Appropriation Act No. 2, 2004-2005

An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the public service of Canada for the financial year ending March 31, 2005

This bill was last introduced in the 38th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in November 2005.

Sponsor

Reg Alcock  Liberal

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Message from the SenateRoyal Assent

December 15th, 2004 / 5:20 p.m.
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The Speaker

I have the honour to inform the House that when the House did attend the Honourable the Deputy to Her Excellency the Governor General in the Senate chamber, Her Honour was pleased to give, in Her Majesty's name, the royal assent to the following bills:

Bill S-10, a second act to harmonize federal law with the civil law of the Province of Quebec and to amend certain acts in order to ensure that each language version takes into account the common law and the civil law--Chapter 25.

Bill C-5, an act to provide financial assistance for post-secondary education savings--Chapter 26.

Bill C-34, an act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the public service of Canada for the financial year ending March 31, 2005--Chapter 27.

Bill C-35, an act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the public service of Canada for the financial year ending March 31, 2005--Chapter 28.

Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994Government Orders

December 14th, 2004 / 11:15 a.m.
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Conservative

Lee Richardson Conservative Calgary South Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his remarks and for his contribution to the committee in the passing of the bill.

I have some sympathy with regard to his comments on what appeared to be the rushing of the bill through committee and the lack of opportunity for some witnesses to appear before it. We had a number of requests from some of the larger shipping companies and organizations to appear as witnesses before the committee. Apparently, the response was that the bill had been around, albeit in a different form, Bill C-34, for the past two years and that they had adequate notice.

The hon. member makes a very good point that we need to discuss these matters. I do not think we would have had the amendments, which have been spoken to so highly of on all sides of the House today, if we had not had this in committee for the length of time we did. This is an example of how well committees can cooperate, particularly in a minority government, to bring forward solid legislation.

I want to ask the hon. member about his comments with regard to Canada Steamship Lines. Was he suggesting that it was one of the major polluters? Is it correct that it had a record fine of up to $30,000? Is it his sense that the money collected should go more toward the cleanup, as the legislation suggests? Earlier we talked about including a provision to have some of the fine proceeds go toward additional surveillance and enforcement of the legislation.

Could the member comment on those issues?

Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994Government Orders

December 14th, 2004 / 10:55 a.m.
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Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to have this opportunity to speak to Bill C-15 at this stage. This is a bill aimed at improving the situation concerning oil discharges, in the Atlantic in particular. This bill, comprised of some 45 pages, and intended to bring about some considerable improvements, has had the support of the Bloc Québécois in recent weeks and months.

Before going into further detail, I should point out that the House of Commons, during a previous session, had already dealt with a bill that was, to all intents and purposes, identical. That bill was C-34, which was essentially intended to bring about the changes we are looking at today.

As well, hon. members need to be reminded of how the government used its Liberal majority in the parliamentary committee at that time to ram the bill down the members' throats, to force them to endorse it, when the Bloc Québécois would have liked to have seen witnesses called in order for it to be improved upon.

I recall certain events during that session when the LIberals in this House simply made up their minds to push aside all essential debates on this matter. I was totally amazed when we came to examine Bill C-15 in parliamentary committee, where we had to really push to get witnesses allowed to appear. This was simply rejected out of hand by numerous committee members, on the grounds that what they would be telling us we had heard already, that it was just the same old, same old. Yet hon. members must keep in mind that the previous committee on the environment and sustainable development had never heard any witnesses on this aspect of Bill C-34.

We focused all our efforts and will on an in-depth study of the bill, not on delaying tactics. In fact, we improved it instead—I will go further into that shortly—by making the time for amendments to be proposed. That time was gained, in part through the efforts of my colleague from Beauport—Limoilou and myself, in order to come up with the bill as we have it before us today.

Essentially, the purpose of this bill is to correct the way or to provide more powers on the way the act must be enforced in Canada. It is aimed at increasing fines and penalties imposed on vessel owners who decide to be totally irresponsible when it comes to protecting the environment. It must be noted that this bill is aimed first at increasing, and I would even say at quadrupling fines currently imposed for oil discharges, particularly in the Atlantic region. It is aimed at quadrupling and increasing by up to $1 million fines imposed on a vessel that deliberately discharges oil.

Moreover, and I will get back to this, concerning sanctions, the issue is not simply increasing them or establishing maximum amounts. The Bloc Québécois felt it essential that we establish a minimum threshold concerning sanctions and that we no longer let a judge alone decide sanctions. I will get back to this, because in parliamentary committee, we studied an amendment, which was introduced by my colleague from Beauport—Limoilou and was agreed to by the committee, that is precisely aimed at establishing a minimal threshold for penalties and fines when vessels and owners commit an offence.

In addition, the bill tries to maximize our chances of finding the culprits. Indeed, in the marine industry, it is quite often difficult, obviously, to identify vessel owners. Why? Because it is quite often difficult, when enforcing the act, to identify the culprits. That is why this industry has several numbered businesses. This is one of the industries where we find a significant number of numbered businesses, making it difficult for the government to enforce the act and to identify the culprits.

The bill seeks to ensure that the legislator will be able to lay charges not only against the owners but also against the employees of the company operating the ship caught polluting. Consequently, the bill quadruples the fines and provides the means by which to identify the guilty parties by attempting to target specifically the individual responsible.

Furthermore, the bill seeks to expand the area over which the legislation applies. This would mean that primary enforcement officers would be able to inspect and search polluting ships in Canadians ports and within a zone of over 200 nautical miles offshore.

Why is this so important? Because all too often, polluting ships discharge oily waste outside the area covered by the current legislation, which creates major loopholes for polluters. The new legislation will allow us to ensure that the guilty parties are punished. This bill seeks to expand the area covered by the legislation in order to eliminate obvious contradictions.

Finally, this bill expands the powers of Environment Canada to inspect, arrest and detain ships. I insist on this point, because, all too often in this House, we have seen the passing of bills that seek to increase the authority and weight of legislation. However, quite often, their enforcement leaves something to be desired. We end up with stiffer laws, but they are not enforced.

I am pleased to see that the bill will increase the enforcement powers regarding arrests and inspections. We are, however, in a position today to make the solemn commitment that the legislation will be enforced and that it will not be like other bills passed in this Parliament, which ultimately sought only to create legislation but without any real enforcement.

Consequently, we are quite pleased, but it is like the saying goes: we will have to wait and see. That is somewhat how the legislation ends, because that is the last of the four points I wanted to make. Naturally, the legislation needs to be improved, but will it truly be enforced? I have my doubts.

However, we were not content with simply passing the bill. I will continue to be vigilant in committee. I remind the hon. members that when a bill is introduced, it is important to take the time to study it. It is not just a matter of listening to the minister and then passing it, clause by clause, at the same committee meeting. This is a totally irresponsible attitude, especially when witnesses indicate that they intend to appear.

We have a responsibility. Even if the witnesses themselves or their testimony does not really suit us, it is our responsibility to listen to them. Then we can decide whether to change the legislation or not. This period of time that we took together permitted the adoption of an amendment on minimum penalties. That is a first, a historic moment.

If we had not taken the time to think, this amendment probably would not have been adopted, and we would not have been able to introduce it in this House. The Chair would have told the hon. members quite rightly that they had had an opportunity to make the said changes in committee. But it was not the case.

I am proud today to remind the hon. members that my colleague from Beauport—Limoilou got an amendment adopted in the in committee to have a minimum fine of $500,000 or $100,000 imposed, depending on the type of ship. This is a first in environmental matters. We should definitely be proud of it. What we are also proud of is the fact that the committee supported this amendment.

As I reminded the hon. members yesterday in this House, we also supported an amendment introduced by the government to ensure that the sums collected will not go to the consolidated revenue fund or to fund all sorts of sometimes questionable government activities. A fund will be created into which the money for the damages will be paid. We have a guarantee that the amounts that are collected will go into a compensation fund in case of discharges or other catastrophes.

We therefore have an imperfect bill. However, in the current situation, we managed to do things quickly, to be sure, but very effectively. As a result, this bill will return today to the Senate. On this side of the House, we have always hoped to proceed quickly so that the essence, the spirit of the bill, namely protecting birds, is implemented as soon as possible. We had to make these changes, which were necessary. Greater penalties were needed for people who decide to be totally irresponsible where the environment is concerned.

Today, I am back with the Bloc amendment. What we are about to vote on is quite unusual. We have to remember that the average fine set by Canadian judges for oil discharges is $30,000. This is peanuts for big corporations responsible for an oil discharge, like Canada Steamship Lines, for instance, or other multinationals.

As I said before, a drop the size of a quarter is enough to kill a bird. Each year, more than 300,000 birds are killed by discharges by vessel owners. Up until now, how much were the fines imposed in Canada on large corporations like Canada Steamship Lines and others? The average fine set by judges in Canada is $30,000. That is 10 times less than in the United States and 15 times less than in Great Britain. For a big corporation like Canada Steamship Lines, $30,000 is peanuts.

The Bloc Québécois amendment finally provides for a minimum fine which we find acceptable for big corporations that often mistreat the crews working on their ships. The amount of the minimum fine will depend, of course, on the type of vessel.

Today, the end is near. We have before the House a bill which we hope the Senate will pass as soon as possible. Our laws are such that the fines for corporations or individuals who act irresponsibly are small. That is where this legislation will come into play.

It is thus with great pleasure that we will vote for Bill C-15 and for the amendment that was proposed by the government. What we wish for, and this is the last wish, is that we no longer experience what we went through with the Species at Risk Act, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act or the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. We adopted legislation, but, quite often, it is not enforced. I hope that the government will take note and put the means in place so that, finally, birds can be protected as they deserve to be.

Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994Government Orders

December 14th, 2004 / 10:40 a.m.
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Bloc

Christian Simard Bloc Beauport, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am especially pleased to speak toBill C-15, which the Bloc Québécois supports, since we moved an amendment to this bill. This makes the bill all the more interesting to us.

A number of points need to be clarified. I was listening to my hon. colleague from Charlottetown congratulating himself on the amendment and the fact that the best amendments have several fathers. It certainly sounds like chicken droppings have all of a sudden become chicken soup. Just a moment ago, the Liberals were busy patting themselves on the back about the amendment, saying how interesting it was, so much so in fact that an amendment was included to have the fines received deposited in an environmental damages fund. But it should be pointed out that, at the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development, all but one Liberal member, who abstained, voted against this very amendment.

I have seen things change quickly in the past and, once again, I have seen that chicken droppings have turned into chicken soup, and very good soup at that. I guess it would be more pleasant for marine wildlife to be swimming in this chicken soup than in the waters available to them and the migratory birds.

This legislation is fundamental and important, it has unfortunately been too long in coming. Prior to this legislation, as soon as a vessel got outside the 12 mile limit, it was beyond reach. There was also some administrative carelessness, as out of an estimated 2,000 instances of discharge in 2000, five went to court. In 2001, the total was four and in 2002, only three out of 2000.

So this new legislation will have more teeth, and will extend the zone from the 12-mile limit to the 200 mile economic limit. This is a very good thing, but there is still the major issue of application.

The amendment proposed by the Bloc Québécois is a first as far as Canadian environmental law is concerned. I think it would be worthwhile citing it, as it is so fundamental. The Liberals fought in committee, but suddenly find it is wonderful. This is the amendment I tabled in committee:

That Bill C-15, in Clause 9, be amended by adding after line 11 on page 13 the following: “In the case of an offence under section 5.1 that is committed by a vessel of 5,000 tonnes deadweight or over,the fine imposed under paragraph (1.1)(a) shall not be less than $500,000.”

In plain language, this means the matter will go to court. If there is a guilty verdict, the judge cannot impose a fine of less than $500,000.

The fine—

that is, the fine imposed under paragraph (b)

The fine imposed under paragraph (1.1) shall not be less than $100,000.

In fact, the bill deals with a procedure of summary conviction. So the fine is a minimum of $100,000 for the fast track procedure and $500,000 after a full trial. That is what this amendment is all about. It was adopted thanks to the support of the Conservatives, who had brought in a similar but less complete amendment, and thanks to the support of the NDP, but no thanks to the Liberal members of the committee, who opposed it. I think that things need to be brought out into the open. A spade must be called a spade. A government trying to pirate something is a government trying to pirate something.

So we have a bill here that has been improved. As I was saying, it is a first in Canadian environmental law. It is rather particular. You need to know that, in Canada, not only was there no minimum fine in the legislation until now, but polluters could and still can deduct their fines from their taxes. People do not realize that. We are in the realm of the polluter payee. We have seen it in the oil industry in Western Canada in many regards. There is a bill to correct this state of affairs. I do not hope that there will be any discharges, but if there are, the perpetrators must be punished, and a rehabilitation fund must be established. That is important.

That said, I grew up along the St. Lawrence. My riding of Beauport—Limoilou is along the St. Lawrence in a place where the river is not very wide. In my constituency, there is the baie de Beauport. They want to invest a lot of money there to make it a four season destination. That is very important. Some major municipal investments have been made to treat waste water so that, at certain times of the year, it is even possible to swim right in the middle of Quebec City. In this baie de Beauport, you can do water sports and various other things.

Just one discharge could compromise for years the use of a beach in the heart of a city in areas where working people live.

Preserving the St. Lawrence and its shoreline, prosecuting and sentencing people who sail around in what we call “rustbuckets” where I come from, that is to say, ships that are often not seaworthy and could leak discharge at any time, that is something that is close to my heart. It is important.

In another professional life, I worked on establishing Stratégies Saint-Laurent, which is a group of organizations, firms and individuals interested in the St. Lawrence, all along the St. Lawrence, the Saguenay and the baie des Chaleurs. They are consultation committees. They are called ZIPs, priority intervention zones, and each has its own ZIP committee. They were inspired by the famous hot spots in the Great Lakes. These committees are interested in having action plans to clean up the St. Lawrence, make it accessible, and conserve sensitive wetlands threatened by the artificialization of the banks and by discharges.

For me, the St. Lawrence River is not an abstraction. The St. Lawrence is the waterway that was used by my ancestors to populate Quebec. It is extremely important. This legislation can protect the St. Lawrence. I proposed an amendment—and I am saying this without false modesty—which, in my opinion, is historic, because it will truly encourage people not to pollute anymore.

Currently, when people get caught, the average fine in Canada is $30,000. We are talking here about two convictions out of 2,000 violations. In terms of percentage, we have to use decimals and zeros before the decimals. In other words, Canada was a haven for polluting freighters, or for shipowners who hardly care. This bill will allow us to prosecute companies, whether it is the Canada Steamship Lines or others, that are bad corporate citizens and make them pay for the damage they cause and for what they do.

Therefore, this is extremely important. We were imposing fines of $30,000 Canadian, while the average fine in the United States for similar violations is $509,000 U.S. In Great Britain, in the United Kingdom, it is $411,000 U.S. Such are the average fines that are imposed. This is why making a little detour via Canada to get rid of bilge water and to empty out the tanks was a bargain. Big deal. It is nothing to take a trip at night, in the fog, to the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where surveillance is almost impossible and rarely done, and pollute. Anyone caught can simply write a cheque for a small amount, include it to his tax return, and bingo. These things must no longer happen and must no longer be tolerated.

The Bloc Québécois supports the bill. However, we are well aware of the government's ineffectiveness and we hope that an agreement can be reached between departments to truly implement this bill, so that it does not become yet another nice piece of legislation based on interesting principles, but never implemented.

I am happy to see that curiously, as things have now turned out, the Liberal members of the committee have acquired some wisdom, because I feared that the amendment I had proposed would not take effect, or, that its effect would be delayed through legislative tricks, to protect unknown parties.

I can see that this is not a likely after all. I have seen in this House an amendment passed by committee to which the government tried to propose a counter-amendment. I believe that was the case with the amendment saying that the security programs—I do not remember the bill number—had to respect provincial jurisdictions. This amendment had been adopted by the committee and then they tried to withdraw it in a rather stupid way.

When the majority in a committee adopts a motion or amendment, we know that this House also represents that majority. Consequently, I believe that this government is enjoying being humbled a bit, and is starting to like it, perhaps becoming a bit masochistic. This is not the first time such behaviour has been corrected in this House. It will not be the last time for the minority government.

We are not doing it in order to humiliate anyone; we are doing it with the goal of better serving our citizens, the people of Quebec. By the same stroke, we think we are also serving the interests of people in the rest of Canada.

When we introduce such ideas, it forces the government to act. The government has some habits of arrogance, inefficiency and spending in sectors where they do not have jurisdiction. Thus, we believe we are improving things and doing our work.

Honestly, as this session ends—my first session—I am particularly proud of the Bloc Québécois caucus. They have been consistent, thorough and very hard-working, on the employment insurance issue, denouncing interference, amending the throne speech, and even achieving an eventual vote on the missile defence shield. The Bloc Québécois has ardently defended the values of Quebeckers, namely honesty and integrity. That is something grand. We have also introduced private members' bills. My colleague, the hon. member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles has done extraordinary work. But I do not want my other colleagues to be jealous. Every one of the Bloc Québécois MPs has done a truly remarkable job.

I am proud to belong to a caucus that has been working hard in committees come hell or high water. Recently, through the Subcommittee on the Employment Insurance Funds, we pushed for an independent fund and won. It is fantastic. I believe the unemployed expected nothing less from us.

Unfortunately the fact that the government went ahead and changed the EI premiums without any consultation and without addressing the fundamental unfairness of the system for first-time contributors shows its arrogance. It is clueless.

I now go back to Bill C-15. When one fights tooth and nail in committee claiming that a minimum fine for polluters is not desirable, one wonders who is being defended: the environment or certain polluters? And then we are told it is common sense. It is easy to see why, during the most recent election, voters were reluctant to trust a government whose ethical sense is blowing in the wind. People are fed up with this lack of moral fibre. They want their elected representatives to stand up for values, be consistent and not promise one thing in Newfoundland and another in Vancouver. The Liberals are disappointing everyone with their lack of substance and principles.

Again, the history of Bill C-15 might not be that glorious. Its predecessor, Bill C-34, was put forward in a rush before the election to appear proactive after years of doing nothing. Sometimes very good films are made in pain with actors fighting on the set. In this case we believe we will end up with a good movie after all even though it was directed by a bad government.

We support Bill C-15 even though its wording might have been made simpler by other people. We are still having doubts as to its enforcement though. We are not convinced the government's right hand knows what its left hand is doing. We hope the necessary resources will be put in place.

We know there have been several initiatives. For example, in Newfoundland, there is the I-Stop program that uses a satellite to track oil spills and eventually identify the nearest ship that might be responsible for them. Its interesting but not very effective at night.

Real resources are going to be needed. My colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie and myself will push for progress reports on the implementation of the bill. We will not let it quietly drift along only to find out several years later that nothing has changed.

A total of 30,000 seabirds die each year in the Atlantic and the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the same number of birds that died as a result of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. It is a huge number. We must act and take whatever measure is necessary to monitor our waters. The legislation must be enforced. Also, vessel owners, captains and all seamen must be made aware of their social responsibility. Should they be found guilty of neglect or pollution, they must be liable to real and significant fines as a disincentive to pollute and an incentive to protect the environment.

This is what we want to achieve with this legislation that we have enhanced.

I want to thank the Conservatives for their cooperation. We put forward a more complete amendment than theirs. They recognized it and approved our amendment. I want to thank the Liberals for their belated conversion, despite all the bad faith and fearmongering we saw in committee. Still, they converted.

I believe that this bill, this Christmas gift, if put into effect, would protect our ecosystems, not only seabirds, but all marine ecosystems. At some point in their lives, all marine species—cod, halibut, smelt or crab—go through the larval stage and live as plankton, and if there is an oil slick above them, it would kill millions of future cod, halibut and turbot. So, this legislation is economic. It ensures preservation and sustainable development. It protects migratory birds and ecosystems.

The Bloc Québécois has considered and enhanced this bill. For the first time and hopefully not the last time, we have included tough minimum fines in a Canadian environmental act. Soon, we hope, these fines will no longer be tax deductible. Their being so is both outrageous and immoral.

Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994Government Orders

December 14th, 2004 / 10:25 a.m.
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Conservative

Lee Richardson Conservative Calgary South Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the members opposite and particularly my colleague from Newfoundland who asked the last question. Incidentally, the answer to the member's question is that the fines are around $20,000 to $25,000 now. The new minimum in the bill proposed by the Conservatives would be $500,000. I will get into that, along with some history of the bill and the reason that it is before the House.

This was first brought to the public's attention in a major way by the minister of the environment from the province of Newfoundland and a number of citizens from Newfoundland several years ago.

The Conservative Party first asked questions in the House on the subject in about 1996. It was followed up by a private members' bill that came to be known as the Mills private bill, after the Conservative member for Red Deer. He introduced his bill after he heard the concerns of many Canadians when they saw the plight of up to 300,000 birds a year being lost to oil spills and the desecration of our coastlines.

The member for Red Deer pursued his bill but the government took no action until the day before the last general election was called when it in fact put forward Bill C-34. Bill C-34 received a lot of discussion but there was no chance of enactment of the legislation because an election was called and the bill died.

The bill was raised again as Bill C-15 in this Parliament and actively pursed by the aforementioned member for Red Deer and the environment committee. This is a Conservative motion and a conservative bill that was adopted by the government and we are very pleased.

There are a number of reasons that we need this bill. It is not only about the tourism, the ecotourism, the fishing industry on both our coasts and the residents who live on those coasts. It is about why the oil spills and the dumping of oily bilge water happens in the first place.

Frankly, I think many of the larger shipping companies, some of which were alluded to by my colleague from Newfoundland just a moment ago, would rather dump oily bilge water into Canadian waters so they can sail into U.S. ports clean. Why? It is simply because the United States has much higher fines and the cost of legally removing the bilge water once in port is very expensive. If the fines in Canada were $20,000 to $25,000 they would actually save money by dumping the oily water, that is if they were caught in the first place because the Canadian surveillance and enforcement was so weak.

I appreciate the acknowledgement of the Parliamentary Secretary for Fisheries and Oceans a moment ago that in fact the Canadian surveillance and enforcement has been so weak.

I want us to be clear on the problem. If these ships were to enter into U.S. ports and they were found to be spilling oily bilge water, they would face enormous fines. The likelihood of them being caught is very high because the American surveillance is much higher than the surveillance in Canadian waters.

We had the recent example of the Terra Nova spill off Newfoundland where ships actually sailed into the oil slick and dumped their oily bilge water to be undetected as they sailed through Canadian waters. If they are not going to get caught this practice will continue.

We are very pleased to support the bill and particularly the Conservative amendment that would raise the minimum fines to $500,000 for ships over 5,000 tonnes. This might seem like a lot of money but it has to be a lot of money in order to be a deterrent so these major vessels do not dump in Canadian waters. We have become a dumping ground for oily bilge from vessels that want go into U.S. ports clean.

The Conservative amendment was passed by the committee with a seven to three vote, which emphasizes the commitment of the environmental committee to the cleaning up of our waters and the prevention of these oily bilge dumpings and spills in our waters.

I am pleased that we also received an amendment when the party opposite became involved in this bill and supported it. The fines that will be imposed for dumping in our waters will go directly to cleanup and to a damages fund to mitigate the damages caused by this oily bilge that is spilled into Canadian waters. Hopefully this will prevent the deaths of so many birds.

I wish Canadians could see the magnificent birds that are lost. It is quite tragic. This is another reason that we are so strongly supportive of the bill.

I would suggest that another major factor in the bill is the enforcement and the fact that we need to increase surveillance and enforce the new laws in the legislation. We have the technology. We have RADARSAT that can follow ships. We have the technology to detect from which vessel the oily bilge was dumped, as was the case in the Terra Nova spill when we found there was bilge and oil in that slick in addition to that which came from the initial ship as a result of people dumping their oil in the middle of an already existing oil slick.

I am pleased the bill would increase fines, increase enforcement and increase the surveillance of the ships so we can prevent Canada from becoming, or continuing to be, a dumping ground for bilge oil.

I am pleased that the Conservative Party raised the motion. It is a tribute to the member for Red Deer who persevered in this matter on behalf of our colleagues on the coast, particularly in Newfoundland, and we are pleased to support the bill.

Main EstimatesGovernment Orders

December 9th, 2004 / 11:25 p.m.
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Winnipeg South Manitoba

Liberal

Reg Alcock LiberalPresident of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board

moved that Bill C-34, an act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the public service of Canada for the financial year ending March 31, 2005, be now read a first time and be printed.

(Motions deemed adopted and bill read the first time)

Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994Government Orders

November 2nd, 2004 / 12:10 p.m.
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Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak to Bill C-15, an act to amend the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, particularly since I spoke when Bill C-34 was introduced during the last Parliament.

It is always a bit strange to hear mainly from the Liberal members, whether new or old. Everyone agrees that it is a real natural catastrophe that 300,000 migratory birds die yearly, oiled to death as it were, thanks to the thoughtless dumping by ship operators.

The real question that has to be asked is this one, however: why a second bill? Why was Bill C-34 not passed during the last session? Another 300,000 migratory birds will have died in the meantime. The reason: lobbying. The shipping company lobby controls this Liberal government, and it is the Liberals who introduce the bills.

What is the only change that has been brought in, between Bill C-34 and C-15? The matter of due diligence. Therein lies the problem: the shipping lobby was not happy with Bill C-34. All parties in opposition—or at least the Bloc Québécois—spoke out against the fact that Bill C-34 gave the excuse of due diligence to the owners, the shipping companies, the board members, the masters, the crew. They had the opportunity to plead due diligence.

Today, they want to amend the various items under 280. A new term is added to each, both for directors and officers, in 280.1, and for the master and chief engineer in 280.02. Clause 280.1 therefore reads as follows:

280.1 (1) Every director and officer of a corporation shall take all reasonable care to ensure that the corporation complies with:

In the previous Parliament, Bill C-34 gave them the excuse of due diligence. Now, they are told they have to exercise due diligence, but this little word, diligence, is still in the legislation and will give them a way out in court. That is why I am warning my colleagues who will be sitting on the committee, because there lies the problem.

Why did Canada never pass legislation, leaving 300,000 migratory birds to die every year for decades? Simply because the shipowners' lobby is more powerful than the Liberal Party. It is that simple.

It has been persuaded not to pass legislation. To prevent these birds from dying, we need efficient legislation, fines and prison sentences. That is what the law provides. But this bill is still pushing this due diligence defence.

All of us, and those listening as well, when we pollute, we have to pay damages. Just think of all those who travel across Quebec all summer long in their campers and RVs. There are designated dumping stations. Standards have to be complied with.

In the transportation industry, however, there were no such standards. Naturally, we have to put in place legislation—and I am saying this for the benefit of those listening—dealing with basic respect for human beings and, in this case, for migratory birds and the entire animal population. We realize that, in this society of ours, there is a category of operators, namely ship operators, that did not have to comply with basic standards like those prohibiting all dumping of bilge water in the ocean or in the St. Lawrence river. Obviously, with dramatic results.

That having been said, I hope that the bill will be passed quickly, after very strict penalties have been included of course. As several of my colleagues indicated, we also need tools for monitoring. The other way out for the government not to enforce the legislation is not to provide the Coast Guard and all stakeholders with the tools they need to board and examine ships.

We must be able to enforce this legislation. It is fine to pass a bill, but we must have the money necessary to enforce it. Otherwise, as experts are telling us, Canada will continue to be the place in the world where the largest number of migratory birds die because of pollutants released by ships.

This is yet another accomplishment of the Liberal Party of Canada. Perhaps it takes pride in being considered the world's worst polluter. By contrast, Bloc Québécois members, and other members in this House, have much more of a social conscience. We hope that there will be a standard, that there will be enough money, so that the Coast Guard and all the stakeholders are able to board these ships. We must have the means to send these people to jail.

Do not worry. After a few of these individuals have spent time in jail and have had to pay huge fines, they will take all the necessary measures to avoid polluting again.

Every year, 300,000 migratory birds die. This is a tragedy. But it does not end there. Environmental experts are saying that we are the most tolerant country regarding such releases. This means that we are among those who do the most damage to migratory birds in the world. This is sad.

We talked about Bill C-34 over the past two years. We will still debate Bill C-15 for a while in this House. Despite all this, the industry has not changed its way of doing things. It is still releasing pollutants, with the result that, year in year out, we continue to lose 300,000 migratory birds, in addition to all the damage caused to wildlife, which has yet to be assessed.

Again, this is all a pretence. In this Parliament, lobbyists have traditionally been more powerful than politicians. However, Canadians changed that in the last election by electing a minority government, thus giving much greater powers to the opposition. People will see how these powers are used. They will see what the opposition will do when the time comes to make the necessary amendments to this bill. This legislation should truly be a deterrent for those who do these terrible things.

Why would oily matter be discharged into ocean waters and the Gulf of St. Lawrence? This is done simply because it costs a lot less than having the necessary equipment to process it immediately on board. Processing consists in discharging good water and keeping pollutants for subsequent release in areas equipped for that purpose, such as in the ports when the ship docks.

Somehow money is the reason again, but savings are made at the expense of wildlife. Migratory birds suffer the consequences; some 300,000 birds die annually.

It is a sad commentary on this Parliament. We are not able to pass legislation. Bill C-34 is a good example. The strong opposition we have right now in this minority government will probably manage to get the point across that we cannot tolerate such pollution in our territorial waters. That is why the zone was increased from 12 nautical miles to 200. With a strong opposition like the one we have now, we will have a decent bill.

We will make sure that this standard is respected by all users, but especially by the marine transportation industry, so that the shipowners will not win. We will try to rein them in. That is the goal so that 300,000 migratory birds no longer have to die each year.

There is still a problem. A minority government can always end up forced into an election if its budget is defeated. I hope, once the bill is passed, that the government will allocate the necessary funds for the Coast Guard and all stakeholders to be able to stop this bunch of troublemakers, all these irresponsible people who discharge substances into our territorial waters that endanger our migratory birds.

Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994Government Orders

November 2nd, 2004 / 10:55 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Bob Mills Conservative Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-15. I want to go through a bit of the history of the bill. I think I asked my first question on oiled birds in the Atlantic in 1995 or 1996. From there I drew up a private member's bill which basically dealt with this. From there I drew up a policy which I was able to recommend to our party and which became party policy regarding oiled birds.

First I looked at Bill C-34. That was introduced the day before the House prorogued. Needless to say I was pleased there was a bill but went rather ballistic in that the bill was introduced at a time when I knew for sure, and everybody else knew, it could not be passed and that it would simply die on the order paper.

I must say that I am pleased to see that Bill C-15 has now surfaced, at what I hope is a better time so that is has a greater opportunity of moving through the House and through committee. Obviously any minor amendments that are needed can be made during the committee process. We will finally have a piece of legislation that we hope will help stop the problem which has gone on literally for decades in our Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Today I stand somewhat with relief that after so many questions in the House and so much work on this issue, finally we have a piece of legislation which, while not perfect, does come closer than anything else we have in place.

I want to touch on a bit of the background and a few of the areas that concern me about the bill. I am sure they will also concern members on all sides of the House when they look at the bill.

We should recognize there has been a lot of documentation. I am holding in my hands a document to which most members could refer. Certainly there is the web page done by the World Wildlife Fund entitled, “Seabirds and Atlantic Canada's Ship-Source Oil Pollution”. It details a lot references and provides a background to some of the history of the problem and why passage of this bill by the Canadian Parliament is so essential.

As well we need to recognize that a tiny oil spot on migratory birds means death. A bird need not be totally oiled for it to die. One tiny drop of oil will break the bird's insulation and will result very quickly in hypothermia and the death of that bird.

I spent time in Newfoundland and did an hour and a half radio show. At one point I literally saw the thousands of birds that wash up on the shore. I talked to many of the local people and heard how troubled they were that this was happening over and over again and nobody was doing anything about it.

Today a documentary is being produced on that very issue and of course it fits right in with this legislation. I will not be cynical and say that one of the motivations for this bill to show up so quickly may have been that it is a fairly high profile documentary being done on oiled birds in the Atlantic.

Before I move on we should also remember that the same problem exists on our Pacific coast. The problem there as I understand it is it is more scientifically difficult to document because the birds sink. The wave patterns and current patterns are different and therefore not nearly the number of birds are showing up on the Pacific coast, yet we believe the problem is probably just as great, if not greater, in that part of the world.

We have heard lots about the Exxon Valdez and that sort of thing. However, it would be very naive to believe that there are not other more minor oil spills occurring that would affect the birds there as well.

The number used in the Atlantic is 300,000. That is a documented scientific number. The local people would tell us that it is much higher than that. Some people would use figures like a million birds a year. None of these populations can sustain that sort of death toll and expect to remain viable.

Certainly for the people of the area, and I think for all Canadians, they would like to have the seabirds remain a viable population for a long time into the future.

What is the real problem? Why does this problem exist? It comes down to dollars and cents for shipping companies. Many of them do not even dock in Canada, but simply pass through our waters from the U.S. and Europe on the pathway that they travel.

The ships have bilge oil which they need to get rid of. For the shipping companies it is a matter of having to go to port, having to pump it out in port, having to pay for that, but most important, the time it takes to do it. For many of the companies, time appears to be their biggest problem.

It is understandable, I guess, from the captain's perspective that if he is expected to get between point A and point B in a certain amount of time, rather than go to port to dump the bilge, he is going to dump it into the ocean. It would also be reasonable to expect that when he knows that surveillance is very minimal and even if caught the fine is very small, he will take that chance.

It appears that is what has been happening for decades. There are records of oil release right from the 1950s on up, if we look at some of the reference material, and they probably occurred long before that. Therefore, it is the cost factor and the time factor for these ships.

This piece of legislation I hope will fix those two basic concerns that we have. First, the fines are going to be higher and if we make them comparable to the U.S. fines, we could be looking at fines of up to $1 million. With fines like that, they would not run the risk. If the fine was $3,000, well, it would be worth it to take the chance because they probably would not get caught. If the fine was $1 million, as they have been in some of the U.S. cases, they would really think about that. They would probably not be captain of the ship after doing that, if the company took action. Obviously the fine structure will help.

The next thing that is important is that we provide adequate facilities for these ships to move as quickly as they can to get rid of their bilge oil so they can move on. Obviously, we would be asking questions in committee as to what facilities are planned. Are they adequate? Do we need more? Are they as modern as they should be? What is the cost involved? Who is going to pay for that? Obviously, we would hope that the user could pay for a great deal of this because it should be in the best interest of the shipping business to speed this up.

We then also have to look at the surveillance. How are we going to catch these people? We do not have the number of Coast Guard staff, planes and so on that we would need, but there is a technological way to do this. I am not a technician; I do not understand how radarsat works exactly, but I understand it is accurate enough to find out who did it and to send a plane out.

Finally, the enforcement of all of this becomes most important. We have to stop the turf wars within departments. When one of the ships, the Tecam Sea , was brought in, justice was fighting, the Coast Guard was fighting, the military was fighting, environment was fighting over who was in control. As a result, the ship sailed away without ever paying the fine.

That sort of thing has to end. We must have surveillance. The penalties must be there. We must have the facilities that these shipping companies can use.

We will be supporting the bill. We will be looking at where we might improve it in committee. I congratulate the government for bringing it back so soon in this session. It is a much needed bill.

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

October 29th, 2004 / 12:30 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Jim Prentice Conservative Calgary North Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened as my hon. friend from Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca spoke with respect to this matter and I was surprised with respect to some of his comments because, looking at some of the other things which the hon. member has said in the House, he seems to have undergone quite an epiphany.

Specifically, on June 9, 1994, in respect of the land claim relating to Yukon which was then before the House, my friend said:

Bill C-34 gives special rights and special privileges to some of the native peoples of the Yukon Territory. As a representative here of all Canadians I have some problems with this. This bill is divisive. It will define the citizens of the First Nations as a separate group of citizens. Therefore what we would have in this land are two citizenships, citizens with different rules and regulations pertaining to each group.

As a result of this we are setting up separate governments for separate nations within the borders of this country, new governments with broad legislative powers, independent legislative powers of the rest of the country.

Native peoples see themselves as separate nations and not part of Canada. This I recognize. It is obviously a philosophical point of contention. To see oneself as a nation that is separate from another within the borders of this country may sound good to some, but I think that it is only divisive.

The hon. member carried on to say a number of other things which were significantly less moderate and which I do not want to have come out of my mouth in this chamber. On June 5, 1995, in relation to the Nisga'a agreement, the hon. member opposite said:

In closing, I would strongly urge the government to invest in policies that will enable native people to take care of themselves in a sustainable way in the future. Land claims are not the answer.

I wonder if my hon. friend would be good enough to explain for the benefit of the citizens in his constituency and other Canadians how he has undergone such an epiphany or are these merely chunterings from the other side of the House?

My hon. friend referenced chapter 7.7.2 of the agreement here in the House stating that it effectively had a concept of federal paramountcy. Leaving aside the other provisions of the agreement, I wonder if my learned friend would assist the House by explaining how chapter 7.7.2 operates and if he could describe for the House what is the difference between federal legislation of general application and other federal legislation?