Donkin Coal Block Development Opportunity Act

An Act respecting the exploitation of the Donkin coal block and employment in or in connection with the operation of a mine that is wholly or partly at the Donkin coal block, and to make a consequential amendment to the Canada--Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act

This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in September 2008.

Sponsor

Gary Lunn  Conservative

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment provides a legal regime to facilitate the exploitation of the Donkin coal block and to regulate employment in or in connection with the operation of any mine that is wholly or partly at the Donkin coal block. It gives the Governor in Council the authority to incorporate Nova Scotia laws into federal law by regulation, and gives Nova Scotia the power to enforce those laws. It further governs the royalties from the exploitation of the portion of the Donkin coal block in frontier lands, including providing for payment of the amount of the royalties to Nova Scotia after the royalties have been paid to the Receiver General. It also makes a consequential amendment to the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act.

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 14th, 2007 / 1:15 p.m.
See context

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

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

Bill S-2, An Act to amend the Canada-United States Tax Convention Act, 1984--Chapter 32;

Bill C-15, An Act respecting the exploitation of the Donkin coal block and employment in or in connection with the operation of a mine that is wholly or partly at the Donkin coal block, and to make a consequential amendment to the Canada--Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act--Chapter 33;

Bill C-35, An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the federal public administration for the financial year ending March 31, 2008--Chapter 34;

Bill C-28, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 19, 2007 and to implement certain provisions of the economic statement tabled in Parliament on October 30, 2007--Chapter 35;

Bill C-12, An Act to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act, the Wage Earner Protection Program Act and chapter 47 of the Statutes of Canada, 2005--Chapter 36;

Bill C-18, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (verification of residence)--Chapter 37.

It being 1:20 p.m., the House stands adjourned until Monday, January 28, at 11:00 a.m., pursuant to Standing Orders 28(2) and 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 1:20 p.m.)

December 11th, 2007 / 12:55 p.m.
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Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

First, I would like to point out that the ruling my colleague referred to involves taxation.

We are referring to language of work and labour relations, and I should point out that there are precedents. This does not involve the delegation of powers. We are asking the federal government to amend its federal legislation in order to incorporate parts of other legislation. In this case, it would involve the language of work in Quebec. It has been done in the past. No powers have been delegated to Quebec.

This involves the federal government who, on its own initiative, would make a decision that would amount to recognizing the fact that Quebec constitutes a nation within the Canadian political landscape. Given that the French language remains vulnerable within North America, it would decide to include in its own legislation, whether that be the Official Languages Act or the Canada Labour Code, provisions that would ensure that the Charte de la langue française applies to businesses under federal jurisdiction, for language of work.

I would like to recall that in 1966, the Supreme Court ruled that matters such as hours of work, salary levels, working conditions, and other matters, are essential parts the administration of any commercial and industrial business, and that, when the businesses in question are federal businesses under federal jurisdiction, these matters fall under the exclusive jurisdiction of the federal government.

This principle was confirmed and extended later on. This did not prevent the federal government from deciding, on its own initiative, to use the referral I mentioned earlier and to amend its own Canada Labour Code. Section 178(1), and I will wrap up with this, Mr. Chairman, reads as follows:

178. (1) Except as otherwise provided by or under this Division, an employer shall pay to each employee a wage at a rate: (a) not less than the minimum hourly rate fixed, from time to time, by or under an Act of the legislature of the province where the employee is usually employed [...]

It is the federal parliament and not the Government of Quebec or the provinces that decided that this provision could be included in federal legislation. It probably did this because it was easier administratively. The same applies to Bill C-15. We are referring to regulation, not even to legislation. This is taking place within a legislative framework, of course, but it is the regulations that, as I mentioned, provide for provincial legislation being allowed to be presented and adapted within a bill. There are many precedents for this.

December 11th, 2007 / 12:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I would like to thank our witnesses.

I have considerable respect for the committee members. They are of good faith and they are intelligent. This bill is based on good intentions. However, unfortunately it is unconstitutional because it involves transferring authority from one order of government to another. It is unconstitutional under our Constitution. There is a very clear case that explains why.

I'm afraid I have to switch to English now. You have my apologies for that.

I'm going to read from a Supreme Court decision from 1950, which makes it clear that the kind of delegation of power that's proposed here is unconstitutional. I should mention that I have this text in front of me in English only, which is the reason for doing this in English.

This is known as the Nova Scotia interdelegation case rendered by the Supreme Court of Canada on the October 3, 1950. The Nova Scotia government had attempted to delegate certain legislative powers to the federal government, something that is contemplated in reverse in this bill.

This bill says--I'll just start with Madame Picard's bill--in a number of places that the Commissioner of Official Languages

shall carry out...duties...in a manner that does not obstruct the..Charter of the French Language.

and this shall be done in conformity with or meeting the requirements of the charter of the French language. It imposes a requirement.

Now let me read what the Supreme Court said in its decision in 1950:

The Parliament of Canada and the Legislatures of the several Provinces are sovereign within their sphere defined by The British North America Act but none of them has the unlimited capacity of an individual. They can exercise only the legislative powers respectively given to them by sections 91 and 92 of the Act, and these powers must be found in either of these sections.

I'm going to skip a little bit because there's quite a bit of additional text.

It is part of [the] protection [granted to us] that Parliament can legislate [only] on the subject matters referred to it by section 91 and that each Province can legislate exclusively on the subject matters referred to it by section 92. The country is entitled to insist that legislation adopted under section 91 should be passed exclusively by the Parliament of Canada in the same way as the people of each Province are entitled to insist that legislation concerning the matters enumerated in section 92 should come exclusively from their respective Legislatures. In each case, the members elected to Parliament or to the Legislatures are the only ones entrusted with the power and the duty to legislate concerning the subjects exclusively distributed by the constitution Act to each of them.

No power of delegation is expressed either in section 91 or in section 92 nor, indeed, is there to be found the power of accepting delegation from one body to the other; and I [—this being the Chief Justice—] have no doubt that if it had been the intention to give such powers it would have been expressed in clear and unequivocal language. Under the scheme of the British North America Act there were to be, in the words of Lord Atkin and the Labour Convention Reference...“watertight compartments which are an essential part of the original structure”.

That ends the quote.

So what was said here is that one government cannot give legislative power, the ability to set law, to another. This is what has been done in this act. I note that Monsieur Paquette had made a reference to Bill C-15, which refers to provincial regulations and gives a regulatory capacity to accept provincial regulations in the Canada Labour Code.

I have to draw his attention to the fact that this is permissive language. It permits the minister to look to the provincial legislation and take that as advice. It doesn't bind him, and thus it's essentially a note of encouragement, which is very different from that practice, which was forbidden in the case from 1950, and which I cited.

I'm afraid the language used in Madame Picard's bill is not permissive. It imposes an obligation. For that reason, I believe this bill would in fact be an unconstitutional delegation of federal power to a provincial legislature.

December 11th, 2007 / 12:40 p.m.
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Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Yes.

We examined the various pieces of legislation and the federal charters. We found nothing that made it possible to... Obviously, there is a political debate—that has to be acknowledged—about whether it is desirable to have businesses under federal jurisdiction made subject to the Charter of the French language in Quebec, in order to promote the common language of our nation. We did not find anything.

As I have already mentioned, the 1867 Constitution Act refers only to the Parliament of Canada, the Quebec legislature and the courts.

Subsection 16(1) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states:

16.(1) English and French are the official languages of Canada and have equality of status and equal rights and privileges as to their use in all institutions of the Parliament and Government of Canada.

It does not talk about businesses under federal jurisdiction and subject to the Canada Labour Code. As I mentioned, there are precedents already. For example, where the minimum wage is concerned, the Canada Labour Code applies the minimum wage legislation in each province and there is no uniform federal minimum wage.

I would like to call the attention of the members of the committee to clause 13 of Bill C-15, An Act respecting the exploitation of the Donkin coal block and employment in or in connection with the operation of a mine that is wholly or partly at the Donkin coal block, and to make a consequential amendment to the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act. The clause deals with regulatory powers, and subsection 13(3) states:

13.(3) The regulations referred to in subsections (1) and (2) may incorporate by reference in whole or in part any Act of the province or instruments made under such an Act, as amended from time to time, with any adaptation that the Governor in Council considers necessary.

This approach was used again recently. So nothing technically would prevent us from including provisions in the Official Languages Act and the Canada Labour Code to have the Charter of the French language, Bill 101, apply to businesses under federal jurisdiction in Quebec.

We are not talking about federal institutions. You know that the language of work in federal institutions is governed by the Public Service Staff Relation Act. That is a completely different matter. When we are talking about federal departments and agencies, it is a different matter.

In our opinion, there needs to be a political debate. That may be what side tracked some members of the committee. They came to hasty conclusions rather than dealing strictly with the form of the motion regarding the bill's “votability”. That debate should take place.

We will see how the debate goes. But it would be quite contradictory if the committee were to decide that Bill C-482 was not votable for reasons that do not hold water.

November 22nd, 2007 / 9:05 a.m.
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Saanich—Gulf Islands B.C.

Conservative

Gary Lunn ConservativeMinister of Natural Resources

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. It is my pleasure to be back before committee.

First of all, I'd like to thank you for your understanding when I had to provide you with an extra two hours free time in your schedule on Tuesday. I actually had an unscheduled cabinet committee hearing. Again, I thank you for being so gracious, not only to have cancelled at the last moment on Tuesday, but I'm glad we're able to actually be here to devote time to Bill C-5 and the estimates this morning.

With that, let me introduce my staff, as you did, Mr. Chair. Sue Kirby is the ADM of the energy policy sector. She's new at the department, has been there about three weeks, but has a wealth of experience. If she digresses and talks about fish today, it's because she just came from DFO. We'll try to keep her focused. So if you have some good fish questions, we can probably take those too.

Dave McCauley comes from the energy policy sector, specifically in the nuclear shop, so he has some expertise there.

With that, Mr. Chairman, thank you for giving me the opportunity to appear before you. Again, my appreciation for the all-party cooperation on Bill C-15. That was very appreciated. I think it's great for the people in Nova Scotia, to move that legislation through the House so quickly.

We're here this morning to focus on Bill C-5, the Nuclear Liability and Compensation Act. This proposed legislation is about protecting the interests of Canadians by modernizing Canada's nuclear compensation and civil liability framework. It does so to address damages as effectively and efficiently and fairly as possible in the unlikely event of a radioactive release from any nuclear facility in Canada.

As members of the committee will know, the current legislation dates back to the 1970s. So this legislation has been introduced for a number of reasons. First, it will ensure that Canada's laws governing nuclear liability are meeting the international standards. We want to not only ensure the highest standards for nuclear power in Canada, but also align our liability with that of international standards.

Secondly, it will increase the liability of nuclear operators for damages and injury. It will also increase the amount of compensation that will be available to address civil damages.

Third, Bill C-5 will broaden the number of categories for which compensation may be sought and improve the procedures for delivering that compensation.

It could be argued that Canada's current legislation, the Nuclear Liability Act, more or less accomplishes the objectives, a certainty regarding insurance and legal liability. So why do we need new legislation when we already have a serviceable act in place already? The simple answer, as I've said earlier, is that the current act is outdated. It was passed in 1970. Remarkable. I was not even in high school then, Mr. Chair, so it's going back quite a way. My notes say this was a period of ancient history, but I don't think I'll go there. But Bill Gates just turned 15. In any event, it's some time in the past.

Again, we need to ensure that the Nuclear Liability Act reflects the technology and science thinking as we move forward. In the interim, it's not only the technology of nuclear energy that has advanced considerably but the evolution of jurisprudence has contributed to substantial increases in the potential liability for nuclear incidents. Accordingly, we have to upgrade our legislation.

So what are we doing? Well, there are certain fundamentals of this current act that must be retained: number one, absolute liability; two, exclusive liability; and three, mandatory insurance.

Basically, absolute liability means that the operator will be held liable for compensating victims, if there were ever a nuclear incident, without the recourse of traditional defences available under the common law. This means that victims would not be faced with proving that the operator was at fault.

Secondly, in the related principle, exclusive liability means that there is no question who is responsible. No other party than the operator, no supplier, no subcontractor, nobody else can be held liable except for the operator. Again, it means the victims would not have to prove who was at fault, especially in such a highly complex industry, and there'd be no question about where they'd take their claim for compensation.

Nevertheless, to modernize our liability scheme, we must have legislation that goes further. For example, we must increase liability amounts, increase the mandatory insurance requirements, add new definitions of damage, and provide a more effective compensation process. We must do this to meet the practical needs and realities of today.

Mr. Chairman, the proposed legislation makes significant changes in the matter of compensation. In financial terms, it increases the liability for nuclear operators. The 1970 act sets the amount at $75 million, an amount that presently is one of the lowest within the G-8.

The international norm is just below $500 million, but in Bill C-5 we believe the standard that's been suggested as an appropriate amount will raise it to $650 million. This balances a need for operators to provide adequate compensation without burdening them with huge costs for unrealistic insurance amounts. Again it's striking that right balance. It's what is the right balance for the appropriate amount of compensation, while ensuring that we're providing realistic insurance amounts. This increase will put Canada on par with most of the western nuclear countries. The proposed legislation also increases the mandatory insurance operators must carry by almost ninefold.

As I've said, Bill C-5 makes Canada's legislation more consistent with international conventions. It does so not only with respect to financial matters, but also with clearer definitions of crucial matters such as what constitutes a nuclear incident, what damages do or do not qualify for compensation, and so on. These enhancements will place the Canadian nuclear firms on a level playing field with competitors in other countries. This is important if Canada is to maintain its international presence in matters of nuclear energy. Canadian companies welcome the certainty of operating in accordance with the accepted international norms.

Mr. Chair, both the current liability framework and Bill C-5 contain limitation periods restricting the time for making claims. Under the act passed in the 1970s, claims must be brought within ten years of an incident. However, since the passage of that earlier liability legislation, we have come to understand that for some related injuries obviously that's not adequate. Accordingly, the limitation period for claims has been extended to thirty years under Bill C-5.

Both the earlier Nuclear Liability Act and Bill C-5 provide for an administrative process that will operate faster than the courts in an adjudication of claims arising from a large nuclear incident. However, the proposed legislation clarifies the arrangements for a quasi-judicial tribunal to hear those claims. These new processes will ensure that claims are handled both equitably and efficiently.

In closing, Mr. Chair, I would like to underscore that Bill C-5 is about being prepared for the events that are unlikely to ever happen in this country. Our nuclear fleet is arguably one of the safest of any of the fleets in the entire world with an extraordinary safety record. Canada's experience goes back some 75 years. For the past 30 years nuclear power has been a regular part of Canada's energy mix. In all of this time, safety has been the watchword of Canada's nuclear industry. Moreover, the reactor for which we are known elsewhere is the CANDU, and as I said, it is one of the safest and cleanest reactors in the world. With the progress of nuclear technology, our reputation for safety will become even more secure.

Nevertheless, we must be realistic and we must be responsible. Although it is extremely unlikely that Canada will see a nuclear incident, we must be prepared. That is the principal reason we have proposed to modernize Canada's nuclear liability and compensation legislation by tabling the bill you are considering at this time.

Those are my opening comments, Mr. Chair. I look forward to the members' questions.

Thank you very much.

November 22nd, 2007 / 9:05 a.m.
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Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Chair, I just wanted to thank the members of the committee for their cooperation on Bill C-15. We were able to get it passed the other day at all stages because we had good cooperation from the other members of the committee. So I want to acknowledge that and recognize the fact that we worked together on that, and I look forward to working together on the other issues as well.

Donkin Coal Block Development Opportunity ActGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2007 / 3:55 p.m.
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York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. There have been discussions among the party House leaders and I believe that you would find consent for the following motion regarding the bill we have been debating. I move:

That, notwithstanding any standing order or usual practices of the House, Bill C-15, An Act respecting the exploitation of the Donkin coal block and employment in or in connection with the operation of a mine that is wholly or partly at the Donkin coal block, and to make a consequential amendment to the Canada--Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act, be deemed to have been read a second time and referred to a committee of the whole, deemed considered in committee of the whole, deemed reported without amendment, deemed concurred in at report stage and deemed read a third time and passed.

Donkin Coal Block Development Opportunity ActGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2007 / 3:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Mike Allen Conservative Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Mr. Speaker, it is quite a pleasure as a member of natural resources committee to speak on Bill C-15, the Donkin Coal Block Development Opportunity Act.

Quite a number of folks have spoken today. Quite a number of my Atlantic colleagues from both sides have spoken on the bill. As we have stated before, basically what it does is facilitate an economic opportunity for Cape Breton Island and the province of Nova Scotia, but I am also going to talk a little later about the spinoff benefit for New Brunswick as well. I think this is a big benefit for Atlantic Canada, especially when it comes to coal.

The bill creates a legal framework for the mining operation at the Donkin coal block. The economic opportunity is to be able to bring that coal to the surface from an area some three kilometres offshore Cape Breton and transport the coal to market. The operation, as people have said, will produce 275 direct jobs, potentially as many as 700 indirect jobs, and hundreds of millions of dollars for the provincial economy in terms of salaries, equipment and a range of goods and services.

The opportunity came about on December 13, 2004, when the energy minister of Nova Scotia, Cecil Clarke, sent out a press release. Some of the benefits of this opportunity, stated a news story, would be:

Winning bidders will have to agree to hire local workers and buy goods from Nova Scotia businesses. After an operator is chosen, it will still take months or even years to get the mine running.

That last statement is absolutely true in regard to the complexity of this.

My colleague, the member for Cape Breton—Canso, talked earlier today about the price of coal being at almost record highs of almost $100 a tonne. That is a tremendous development and means a tremendous amount of opportunity for employment in the area.

Since that time, Nova Scotia announced that the Xstrata Donkin Coal Development Alliance was the successful bidder. The company immediately launched a multi-million dollar study to evaluate the potential for bringing the mine into production. The study is currently under way, but the major key decision point on this is February, and if all goes well a positive decision on mine development will be made in August.

Approximately 25 people are currently working at the Donkin mine site. Xstrata has drained the water from the two tunnels dug to the coal face in the mid-1980s by the Cape Breton Development Corporation and the company is now preparing to drill into the coal seam to obtain further information on the resource.

From a resource standpoint, everything appears favourable. However, for Xstrata to come to a positive decision, there is another issue that needs to be clarified, and that is Bill C-15.

As previously mentioned, the Donkin coal block is located offshore Cape Breton Island. Both the Governments of Canada and Nova Scotia claim ownership of the resource. Accordingly, they both believe they have an obligation to regulate the resource. This creates quite a level of uncertainty for Xstrata and puts the company in a position where it is faced with two regulators. Facing even one regulator can be a daunting task, but facing two is incredible.

However, Bill C-15 will remove this uncertainty. It would make clear to Xstrata, its employees and the regulators what laws will apply and who should enforce them. Because regulatory regimes affect costs, Xstrata is looking for regulatory certainty before its February 2008 decision point.

When I think about some of this regulatory uncertainty, I think about our major project office for some of these major projects in the mining area. I think of the potential that this will give some of these projects to get off the ground.

One of those major projects is coming to the fore in New Brunswick in my riding of Tobique—Mactaquac, where a major tungsten mine potentially will be developed in the Stanley-Napadogan area. What a tremendous opportunity this is for an area that has seen its forest industry ravaged. It is a tremendous opportunity. I think this regulatory aspect will certainly help that.

Bill C-15 is the result of a cooperative federal-provincial effort. The objective of the effort is to establish regulatory clarity to facilitate economic development and to do so in a way that is acceptable to both governments. In March of this year, federal and provincial officials agreed on an approach. This was quickly followed by a period of federal-provincial consultations with the public. These sessions resulted in assurances that labour, community and industry groups both understood and supported the proposed regime.

Employee-employer groups, community organizations and the Canada--Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board were all supportive. In June, cabinet approved the drafting of the legislation required to get this done.

The legal framework proposed in Bill C-15 covers resource development and a number of labour matters. The latter includes labour standards, industrial relations and occupational health and safety, which is so important when we look at the development of these underground mines and consider the inherent danger that goes with them.

The bill provides the governor in council with the authority to make regulations incorporating provincial laws into the body of federal law. Bill C-15 also excludes corresponding federal laws from applying to the Donkin coal block.

The laws would be incorporated as amended from time to time by the province and with other adaptations if necessary. For example, we would not incorporate anything that was in conflict with the federal claim to the offshore without first amending it. Any provincial law incorporated federally would be administered and enforced by the provincial official responsible for the relevant provincial law.

By means of this legislation, both levels of government will be able to work together to ensure that occupational health and safety provisions will serve the Donkin miners well. More specifically, Nova Scotia's trade union act, the occupational health and safety act and the labour standards code will be incorporated into federal law through regulation should this bill become law.

Nova Scotia has accepted to amend its occupational health and safety laws to include certain elements that exist under federal law. This is meant to provide the highest level of protection for workers. The labour matters covered by Bill C-15 will not in any way sacrifice accountability, transparency or health and safety for the sake of regulatory efficiency.

Bill C-15 also clarifies the matter of royalties. These will be collected by the province and then remitted to the Government of Canada. An equivalent amount will then be provided for the province. The bill requires that an agreement concerning royalties with the Province of Nova Scotia is subject to the approval of the governor in council. For greater certainty, it has been made clear that the User Fees Act does not apply to any fees contained in provincial laws incorporated by reference.

Why this bill? It is so important and so critical. The coal that will be produced by the Donkin coal block development is a most valuable resource, one that can contribute to the economic well-being of Cape Bretoners and Canadians as a whole.

One only has to look at the people who worked in the mines before the last underground mine was shut down in 2001. Since then, some of these folks have been working out west. What a tremendous opportunity this represents for these people to return, just like a lot of people from Atlantic Canada would.

Not only does this development represent a huge potential benefit to Cape Breton from a mining perspective, it also could represent a new source of coal for the region's electric generating stations. This mine could bring on stream an additional five million tonnes per year of Canadian coal into the market.

While 16% of Canada's supply of electricity is generated from coal sources, that percentage is much higher in Nova Scotia, where 60% of electricity comes from coal and roughly 15% to 20% does in New Brunswick.

Nova Scotia Power has four major coal stations in operation that use approximately 2.5 million tonnes per year, with the two largest stations accounting for the majority of the use. Those are the 600 megawatt Lingan plant and the 300 megawatt Trenton plant. These generating station investments are important to maintaining competitive power rates in Nova Scotia for the over 460,000 customers of the utility.

Having a homegrown source of coal that could ultimately replace imported coal could be a very important cost and security of supply benefit to Nova Scotians, and to Atlantic Canada for that matter. New Brunswick has a 458 megawatt coal plant at Belledune, which is equipped with scrubber technology and could be a beneficiary of this.

It is also important to note that Nova Scotia Power recognizes that generating clean electricity and energy is important. The utility has taken steps to implement cleaner-burning fuel technology, such as the circulating fluidized bed technology at Point Aconi, with announcements of millions of dollars to equip other stations with scrubber technology.

In fact, in the summer of 2006 there was a project undertaken to retrofit the Lingan plant with pollution control technology for NOx, which has announced another potential $170 million project to put in scrubber technologies to lower the sulphur dioxide emissions, a technology very similar to what exists at our Belledune plant in northern New Brunswick.

These developments are in addition to the announcement of over 200 megawatts of wind power generation in the province.

Nova Scotia, Atlantic Canadians and the utilities recognize the importance of generating clean electricity. We recognize the importance of taking positive steps to develop renewable resources, but we also have to face facts. Our generation's profile is based on thermal. It will take a while for us to wean ourselves off that, but we cannot afford to just leave a stranded investment of many billions of dollars out there with no way to collect dollars of revenue against it.

I believe that the measures being taken in Bill C-15 will provide the regulatory certainty required for the Donkin coal block project to proceed. It will provide the highest level of protection for the workers involved. It will permit both levels of government to retain their current positions with respect to ownership and jurisdiction. It will facilitate the economic development of Cape Breton Island and, I would maintain, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and all of Atlantic Canada.

I would add that Bill C-15 is also an outstanding example of cooperation between governments to fulfill a common interest in seeing the development of the Donkin block. By introducing this legislation, the Government of Canada has demonstrated its commitment to the economic development of the Cape Breton community and to Nova Scotia as a whole.

Bill C-15 will clarify those occupational health and safety regulations that apply. We know the dangers that are faced by coal miners and we know that safety is paramount to coal miners. We have seen this in situations that have happened over the last year or two in the U.S. and other countries.

By eliminating confusion over who would protect these workers, we hope to protect them better. I know that Nova Scotia has come a long way since Westray as well. What this does for the Donkin mine is ensure that there are local people who know the resource and who will be there to inspect these mines and inspect them in a timely manner.

Nowadays, as previous speakers have suggested, the technology exists that can burn coal cleanly, and we have an opportunity here to employ hundreds of people in Cape Breton Island. We have an experienced workforce in the coal mining industry and a community that wants this development.

The Donkin enterprise will give us another chance to revive the coal mining industry in Cape Breton. What a great story that is for us. We are certainly pleased to see that legislation was passed already in the Nova Scotia legislature. Now it is up to members here in the Parliament of Canada.

We have heard a tremendous number of positive comments about this legislation today. I suspect that this legislation would not have any problems at committee and in the House. I call upon all my colleagues to support Bill C-15, to move this forward and to make Atlantic Canada a positive development opportunity.

Donkin Coal Block Development Opportunity ActGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2007 / 3:30 p.m.
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Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to comment on the diatribe that the member for West Nova has brought to the House today, with his rhetoric filled discussion on the Atlantic accord.

He does not realize that underneath the bill, Bill C-15, there is accommodation for the Donkin coal block, under the Atlantic accord, to allow royalty revenues to be shared with the province. We are talking about fairly significant royalties for both coal and for the methane gas that comes off of it. The coal bed methane is a 5% of value royalty, which is very significant and will be very good for the people of Cape Breton and Nova Scotia. The royalty going back to the province has a range of $5 million per year on the coal itself, which will all come out of the consolidated revenue fund. This is very significant and important. The only reason why we should talk about the Atlantic accord is on that basis.

The reality is this government was able to take the considerations of many members of the House from Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada, including the member from Cape Breton, whose own party was unable to get the job done. Our party was very proactive in listening to the concerns that were raised, including from the member from Cape Breton. I appreciate his concern for his constituents. However, we also know of the hard work that was done by the parliamentary secretary for ACOA, who is the MP for South Shore—St. Margaret's. He put an incredible amount of work into this as well, along with the regional minister for Nova Scotia.

We have to realize that this side of the House finally got this done. After many years of negotiations back and forth, we were able to close the deal. It is a great news story, once we get this bill passed, and hopefully we can see it move fairly quickly through the legislative process. It will address all the concerns that have been raised.

However, let us talk about the economic benefits. I ask the member for West Nova to concentrate, and I know that sometimes can be difficult. Could he talk about the issue of economic development and how important this is for Nova Scotia and Cape Breton, even though Cape Breton and Nova Scotia have such a diverse economy, things are moving ahead and they are moving toward being a have province.

Donkin Coal Block Development Opportunity ActGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2007 / 1:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Bradley Trost Conservative Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure today to address this bill for a couple of reasons.

First, what a lot of people who may watching or later reading in Hansard do not know is that today is a day with special emphasis on mining issues on the Hill. It is partially coincidental, though not totally, that today we are dealing with the Donkin coal block development opportunity act, a piece of legislation that is specifically meant to assist in the growth of a particular project in Cape Breton, just off the coast of Nova Scotia. It is very important for that specific reason.

While we are talking about the overall general theme of mining today on the Hill, with people from the industry, workers, et cetera, we also have the privilege of dealing specifically with a bill that would help build this industry in a particular location for a specific town.

The second reason I am particularly pleased to speak to this bill is because of my personal professional background. Prior to being elected to the House of Commons in June 2004, I had previously worked as a mining and exploration geophysicist, having obtained my geophysics degree and graduating previously from the University of Saskatchewan.

I had the privilege of working in all three of Canada's northern territories, the wonderful territories of Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut. I also spent some time working in the provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba. My final project before I was elected was in a place called Salluit in the most northern town of the province of Quebec where I worked on a nickel sulfide project.

It is a great pleasure for me to speak to a piece of legislation that is in some way related to my previous profession. People need to understand that mining is important for Canada. It is important for Canada historically and in the present.

While the fur trade was probably the first industry that really flourished in Canada from coast to coast and pushed inland the exploration, mining was not far behind. Some who have read their history books may remember that some of the explorers who came to Canada came specifically to look for mineral deposits, gold, diamonds and copper.

In fact, one of the more amusing stories in Canadian history is how some of the early explorers from France became very excited when they thought they had discovered massive diamond deposits in Quebec. They filled up many barrels of these diamonds and returned home. However, after a little investigation, they were not quite sophisticated enough to tell the difference between quartz and diamonds.

Historically, mining has been very important to Canada. We export somewhere in the neighbourhood of 77 different products. We are internationally known for our uranium deposits, potash, nickel and coal. We have seen the rising price of coal impact on our dollar. This is an industry which impacts every region of the country, be it oil and gas, hard rock mining or whatever.

We have particular expertise in this country for the development of our laws, geological infrastructure, the Geological Survey of Canada, the well done mapping programs and the organization and stability of our programs. That is one of the reasons why, not only in Canada but around the world, Canadian mine engineers, geoscientists and all others are recognized as experts in this field. That is just an introduction.

Today we are dealing with a particular piece of legislation that deals with a specific situation off the coast of Nova Scotia, which makes it an important bill for Cape Breton and, indeed, for all of Nova Scotia. This legislation deals directly with the prosperity and jobs in the region of Cape Breton. I am pleased to stand and support this bill.

The development of the Donkin undersea coal resource located off Cape Breton Island has the potential to bring significant economic benefits to the Cape Breton region and to all of Nova Scotia.

Both the province of Nova Scotia and the Government of Canada contend that they have legal obligations regarding matters such as regulating resource development, labour matters, occupation, health, safety, et cetera. In December 2005, Nova Scotia announced Xstrata Donkin Mine Development Alliance was successful in its bid to explore and develop the Donkin coal block resource. After more than one year of exploration, Xstrata will make its final decision on the development, in August 2008.

Neither the federal government nor the provincial government wish to see issues of jurisdiction hamper the prospects of this project. We do not want red tape to kill jobs with people of Cape Breton. However, for the commercial operation of the mine to proceed, an effective regulatory regime is needed. The bill is about that. What we need is a clear understanding among all parties affected, proponents and possible employees and the community at large as to what the rules of operation are going to be on this project.

The federal government sees it as necessary to find a way around this impasse. I believe it is important to understand the process that brought us to this point of view. In my view the legislation is an example of good will and commitment by both levels of government, provincial and federal. Consequently both levels of government have put the question of jurisdiction aside to collaborate on a mechanism permitting the development of a safe and efficient mine.

Representatives of the federal government and the Nova Scotia government worked together for a year to develop the proposed legislation. Starting in March, federal and provincial officials agreed on an approach to develop an appropriate regulatory regime to develop the Donkin coal block. The agreement involves the incorporation of provincial statutes by reference into federal law of laws related to coal and coal bed methane resource management, labour relations, labour standards and occupational health and safety.

Prior to this, Nova Scotia agreed to amend its occupational health and safety laws to ensure that subsea coal miners would have the same level of protection that they have under federal legislation.

Also under the agreement, administration of the new federal laws will be delegated to a provincial government official or authority. This helps us to move forward to clear the path, to move forward for the development of the Donkin site if the private sector decides if the mine is a viable, profitable operation. Again, to be clear for everyone who is listening, the legislation only enables and takes away the red tape so that the private sector can have its own initiative to grow and develop these necessary jobs.

Public meetings were held this past April to discuss the regulatory framework. These sessions resulted in assurances that labour, community and industry groups understood and supported the proposed regulatory regime. The outcome is this bill, the Donkin coal block development opportunity act, introduced in this Parliament by the hon. Minister of Natural Resources.

Dealing with the issues of health and safety, we know there are dangers faced by coal miners and we know safety is paramount for them. Throughout history worldwide, I think of some particularly tragic incidences in Canadian history. We do not want any dangers or loss of life to happen again to our miners. Bill C-15 would clarify the occupational health and safety regulations that would apply to the Donkin resource. By eliminating confusion over who would protect these workers, we hope to protect each and every worker better.

The proposed legislation will permit the incorporation into federal laws of existing provincial laws regarding such matters as labour standards, labour relations, occupational health and safety and coal and coal gas resource management. The administration and enforcement of these laws would then be delegated back to the province of Nova Scotia. This provides a clear and stable regulatory system, the Donkin coal development. It also permits both levels of government to retain their positions with respect to ownership and regulatory jurisdiction.

As well, the bill would ensure that coal and coal bed methane royalties associated with exploitation of the offshore portion of Donkin could be collected by Nova Scotia and then remitted to the Government of Canada. In turn, a remittance of an equal amount would then be made by Canada to the province of Nova Scotia. It is my understanding that is being done to be in compliance with other previous acts and legislation even though to the untrained ear it sounds somewhat cumbersome.

As all members can see, the immediate objectives of the bill are to facilitate provincial management of the Donkin coal block and provide a clear regulatory regime to govern its development

Moving on from health and safety issues, we need to talk about the economic advantage. We know not all areas of the country are equally advantaged with various economic assets and so forth. Cape Breton is one of those areas that, in spite of the ingenuity its people, has had on few more challenges, so these jobs and this growth is very important for this area.

The legislation provides Cape Breton with an opportunity to advance its own economic development to let the people of Cape Breton continue to be masters of their own house. Nowadays, clean coal burning technology exists and we have an opportunity to employ hundreds of experienced people from the coal mining industry.

By facilitating a return to Cape Breton's time honoured tradition of mining coal and by creating up to 275 direct jobs and 700 indirect jobs, the Donkin enterprise will give us another chance to revive the coal mining industry in Cape Breton.

The legislation for the Donkin mine would ensure that local people, who know the resource, would be there to inspect these mines and inspect them in a timely manner. As well, the project could generate hundreds of millions of dollars for the provincial economy in salaries, equipment purchases and so on, all very good things for the economy of Nova Scotia and Cape Breton.

Finally, as far as the specifics of the bill, the Donkin coal block development opportunity act is an outstanding example of federal-provincial cooperation. We are pleased to see that similar legislation already passed in the Nova Scotia legislature. It is now up to us, as federal members of Parliament, to do the same thing.

While that sums up the specifics about the bill, let me also add a few other things.

As I said when I started out talking about the broader issues of mining, mining is a part of Canada's heritage. We see this very clearly in Cape Breton. I am not all together perfectly acquainted with Cape Breton, being a prairie boy who has worked across it. However, the image I have of it has to do with coal mining. When we think of the interior of British Columbia, we think about the mining and the resources. We go to places in Canadian geography, names we know of but many us have not been to, places like Flin Flon, Trail, B.C. and areas farther north. We see the new diamond mines in the north. Mining is a part of who we are as Canadians.

We are very proud of our high tech and knowledge based economy, but we also need to understand that this high tech knowledge based economy interacts with our natural resources economy and our mining economy. Canadians are world-class leaders when it comes to geological sciences to geophysics.

We look at the work of the University of Toronto in developing things, projects that were started in the second world war for military applications for mining and mining for the military. These things have developed because of the mining infrastructure and the knowledge that we have in Canada.

It is important that we continue to develop and build this industry. It provides jobs from coast to coast. It will continue to provide economic development. It is one of those core elements that we need. We need agriculture and food to live. We need elements to provide shelter. For our industrial and manufacturing production, we ultimately need minerals.

That is how I would like the people of Canada and those listening today to view the bill, not specific legislation on its own, standing for one area, but as a symbol, something to speak to the whole broader issue to develop our act.

I am very glad the members for Cape Breton have supported it. I am not quite sure I credit—

Donkin Coal Block Development Opportunity ActGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2007 / 1:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased with the tone of the debate here today and the fact that we have support in principle from all parties. I would like to see Bill C-15 fast-tracked and ushered on through.

I know that my colleague with his legal background is very aware of the history of coal mining in Nova Scotia and Cape Breton. However, the Province of Nova Scotia would be taking on full responsibility for all matters around labour relations and occupational health and safety. We are very much aware of the Westray tragedy. It was an incredible tragedy for the people of Nova Scotia and the entire coal mining community. I had hoped that we had learned from that experience.

Is the member confident that with the regulations there, that the federal government will be able to keep the Province of Nova Scotia's feet to the fire and ensure that matters of labour relations and occupational health and safety are carried out? Is there enough clout on the part of the federal government to ensure that this operation is played out in a safe and practical manner and that looks after the best interests of those who are working with this operation? Does the member believe those safeguards are within this legislation?

Donkin Coal Block Development Opportunity ActGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2007 / 1:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Shawn Murphy Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, like the previous member, I am very pleased to rise in the House to speak to Bill C-15, the Donkin coal block development opportunity act.

This basically involves a jurisdictional issue involving a provincial mine. It is good legislation. I certainly will be supporting it when it comes to a vote.

I would classify the mine as a provincial mine. It is a mine that is not being developed fresh. A lot of the infrastructure is there, although when the infrastructure was established, it was determined at the time that it was too expensive to take the coal out of the mine, the coal which is a proven resource.

The mine is located six or seven miles subsea. As such, it would be under the jurisdiction of the Government of Canada. However, the entry to the mine and all other aspects of the mine would be provincial issues. We can see the chaos and confusion that would result, because at certain points in time workers would be doing activities in certain locations that would be under the jurisdiction of the Province of Nova Scotia and then if they moved on into the mine pit, they would be under the jurisdiction of the Government of Canada. There would be uncertainty, confusion and chaos. It is incumbent upon the Government of Canada and the Government of Nova Scotia to clarify that so that the private sector developer, along with the Government of Nova Scotia and the people who live in Cape Breton, can move forward on this particular development.

I am pleased with the legislation. I am pleased with the level of cooperation that exists between the Government of Nova Scotia and the Government of Canada on this particular issue. I am not going to get into the other issue that was discussed in the last 15 minutes.

The legislation transfers most of the jurisdictional aspects in connection with the operation of the mine to the Government of Nova Scotia. For example, occupational safety, workers compensation, labour, prosecution of offences, et cetera, will be under the ambit and at the expense of the Government of Nova Scotia. There is a detailed platform for dealing with all jurisdictional issues that has been agreed to by the Government of Canada and the Government of Nova Scotia. Basically, it is a delegation of responsibilities.

Like other speakers in this House, I want to congratulate the member for Cape Breton—Canso and the member for Sydney—Victoria for their hard work, their dedication and their perseverance in bringing this matter forward. They are to be congratulated. Certainly the people in Cape Breton can go to bed tonight knowing full well that they are well served in this institution.

I come from the province of Prince Edward Island. We have actually had a similar experience there which worked well. That was when the fixed link was constructed, the bridge that connects the province of New Brunswick with the province of Prince Edward Island.

Again, that involved legislation and an agreement. In that case, as members can see, a lot of the site works were done either in the province of New Brunswick or in the province of Prince Edward Island and so there were jurisdictional issues involving the Government of Canada. All parties came together in a cooperative agreement and it really did not result in any issues.

Of course sales tax is one of the other issues that has to be worked out in these agreements.

As I alluded to briefly in my opening comments, this is not a new mine. It has been around for quite some time. A lot of the exploratory work has been done. The tunnels actually were done quite some years ago. After the analysis and a lot of the work was done, it was determined at that point in time that it was not economically feasible to mine the coal that was there. It was just too far out.

Again, things have changed over the last number of years. As everyone is aware, the price of coal and energy in all its elements has increased dramatically. Technology has improved substantially, not only technology involving the clean coal issues but also the extraction of the coal. Those issues have all combined together to make this particular initiative now economically feasible, as I understand, and I hope it will be moving ahead. This will be an excellent development for the island of Cape Breton.

We are dealing with legislation that deals with a particular mine. I know the mine is important for the Island of Cape Breton and for the province of Nova Scotia but I suspect that this situation will be repeated over and over.

Many activities are occurring in the Arctic. There are other issues. It is my recommendation that the government ought to consider some type of overarching legislation that would deal with incidents such as this where we deal with a mine or a bridge or some other installation that would have cross-jurisdictional issues involved so that the overarching framework can be dealt with through agreement.

The agreement would need to come to Parliament and a parliamentary committee but I am not sure we would need to deal with it through legislation in each and every instance. We might be dealing with a mine or a project that is not as big as the Donkin coal mine and it would be a shame if the expense and the delay would have to be involved in getting legislation through both the provincial legislature, the Parliament of Canada and, of course, the Senate of Canada. That is just a suggestion I would make as we go forward.

In researching this particular issue, it is clear to me that the major stakeholders on this particular project are very much behind this legislation and this initiative. The Province of Nova Scotia and the people who live in Cape Breton, the municipality of Cape Breton, the trade unions, including the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour, all seem to be very supportive of this particular legislation. That is one of the reasons why I support the legislation 100%.

There has been some discussion about environmental concerns and that needs to be dealt with. I hope and I believe it will be dealt with by the Province of Nova Scotia and that all the legislation that it has on its books will be vigorously enforced as this project goes forward.

Another issue that has been raised in the debate is that this is a wedge issue between different provinces and different regions of the country. I do not see it that way at all. I see it as a positive development where one province or one jurisdiction has made an agreement with another jurisdiction and, in each case, it required legislation. This is the legislation that has to deal with the Government of Canada. I do not see it, in any way at all, as different jurisdictions. It is a cooperative initiative.

I consider this legislation to be positive. I congratulate the people who were involved in bringing it forward to the House. I want to tell the House that I will be supporting the bill when it comes to a vote.

Donkin Coal Block Development Opportunity ActGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2007 / 1:20 p.m.
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Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I would encourage all hon. members to get to understand and know the bill that they are discussing. Bill C-15 specifically provides an exclusion to the Canada--Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act. If I am speaking about the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act, it is because it is included in this particular bill. When I do that, I am speaking about the substance of the bill. So I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for reminding members of the government that when they introduce a bill, they should get to understand the bill that they are introducing before raising points of order or objections.

That is very important. There is a matter of trust that has to be brought forward to the people of Nova Scotia. Exactly what will the bill result in for them? How will this translate, because a side deal of which nobody understands the content, as in the original Atlantic accord and the changes to the equalization act, does not do anything to instill confidence in the people of Nova Scotia. But what does is when members stand up and represent their constituents, like the member from Cape Breton and the member for Sydney—Victoria. They are keeping their eyes on this sort of stuff. They are making sure that their constituents and the people of Nova Scotia, and indeed all of Atlantic Canada, are fully aware of the consequences of this. This bill is going to be supported by the Liberal Party of Canada and this caucus because of the hard work that came forward by members of our caucus to make sure that the work got done.

There will be 275 new jobs as a result, should the private company, Xstrata, decide to go full force and develop the mine, which we are all extremely confident that it will. There will be significant resource revenues that come into the province of Nova Scotia. I note that one element of this bill requires that all royalty payments should go to the Receive General for Canada first and then flow to the government of Nova Scotia second. That, quite frankly, causes me some concern, because we know the track record of this particular government. It could decide to block that particular flow of royalty revenues if the government happens to have a future disagreement with the province of Nova Scotia.

However, I have confidence that this mine will proceed because of the hard work of all interested members of Parliament, those who actually got to know the bill and the context of it, who supported it and are adding to this. But one thing has to be clear. There is a matter of confidence and trust that if people say that they will do something, they should do it. There was an absolute guarantee given to all 10 premiers and 3 territorial leaders of this country. It was broadcast to the entire country in the middle of the election campaign back in 2006 that there would be 100% exclusion of non-renewable resource revenues from the equalization formula with absolutely no caps involved.

What do we have? We do not know for a fact because we cannot actually get a copy of the briefing materials from the Minister of Finance or the Department of Finance as to exactly how he intends to amend the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act because of course they have scheduled four separate briefings and on four separate occasions they have cancelled those briefings. But one day, we will have that particular piece of legislation, I am confident, tabled in the House and we will be able to see with the rest of Canadians what exactly is entailed in this.

What we do know is that a letter was put forward by the current Prime Minister, then the leader of the opposition, stating there would be 100% exclusion of non-renewable natural resources from the equalization formula and no caps. We now know from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, the former minister of national revenue and others who clearly stated in the House that that is not the intention of the current Conservative government, that it intends to impose a cap and that it is requiring an either take it or leave it position by the provinces that are so affected. They accept certain elements and abandon others because they cannot have both.

Quite frankly, it would have been very helpful to the electorate in Atlantic Canada in the last election campaign if they had known that little detail.

I thank the member from Cape Breton and the member for Sydney—Victoria for keeping their eyes on this file and making sure it happens for the people of Cape Breton and Nova Scotia.

Donkin Coal Block Development Opportunity ActGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2007 / 1:20 p.m.
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Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, we are discussing Bill C-15, the Donkin coal mine and it seems that the hon. member has gone completely off on a tangent talking about something unrelated. Let us get down to the topic. Let us have a debate on Bill C-15 and talk about things that are relevant.