Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to speak to Bill C-3 which is the follow-up bill to Bill C-57 from the last session of this House, which has not passed by now, in part, because the House was prorogued for an unusually long period of time. It is unfortunate, because I think we would have dispatched this legislation much more efficiently had we been sitting here.
In many respects, what we are seeing in the bill is a piecemeal or what I might even describe as an incoherent approach to transportation safety policy in Canada. Small things are trickling out in dribs and drabs without a comprehensive approach to transportation safety in the country to deal with the important issues that have been raised, by many speakers, on marine transportation, rail transportation, passenger safety, and beyond, of course.
The bill is mostly about technical amendments, and the Liberal Party of Canada will be supporting sending the bill to committee.
It has different parts. Part 1, enacting the aviation industry indemnity act, would allow aviation participants, in the event of loss or damage, to deal with what are called “war risks”. This flows from the attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001, when insurance companies stopped offering air carriers liability insurance for what are typically called war risks. That is part 1 of the bill. I am looking to hearing more about it at committee.
Part 2 amends the Aeronautics Act to establish a new procedure for investigating accidents or incidents involving civilians and military aircraft. Again, for clauses 10 to 26, I am looking forward to seeing more evidence to substantiate the new process in the Aeronautics Act that will allow for investigation of accidents that involve civilians and military aircraft or installations. That will be important to go through.
Part 3 amends the Canada Marine Act in relation to the effective date of the appointment of a director of a port authority. That is more or less standard fare. It is very much housekeeping.
Part 4 amends the Marine Liability Act to implement the International Convention on Liability and Compensation for Damage in Connection with the Carriage of Hazardous and Noxious Substances by Sea. This effectively provides for the liability of ship owners and operators for damage caused by pollutants. In particular, it finally implements in Canada the liability scheme established pretty much elsewhere internationally by the several international conventions that are already in place.
We are making progress in terms of these small amendments.
Finally, part 5 amends the Canada Shipping Act to introduce new requirements for operators of oil handling facilities, ostensibly, the governments says, to help produce a world-class tanker safety system. I cannot help but be struck by “world-class tanker safety system”, when the government rushed through licences in the Beaufort Sea, with full knowledge that there is no technology to deal with potential spills should there be one in that most fragile Canadian sea.
Let us turn to the overall context within which I think this bill has been presented and what is happening out there among Canadians.
First, the Lac-Mégantic tragedy shook the country. Obviously, it affected Quebeckers, the people of Lac-Mégantic and their families. This tragedy, which still weighs heavy on the minds of Canadians, stunned us and affected us deeply.
We had also a bus-train collision here in the city of Ottawa. We had a derailment in Calgary, which Mayor Nenshi spoke of some time ago, and of course, we had the derailment over the weekend in Gainford, Alberta. There are so many more instances of rail safety questions.
The bill is being deposited at a time when we are debating pipelines. We are debating pipelines heading west, the gateway pipeline. We are debating pipelines heading south, the Keystone pipeline, and of course there is the question of Line 9, reversing the flow of a pipeline between Sarnia and Montreal to provide more feedstock for eastern Canadian refineries.
I would pause for a moment and say that I think the government has seriously compromised Canada's reputation with respect to its dealings on the Keystone pipeline. It has, in fact, weakened us. For that matter, to a certain extent, it has even weakened the democratic presidency of President Obama by actually not working with American congressional leaders and the President's office to show that Canada is serious about climate change. Because we have been delaying, denying, dragging our feet, making up stories, and hitching our wagon to President Obama, and at other points to somebody else or to some other factor, Canada is now very much behind the eight ball. When it comes to Washington, and, I can certainly confirm from international experience, elsewhere, Canada is now considered to be a pariah on the climate change file. In a sense, this is how the Prime Minister has seriously compromised our reputation in Washington and has put the Keystone pipeline very much at risk.
As I said, Canadians are very concerned about a few things. They see these instances on television and read about them in the newspapers. They are very concerned about passenger safety, community safety, and marine safety, of course. They are concerned about the transport of dangerous substances and what is happening in their local municipalities with trains running in and out. They are very concerned about environmental protection. One of the least well-known fallout effects of the Lac Mégantic tragedy is the fact that it is going to take decades, and probably hundreds of million if not billions of dollars to clean up the affected watershed in that region. That is something we let slip, to a certain extent, in coverage outside Quebec.
Another factor at play, of course, is that there is a trend toward moving more and more oil in Canada by rail. This is worthy of exploring so that Canadians understand what is happening. There are important fundamental questions about our aging Canadian rail infrastructure. There are important questions being raised about the types of railcars that have been used, both in Canada and the United States, for decades and their safety and engineering standards, for example.
Why is there such a trend toward moving more and more oil in Canada by rail? The first reason is that North American oil production is outpacing pipeline capacity. For example, rail shipments of oil to our coastal refineries or export centres have gone from about 6,000 train carloads in 2009 to almost 14,000 carloads this year. That is a massive and significant increase in moving oil by rail. We have seen a concomitant investment by the railway companies in new cars and new capacity to carry more oil, of course, because they want an ever-increasing share of that market opportunity, as one would expect from a private company.
The second reason we are seeing more oil carried by rail is that, as I mentioned, railways want to increase their market share. They have seized upon an opportunity here, because shipping oil by rail as a substitute idea is being encouraged by the Conservatives as a way to circumvent the approval processes, which they often have been weakening or undermining, whether it is the NEB or environmental assessment. We know that this is the case. We have seen it. It has been happening now for years. They are also trying, in certain quarters, to circumvent strong or ferocious opposition to different ideas being put forward by industrial proponents. That is having another effect. It is another force at play that is driving oil onto our railways.
The third factor is that there is enormous pressure on our infrastructure, and I alluded to this, for both rail and pipeline. Even if all current pipeline projects are approved in Canada, oil production will exceed pipeline capacity by one million barrels a day by 2025. That is, in 12 short years we will exceed our pipeline capacity by one million barrels a day.
The first thing I thought of when I came face to face with this statistic was to reflect on the words of the former premier of Alberta Peter Lougheed who asked some very probative and profound questions about the pace of development in our oil sands, whether or not we were having an adult conversation about that pace, whether the effects in the immediate areas were going to be properly mitigated, and so on and so forth. We see that there is a massive push and rush to increase capacity in terms of oil production but not the infrastructure to deal with it.
On that note, pressure on rail, of course, is coming from a plan of doubling oil sands exploitation over the next decade or so. The pressure is also coming from the 10 to 12-year life span of the very huge Bakken shale gas formation in both North Dakota and Montana. There we are seeing an oil and gas field that is presently producing some 700,000 barrels of oil a day. Now, the estimates are that would last for 10 to 12 years with production rising from 700,000 to one million barrels a day.
Interestingly, the light crude on board the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway that exploded in Lac-Mégantic came from this area, the Bakken shale gas formation, on route to an Irving Oil refinery in Saint John, New Brunswick. Bakken, as a project does not lend itself, say the energy economists, to a pipeline because it is not economic. It takes some 50 years for a pipeline to be judged to be economic, to pay for itself, and this, as I mentioned, has a 10 to 12-year remaining shelf life in terms of exploitation of the gas and oil in that particular reserve.
Another important question at play in context as the bill is brought to the floor is the following.
There are some very serious and legitimate questions being raised with respect to the enforcement of railway safety by Transport Canada. Nowhere is this more evident than in the safety management systems, SMSs, which rail companies are required to produce and abide by. For that matter, different companies involved and regulated by Transport Canada also have safety management systems; airlines, for example. However, these safety management systems are not rendered public. They are not made available or disclosed to interested parties, such as stakeholders, flying passengers, company executives, folks who work on railways, people who are in the business of insuring railways and the shipment of these risky products. These safety management systems are not disclosed.
I think we can do a lot better than that in terms of the probity and transparency that Canadians are asking for and deserve going forward.
Transport Canada, once these safety management systems are put in place, then perform audits on a company's SMS. However, for the audits on railways, and the same thing applies with pipeline companies, there is no requirement for an explicit, what we might call, safety culture assessment. An auditor can go in and audit against a document and spot check. However, that does not necessarily mean that there is an explicit requirement for the auditors and inspectors to sit down with senior managers, interview employees, deal with suppliers, talk to other regulators at the provincial level for railways that do not cross provincial boundaries, and so on and so forth.
We can do a lot better with respect to these safety management systems in making them more transparent. I think that transparency shining the light of day on these management systems would help improve them.
I have also heard from a number of inspectors who are retired from Transport Canada or presently working within Transport Canada. They are deeply concerned about the capacity of Transport Canada to perform these audits on safety management systems on a number of fronts, whether it is marine shipping, airlines, railways and beyond.
There are very troubling questions being raised by these inspectors who are good people, of good faith and goodwill, who go to work every day and try to do their jobs, but are now feeling the pinch as they try to cover so many different regulated companies and do not have the capacity to do so. That is something we are going to have to explore in a much more meaningful way at committee in due course, whether it is with respect to the bill or with respect to the promised, deep railway-safety study that the committee was supposed to undertake this fall in the wake of early findings from the Transportation Safety Board in terms of its learnings derived from the tragedy at Lac-Mégantic.
Shifting gears a bit, in some respects the bill would address the liability question but only tangentially, as I mentioned earlier. There are lingering questions. Most Canadians, once they are over the shock of something as dramatic as a bus in this city, here in my backyard just outside my riding, colliding with a train where citizens are killed, or 47 of their fellow citizens having died in Lac-Mégantic, then questions around who is responsible come to the fore. Here is where we as parliamentarians are going to have to examine very carefully the whole question of liability. Who is responsible for the liability, the costs? Who is responsible for indemnifying, for example, the Town of Lac-Mégantic? Who is responsible for helping the families of the victims, those who may be disabled in an accident and those who feel the effects on their human health, perhaps? Who is responsible with respect to spills at sea? Who is responsible for spills on land and environmental cleanup costs? I alluded to that earlier with respect to Lac-Mégantic.
We have seen what happened with a major spill on the Kalamazoo River in Michigan in the United States. We have seen what the National Transportation Safety Board has said about that in the United States which, in parentheses, concerns me because that NTSB evidence is not being heard at the National Energy Board in Canada as Enbridge makes applications for different kinds of pipeline projects. I believe that we should be examining global practice. What has happened in one jurisdiction is something we should be learning from in this jurisdiction, and vice versa.
When our Canadian Transportation Safety Board issues a report eventually and finally on Lac-Mégantic and that terrible tragedy, there will be many findings that are capable of being extrapolated to other countries and locations. I do not know why the Conservatives have closed and narrowed the evidentiary acceptability gap, if I can call it that, at the National Energy Board to the point where the findings of the NTSB in Washington are not being factored into applications being made by a proponent in Canada. It just makes no sense. Most corporations today, as they work hard to earn their social licence, want to be able to have a global code and standard of practice and drive it up everywhere together, roughly at the same time and in the same way.
We have a lot of questions with respect to who is responsible and who is liable.
I had a constituent write to me recently and ask whether liability should extend here to the company that was actually importing the oil, and in this case, whether the Irving Oil refinery is responsible in part. Should it have some fiduciary responsibility? That is an important question for us to examine.
We need a comprehensive approach going forward. It is a wonderful opportunity for parliamentarians to get it better for Canadians. There is fear in Canadian society. We have an obligation to assuage that fear by doing good and better work. I am concerned about what the Auditor General concluded in a report in 2011, which stated that, “Transport Canada has not designed and implemented the management practices needed to effectively monitor regulatory compliance” with respect to the transportation of dangerous goods as set out by the department.
We can do better than that. We owe it to Canadians. We owe it to our companies. We owe it to shippers. We owe it to all the folks out there with good faith and goodwill who want to ensure we actually do better and do right by Canadians.