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Conservative MP for Eglinton—Lawrence (Ontario)
Won his last election, in 2011, with 46.80% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Natural Resources December 10th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Prince Albert for his insightful question.
Recently, the NDP leader escalated his shambolic opposition to resource development by saying that he would overhaul the regulatory process and prevent some projects from applying for an independent regulatory review.
This sends a very unsettling message to capital markets about the NDP at the very moment domestic and international investors are considering multi-billion dollar investments in energy projects. In contrast, our government allows the regulators to do their job.
Natural Resources December 10th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, unlike the member opposite, our government will wait to hear from the independent scientific review before it makes its determination.
I have spoken to many first nations and they understand the importance of the transformative opportunities of responsible resource development to the economy and to the communities in their area.
I am very encouraged by their response to the Eyford report. Going forward, we are going to work together in their best interests.
Questions on the Order Paper December 3rd, 2013
Mr. Speaker, Canada’s offshore installations and the equipment and training required to operate them must meet strict regulatory standards that are among the highest in the world. The Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board, the C-NLOPB, continues to act on the recommendations in the 2010 Offshore Helicopter Safety Inquiry, the OHSI, that are within its purview, including in the area of worker safety on helicopters.
While industry has signalled its interest in extending flying hours, the C-NLOPB has not yet received a formal application. Once received, the C-NLOPB will conduct a thorough analysis and ensure that the eight conditions required by the Board are met. Until then, night flights will not resume.
Further information on the C-NLOPB eight conditions may be found at http://www.cnlopb.nl.ca/pdfs/ohsi/advdoc12.pdf.
With regard to (a), the following four publicly available studies on helicopter night flights to oil facilities, related to the safety of day flights versus night flights in transporting employees to and from the offshore work site, have been conducted and can be found on the C-NLOPB’s web site: report by SMS Aviation Safety Inc. in support of the OHSI implementation team, entitled “Operational Safety Risk Analysis of Night Helicopter Transport Operations in the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Industry”, at www.cnlopb.nl.ca/pdfs/ohsi/osrareport.pdf; operators’ report, entitled “Return to Night Passenger Transport Operations”, at www.cnlopb.nl.ca/pdfs/ohsi/nightpassengerupdate.pdf; “Level of Service Requirements for First Response Helicopters”, at www.cnlopb.nl.ca/pdfs/ohsi/levofserv.pdf; and “Level of Service Analysis Gap”, by Cougar Helicopters, at www.cnlopb.nl.ca/pdfs/ohsi/losanalysis.pdf.
With regard to (b), the Government of Canada takes the recommendations of the 2010 Offshore Helicopter Safety Inquiry seriously and continues to work with the boards, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Nova Scotia to strengthen worker safety in Canada’s offshore.
The government has full confidence in our experienced, independent offshore regulators to responsibly manage occupational health and safety requirements as well as oil and gas development. The C-NLOPB has been structured in such a way as to ensure that worker safety is managed separately under the supervision of a chief safety officer, a CSO, with considerable independent authority. The CSO can order the discontinuation of an operation at any moment if he or she believes there is risk of serious bodily harm. Such an order can only be overturned by a judge.
Further, following consultations with industry, regulators, and labour groups, the Government of Canada, in partnership with the Provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia, is proposing improvements to legislation that will establish a clear occupational health and safety framework in legislation that is enforceable by law and free of any jurisdictional uncertainty. The proposed changes will also provide modern enforcement powers to new occupational health and safety officers and existing operational safety officers and will clarify that the occupational health and safety regime applies to employees and other passengers in transit to and from offshore workplaces.
With regard to (c), the Government of Canada has not conducted a detailed cost estimate for an independent safety regulator.
Questions on the Order Paper November 29th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, with regard to (a), the low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste at Chalk River Laboratories, CRL, is safely and securely stored and managed in a number of above-ground and in-ground waste management structures and areas at the site. Several options are being considered for the long-term management of these wastes. The range of options being considered includes surface, near-surface, and deep geologic facilities. The investigations are currently in the option assessment stage. Feasibility studies are under way or planned to inform decision-making on the types of long-term waste management facilities required to safely manage these wastes over the long term.
With regard to (b), all low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste at CRL, including that stored in above ground concrete structures, is maintained in a safe and secure condition, as required by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, CNSC, licence conditions. The integrity of this storage is verified on an ongoing basis through appropriate monitoring of the containment and the surrounding environment. This waste will be maintained in secure storage until permanent disposal facilities are available. The design life for the above-ground concrete storage structures, commonly referred to as shielded modular above-ground storage, or SMAGS, is 50 years.
With regard to (c), long-term performance is evaluated by Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, AECL, via monitoring to confirm that the wastes continue to be stored safely, and the results are reported to the CNSC. The first Canadian SMAGS was constructed in 1982 by Ontario Hydro on the Bruce nuclear site and has been in service, without issue, since that time. AECL has two such facilities in service at CRL, as well as an earlier-generation facility with less shielding, which is for low-level radioactive waste only.
With regard to (d), a number of long-term management options are being considered for AECL’s low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste, including the possibility of a deep geologic facility. AECL is currently conducting a site suitability assessment of the CRL site for a deep geologic facility for its intermediate-level radioactive waste. The study is part of AECL’s efforts to define the infrastructure required for the long-term management of radioactive waste at CRL. The site suitability assessment is not yet complete and, as such, neither a project description nor a project scope has been developed.
With regard to (e), the cost assessments completed to date have been high-level estimates for possible deep geologic facility concepts and are not sufficiently developed for public release. The high-level estimates are, however, in line with estimates for other similar proposed facilities.
With regard to (f), a long-term performance assessment would be part of a formal plan. As there is no decision to proceed with a deep geologic facility, a long-term performance assessment has not yet been completed. Such an assessment would be an integral part of the safety case that would be required to license such a facility.
With regard to (g), a post closure safety assessment would be part of a formal plan. As there is no decision to proceed with a deep geologic facility, a post-closure safety assessment has not yet been completed. This assessment would be an integral part of the safety case that would be required to license such a facility.
With regard to (h), public awareness of the feasibility study has been promoted through interaction with the local environmental stewardship council for CRL and presentation of results at conferences.
With regard to (i), should the site suitability study indicate that a deep geologic facility would be feasible for the Chalk River site, directed public consultations would proceed on the options for managing Chalk River’s low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste over the long term. This would include the possibility of a deep geologic repository. The process would involve the local community, aboriginal groups, stakeholders, and the broader public. If a decision was made to proceed with a deep geologic facility, an environmental assessment under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012, would be required, providing further opportunities for public involvement.
With regard to (j), as no decision has been made on whether to proceed with a deep geologic facility, no peer review process is in place. It would be important to include a peer review process if the project moves ahead.
Natural Resources October 31st, 2013
Mr. Speaker, our government is running a marathon for Canada. Meanwhile the leader of the Liberals totes up without a semblance of a plan, while the leader of the NDP throws roadblocks in our way and urges on our competitors.
At the finish line, Canadians will know who brought them jobs, economic security and prosperity as opposed to those who stand on the sidelines or use every tactic in the book to block the path to Canadian success.
Offshore Health and Safety Act October 31st, 2013
Mr. Speaker, discussions with the province led to the conclusion that it was impossible to define the term “danger”. It was decided that the best course of action was to rely on the standard interpretation of that word, but to create a power to define the term if the standard definition or legal interpretation changed to a point that altered the effectiveness of the OHS portion of the accord acts. That is why we are seeking power to define certain terms by regulation when this is traditionally a power reserved for Parliament.
The terms “dive site” and “diving operation” and “incident” were later added to this list. The provinces also requested that the definitions of Nova Scotia's social legislation and Newfoundland and Labrador's social legislation be amendable in this fashion as it most closely follows the existing accord acts. This is a practical way to achieve the public policy objective and it is more effective done through regulation than through legislation.
Offshore Health and Safety Act October 31st, 2013
Mr. Speaker, I am thankful to the member for the question because this area, as I indicated in my comments, is crucially important not only for Atlantic Canada but for all Canadians.
Offshore oil production from Atlantic Canada contributes significantly to national production, including 35% of total Canadian light crude production and 10% of total Canadian crude production in 2009.
The offshore oil and gas industry is important to provincial economies. In 2009, it was 3% of Nova Scotia's GDP, and directly and indirectly employed over 4,700 people, while offshore oil and gas accounted for 33% of Newfoundland and Labrador's GDP in 2011. The offshore oil and gas industry has also provided approximately $8 billion in royalties to those provinces since the offset of production. The industry also provides economic benefits through spinoff activities and contributes to federal and provincial tax revenues, which are so important for funding critical social programs such as health care, education and housing.
The offshore oil and gas industry contributes more to national GDP than all other ocean-related industries, such as fisheries, government, tourism and transportation, by a significant margin.
Providing safety for workers is a critical underpinning to this industry. That is why we ask all members to support the bill.
Offshore Health and Safety Act October 31st, 2013
Mr. Speaker, those are two rather different questions, one is non-fiction and the other is closer to fiction or science fiction.
Let me deal with recommendation no. 29 of the Offshore Helicopter Safety Inquiry, the recommendation to establish an independent safety regulator.
Canada's offshore regulatory regime is world-class and strong. I want to emphasize that it has independent regulators and high standards for worker safety, environmental protection and resource conservation. These are independent boards and are not beholden to industry in any way. It is important to note that the federal government does not support the proliferation of regulators when the result would do nothing to enhance safety, worker protection or environmental protection, for that matter.
Nevertheless, senior officers at Natural Resources Canada remain in close contact with their counterparts in Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia on a host of issues relating to offshore oil and gas production and in respect to this particular recommendation. We will be continuing to pursue that dialogue and hope that we can arrive at something that will be satisfactory.
Moving on to the fiction, the allegation, those words, which I will not repeat, were not stated by me but attributed to me on a number of occasions by political opponents and others. We very much respect the concern that Canadians have for their safety as well as for the environment and our beautiful natural heritage. We have done a great deal to protect the environment and will continue to do so.
Offshore Health and Safety Act October 31st, 2013
Mr. Speaker, this legislation has nothing to do with the tragic helicopter accident off the coast of Newfoundland. This legislation is a response to an accident that happened in Nova Scotia, in which someone was killed as a result of an improperly installed door.
The legislation was not clear about who was responsible, and as a result, no legal action could be taken. This legislation fixes the ambiguity with respect to workplace health and safety in the accord implementation acts.
The boards are established along with the provinces, and this legislation was developed with Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador. Both governments support and have passed their corresponding legislation.
We will continue to discuss Commissioner Wells' inquiry with Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.
Offshore Health and Safety Act October 31st, 2013
moved that Bill C-5, an act to amend the Canada-Newfoundland Atlantic Accord Implementation Act, the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act and other Acts and to provide for certain other measures, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I want to congratulate the Prime Minister and the Minister of International Trade for the agreement in principle on the Canada-Europe trade agreement, the largest free trade agreement Canada has completed. This is a great achievement and demonstrates that our economic action plan is working.
We are here today to talk about the new legislative provisions to amend the Atlantic accord implementation acts, in order to extend occupational health and safety jurisdictions to Canada's offshore areas.
Before we talk more about these legislative provisions, I would like to set the stage by emphasizing how vital the offshore resources industry is to Atlantic Canada and to our country's economy.
There is no question that the offshore oil and gas industries have made an enormous economic contribution to Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia. Indeed, it is not an exaggeration to say that these industries have transformed the economy of eastern Canada.
Not long ago, the province of Newfoundland and Labrador was receiving the highest per capita equalization payments in the country. Today it is among our strongest provincial economies and now contributes to the equalization program.
Newfoundland and Labrador's GDP has performed at or above the national average in nine of the past 13 years. A large part of that success comes from offshore oil and gas, which accounted for 33% of Newfoundland and Labrador's GDP in 2011. Resource revenues, again primarily from the offshore, have allowed the province to steadily pay down its debt. The total provincial debt was about $7.7 billion in 2012, down from a high of $12 billion just eight years ago.
Simply put, offshore energy development has given Newfoundland and Labrador more jobs, lower taxes, and new investments in services and infrastructure that play an important role in building stronger communities. These benefits will continue to grow.
Hibernia was the largest project of any kind ever undertaken in Newfoundland and Labrador. As valuable as Hibernia has been, the Hebron project may be even bigger. Hebron represents a capital investment of as much as $14 billion. It could deliver $20 billion in taxes and royalties for the province over the 30-year life of the project.
Just a few months ago, the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board announced its latest call for bids for exploration licences for the offshore of Newfoundland and Labrador, netting $117 million in work commitments by major players in the oil industry.
Nova Scotia's offshore area also offers enormous potential. The Play Fairway analysis, undertaken by the government of Nova Scotia, estimates that the offshore area may contain eight billion barrels of oil and 3.3 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. The Atlantic offshore is a major gas producer, with three gas fields serving Atlantic Canada and the U.S. northeast.
In the past two years, the Nova Scotia offshore area has seen the largest bids ever for offshore parcels in Atlantic Canada, with more than a total of $2 billion bid for 12 parcels of land. Shell Canada and BP clearly see the potential that exists in the Nova Scotia offshore.
Meanwhile, there is an estimated 120 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and production continues to grow. Sable Island's 270 million cubic feet a day will soon be joined by 200 million cubic feet a day from Deep Panuke.
It is essential that Canada continue to ensure that our offshore industries carry out their activities safely and in compliance with the most stringent environmental standards. Canadians expect to see a world-class regulatory body, and our government is taking the measures necessary to ensure Canadians' continued satisfaction in that regard.
That is why we are bringing in new legislation to clarify provincial and federal responsibilities when it comes to offshore occupational health and safety.
The accord's implementation acts are the cornerstone of all offshore oil and gas activities. They give the boards the legal authority to regulate oil and gas activities on behalf of the provinces. Every day, Canada's offshore workers have to deal with a difficult work environment.
The harsh weather conditions in Atlantic Canada and the remoteness of their workplace are just two difficulties that come to mind. The safety of the courageous men and women who work in this environment must always be our main concern.
The changes we intend to make need to be mirrored by provincial legislation in order for the amendments to come into force. Our Conservative government has been working closely with the governments of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia to achieve this. Both provinces introduced their legislation in May, and both have given royal assent to their respective bills. This time, they must wait for the legislation to pass our federal Parliament for the new regime to come to fruition.
The proposed amendments would address gaps in the current legislation. They would invest authority for offshore occupational health and safety in the accord acts.
There are two safety regimes that apply to workers offshore. Occupational health and safety pertains to the workers in the sense of the hazards they may face, their protective equipment, and safeguards on the equipment they use in their functions. It also pertains to three essential worker rights: the right to refuse dangerous work, the right to information, and the right to participate in making decisions on workplace health and safety. Under the current regime, occupational health and safety is the jurisdiction of the provinces.
Operational safety pertains to workplace systems, facilities, and equipment as well as the risk management and integrity of those systems, facilities, and equipment. Examples are the prevention of gas blowouts, the ability of a facility to withstand storms, and a facility's fire suppression systems. Operational safety was included in the accord acts and provided that the offshore petroleum boards be responsible on behalf of both levels of government.
Following a tragic accident, when a worker was killed due to an improperly installed door, the overlap of occupational health and safety and operational safety created a grey area. It was not clear whether the door's installation fell under operational safety or occupational safety. The lack of clarity prevented any party from being liable. It was unclear under whose jurisdiction the incident should be regulated. The provinces and the federal government agreed that the best course of action was to eliminate the grey area and to incorporate the power to regulate occupational health and safety directly in the accord acts.
For the section on occupational health and safety, which would typically fall under the purview of the Minister of Labour, the legislation specifies that the Minister of Natural Resources may receive advice from the Minister of Labour and that any regulations related to occupational health and safety must be made on the recommendation of both ministers.
In addition to fixing this historic issue, the legislation would establish a hierarchy of responsibility. It would make operations operators ultimately responsible for all activities related to their authorization. It would also spell out the specific duties expected of operators, employers, supervisors, employees, contractors, and interest holders.
The nature of the offshore is that work sites are usually hundreds of kilometres from shore. We would be ensuring that the health and safety regime also applied to workers in transit to the offshore. These workers could refuse to be transported if there were safety concerns.
The legislation would also include powers to establish regulations related to additional safety equipment for workers in transit. Offshore board inspectors would also have the power to conduct compliance audits on the vessels used to transport workers. These measures would significantly enhance workers' safety in the offshore.
This legislation would also give new powers to offshore board officers to further enhance safety. For example, they would have the power to inspect anything, take samples, meet in private with any individual, and inspect living quarters.
Due to the distance and isolation offshore activities regularly require, offshore board officers would have the power to act in exigent circumstances. That is, they could act without a warrant to preserve evidence or to prevent non-compliance. The requisite warrant would have to be sought from and granted by a judge or a justice of the peace post activity.
The legislation would also clarify certain issues regarding the chief safety officer. The position of this officer could not be held by the CEO. This would ensure that safety was an independent function within the senior management of each offshore board. The chief safety officer would have to review and provide written recommendations related to safety on all authorizations. This would formalize the process that both boards are already following.
Chief safety officers would also be granted the power to allow regulatory substitutions, which would be made on application by an operator who would have to satisfy the SFO that the substitution provided an equivalent or greater level of safety. The SFO also could require that the operator or employer establish a special occupational health and safety committee. The committee would be in addition to the workplace health and safety committee that all workplaces with more than five employees must establish.
We would also introduce a new appeal process for the most serious cases. In certain special cases, the provincial minister would be able to appoint a special officer. The legislation is very clear that this could only be done where there were reasonable grounds to believe that such an appointment was warranted to avoid a serious risk to health and safety and that the risk could not be avoided by the use of other means available through the accord acts. Both the federal and provincial ministers would have to agree that the required conditions had been fulfilled. The orders of a special officer would supersede those of all other officers, including the chief safety officer.
These amendments would create a more transparent regime for Canada's offshore industry. The health and safety of Canadians and protecting the environment are among the Government of Canada's top priorities. That is why Canada's offshore installations and the equipment and training required to operate them must meet strict regulatory standards that are among the highest in the world. Nevertheless, we recognize that our offshore regime can be improved, and today we are taking steps to do just that.
Our government recognizes that accidents can happen anywhere, regardless of laws and safety measures. We are also very confident in our safeguards. We have very strong environmental laws and standards and a robust, well-developed safety regime for offshore exploration and drilling.
On our east coast, the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board and the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board are responsible for evaluating every project for compliance with federal regulations. Drilling cannot occur unless the responsible board is satisfied that drilling plans are safe for workers and safe for the environment.
Beyond high standards for training, safety, and equipment, oil and gas companies are required to maintain environmental protection and spill response plans. The government is committed to the polluter-pays principle and the responsible management of risks. The responsibility rests with operators to immediately take all reasonable measures to clean up a spill and prevent further spillage. Of course, the government needs to be prepared to step in to help if need be.
As the regulators, the National Energy Board or offshore boards would be the government's lead agencies for the response. Using aerial surveillance and satellite imagery for detection and tracking, they could provide advice about a spill with trajectory modelling, weather and sea-state forecasts and warnings, the location of wildlife and sensitive ecosystems, and cleanup and remediation options.
I am certain that once these legislative provisions are in place, the offshore boards will do their job and determine what is safe for workers and the environment.
I would like to speak very briefly about the creation of a separate regulatory body for offshore safety.
First, I would like to make it clear that these legislative provisions are not related to this issue.
Work on these provisions started well before this recommendation was made for the first time. These legislative provisions were the result of the accident off the coast of Nova Scotia, which I mentioned earlier.
With respect to the actual recommendation, we continue to work with the provinces on this very important issue. We expressed concerns about the fragmentation of our offshore regime and the proliferation of regulatory bodies. We want to ensure that the system is as simple as possible and protects Canadians' health and safety. We will continue to discuss these issues with our provincial counterparts.
Our government has always adopted a safe and prudent approach to offshore drilling, an approach that protects Canada's offshore workers and the environment.
It is vital that all development activities in Canada, and not just offshore activities, ensure the safety of workers and protect the environment. We have adopted many measures in Canada's resource sector to ensure that this objective is the main focus of our regulatory bodies.
I hope that all members will support this important legislation.