House of Commons Hansard #50 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was arctic.

Topics

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-3, An Act to amend the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act, be read the third time and passed.

Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act
Government Orders

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

When debate was interrupted, the hon. member for Western Arctic had the floor. There are six and a half minutes remaining in the time allotted for his remarks.

I therefore call upon the hon. member for Western Arctic.

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3:10 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, before question period, I talked a lot about the new 2009 Arctic marine shipping assessment that was presented in Tromso, Norway. I want to wrap up my discussion on the bill. I have pointed out the importance of preventing pollution being an international concern. We have to work well internationally to accomplish the goals we have for our arctic waters.

The assessment was as a result of the work of a number of Arctic nations, including Canada, so it is important that we look at the recommendations.

Under oil spill prevention, we need to see the Arctic states enhance a mutual co-operation in the field of oil spill prevention, in collaboration with industries that support research and technology transfer, to prevent the release of oil into Arctic waters. They have identified quite clearly that this is the highest priority in the Arctic for environmental protection as the ice recedes and shipping increases in the area. There is a clear message to the government to join in internationally to make this happen.

We should support development of a comprehensive Arctic marine traffic awareness system to improve the monitoring and tracking of marine activity, enhance data sharing in near-real time and augment vessel management services in order to reduce the risk of incidents. As I pointed out before, some 6,000 vessels are in Arctic waters now and are engaged in many voyages. We do have the quantity of ships entering Arctic waters. We need to have the systems to ensure that we can keep track of them and that they are well accounted for.

Last year, we saw the sinking of a cruise ship off the coast of Antarctica. This type of disaster has the potential to occur in our Arctic waters as well. Many of the cruise ships that are now plying the Greenland coast, between Greenland and Canadian waters, are simply not equipped for the Arctic conditions. These national monitoring systems and working together internationally to ensure that vessel traffic is well understood in the Arctic will do more to prevent pollution occurrences. We need to monitor the way the ships conduct themselves in the Arctic waters and work to ensure that the pollution from those ships is limited.

The third recommendation was circumpolar environmental response capacity. This would be to see that the Arctic states continue to develop circumpolar environmental response capabilities that are critical to protecting the unique Arctic ecosystem. This can be done through circumpolar co-operation and agreements as well as regional bilateral capacity agreements. This would cover areas as well as search and rescue.

The world recognizes the importance of protecting the Arctic environment. Canada's role is to work with the rest of the world in co-operation to achieve the goals for our rapidly changing Arctic.

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3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I know this area is very important to the member. In the minister's speech on the bill at second reading, he talked about the development of oil and gas, how important it was in the North and the rich resources there. That was one of the reasons the bill was necessary. Does the member think the bill is very helpful in supporting oil and gas development for his constituents?

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3:15 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, the bill does not address that issue very well. It would simply extend the boundaries that we would protect. Without the work going into the issues that I have talked about, we are very much leaving ourselves at the mercy of the good intent of the industries that are going to be engaged in the North.

We need to take real, concrete steps to ensure that ships and industries that want to utilize the resources in the Arctic, be it fishing, tourism or oil and gas, follow very strict guidelines. In fact, we do not only need guidelines, regulations that ensure these vessels and crews act in a manner that is acceptable and uniform across the Arctic waters.

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3:15 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his astute comments on the bill. Canadians are united in their desire to see a high level of diplomacy and negotiation conducted among all nations that touch on the Arctic. I believe there are five competing jurisdictions and we all understand the need for co-operation in this interconnected world in which we live.

Could my colleague comment on his views or feelings about the current state of diplomacy and international co-operation going on in this region and on the subject of the bill?

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3:20 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, the major issues facing Canada with international agreements really lie with Canada and the U.S. We need to sort out the issues of the Northwest Passage in a fashion that we can move ahead. We need a certain measure of understanding between the United States and Canada as they both have valid interests, Canada in protecting its territorial waters and the U.S. in ensuring it has some valid access. Those things have to be worked out between the two countries.

A much more interesting near time issue is the boundary between Alaska and Yukon, which, since 1982 when the U.S. changed its policy on the boundary, has left an area of 4,000 or 5,000 square kilometres in the Beaufort Sea. This is likely a development area that is under dispute between Canada and the U.S. Those bilateral discussions must go ahead in a fashion that can lead to a solution.

When we are talking about the Beaufort Sea, we are talking about an area that is under active exploration right now. To have this extent of a border issue in that area is not acceptable. We need to work in that area. I have not heard that the government has made any movement in this regard.

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3:20 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my friend from Western Arctic for his work on this file.

I recall back in the mid-eighties when Mel Hurtig, a publisher from Edmonton, dropped a Canadian flag with a note on a vessel going through our north saying, “You should have asked permission”. That wound up with me being first president of the Hamilton Chapter of the Council of Canadians. I have had a concern about sovereignty for a long time.

The member spoke about vessels going through the north, that the ice flows would break up earlier and there would be more tourism and more vessels going through. Are there any provisions concerning the fouling of the waters by these ships? We know that happens in the main oceans.

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3:20 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Madam Speaker, the Arctic marine shipping assessment, which was presented in Tromso, talked about the expanded marine traffic increasing the possibility of introducing alien species into Arctic waters, which is of major concern, and then pathogens from ballast water discharge and hull fouling.

These activities occur with ships all over the world. The difference is, within the pristine Arctic conditions, the introduction of any of these fouling emissions can have a serious deleterious effect on that environment.

All of us in this world want to maintain what is good in the environment now in the face of what has happened over the last hundred years.

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3:20 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, in my home province of British Columbia I know how important the coastlines are to the citizens and how deeply they care about maintaining the pristine nature of the waters up and down the coast.

One of the many ways this concern is expressed is in ensuring that ships carrying toxic materials, such as oil tankers, are carefully regulated and, in fact, banned in many areas, so we do not run the risk of having terrible oil disasters, like what happened with the Exxon Valdez some years ago.

Could my hon. colleague from Western Arctic, whom I want to congratulate on his wonderful work on this bill, elucidate a bit on how the bill may or may not impact upon the possibility of dumping oil or other toxic substances in the pristine waters of the Arctic?

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3:25 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Madam Speaker, I think the House has to recognize that this bill speaks to an area in the Arctic that is not accessible by ships right now. What it does is focus attention on all the issues we have within the waters of the Arctic that are now accessible within the 100-mile limit. To that extent, the bill is useful.

We have had the debate here in Parliament. We have talked about the issues. The government needs to provide leadership, and it also needs to work much more closely with the international community that has significant interest in the Arctic.

Those are the results that I want to see from this bill. Those results will mean that we will protect our arctic waters.

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3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Madam Speaker, I am happy to rise today to speak to Bill C-3.

Of course the Liberals will be supporting this bill, because this is additional modernization support for the bill of the Right Hon. Pierre Elliott Trudeau of 1970. This bill will basically make a small administrative change to that bill. As international law extended the sea boundaries that countries could have, we needed a local administrative change to extend the boundary that Canada could have.

We are delighted that the Prime Minister is so strongly supportive of Pierre Elliott Trudeau's bill, the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act, the AWPPA, of 1970. At that time it brought in very sweeping changes to the protection of the Arctic, leading the world to show that Canada was serious about the Arctic waters.

It gives rules related to the deposit of waste in the Arctic. It gives rules related to someone who may be doing work that would lead to the deposit of waste in the Arctic. They have to get a permit, which could be rejected or modified. It gives rules about control over shipping zones in the Arctic. It gives enforcement provisions. It also gives instructions on the types of ships that can go in that area. They are in dangerous, ice-filled waters, and they need to have special ships that can handle that dangerous area.

When the bill was first enacted, Canada's boundaries and other countries' boundaries were 100 miles, but when Canada joined the law of the sea, in 2003, an international law was changed, giving us a limit of 200 nautical miles. The bill, of course, then has to be adjusted to keep up with international law. So this is a 10-line bill that makes that administrative adjustment.

One might think that lengthy debates here and in committee are much to do about nothing, but the minister and officials from various departments have brought up a number of issues and ramifications related to this bill and what needs to be done to deal with those. I am going to be following up, primarily on the comments made by those people in committees, and the other considerations that may need to be taken into effect when we are increasing Canada's control over something in an area that is bigger than one of the prairie provinces.

Of course it becomes increasingly important to have this type of pollution control and monitoring in the Arctic waters because of the melting of the ice cap. For small periods in 2007 and 2008, for the first time in history, the Northwest Passage, which I like to call the Canadian passage, was actually navigable. The ice cap in the Arctic was 39% smaller in 2007 than its average in 1979 to 2000.

This leads to more commerce. According to the marine shipping report that just came out, as a previous member mentioned, there were 6,000 shipping activities in Arctic waters over the time period of a year. If the Northwest Passage were to be an international strait, there could be overflights by other countries, which of course we do not want. There are thousands of overflights over the Arctic now. I will be talking about some of the aspects that are very important to prevent that.

One of the major concerns that all parties have raised about this is their lack of faith in the government's will and ability to monitor this. If we take authority over a much greater area, we have to make some steps to protect it.

Toronto is a very large city, with thousands of police officers. What if we said we would take over policing of another equally large city but we were not going to provide any more police officers? Would that not be absurd? We would have authority that would go unmonitored and unenforced. Not only would it be a laughing stock but it would be a very dangerous situation, because how could they then enforce in the areas they can take care of?

All the parties have brought up their lack of faith in the government to enforce. The government reinforced this in committee. When asked this question by all the parties a number of times, it basically confirmed that it has no plan and no additional resources for enforcement. There was nothing in the budget to increase enforcement. So how can it deal with that?

I think it was last summer that there was an explosion in the Arctic. The government was nowhere nearby. A couple of weeks later, a submarine surfaced. Once again, that was confirmed by our arctic peoples. The government did an investigation. As Canadians, we were not told what it found out about that whole situation. Not only is government not there and not telling Canadians, but now it is adding this huge area that is the size of Saskatchewan with no ability to monitor it.

The minister himself said the government has to exercise, and be seen to exercise, effective control over merchant shipping in the Canadian Arctic. Well, it is not there now, and it is not providing any more resources. Believe me, the government was asked about this numerous times in committee, and no department would say how it would deal with this massive increase in monitoring and change. This is an area that is larger than my riding, the Yukon. It is roughly half a million square kilometres.

The minister suggested that the environment department had some of the monitoring. He was a former minister of the environment. But then he was asked how many ships or planes the department had to monitor it and he had no idea.

In the very dynamic Liberal convention we just had on the weekend with 3,000 delegates, the delegates came up with a resolution, one of the 32 resolutions, to increase aerial surveillance and naval patrol of the Arctic, because it would seem it is not being accomplished by the present government.

We can also remember when we created a satellite, which is part of what is needed. It certainly cannot do the job alone. You need a kaleidoscope of forms of surveillance depending on the situation. A Canadian company built a satellite, and it was about to sell it to the United States. We fought and fought, and finally they did not allow that sale, thank goodness. We would have lost some of the limited surveillance we already have.

Two of the previous speakers suggested that in committee someone had said there was a single airplane to surveil this whole huge area: a de Havilland propellor plane. I do not remember that, actually. I had thought someone had said there were three planes: one for the Pacific Ocean, one for the Atlantic Ocean and one for the Arctic.

I, and a professor who deals with the Arctic, had a good laugh over that. I think a one propellor plane for the Pacific Ocean or the Atlantic Ocean, or indeed the Arctic Ocean with the world's largest coastline, is a little insignificant.

People have this impression that the government is taking care of arctic sovereignty. In fact, I think if people in the provinces were asked, they would say, “Oh, yes, they are doing things. They are announcing things. They are talking about things”. I would invite anyone in the provinces to tell me one of those things the government has actually done. Which one is finished? Which one is there? Which one is accomplished?

The Prime Minister, when he first came in, and this was quite a while ago, announced that three icebreakers would be built. The government broke that promise in the first throne speech and budget. We pushed and pushed, and finally a couple of years later the government announced that in the distant future it would build one of those three, breaking the promise on the other two.

There was an announcement about ice-strengthened supply ships. Then that order was cancelled. There were to be planes for Yellowknife, and that order was cancelled.

I think it is great to have this bill. We support it to extend our authority, but we really need to do something about monitoring that authority.

I want to also talk about, in that area, a pet project I have been working on for a number of years now, which is search and rescue.

There is not a single search and rescue plane in our major fixed-wing fleet north of 60 and yet, the government goes to international conferences. I was at the one in Ilulissat where the five nations of the north made agreements on how we would work together related to extending boundaries in the Arctic under UNCLOS. We talked about Canada being part of a new search and rescue demand in the north. We have had thousands of overhead flights and incursion of boats. Well, of course we need more search and rescue. But we do not even have search and rescue for our own Arctic people north of 60. This is a failing. Once again, it is great to talk about the north, but we really have to come forward, and produce and take care of northerners.

Another reason I support this bill strongly is because it builds on the four pillars of Paul Martin's northern strategy. People who were not here at the time might not remember. This was probably the most major announcement and largest press conference I have seen in my nine years in Parliament. I do not think in history there has been a press conference with so many ministers there, all announcing the Arctic strategy for the north. It was over in Hull. It showed a dedication not just of one department, INAC. All federal departments had to follow the prime minister. One of those pillars of Paul Martin's strategy was sovereignty, and this of course builds on that. Others were the environment, economic development and governance, and I am going to talk about those shortly.

However, I want to read one of the rationale's for sovereignty in this bill that the government used in debate that allows us to make this extension, allows us sovereignty over this 200-mile limit.

I have given a copy of this document to the translators. For new members of Parliament, I know the translators in the translation booths in the corner appreciate it if they can have documents in advance that members are going to read from or in fact their speeches if members have written them.

This is article 234 that Canada created and worked hard to get into the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. This deals with ice-covered areas. It is very important for this and other bills that Canadians know about this particular clause in the Law of the Sea. It states:

Coastal states have the right to adopt and enforce non-discriminatory laws and regulations for the prevention, reduction and control of marine pollution from vessels in ice-covered areas within the limits of the exclusive economic zone, where particularly severe climatic conditions and the presence of ice covering such areas for most of the year create obstructions or exceptional hazards to navigation, and pollution of the marine environment could cause major harm to or irreversible disturbance of the ecological balance. Such laws and regulations have due regard to navigation and protection and preservation of the marine environment based on the best available scientific evidence.

So, this clause is a great support for us to move forward with this bill regarding ice-covered areas. It would give us the authority to have these major enforcements that Pierre Elliott Trudeau put in the bill in the first place.

However, my question, which the minister has heretofore been unable to answer, is this. If this is the basis for the bill, this clause in the Law of the Sea that gives us authority to do these things in ice-covered areas, then what happens when this area is no longer covered in ice?

As I said earlier, in 2007-08 the area was free of ice. For the first time in history, the waters were navigable for some time. So, where is the authority to continue our implementation of these strong measures in that area and what are we doing to move forward on that?

The minister also mentioned IPY. He had come back from the Arctic council and he was actually very proud, apparently, and I did not quite catch the drift of his remarks, but I think he was saying there were 57 Canadian projects there. And of course, those were funded under the $150 million that Anne McLellan, when she was deputy prime minister, set aside. So Canada has been a leader. I think we all owe a great deal of thanks to Anne McLellan and the finance minister of the time, who is now our House leader.

Now, that time is virtually over, however, we need to continue to commit those moneys to the north. I hope the government will take seriously the requests from scientists and people working in the Arctic council to provide money for permanent monitoring, so that we have ongoing statistical records of the Arctic. We cannot let it all die now that International Polar Year is over.

The other pillar of Paul Martin's northern strategy, and I congratulate the government for continuing that strategy going forward, is governance. The INAC minister I believe spoke about Arctic sovereignty at the defence committee. He said:

Our deputy minister chairs a committee of deputies that meets on a regular basis to ensure that initiatives already announced as funded are being implemented--

Later he stated:

--but we haven't finished the business of land claims.

That is true. The biggest issue for aboriginal people in the north is the lack of appropriate implementation of land claims. I hope that the government follows the statements from its own officials. I hope the deputies follow that up as a priority in the meetings they are having. There is a conference in a couple of weeks. I hope the government has strong force, learns about the problems that have been brought up year after year, and deals with them first and foremost.

It was interesting that the minister today actually talked about leadership at Arctic meetings. I am delighted he was at the Arctic council because over the years the present government has been a bit of an embarrassment at Arctic meetings by sending lower level officials. Previously, the foreign affairs minister always attended and we have been very negligent in recent years.

Can members believe that the position of polar ambassador was cancelled? Can members imagine a government that wants people to think it is serious about the Arctic and yet cancels the position of Arctic ambassador? We have missed many opportunities to have a high-profile ambassador at many Arctic meetings over the years and there is no sign that the position is going to be reinstated, but we are going to keep fighting for it.

What came out in the hearings on this particular bill was the fact that oil spills could occur in the Arctic and could not be dealt with. When the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities was introducing the bill in committee, he talked about great resources of oil and gas, that 33% of the world's remaining gas and 25% of the world's remaining oil should be developed in the Arctic and that it would bring great resources to Canada. Basically, the Conservative government has just cut that off.

How has it made it impossible for the natural resources to be developed? It made it impossible by not doing the research, which I have asked for a number of times, on oil spills in the Arctic. Witnesses such as Mr. William Adams from the Beaufort project has done great research in this area and Professor Émilien Pelletier explained that after 56 hours there really is no chance of cleaning up an oil spill in the Arctic. It is not technically possible yet from what we know.

We need to do the research, so let us get it underway and stop cancelling our scientists in the north, like the Manitoba centre that is closing, the environmental centre that the government is going to close in Eureka, the cancelling of the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences, and the hundreds of researchers that would otherwise have been in the north.

The INAC official stated, “I'd also like to draw your attention to the science and technology element--”, and that is of the northern strategy, “--which is really foundational and cuts across all pillars, because it really is the basis of knowledge to inform good decisions on all the pillars”

The senior official of the government must be horrified at all the cuts to scientists that I have just mentioned. In fact, even the minister said weather stations, climate change, research and scientific work are all important. He must be horrified at his own government cutting all the scientists in the north.

Economic development was mentioned and I want to go on record and say that I hope there will be a major office for that in Whitehorse. I also wanted to reinforce what the member for Western Arctic said. We must begin discussions on the hundreds of square miles of disputed land in the Beaufort Sea, so we can get our fair share of those resources.

I will just close by saying that it is important to protect the sea in the north. In the conservation caucus that Parliament had a couple of weeks ago, a book was brought forward, Sea Sick: The Global Ocean in Crisis, showing that life on earth could end by the deterioration of the seas, mostly by pH but by other pollutants, even before climate change causes these disastrous effects, and this is very important.

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3:45 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, I share the member's understanding of the impacts on the north, having spent some time in the Yukon and I appreciate his love of Yukon. I wonder if the member could address the issue of the involvement of the people of the Arctic and ensuring that they are directly engaged in decisions about the future development of the Arctic and particularly the perspective of the first nations and Inuit people.

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3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Madam Speaker, we talked about that a bit this morning on the bill.

What I did not say at that time was that when the notice of the northern court was made, the people of Nunavut found out by reading the newspapers. They were not consulted as to where that particular Arctic initiative would be.

Therefore, the member is absolutely correct. As we are doing these things in the north, our party's philosophy has always been that our first and foremost asset for sovereignty are the people who will dedicate our sovereignty and who will build our resources. We must make people strong in the north and listen to their suggestions because they are the ones who found the incursion that I talked about earlier in my speech.

As well, I want to mention something that would be near and dear to the member's heart and it is kind of contradictory. Here we have a bill that in theory is protecting waters and at the same time the government is pushing through, in a sort of underhanded means, changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act and cancelling assessments on projects near water which would have obviously the opposite effect on the environment.

In talking about monitoring in the bill, the government has put in more environmental inspectors, but when we ask where they are going to be, they are going to be in Yellowknife.

If anyone knows the north, we can take a look at the map, it is not by the sea. The minister actually said the government is going to give us more boots on the ground. That is true. They are going to be on the ground but the bill does not apply until we are 100 miles offshore. That goes not make any sense in monitoring either.

I am hoping the government will review the monitoring aspect in the bill, the way it is going to be done, and as the member said, the input from the people of the north is important because they can certainly help. They are close to the situation and can perform a tremendous role in letting us know of an incident.

As I said, after 56 hours, we are sunk. It is over. It is a huge disaster to the Arctic ecosystem. However, the people who live there, as the member mentioned, can get back to us. They can see what is happening and play an important role in monitoring.