Mr. Speaker, it is with absolute pleasure that I rise today to address the House at third reading of Bill C-9, An Act to amend the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992.
An amended Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act will give us the proper mechanism to prevent and appropriately respond to security incidents during the import, handling, offering for transport and transport of dangerous goods, just as is currently done for safety incidents.
The bill before us today is the result of extensive consultations with the public, industry, unions, first responders, and provincial and territorial governments. I am very happy to say that the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities also conducted a thorough study of Bill C-9. We heard from a variety of stakeholders, including representatives from industry and unions, such as the Teamsters and the Canadian Trucking Association. I can say with certainty that all of the witnesses who appeared before the House committee strongly supported this bill and indicated that it was very necessary at this particular time.
Some witnesses talked about potential technological research and innovation that may actually provide long-term security solutions to help, for example, track the movements of dangerous goods. Others spoke strongly on the need for Bill C-9 and their belief that it is essential to have an effective security program in Canada. We in this government also believe it is very important to have the security of Canadians as our first priority.
The industry stakeholders supported the bill's security prevention and response program, including a security clearance program, especially one in which one single background check is accepted by our trading partners, such as the United States and others, for all transport workers. This bill, along with the work currently done in Transport Canada with our North American partners, that is, Mexico and the United States, will enable us to do just that.
Other witnesses spoke about the important role a safe, secure and efficient transportation of dangerous goods program plays in the Canadian economy and the good-paying industry jobs it provides. Many people in Canada work in this industry. In fact, in 2007 total dangerous goods sales in Canada were estimated to be about $50 billion. That is right, $50 billion, a great sum. Canadian chemical sales accounted for $36 billion of the aforementioned total. Of the Canadian chemicals sales in 2007, 75% of the sales were to international markets. Exports to the United States rose by 17% while offshore exports rose about 29%. This is a growth industry which is very important to the Canadian economy.
Today there are over 26 million commercially available chemicals being sold around the world and over 46 million organic and inorganic substances registered with the Chemical Abstracts Service of the American Chemical Society. Growth in the registration of new chemicals continues exponentially. Add to that, in Canada there are over 30 million dangerous goods shipments made every year. These shipments are absolutely critical and vital to communities nationwide.
Some of the chemicals enable, for instance, municipalities to provide safe drinking water to their citizens, doctors to provide their patients with access to vital and important nuclear medicines, manufacturers to produce plastics that are used in our clothes, homes, cars, boats and cottages, and everyday Canadians, on those beautiful summer days, to cook their favourite meals on their backyard propane or gas barbecues. That is one of my personal favourites.
The Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act is criminal law and has serious consequences as a result. It applies to all matters relating to the importation, handling, offering for transport, and the actual transportation of dangerous goods. Provincial legislation addresses mostly local transportation on highways. The federal regulations, which are multi-modal, are adopted in one manner or another by each province and territory. It is a cooperative effort, and this government works in cooperation with our other partners in the provinces and territories. The current act and regulations are enforced by federal and provincial inspectors.
The Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act provides the federal government with the authority to develop policy, to verify compliance, to conduct research to enhance safety, to guide emergency response, and to develop regulations and standards to manage risk and promote public safety during the transportation of dangerous goods.
An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure, and we are working at the start instead of just the end. Before a shipment can be made, the person who offers for transport or imports the dangerous goods must, and I repeat must, submit an emergency response assistance plan to the transportation of dangerous goods directorate. These plans are reviewed by experts and if they are satisfied that the plans would be able to appropriately respond to an emergency, they are approved.
There are currently about 1,000 approved emergency response assistance plans that industry uses to respond to accidental release of dangerous goods. These important emergency response assistance plans assist local emergency responders by providing them access to 24-hour technical experts and specialized equipment in the event of an incident involving dangerous goods.
The plans are required to explain how specialists and other personnel with knowledge, equipment and skills will be available to respond following an incident involving their dangerous goods.
Prior to the changes put forward in Bill C-9, these plans would not be available to governments or first responders should there be a security incident involving dangerous goods. That is right; prior to these changes these plans would not be available.
These new changes will enhance public safety, and most Canadians would agree, by enabling a response to a terrorist incident involving dangerous goods just like that of an incident following an accident. In addition, the bill will enable the government to authorize a person with an approved emergency response assistance plan to implement the plan in order to respond to an orphaned release of dangerous goods when the identity of the responsible person is not known. This is important.
In committee we heard from industry that it supports the use of its emergency response assistance plan to respond following a government request to security incidents involving dangerous goods.
Industry testified that it sought recovery of its costs associated with response and that the government provide indemnity protection during the requested response time. This is important for the industry because those costs can be prohibitive in some cases. This is what Bill C-9 does and this is why industry supports it so strongly.
There was a lot of discussion in committee about the important and new security prevention program proposed in Bill C-9. The prevention program includes: requiring security plans and security training; providing the authority for transportation and security clearances for the dangerous goods, as well as an appeals process; providing for interim orders and security measures; authorizing regulations to be made to require that dangerous goods are tracked during transport; and authorizing regulations to be made to require that dangerous goods be reported if they are lost or stolen during their importation, their handling, their offering for transport, or their transport. These are five very important provisions to keep Canadians safe.
Bill C-9 would provide the authority to establish performance regulations for security plans and training based on international and United Nations recommendations and aligned with existing U.S. regulations. It would also enable regulations to be made to establish security requirements for tracking dangerous goods as well as regulations to be made to require companies to report lost or stolen dangerous goods.
In August 2005 the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users, or better known as SAFETEA-LU, came into force in the United States. This act requires commercial motor vehicle drivers licensed in Canada or licensed in Mexico transporting dangerous goods into and within the United States in truckload quantities to undergo a background check, much like the security clearance we proposed. These are similar to those required for United States truck drivers transporting truckload quantities of dangerous goods in the United States. Quite frankly, it makes sense.
Canadian drivers are currently satisfying these provisions if they have been accepted into the free and secure trade, FAST, programs of the Canada Border Services Agency and the U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection. However, the United States still expects Canada to implement a long-term solution. This government has a long-term vision and long-term solutions for the best interests of Canadians. The bill before us today will provide the authority to establish the long-term solution by establishing a transportation security clearance program.
There was much discussion in committee on this component of the prevention program. Industry and union representatives all indicated a preference for a Canadian program, one where an appeal application and appeal are done in Canada as the preferred clearance program. This is what Bill C-9 provides. This is what industry wants and it is what we are delivering for Canada, a Canadian program.
We also heard from witnesses that with the upcoming Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics there is a strong need for Bill C-9. An amended Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act will provide the right tools to support a safe and secure Olympic games. This is important for Canada on the world stage.
Witnesses spoke to the committee specifically on the importance of passing this legislation as quickly as possible so that Canadians can be protected should Canada be a target before, during, or after the Olympics of a security incident using dangerous goods. With the passage of Bill C-9, government, acting on intelligence provided by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police or the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, would be able to use immediately the emergency regulatory instruments in Bill C-9, the use of interim orders and security measures, to prevent an incident during the transportation of dangerous goods.
They would also be able to provide help to first responders during the response to a terrorist incident involving dangerous goods using industry's Transport Canada approved emergency response assistance program, again a Canadian-made program for Canadian interests. Canada has a strict and vigorous dangerous goods program, one that was built primarily on preventing safety incidents during the transportation of dangerous goods, but also covering responses to actual or anticipated releases of dangerous goods.
With the passage of an amended Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, public safety will be enhanced through the inclusion of a world-class security prevention and response program to the existing safety program. This is important. These enhancements are important to keep Canadians safe.
In conclusion, Bill C-9 is extremely important for the promotion and enhancement of public safety. In fact, our international and domestic partners have been waiting for these changes for some time.
I commend the committee on bringing this bill forward as quickly as possible. I encourage all members to vote to pass this bill so that our colleagues in the other place can start the process of reviewing this bill without delay and we can get one step closer to this very important bill becoming law. Together we can take one step further to protect Canadians and Canadian interests.