moved that Bill C-61, An Act to amend the Canada-Newfoundland Atlantic Accord Implementation Act, the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act and other Acts and to provide for certain other measures, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I want to congratulate the hard work of our government and especially the Minister of Finance for the work that has led to the creation of over one million net new jobs for Canadians. This is a great achievement and demonstrates that our economic action plan is working.
We are here today to talk about the new legislative provisions to amend the Atlantic accord implementation acts, in order extend occupational health and safety jurisdictions to Canada's offshore areas.
Before we talk more about these legislative provisions, I would like to set the stage by emphasizing how vital the natural and offshore resources industry is to Atlantic Canada and to our country's economy.
There is no question the offshore oil and gas industries have made an enormous economic contribution to Newfoundland and Labrador, and Nova Scotia. Indeed, it is not an exaggeration to say that these industries have transformed the economy of eastern Canada. Not long ago the province of Newfoundland and Labrador was receiving the highest per capita equalization payments in the country.
Today it is among our strongest provincial economies and now contributes to the equalization program. Newfoundland and Labrador's GDP has performed at or above the national average in 9 of the past 13 years. A large part of that success comes from offshore oil and gas, which accounted for 33% of Newfoundland and Labrador's GDP in 2011.
Resource revenues, again primarily from the offshore, have allowed the province to steadily pay down its debt. The total provincial debt was almost $7.7 billion in 2012, down from a high of $12 billion just eight years ago.
Simply put, offshore energy development has given Newfoundland and Labrador more jobs, lower taxes and new investments in services and infrastructure that play such an important role in building stronger communities. These benefits will continue to grow.
As members knows, Hibernia was the largest project of any kind ever undertaken in Newfoundland and Labrador. As valuable as Hibernia has been, the Hebron project may be even bigger. Hebron represents a capital investment of as much as $14 billion. It could deliver $20 billion in taxes and royalties to the province over the 30-year life of the project.
Just a few months ago, the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board announced its latest calls for bids for exploration licences in offshore Newfoundland and Labrador, netting $117 million in work commitments by major players in the oil industry.
Nova Scotia's offshore area also offers enormous potential. The Play Fairway Analysis undertaken by the Government of Nova Scotia estimates that the offshore area may contain 8 billion barrels of oil and 3.3 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
The Atlantic offshore is a major gas producer with three gas fields serving Atlantic Canada and the U.S. northeast. In the past two years, the Nova Scotia offshore area has seen the largest bids ever for offshore parcels in Atlantic Canada with more than a total of $2 billion bid for 12 parcels of land. Shell Canada and BP Exploration clearly see the potential that exists in the Nova Scotia offshore.
Meanwhile, there is an estimated 120 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and production continues to grow. Sable Island's 270 million cubic feet a day will soon be joined by 200 million cubic feet a day from Deep Panuke.
It is essential that Canada continue to ensure that our offshore industries carry out their activities safely by abiding by the most stringent environmental standards. Canadians expect to see a world-class regulatory body. Our government is taking the measures necessary to ensure Canadians' continued satisfaction in this regard.
That is why we are bringing in new legislation. We want to clarify provincial and federal responsibilities when it comes to occupational health and safety in offshore areas.
The accord's implementation acts are the cornerstone of all oil and gas activities in the offshore area. They give the boards the legal authority to regulate oil and gas activities on behalf of the provinces.
Every day, Canada's offshore workers have to deal with a difficult work environment. The harsh weather conditions in Atlantic Canada and the remoteness of their workplace are just two difficulties that come to mind. The safety of the courageous men and women who work in this environment must and always will be our main concern.
The changes we intend to make need to be mirrored by provincial legislation in order for the amendments to come into force. Our government has been working closely with the governments of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia to achieve this. Both provinces introduced their legislation in May, and both have given royal assent to their respective bills. At this time, they must wait for the legislation to pass our federal Parliament for the new regime to come to fruition.
The proposed amendments will address gaps in the current legislation. They will vest authority for offshore occupational health and safety in the accord acts.
There are two safety regimes that apply to workers in the offshore. Occupational health and safety pertains to the workers, in the sense of the hazards they may face, their protective equipment, and the safeguards on the equipment they use in their functions. It also pertains to three essential worker rights: the right to refuse dangerous work, the right to information, and the right to participate in taking decisions on workplace health and safety.
Under the current regime, occupational health and safety is a jurisdiction of the provinces. Operational safety pertains to the workplace systems, facilities and equipment, as well as the risk management and integrity of those systems, facilities and equipment. Examples of this are the prevention of gas blowout, ability of a facility to withstand storms, and fire suppression systems. This was included in the accord acts and provided that the offshore petroleum boards be responsible on behalf of both levels of government.
Following a tragic accident where a worker was killed due to an improperly installed door, the overlap of occupational health and safety and operational safety created a grey area. It was not clear whether the door's installation fell under one jurisdiction or the other. The lack of clarity prevented any party from being liable, as it was unclear under whose jurisdiction the incident should be regulated. The provinces and federal government agreed that the best course of action was to eliminate the grey area and incorporate the power for occupational health and safety directly in the accord acts.
For the section on occupational health and safety, which typically would fall under the purview of the Minister of Labour, the legislation specifies that the Minister of Natural Resources may receive advice from the Minister of Labour, and any regulations related to occupational health and safety must be made on the recommendation of both ministers.
In addition to fixing this historic issue, the legislation establishes a hierarchy of responsibility that makes—