House of Commons Hansard #51 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was oil.

Topics

Opposition Motion--Oil and Gas Industry
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, they are in danger very simply because it is unacceptable that we are under a government with such lenient legislation. We are calling for a Quebec-Canada agreement on energy resources to ensure that Quebec's environmental assessment process is applied to this kind of drilling project.

If we rely on the federal legislation, exploratory drilling projects will be subject to basic screenings only, rather than thorough studies. Quebec's legislation, on the other hand, stipulates that these kinds of projects must be submitted to the BAPE, a real public inquiry organization whereby communities on the Îles de la Madeleine would be allowed to express their opinions and scientists could also weigh in.

We need a Quebec-Canada agreement as soon as possible but unfortunately, once again, the federal government refuses to recognize that the gulf belongs to Quebec. We simply do not accept the government's attitude towards Quebec, because what people want are stricter environmental regulations. If we compare Quebec's regulations to Canada's, it is clear that Quebec's regulations are much stricter than those passed and amended by any federal government.

Opposition Motion--Oil and Gas Industry
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Carrier Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie for giving such a great speech on the importance of protecting the environment.

I wonder if he could tell us more about the budget implementation bill before us, which has not yet passed third reading. Hidden in that bill is a part that deals with environmental assessments. Of course the bill was drafted before the incident in the Gulf of Mexico. In light of what we have seen so far, this is due to some complicity within the government, a failure to obey the law, or perhaps some political influences.

The budget implementation bill would allow the environment minister to decide whether environmental assessments should be conducted or not, and I wonder if this is not somewhat dangerous. Could the member comment on this?

Opposition Motion--Oil and Gas Industry
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is precisely right. With the changes in Bill C-9, Canada is trying to achieve some harmony with the United States. The decision was made that an energy board would assess drilling projects of this kind. However, the U.S. experience has shown that this was a mistake.

Transferring the environmental assessment process for oil projects from the environmental field to the energy field might open the door to favouritism. The thing to do, therefore, is to backtrack and ensure that oil projects are not assessed by the National Energy Board, but instead by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, which will be able to carry out studies and assessments in cooperation with the provinces.

As we suggested even before disaster struck on April 20, the proposed changes to transfer that responsibility to the National Energy Board are a serious mistake. That board should be off limits to oil companies, especially where applications for drilling permits are concerned.

Opposition Motion--Oil and Gas Industry
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, would the hon. member from the Bloc Québécois agree that Canada should review its legislation with a view to bringing it more in line with that of the United States, which provides that drilling permits are granted subject to an environmental study? Also, would the public be welcome to take part in such a study?

Opposition Motion--Oil and Gas Industry
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the answer is yes. That is exactly what I was saying earlier. We had asked for this in April 2005, when the Liberal Party amended the Environmental Assessment Act, so that a preliminary screening rather than a thorough assessment was required for oil projects. The result was that these projects were no longer subject to public consultation because the department believed that the environmental impact of exploratory drilling was, in general, minor, local, of short duration and reversible.

In light of the U.S. disaster, it is time to return to more rigorous environmental assessments, complete with public consultations, in order to prevent preferential treatment. It is not true that the environmental impact of oil drilling is minor, local, of short duration and reversible. There is nothing about the U.S. disaster in the Gulf of Mexico that is minor, local, of short duration and reversible. Quite the opposite. For that reason, we should be conducting complete assessments of these types of projects.

Opposition Motion--Oil and Gas Industry
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to join the debate today on the motion put forward by my colleague from Edmonton—Strathcona. I will repeat it for the benefit of the House and the people watching who have perhaps just tuned in. The motion states:

That this House notes the horror with which Canadians observe the ecological disaster unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico and their call for action to prevent such an event in Canada, and therefore calls on the government immediately to conduct a thorough review and revision of all relevant federal laws, regulations and policies regarding the development of unconventional sources of oil and gas, including oil sands, deepwater oil and gas recovery, and shale gas, through a transparent process and the broadest possible consultation with all interested stakeholders to ensure Canada has the strongest environmental and safety rules in the world, and to report to the House for appropriate action.

When we consider the wording of the motion itself calling for a thorough review and for revision of the laws to make them the strongest environmental and safety rules in the world, you would think that this would be an absolute no-brainer. In light of what we have seen in the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, it seems pretty clear that a review is called for.

A spokesperson for the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board, a federal-provincial body that looks after the offshore oil and gas regime in Newfoundland and Labrador, said within a matter of days after the events in the Gulf of Mexico that it would have to review its regulations in light of that incident. It is pretty clear that the people of Canada want to see a review.

I will quote a Newfoundland environmentalist of long standing, a gentleman by the name of Stan Tobin. He has been active in environmental matters over the last 20 or 30 years, particularly in Placentia Bay, where there is a lot of tanker traffic, an oil refinery, a transshipment port, and a lot of concern about the environmental consequences of oil and gas. Mr. Tobin said that it is time that the federal government did a complete review.

He is talking about the tanker traffic here. He said:

It's been 20 years since the last one was done. A lot has changed. If government and the oil industry believe that we are in a position to adequately respond to something like what happened down in the [Gulf of Mexico], they are the only ones who believe it. No way are we prepared.

That is a sentiment expressed by a lot of people across the country, both lay people and people who know what they are talking about, having studied the issue for many years, and even by those who have a lot of respect for the technological expertise of people in the oil and gas industry.

There was, in fact, an admission by Chevron, which is doing the Orphan Basin project, the deepwater well that was started just a couple of weeks ago, when it put forth its proposal for drilling five years ago. It candidly acknowledged that it would not be able to clean up an oil spill of any significance if one were to occur. It did not have the capability to do it because of the weather and wave conditions in that particular area, because of the fact that the oil would disperse very quickly, and because the containment measures were likely to be inadequate. However, it said that the chance of it happening was so rare that it did not think the risk was too great.

It candidly admitted that on the technological side, it did not have the capability of doing an oil-spill cleanup. I think that is sobering news for a lot of people to come to realize.

After hearing the government talk and after listening carefully to the Minister of Natural Resources today, one would think that it would not be difficult for the government to actually support this motion and engage in this review. The Minister of Natural Resources said this morning that he and his department are constantly reviewing their rules and regulations and that they want to be assured that they are the best in the world. How is that different from the motion before the House today? It is not enough to have assurances from the government. There has to be an open and transparent process.

If the minister truly believes that we are in the forefront of the world in terms of environmental protection and environmental safety and operations in this kind of oil and gas activity, then what does he have to fear from a transparent process that would allow stakeholders or others, other than the government officials, to examine the issues and pronounce on them?

This is intended to provide a level of confidence Canadians would require for the type of oil and gas development contemplated here, those that are of higher risk to the environment.

We know that the oil sands have an extremely severe negative environmental footprint as they operate today. We know that there are dangers, as we have seen in the Gulf of Mexico, from deepwater drilling. There are dangers from offshore drilling in general.

I think the sensitivity to that is so great in British Columbia, for example, that a moratorium has been in place for some 30 years. It is likely to and should continue, because that is what the people of British Columbia want. They do not want to take the risk of a potential oil spill occurring.

We have had pretty good success on the east coast, I have to say. The oil and gas developments in the Hibernia, White Rose, and Terra Nova projects have had some oil spills. An estimate was given the other day by the CNLOPB chair to the parliamentary committee for natural resources. I think the number was approximately one barrel of oil spilled for every million barrels produced over the years. I suppose that is a good ratio. Maybe it is and maybe it is not. Someone else might have a different opinion on that.

We have seen some spills. On the other hand, we have seen what I would call inadequate environmental monitoring. We have a self-reporting system in the east coast oil and gas industry. The industry is the one that monitors the environmental effects and reports on them to the CNLOPB, which then makes them public.

There has been constant criticism in my province from the environmental scientists, researchers, and academics who work in this area. They say that self-reporting is not the best form of reporting at all. One speaker at a recent event said that if someone asks me how I am doing or how good I am, I will probably give a pretty favourable report about myself. If somebody else is asked how I am doing, it might be a little bit more objective.

This is something that has been recommended in the past. In fact, the environmental assessment for the Terra Nova project recommended strongly that there be independent environmental monitoring of the project. This did not turn out to be one of the conditions of the development of the Terra Nova production platform.

Since then, we have seen some incidents with significant spills, particularly of processed water, that went undetected and carried on for a long period of time. This is something that we find abhorrent. It obviously shows that the rules we have in Canada are not the best they can be and certainly are not the best in the world. We have also seen incidents like this that require attention.

I want to talk about the deepwater drilling being done by Chevron. It needs to be put into perspective a little bit. It is not the first well done. It is the deepest. Chevron did drill a deepwater well in the Orphan Basin in 2007. It is not intended to be a production well. In fact, they are not even going to do a test flow. They are just drilling the well for the sake of obtaining core samples. They will cement it in at the end of the process. This is purely an exploration well, so there is some difference there in terms of what the ultimate risk might be.

It has taken three months to drill the well. The CNLOPB has moved on this very quickly and has said that they want additional oversight requirements there. Interestingly enough, at a certain point, when they actually get into the high-carbon zone, which is considered the pressure zone, they will be taking what the CNLOPB calls a pause. We hope at that time that there will be an opportunity for an assessment of the dangers of continuing based on what happened in the Gulf.

Opposition Motion--Oil and Gas Industry
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Unfortunately, there will not be time for questions and comments.

It being 1:15 p.m., pursuant to an order made earlier today, all questions necessary to dispose of the opposition motion are deemed put and the recorded division deemed requested and deferred until Tuesday, June 1, 2010 at the expiry of the time provided for government orders.

I believe that the hon. member for Crowfoot has a suggestion for the House.

Opposition Motion--Oil and Gas Industry
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I hope that the House would be open to the suggestion that we see the clock as 1:30 p.m.

Opposition Motion--Oil and Gas Industry
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Shall I see the clock as 1:30 p.m.?

Opposition Motion--Oil and Gas Industry
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Canada Post Corporation Act
Private Members' Business

May 28th, 2010 / 1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Merv Tweed Brandon—Souris, MB

moved that Bill C-509, An Act to amend the Canada Post Corporation Act (library materials), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure today to stand and present Bill C-509, An Act to amend the Canada Post Corporation Act (library materials) at second reading. It is something that libraries and communities have been asking for for years and it is an honour and gives me great pleasure to present this bill.

What is the library book rate and how did I come to learn about it? Since 1939, libraries in Canada have been able to exchange books at a reduced rate, historically known as the library book rate. This allows all libraries in Canada to access each other's inventory of reading materials allowing libraries in smaller, rural and remote areas to offer the same kinds of reading materials we would find mostly in urban centres.

In the 2004 campaign I met with several communities which expressed concern that due to economic pressures Canada Post was considering withdrawing support for this program and returning to charging the standard rate for shipping books.

This I contend would cause a great hardship on Canadian libraries and by extension on the very people who are using the library book rate program. These people tend to be rural Canadians, Canadians who live in remote areas, including the north, who have limited access to libraries and the books within.

Having the ability to access the inventory of major libraries and having these books shipped to communities at a favourable rate allows many small communities to offer a larger selection of reading material without the huge cost of shipping to the local libraries. It also allows Canadians living in these rural and remote areas the same reading material without the huge personal expense of travel.

Why is the library book rate important to all Canadians? It ensures equitable access for all Canadians to documents located in libraries across the country. It supports the intellectual needs of remote northern and rural communities. It is the principle underpinning the concept that collections of all libraries are a national asset accessible to all Canadians, and as such, supports education and lifelong learning as well as helps to maintain Canada's global competitiveness and productivity.

As I have gone across the country many people have asked what would happen if the library book rate were to disappear.

Many people, myself included, believe that one, it would create a two-tiered library service for those who can afford to pay to access information and those who cannot. This would jeopardize the access of Canadians to the resources of Canadian libraries necessary to learn, innovate and prosper in the information economy of the 21st century.

Two, Canadian students, persons with disabilities and residents of rural communities would be particularly disadvantaged as they rely heavily on their local library's ability to share resources with larger centres.

Three, it would severely reduce access to books for people living in rural and remote parts of Canada.

Four, it would reduce the level of service libraries provide, possibly forcing the program into a cost recovery basis with patrons and distance learners having to bear the costs. Such user fees would discourage many patrons from making mail-based borrowing requests.

Five, smaller libraries would stop providing lending services and in turn would only borrow materials.

Six, it would deprive the rest of the country from being able to access the unique information resources often preserved in our local libraries.

Seven and finally, it would very, very easily deny access to library materials for people who are homebound.

My bill proposes that before Canada Post can increase the library book rate, it must receive the approval of the Government of Canada. This, in my mind, ensures that Canadians' voices will be heard on this very sensitive issue before any rate changes occur.

My bill also asks that the library book rate now include the shipping of CDs, CD-ROMs, DVDs and other audiovisual materials. As technology changes, so do our needs for more specific types of reading materials. I believe that by including these materials, over time we would actually reduce the cost to Canada Post in delivering this very valuable community program. Imagine shipping 16 CDs to a rural or remote community as opposed to shipping 16 books. Based on the weight alone, the numbers speak for themselves at the savings that could be accomplished. The cost savings over time would be dramatic and very well may help to resolve some of the financial pressures that Canada Post is facing. I am convinced that as technology continues to evolve, Canadians will, and should, have more access to all types of reading material.

Due to circumstances, I have introduced my bill three times in this chamber over the last four years. I have been fortunate and very pleased to receive support from all across Canada. I have received responses from every province and every territory. I would like to put on the record some of those comments.

An individual from Ontario, in talking about the book rate said:

It is the principle which underpins the concept that the collections of all libraries are a national asset accessible to all Canadians and as such supports education and life-long learning and helps to maintain Canada's global competitiveness and productivity.

As a side note to that, the city librarian at the Ottawa Public Library suggested that if the library book rate were to be changed and increased to what would be requested, it would add a $70,000 burden to that library itself. I would ask people to think about how that would translate across the country, particularly with respect to rural and remote libraries which rely on the city's ability to send those books to them at a reduced rate.

The following comment came from New Brunswick:

The Library Book Rate supports and encourages the sharing of taxpayer-funded library books in Canada. At relatively little cost, it acts as a bridge between all Canadians, including the disabled, shut-ins, and residents in remote locations. It is also a way of creating a more literate and knowledgeable population, by helping, for example, students enrolled in distance education programs or Canadians pursuing lifelong learning goals.

This comment came from Alberta, and speaks about the library book rate and the addition of the audiovisual materials:

The addition of audio-visual materials recognizes that people are not all text-based learners and need access to information through a whole host of audio-visual and digital media.

This comment came from British Columbia and again talks about the library book rate:

At relatively little cost, it acts as a bridge between all Canadians, including the disabled, the shut-ins, and residents in remote locations. It is also a way of creating a more literate and knowing population....

Approximately 2,000 libraries in Canada use the library book rate. These libraries provide services to over one million users every year. I have received petitions, as I stated earlier, from all across Canada. I have received letters and phone calls encouraging me to press forward in supporting the library book rate.

I believe that the library book rate is a valuable asset for all Canadians. I believe that people in Canada have a right to have access to the library book rate. I believe as a government and as members of Parliament, we have a responsibility to the Canadian public that cannot access the public services of a library to provide an alternative way to move information and reading materials to those communities that so desperately need the opportunity to increase their reading and their learning.

I have learned a lot of things. I cannot say that before I got involved in federal politics in 2004 I knew much about the library book rate. Today, I would say differently, and today I would say that I understand what people are trying to do. Their goals have merit and they deserve the respect of members of Parliament. Today I am presenting a bill on their behalf to support this wonderful service, the library book rate. It is with those few words that I ask my fellow members to do the same.

Canada Post Corporation Act
Private Members' Business

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am trying to get a handle on the amount of the current subsidy that Canada Post provides to the libraries. The member indicated that we are talking about 2,000 libraries across the country affecting about a million people. What is the total amount of money the libraries are currently paying to Canada Post and what would be the suggested increase? How many millions of dollars would the libraries be paying under the new regime if the bill was not successful?

Canada Post Corporation Act
Private Members' Business

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Merv Tweed Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, that has been a challenge as I have worked through this entire book rate issue. Determining the cost has been very, very challenging. Even today, that figure is not identified specifically by Canada Post.

I am suggesting that with the movement from books to the new technology of DVDs and CD-ROMS, those costs will automatically go down as more and more people use it. That is the reason I introduced that part of the bill in this presentation, because I think the mood of the public is moving away from books. The Kindle has been mentioned. I want to make sure that when libraries make that transition into the 21st century with the technology in which they are now engaging that we do not lose the ability to transfer the information to rural and northern communities in particular.

I apologize that I do not have the exact amount of money, but it has never been made available to me. I have heard several figures mentioned. I have challenged all those figures and I have never had an actual figure presented to me.

Canada Post Corporation Act
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, I wish to congratulate the Conservative member for Brandon—Souris for this initiative. Naturally, I hope he will take into consideration the recommendations or the advice that I may give him. I know he is the chair of a committee, because I belong to that committee. He is very knowledgeable about procedure and I would suggest that he move that the motion be unanimously adopted by all parties at all stages. As he mentioned in his presentation, he introduced his bill a number of years ago and I believe that it is time for Parliament to adopt it quickly so that it can become law as soon as possible.

Canada Post Corporation Act
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Merv Tweed Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his comments and suggestions. We share work on the transportation committee and I believe we have an excellent relationship.

I am prepared to follow the process of the House and the rules of the House. I know that there are two parts to the presenting of a bill. I am very aware of the time it takes to do that. I know there are some concerns from others and there may be some suggested changes to the bill that might even improve it. I am certainly prepared to listen to what all MPs have to say and move forward on that advice.