nine environmental protection and wildlife conservation statutes. The bill has three primary purposes: to ensure convictions act as strong deterrents, to express society's abhorrence for environmental offences and to contribute to environmental restoration and enhancement.

Especially important to the deterrence objective of the bill, is its modern, tough fine scheme. I am please to say that the bill has been reported to the House with no amendments to the fine scheme it proposes.

While the bill does not change the existing requirements for environmental compliance in Canada, its modernized fine scheme is intended to provide better guidance to courts about what constitutes appropriate fines. The purpose is to ensure that penalties for environmental offences are not simply seen as the cost of doing business. The bill does this by introducing minimum fines for the most serious offences, requiring courts to consider aggravating factors and increasing most maximum fines.

As such, if Bill C-16 becomes law, fines for individuals who commit the most serious offences will be liable to a fine ranging from $5,000 to $1 million per day fine. Large corporations that commit the most serious offences will be liable to fines ranging from $100,000 to $6 million per day per offence. These ranges represent significant improvements.

Currently, the statutes amended by the bill contain only maximum fines and completely lack direction on appropriate starting points. This has led to inadequately low fines that have never anywhere near reached the maximum amounts possible. Currently, for example, although CEPA allows for fines up to $1 million, the highest fine ever imposed under that act was $100,000, so substantially less than the maximum penalty.

It is our goal, through our environmental compliance regime and enhanced enforcement, to try to prevent environmental damage and preserve our environment for all Canadians. However, if we contemplate the possibility of a significant environmental offence, we may also, through the provisions of the bill, contemplate significant sentences as a result.

The fine scheme introduced by the bill is further enhanced by requirements for the court to consider the principle that fines should be increased to reflect every aggravating factor associated with an offence. Examples of particular aggravating factors are listed in the bill to ensure consistent treatment across the country. As with the fine ranges, the committee made no amendments to the provisions concerning aggravating factors.

Another key component of the bill is its proposed enhancements of court order authorities on sentencing. It is widely recognized that fines alone are not sufficient to deter offenders, denounce their behaviour and ensure environmental restoration. That is certainly something we heard from witnesses who appeared when the bill was before committee. As such, the bill seeks to improve the creating sentencing power of judges by harmonizing and improving existing authorities provided by the statutes amended by the bill to courts upon sentencing.

I am pleased to say that the committee made several important amendments to these court order provisions. The bill, as introduced, was intended to ensure courts have access to a full suite of creative sentencing powers upon sentencing, such as remedial orders, compensation orders and orders concerning community service. As reported to the House by the committee, the bill's amendment to the court order powers are even stronger, ensuring consistency across statutes and clarity in the language used.

For example, collectively, the members of the committee ensured that courts would be able to direct the offender to pay money to community organizations to assist in their work in communities affected by these offences. In the same vein, I am happy that the bill's provisions concerning public disclosure of environmental offences, especially with respect to corporate offenders, have remained intact.

Members of the committee recognized the important deterrent and denunciation effect of the provision obliging the minister to maintain, in a registry accessible to the public, information about all convictions of corporations for offences under the act and the provision obliging courts to order corporate offenders who have shareholders to inform their shareholders of these convictions.

Beyond its focus on the outcome of prosecutions, the bill would give enforcement officers better options for addressing offences that require immediate action. The bill does this by allowing officers to issue compliance orders. I am happy to say that the committee also recognized the value of this important tool and made no amendments to it whatsoever. Furthermore, the bill, as reported to the House, has stronger provisions concerning analysts. These are scientific and technical experts who can play an important role in gathering evidence of offences.

I thank the committee members for their cooperation in ensuring all provisions necessary for analysts to function effectively were included in this bill.

Finally, and of note, the bill, as reported to the House, also retains its original proposed environmental violations administrative monetary penalty act. This proposed act would ensure the benefits to environmental enforcement from modern and efficient enforcement tools, tools that will ensure a consistent response to serious environmental infractions.

Again I thank the members of the committee from all parties for their excellent work. Bill C-16 is an impressive, important initiative that would strengthen the federal environmental protection regime and protect our environment for future generations.

Environmental Enforcement Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Gerry Byrne Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL

Madam Speaker, I have a timely question and perhaps the hon. member could give some insight to the House on a circumstance that I am working on on behalf of stakeholders from Atlantic Canada.

Just recently, a barge called the Shovel Master, which is owned by the Irving Corporation, sunk off the coast of southwest Nova Scotia. On board were 70,000 litres of fuel oil and that oil now sits in that barge on the bottom in some pretty rich fish habitat. It is there and contained but, as we know, it will eventually break apart. That 70,000 litres of fuel oil will go into the natural environment, causing serious destruction of fish habitat if and when it does.

It is a time bomb but the bomb has not yet exploded. Does this proposed act contemplate any remedy for that? Are there any provisions that would guard against future circumstances? I say future circumstances because no specific pollution problems have been identified today but, obviously, there will be one tomorrow. Is there any remedy under this proposed act that would allow for the government to enforce a role for the owner company to clean up that circumstance or is that left for another act?

We do know that a very similar circumstance just occurred in the Gulf of St. Lawrence involving the Irving Whale, another barge full of fuel oil, which cost the federal government upwards of $40 million to clean up, with no cost being borne by the original owner of that particular barge. Was proper contemplation given to that circumstance within this proposed act? If not, what would be the appropriate statute or legislative base for the government to act to impose a requirement for that company to clean up that situation?

Environmental Enforcement Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Peterborough, ON

Madam Speaker, the great thing about Bill C-16 is that it makes the fundamental recognition that Canada's current enforcement regime is out of date.

In the Speech from the Throne, the government committed to act and make polluters accountable. Canadians want us to crack down on polluters, poachers and wildlife smugglers, and that is what the bill would do. The legislation delivered on the government's three main goals: deterrence, denunciation and restoration of the environment.

With respect to specific incidents, there is obviously a difference between being negligent and looking at environmental contamination as a cost of doing business. This bill would come down very hard on companies that are negligent and companies that are merely acting abhorrently toward the environment and looking at fines as merely a cost of doing business. Through this bill, we will ensure that companies understand that this government and this party stand firmly behind the environment and its protection for future generations.

Environmental Enforcement Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Madam Speaker, as the member said, it is time we changed the enforcement regime and imposed stiffer penalties. But imposing stiffer penalties is not enough. We also need to change how we do things, and this bill does not address that issue. That said, we will support Bill C-16.

For example, in February 2009, Syncrude was charged with dumping toxic substances into tailings ponds at the company's oil sands site north of Fort McMurray, which resulted in the deaths of nearly 500 ducks.

What is a $300,000 fine or a maximum prison sentence of six months to a super-rich company like Syncrude? Will the member admit that we need to not only increase sentences and fines, but change how we do things in order to protect the environment better?

Environmental Enforcement Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Peterborough, ON

Madam Speaker, we agree with the member and that is why in budget 2007 we dramatically increased the budget for enforcement officers. We did that again the following year when we increased the budget for officers for Parks Canada. We agree with the member that a $300,000 fine is not enough to necessarily deter that. What will deter it is a $6 million per day fine. What will deter it is a listing of that company on a registry that says that this company broke the environmental laws.

Frankly, when shareholders look at a company that is paying fines in the range of $6 million per day, they will not be happy. Companies need to be concerned about their corporate image when they are trying to attract investment because people do not like investing in companies that are negligent to the environment. This bill moves on that and it is a critical change.

Environmental Enforcement Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON

Madam Speaker, I congratulate the parliamentary secretary for the tone and civility of his remarks today. This is an example of where the committee worked very well together to build on what has actually been many years of investment in reframing environmental enforcement for the country. It preceded the government's election pledge. I think he would be well advised to admit that and perhaps even support that notion. I think all thanks go to hundreds of justice and other officials who have helped to pull us together.

I have an important question concerning two significant things that have happened recently on the environmental front. One is this environment enforcement bill and the second is the government's decision to make changes to environmental assessment, not only through the Navigable Waters Protection Act where now unfettered discretion has been given to the minister to decide when and when not it will apply, but also new changes that exempt environmental assessment for projects of $10 million or less.

Can he help Canadians understand how, on the one hand, we are driving up enforcement and fining and giving discretion to judges to apply fines in different contexts, while, on the other hand, we are actually reducing the standards for environmental assessment?

Environmental Enforcement Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Peterborough, ON

Madam Speaker, the member's question is important and I will point out to Canadians why this decision was made.

We know right now that we are trying to get projects rolled out the door. We have a stimulus fund and we want to put Canadians to work. What the change is really about is saying to the municipalities and to the provinces in these regions that we will trust their environmental assessment and we will trust them to do the right thing on this because they have already done due diligence.

We have a process right now that I would categorize as excessive due diligence. We ask our partners at the municipal level and at the provincial level to do these assessments and then we do them again. It is choking the system. We want to get money out the door. We want to get the modern infrastructure, the roads, bridges and highways that we are looking at building through Building Canada and the infrastructure stimulus package. We want to get that moving but it has been ground to a halt through unnecessary legislation in many regards. We will trust our partners to get the job done, to do a good job and to be responsible and accountable to taxpayers. We will get money rolling out the doors to get projects completed.

Auditor General of Canada
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I have the honour to lay upon the table, pursuant to Standing Order 108(3)(g), the spring 2009 report of the Auditor General of Canada.

The document is deemed to have been permanently referred to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts.

Environment and Sustainable Development
Government Orders

May 12th, 2009 / 2 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I have the honour to lay upon the table, in accordance with the provisions of subsection 7(5) of the Auditor General Act and subsection 10(1) of the Kyoto Implementation Act, the spring 2009 report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development to the House of Commons concerning environmental petitions received between July 1, 2008 and December 31, 2008.

This report is permanently referred to the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development.

National Nursing Week
Statements by Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, during National Nursing Week, please let me share three inspirational examples of some of the diverse work being done by the 270,000 nurses in our country.

Janice Snowie has worked full time for over 25 years. She has been on call one night in three in a small rural emergency room. She must deal with everything from multi-victim trauma to worried parents with ill infants.

Kirk Sullivan is a mental health nurse who supports citizens with pervasive mental illness to remain in the community. His commitment extends to acting as a willing preceptor for our young students and guiding the generations for tomorrow.

Cathy Osborn provided leadership in the development of a vascular improvement program for Kamloops. This innovative approach currently supports a collaborative partnership of patients, specialists, general practitioners and community. Significant improvements are already being documented.

Nurses are the backbone of our health care system.

I would like the House to join with me in paying tribute to these devoted people who work on behalf of us all.

Hepatitis B and C
Statements by Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, one week from today, Canada will join with groups and nations all over the world to increase public awareness of two fatal diseases, hepatitis B and hepatitis C.

One in 12 people worldwide lives with hepatitis B or C, including 600,000 Canadians. However, many people do not even know they are infected.

Oftentimes those infected have no obvious symptoms until serious liver damage has occurred, resulting in chronic lifelong viral infections that can infect anyone from any walk of life.

From harm reduction programs to needle exchanges in prisons, we must do more. We must raise the awareness and prevent these diseases.

As this is also Canada Health Day, I would urge all Canadians to visit www.whdcanada.ca or www.aminumber12.org to learn more about hepatitis B and C, the risk factors involved, and the steps to take to ensure one is protecting oneself and others.