Energy Safety and Security Act

An Act respecting Canada's offshore oil and gas operations, enacting the Nuclear Liability and Compensation Act, repealing the Nuclear Liability Act and making consequential amendments to other Acts

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in August 2015.


Joe Oliver  Conservative


This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.


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

Part 1 of this enactment amends the Canada Oil and Gas Operations Act, the Canada Petroleum Resources Act, the Canada-Newfoundland Atlantic Accord Implementation Act and the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act (the “Acts”) primarily to update, strengthen and increase the level of transparency of the liability regime that is applicable to spills and debris in the offshore areas.
More specifically, Part 1, among other things,
(a) expressly includes the “polluter pays” principle, which is consistent with the notion that the liability of at-fault operators is unlimited;
(b) increases to $1 billion the limit of liability, without proof of fault or negligence, to which certain operators are subject in the event of a spill or damages caused by debris;
(c) provides that an applicant for an authorization for the drilling for or development or production of oil or gas must demonstrate that it has the financial resources required to pay the greatest of the amounts of the limits of liability that apply to it;
(d) establishes a regime in respect of the development of transboundary pools and fields;
(e) provides for new circumstances in which information or documentation that is privileged may be disclosed;
(f) establishes a legal framework to permit the safe use of spill-treating agents in specific circumstances;
(g) harmonizes the environmental assessment process for projects for which the National Energy Board, the Canada-Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board or the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board is the responsible authority, as defined in the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012, with the requirements of that Act, including by establishing timelines for carrying out environmental assessments and creating participant funding programs to facilitate the participation of the public in environmental assessments; and
(h) creates administrative monetary penalty regimes.
Finally, Part 1 makes amendments to remove certain discrepancies between the English and French versions of the Acts, as well as to modernize the language in the Acts.
Part 2 of the enactment repeals the Nuclear Liability Act and enacts the Nuclear Liability and Compensation Act to strengthen the liability regime applicable after a nuclear incident. It also provides for the establishment, in certain circumstances, of an administrative tribunal to hear and decide claims and implements certain provisions of the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage. It also makes consequential amendments to other Acts.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.


Sept. 25, 2014 Passed That, in relation to Bill C-22, An Act respecting Canada's offshore oil and gas operations, enacting the Nuclear Liability and Compensation Act, repealing the Nuclear Liability Act and making consequential amendments to other Acts, not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration of the third reading stage of the Bill; and That,15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Business on the day allotted to the consideration of the third reading stage of the said Bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and, in turn, every question necessary for the disposal of the said stage of the Bill shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment.
May 29, 2014 Passed That, in relation to Bill C-22, An Act respecting Canada's offshore oil and gas operations, enacting the Nuclear Liability and Compensation Act, repealing the Nuclear Liability Act and making consequential amendments to other Acts, not more than five further hours shall be allotted to the consideration at second reading stage of the Bill; and that, 15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the third day allotted to the consideration at second reading stage of the said Bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and, in turn, every question necessary for the disposal of the said stage of the Bill shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment.

Energy Safety and Security ActGovernment Orders

March 25th, 2014 / 10:10 a.m.
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Kenora Ontario


Greg Rickford ConservativeMinister of Natural Resources and Minister for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario

moved that Bill C-22, An Act respecting Canada's offshore oil and gas operations, enacting the Nuclear Liability and Compensation Act, repealing the Nuclear Liability Act and making consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I want to take this opportunity to thank my constituents from the great Kenora riding for their support over the past almost six years and in this capacity to serve them as the minister responsible for natural resources.

I want to take this opportunity today to highlight our government's action on energy safety and security in Canada's offshore and nuclear energy industries.

Our government is determined to maintain a world-class liability regime in Canada's offshore and nuclear energy industries.

We are responsible for ensuring the safety and protection of Canadians and our environment. We are committed to authorizing only development that can be done safely.

One of the key elements of the legislation would raise the absolute liability limits in both the offshore and nuclear sectors to $1 billion. These changes would bring Canada's offshore and nuclear liability limits in line with the international community. This important measure would be proactive action to ensure that if there were an accident, taxpayers would not be on the hook.

For oil spills, these changes would help further strengthen safety and security to prevent incidents and ensure a quick response in the unlikely event of a spill.

In our Speech from the Throne, we were clear. We will enshrine the polluter pays principle in law. We also committed to increasing the required liability insurance and setting higher safety standards for companies operating offshore.

Bill C-22 would achieve these goals.

Regarding the management of Canada's offshore oil and gas industry; as we know, Canada's booming offshore oil and gas industry has transformed the economy of Atlantic Canada. The offshore industry has pumped billions of dollars into Canada's economy and provided thousands of employment opportunities. Offshore development is currently one of the fastest-growing sectors in Canada. Right now, there are five major projects currently producing in the Atlantic offshore.

As my hon. colleagues know, Canada's environmental record in the Atlantic offshore is already very strong.

Our responsible development plan strengthens environmental protection by focusing resources on reviews of major projects.

Our government has put forward new fines to punish those who would break Canada's rigorous environmental protections. We have also increased the number of inspections and comprehensive audits of federally regulated pipelines. What is more, we are bringing in tough new measures for oil tankers, to ensure the safe transport of our energy resources through our waterways. These measures include the introduction of the safeguarding Canada's seas and skies act and the formation of an expert review panel to examine Canada's current tanker safety regime and propose ways to strengthen it. Building on these measures, our government is taking important, tangible steps today to make our already-robust offshore liability regime even stronger.

As many of my Atlantic Canadian colleagues know well, the Government of Canada shares the management of the Newfoundland and Labrador offshore area and the Nova Scotia offshore area with both of the respective provincial governments. Offshore oil and gas projects, therefore, are regulated by either the Canada–Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board or the Canada–Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board. Each board ensures that operators exercise due diligence to prevent spills from occurring in Canada's offshore. With this in mind, we have worked closely with these two provinces to update and expand legislation to ensure that Canada's offshore rules remain world-class.

Regarding the key changes to offshore liability, this legislation would ensure that the liability limits reflect modern standards. The current offshore petroleum regime specifies that operators have an absolute liability for up to $30 million. Given the value of the resource and the capacity of those who develop it, all members can agree that this amount needs to be raised. That is why we would increase the benchmark by 33 times its current level to an absolute liability limit of $1 billion. Doing so would bring Canada in line with similar regimes in Norway, Denmark, and the United Kingdom.

We also need to ensure that companies operating in the offshore have the financial capacity to meet these and their obligations. Before any offshore drilling or production activity can take place, companies must prove that they can cover the financial liabilities that may result from a spill. Typically, the financial capacity requirements can range from $250 million to $500 million, with $30 million to be held as a deposit to work in the Atlantic offshore and $40 million to work in the Arctic. This deposit is held in trust by the offshore regulator as a letter of credit, guarantee, or bond.

With these legislative amendments, the minimum financial capacity would be raised to $1 billion, in line with operator’s absolute liability. Regulators may require higher amounts if deemed necessary and, in addition, we would increase the amount of funds to which operators have unfettered access to $100 million per operator. Industry would also have the option of setting up a minimum $250 million pooled fund, and operators could choose to use membership in such a fund to serve as their financial responsibility. We would also establish a cost-recovery regime for regulatory services provided by the offshore boards. I am pleased to say that the companies operating in Canada's Atlantic and Arctic offshore would be subject to one of the highest absolute liability standards in the world.

Regarding the nuclear industry, the second important part of this legislation focuses on updating the absolute liabilities for nuclear energy. In fact, it is one of the main reasons that our electricity supply is one of the cleanest in the world; 77% of Canada's electricity mix is non-emitting. Our government recognizes the importance of the industry to the Canadian economy. The industry generates nearly $5 billion a year in revenues and provides jobs for more than 30,000 Canadians. This is the number of jobs that the New Democrats want to destroy with their anti-nuclear position. We know that nuclear energy can be generated safely. In fact, Canada's nuclear safety record is exemplary and there has never been a claim under Canada's Nuclear Liability Act.

Our nuclear industry has sound technology, a qualified workforce and stringent regulatory requirements. However, as a responsible government, we must ensure that our security system is up to date and able to respond to any incidents that may occur.

The responsibility for providing a liability and compensation regime, a solid framework to protect Canadians and provide stability to this important industry, falls under federal jurisdiction. The Government of Canada, then, has a duty to all Canadians to assume its responsibilities in this area, and we are committed to doing so.

Although the basic principles underlying Canada's nuclear liability legislation remain valid, the Nuclear Liability Act is nearly 40 years old. It needs updating to address issues that have arisen over the years and to keep pace with international developments. Bill C-22 serves to strengthen and modernize Canada's nuclear liability regime. The proposed legislation is a major step forward in modernizing this act. It puts Canada in line with internationally accepted compensation levels and clarifies the definition for compensation, spelling out exactly what is covered and the process for claiming compensation.

This bill is the culmination of many years of consultations involving extensive discussions with major stakeholders, including Canada's nuclear utilities, the governments of nuclear power generating provinces, and the Nuclear Insurance Association of Canada. This is the fifth time that this nuclear legislation has been introduced, and I hope my hon. colleagues recognize the critical need for finally passing this legislation in a timely manner.

Let me be clear. If it had not been for the past filibustering by the NDP, the nuclear liability limits would already have been updated. It is my sincere hope that New Democrats will have a more reasonable approach this time around to modernizing nuclear liability. Bill C-22 significantly improves the claims compensation process, increases the financial liability of nuclear operators for damages, and provides greater legal certainty for the nuclear industry in Canada.

Like the offshore sector, under Bill C-22, the nuclear industry will also see an increase in the amount of operator liability, which would go from $75 million to $1 billion.

A liability of $1 billion balances the need for operators to provide compensation without burdening them with exorbitant costs for unrealistic insurance amounts, amounts for events that are highly unlikely to occur in this country. It is critical to remember that liability must be within the capacity of insurers, otherwise taxpayers would be held accountable for the cost. The $1 billion strikes that balance between protecting ratepayers and holding companies to account in the event of an accident.

Let me assure all hon. members that the new legislation will maintain the key strengths of the existing legislation. Most importantly, it will mean that the liability of the operator will be absolute and exclusive. There would be no need to prove fault, and nobody else would be held liable. Our government would also provide increased coverage for lower-risk nuclear facilities, such as small research reactors at Canadian universities.

Bill C-22 also features other key improvements.

First, Bill C-22 will broaden the definition of compensable damage in order to include physical injury, economic loss, preventive measures and environmental damage.

Second, it would extend the limitation period for submitting compensation claims. The limitation period for bodily injury claims, for example, would be expanded from 10 to 30 years. This would help to address latent illnesses that may be detected many years after an accident or incident. This is another way that our government is continuing to protect Canadians.

Finally, Bill C-22 will establish the authority to implement a simplified process for dealing with claims that can replace the regular court proceedings if necessary. This would allow Canadians to submit their claims more quickly and effectively.

Our government is taking concrete steps to address important issues for the nuclear sector. This includes responsible management of legacy waste; restructuring of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, AECL; and promoting international trade.

When it comes to nuclear power, we are talking about a global issue that knows no borders. I am very proud to announce that Bill C-22 will also serve to implement the provisions of the International Atomic Energy Agency's Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage.

My colleague signed the convention and tabled it in Parliament in December. The convention is an international instrument to address nuclear civil liability in the unlikely event of a nuclear incident.

By adhering to this convention, Canada will bolster its domestic compensation regime by up to $450 million by bringing in significant new funding. This would bring the total potential compensation in Canada up to $1.45 billion.

Joining this convention also reinforces our commitment to building a strong global nuclear liability regime. It is important that Canada's legislation is consistent with international conventions, not only financial issues, but also in regard to what constitutes a nuclear incident, what qualifies for compensation and other matters.

These changes will help establish a level playing field for Canadian nuclear supply companies, which welcome the certainty of providing their services in a country that is a member of the convention.

Given that our closest neighbour, the United States, is already a member of the convention, our membership will allow the two countries to establish civil liability treaty relations.

Korea and Japan have also signalled their intention to sign the convention. Once Canada becomes a member, the convention will be one step closer to becoming a reality.

In conclusion, these are just some of the ways that our government is ensuring that Canada is amongst the strongest liability regimes in the world. Bill C-22 provides a solid framework to regulate the offshore and nuclear liability regimes in Canada.

Although an offshore or nuclear incident is highly unlikely, we have to be prepared to deal with such incidents, which could result in cleanup, liability or other costs. Bill C-22 seeks to help prepare for that possibility. Its legislative provisions focus on the responsible promotion and development of our offshore and nuclear industries, which are essential.

In closing, I urge all honourable members to support this important piece of legislation.

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March 25th, 2014 / 10:25 a.m.
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Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, let me begin by congratulating the member for Kenora for becoming the Minister of Natural Resources. I certainly look forward to working with him, not just on Bill C-22, but on all of the files in the portfolio.

I do regret that the minister started his new career by pointing fingers at the NDP for ostensibly holding up bills in the past, in particular this bill on nuclear liability, when in fact that is a bit of revisionist history. I would remind the member that the truth is that the Prime Minister killed his own legislation, in 2008, when he ignored his own fixed election date, and, in 2009, when he prorogued Parliament. He let Bill C-15, the predecessor of Bill C-22, sit around for a year, until the 2011 election.

Let me move on to a question this morning. I am pleased to see that while we have been revisiting this bill for the fifth time, the government has actually increased the liability limit from $650 million to $1 billion. However, there are a number of countries that believe there ought not to be a cap on liability at all. Some of those countries include Germany, Japan, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Austria, and Switzerland, all of which have unlimited liability when it comes to nuclear power plants.

I believe, and I think my NDP colleagues all believe as well, that liability has to be strong enough so that a nuclear or offshore disaster never happens and that operators put the best safety measures into place.

I wonder whether the minister would, first of all, comment on why the government chose to limit liability at just $1 billion and, second, whether he would be agreeable in committee to looking at expanding that liability limit to be more in line with other international standards.

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March 25th, 2014 / 10:25 a.m.
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Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the kind words of my colleague. I look forward to working with her in her new role as the critic for this portfolio.

With respect to the liability question, obviously it would be fairly predictable for the NDP to use words like “no liability”, meaning no limits of money. That is not true. We should not expect that from our taxpayers. We have to be fair and reasonable to the industry.

A liability limit of $1 billion would mean Canada has among the highest limits in the world. There are countries who are doing this with certain success and Canada wants to be atop that, not just because we want to set an international standard with partner countries, but for the protection of Canadians as well.

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March 25th, 2014 / 10:30 a.m.
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François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member opposite for such an interesting speech. This is a first step, and it is time something was done to make up for time lost in recent years. However, like my colleague and our critic stated, I do not accept his claim that we on this side are responsible for the delays.

The member spoke about taxpayers. As Canadians, we are all taxpayers who participate in the Canadian economy. There is a $1-billion cap. According to several experts, this is really just another subsidy for oil and gas companies that are already benefiting from billions of dollars in subsidies.

Does the member not think, as we in the NDP do, that the most extreme form of the polluter pays principle should apply here, meaning that there should be no cap and the polluter should be the one to pay? If the polluter is unable to pay, it should not be conducting oil exploration in the gulf, for example.

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March 25th, 2014 / 10:30 a.m.
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Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canada's current absolute liability limits have not been updated since the 1980s. This bill will ensure that Canada's offshore regime for oil and gas, specifically for which the hon. member put the question, remains world class. A $1 billion absolute liability would place Canada's regime squarely among those of its peer countries.

In cases of fault or negligence, liability remains unlimited.

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March 25th, 2014 / 10:30 a.m.
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Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, in Canada we often benchmark ourselves with the United States, which is our major trading partner. We share many common regulations and standards. We often partner with it in terms of research on public safety.

Many of our international partners have much better protection when it comes to nuclear liability than what the Conservatives are proposing. The U.S. has an absolute liability regime of $12.6 billion U.S.

My question is, why would the Conservatives not want at least the level of liability that the Americans have in this field? Why would we have such a puny liability level compared with our major trading partner?

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March 25th, 2014 / 10:30 a.m.
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Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is not correct to say that the liability limit is $12 billion in the United States, as its system is different from that of other countries. The operators' liability insurance is capped at $375 million. In the event of an accident resulting in damages exceeding the operators' liability insurance, all U.S. operators, 104 reactors, would also contribute up to $125 million for each reactor that they operate. That would make available a compensation pool of a maximum of $13 billion, should it be required.

I can say to the member that this type of pooling system would not be feasible in Canada, given that we have far fewer nuclear reactors. We have 19, as compared to 104 in the United States.

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March 25th, 2014 / 10:30 a.m.
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Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, to begin, I would like to congratulate my colleague on his new role. I hope that bringing new blood to cabinet might result in a new approach.

I would like to hear the minister's thoughts on one point. We know that many of the government bills stealthily confer additional discretionary powers on various ministers.

The same thing is being done with Bill C-22. In fact, the bill provides for ministerial discretion to reduce absolute liability levels to below $1 billion. The level is being increased from $75 million to $1 billion, so it seems like a tremendous step in the right direction. However, a few lines later, we note that the minister can make changes at his discretion.

What does the minister think of that measure, which allows him to rule unchecked?

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March 25th, 2014 / 10:35 a.m.
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Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think the intention here is to modernize. This bill would reflect the realities both for the protection of Canadians and for the industry itself, and move Canada as a leader with other countries to a place, through international conventions, that would in fact modernize this. Therefore, any of the changes, specific or broadly speaking, reflected in this bill is an effort to make sure Canadians have the best protection available under the law and continue to respect the economic benefits of offshore activities and the nuclear sector.

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March 25th, 2014 / 10:35 a.m.
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David Sweet Conservative Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the minister can tell us today what the actual cost to a nuclear power plant operator would be when the liability limit increases to $1 billion. Could he also give us an idea of what the phase-in period is for that?

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March 25th, 2014 / 10:35 a.m.
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Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

Mr. Speaker, under the proposed changes, before any offshore drilling or production activity can take place and during any activity, the proponent must provide evidence that it can actually cover the minimum $1 billion financial liability. The expectation is that the proof of financial resources would at least be equal to the absolute liability limit. Of course, there would be a range of options for proving financial resources, including cash on hand, credit bonds, fixed assets, and insurance. Also, the financial resource requirements would be an ongoing condition of a licence.

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March 25th, 2014 / 10:35 a.m.
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Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today as the newly appointed NDP critic for energy and natural resources to lead off our caucus' participation in the debate on Bill C-22, which has the less than pithy title of an act respecting Canada's offshore oil and gas operations, enacting the nuclear liability and compensation act, repealing the Nuclear Liability Act, and making consequential amendments to other acts.

I would be remiss if I did not say a few words first about my predecessor in this portfolio, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster. I owe him and his staff a huge debt of gratitude for their incredible work on the full range of files that fall under the rubric of energy and natural resources. I stand on their shoulders as we move forward on the important questions of resource management and energy security in our country. I wish the government House leader the best of luck in dealing with the member for Burnaby—New Westminster in his new capacity as NDP House leader.

The government House leader and I were elected at the same time, and I know we both fondly remember the MP for Burnaby—New Westminster's time as our trade critic. We will both remember his tenacious fight against the Panama free trade agreement, which he successfully prevented from being passed on a number of occasions. Without telling tales out of school, I can say he always reminded us in caucus meetings that the bill was a bill that we had to “go to the wall on”, even if it meant sitting past the regular adjournment dates of the House. In each of those instances, he had the full support of our caucus.

Now he is our House leader. I imagine there will be many more instances where he will exhort us to go to the wall. We will follow his lead as unconditionally now as we have in the past. I bet the government House leader is as excited as I am about that. Yikes, I can see him scurrying off now to draft more pre-emptive time allocation motions.

Oh well, those are strategic battles for the days ahead. For now, I am pleased to say that on Bill C-22, the government will have our support at second reading, so that at least we can get the bill to committee and pursue expanded liability there.

However, let me not get ahead of myself. I should first lay out, for those people who may be watching this debate on television today, what this bill is all about. As it stands now, if there is a significant oil spill or nuclear accident, the federal government could be left responsible for damages and cleanup costs in the billions of dollars because there are caps on the liability of reactor operators and companies operating offshore. Increasing those caps would reduce the federal government's exposure and therefore protect Canadian taxpayers. That is what Bill C-22 attempts to do.

It must be noted at the outset that we are only dealing here with costs to the government. The bill does nothing to address the prevention of spills or nuclear accidents, and therefore, both communities and the environment remain highly vulnerable in case of an accident.

Let us look instead at what the bill does address, beginning with the sections that deal with offshore oil and gas liability. Currently, the government and taxpayers are exposed to the financial downside of a catastrophic offshore oil spill by weak liability regimes that cap operator absolute liability at $40 million. Distinct liability regimes govern different aspects of oil and gas development, from pipelines, to rail transport, to offshore drilling. Each regime is in need of fundamental reform.

The oil spill liability reforms in Bill C-22 are limited only to the offshore industry. The government's proposed $1 billion cap for offshore drilling would apply to no-fault liability, while operators would continue to face unlimited liability should they be found to be at fault or negligent. Companies would also be required to demonstrate to the regulators their financial capacity to cover $1 billion in cleanup costs, should they become necessary. Additionally, the bill increases coverage for exploratory drilling operations offshore, production operations, the loading of tankers for transport, and undersea pipelines, such as a natural gas line from Sable Island to the mainland in Atlantic Canada.

However, here is one of the kickers in the bill. It provides for ministerial discretion to reduce absolute liability levels to below even the paltry legislated level of $1 billion. This discretionary provision could undercut the advantages of the legislated increase in the absolute liability limit contained in Bill C-22. It would leave the door wide open for the reduction of absolute liability levels for certain projects as a form of economic incentive for oil and gas development that the government wishes to encourage. Given the Conservative's poor track record in protecting Canada's public interest, this aspect causes us grave concern.

Before my colleagues across the way accuse me of fearmongering, let me just point out that many industry observers adopt the position that operators should face unlimited absolute financial liability for oil spills, as is the case in some other countries, including Norway and Greenland.

Let me just remind members that the offshore BP Gulf oil spill of 2010 is expected to cost as much as $42 billion for total cleanup. That is right. Given the liability limit of $1 billion, that spill alone would leave the government, and therefore taxpayers, on the hook for $41 billion.

Does the government really believe that Canadians should hold the risk for these private companies? If asked, I suspect it would respond with a resounding no.

As this bill proceeds through the legislative process, we might want to reflect on the fact that a German bank, for example, has completely stopped financing offshore oil projects in the Arctic. A spokesperson said:

The further you get into the icy regions, the more expensive everything gets and there are risks that are almost impossible to manage.

Remediation of any spills would cost a fortune.

In part, of course, that is because there is no oil spill response capacity to address a sizeable well blowout or a large scale spill in Arctic waters.

As Martin von Mirbach from the World Wildlife Fund put it:

...there is currently insufficient knowledge and inadequate technology and infrastructure to safely carry out drilling in Canadian Arctic waters. More time is required to address these gaps....

He concludes on a more optimistic note by suggesting that:

...this necessity can become a virtue if at the same time we collectively invest in the research, planning, infrastructure, and dialogue that are the key characteristics of responsible stewardship.

Truthfully, I am not holding my breath. I do not think there are very many Canadians who believe that responsible stewardship ever has been or will be a priority for the Conservative government, but I would love to be surprised. Regardless, the questions raised by Mr. von Mirbach must be explored further with both him and other stakeholders when Bill C-22 finally gets to committee. Not to follow up on those questions would be extremely irresponsible.

Let us leave that for the next stage of the legislative process. For now, let me move on to highlighting the nuclear liability piece of the bill. Here, the impetus for legislating a change lies in the fact that the existing liability limit of $75 million was created to support the industry in the 1950s. It is so low that international courts simply would not recognize it. Therefore, to boost foreign investment in nuclear power in Canada, a legislative change was needed. That process began in 2008, and this is now the fifth time that the Conservatives have brought in a bill to try to deal with its woefully inadequate liability scheme.

To its credit, this bill does propose to increase the maximum liability for operators of nuclear installations for damage resulting from a nuclear accident. It proposes to increase it by more than the earlier iterations of this bill. Whereas the Conservatives once thought that an increase from $75 million to $650 million per nuclear installation would suffice, Bill C-22 would raise it to $1 billion. That is certainly a step in the right direction, but even this limit seems shamefully low when we consider the consequences of a nuclear accident.

As Greenpeace bluntly points out:

...the current nuclear liability conventions are intended to protect the nuclear industry, and do not offer sufficient compensation to victims.

From the beginning of the use of nuclear power to produce electricity 60 years ago, the nuclear industry has been protected from paying the full cost of its failures.

Governments have created a system that protects the benefits of companies, while those who suffer from nuclear disasters end up paying the costs.

It is for precisely that reason that even the Fraser Institute, which no one would accuse of being a left wing think tank, is arguing for more draconian action. Joel Wood, senior research economist at the Fraser Institute, had this to say on nuclear liability gaps:

Increasing the cap only decreases the subsidy; it does not eliminate it. The government of Canada should proceed with legislation that removes the liability cap entirely rather than legislation that maintains it, or increases it to be harmonious with other jurisdictions.

In other words, both Greenpeace and the Fraser Institute agree that the bill before us today continues with the tradition of protecting corporations, rather than protecting Canadian citizens.

Let us look at the liability caps and evaluate them. It seems obvious that the total liability would not be able to cover a medium-sized accident, never mind a catastrophic one. A nuclear accident would cause billions of dollars in damage in personal injuries, death, and contamination of the surrounding areas.

The Japanese government is now saying that the cost of the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi plant will be over $250 billion.

According to the director of environmental governance for the Pembina Institute, a major accident at the Darlington, Ontario nuclear plant east of Toronto, near my riding of Hamilton Mountain, could cause damage in the range of an estimated $1 trillion. One billion dollars does not even come close to being adequate, and taxpayers will be on the hook for the difference. The U.S. on the other hand has a cap of $10 billion. Germany, which has experienced the fallout of the Chernobyl meltdown, has an unlimited amount. Many other countries are also moving in that direction of an unlimited amount of liability.

Does the government really believe that Canadian lives, properties, and communities are worth less than those of our U.S. and European counterparts? Judging by this legislation, one would think the answer is yes.

Perhaps more than anything else this legislation and the debate around it highlight the outrageous costs and potentially devastating risks of nuclear energy, particularly when we compare it to greener, more sustainable alternatives. For example, the Three Mile Island incident outside Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in 1979 was a relatively minor nuclear accident, but cost an estimated $975 million for the cleanup and investigation. To put the absolute enormity of these costs into context, for the cost of cleaning up Three Mile Island, 1,147,058 100-watt solar panels could have been bought and assembled.

The total subsidies for Canada's pseudo nuclear company, AECL, from 1952 to 2000 were approximately $16 billion. This money could be spent investigating safer methods of energy.

But the enormous costs do not just apply when things go bad. The planned construction of the Fermi 3 plant in Michigan will cost an estimated $10 billion U.S. and take approximately six years to complete. The price of wind power on the other hand is dropping fast and can even be had for as low as 11¢ per kilowatt hour right now. Imagine the cost savings to taxpayers and the lower electricity bills for seniors and hard-working families if we could shift to cheaper, safer, and more sustainable power. On top of the financial expenses, nuclear energy in general is extremely unsafe both for the environment and human life.

There can be no doubt that Canada needs a greener approach to power. In fact, statistics show that Canada ranks 11th in a poll measuring wind power capacity. If Canada expects to be seen as a leader in the world, we need to compete in the field of clean renewable energy.

That is a topic I would love to go on about at some length, but with only a few minutes more available to me here in this debate, I will return to the text of the bill before us today and highlight a few other changes the bill entails.

If the bill passes this time, Bill C-22 would allow Canada to ratify the convention it signed in December 2013 called the International Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage. That convention would establish nuclear civil liability treaty relations with the U.S., which is already a party to the convention. Important here is that this provides access to supplemental compensation from an international pool of up to $500 million, if that were ever needed by convention participants.

Domestically, the bill would expand the range of damages that could be claimed, and it would triple to 30 years the length of time a person can wait to make a claim for latent illnesses. While this is an improvement, it is clearly not enough.

The Chernobyl disaster is already more than 25 years in the past, and the other report on Chernobyl done by two British scientists in 2006 predicted there would be between 30,000 and 60,000 excess cancer deaths, while the International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear Warfare estimates that more than 50,000 cases of thyroid cancer are still to be expected. Obviously, in light of this evidence, the 30-year statute of limitations is something that we on this side of the House would want to examine more closely in committee.

A few other points about Bill C-22 are also of note.

First, I would point to a provision that is missing entirely from this legislation. Bill C-22 does not cover any accidents outside of the nuclear plant setting. Oil and mining companies and medical facilities use radioactive materials as well, but they are not liable for any accidents related to their use or disposal. That is a gaping hole in this legislation, a hole that we must try to fill at committee. Either we are serious about protecting Canadians or we are not. I certainly know whose side I am on.

While I am on the topic of reviewing the bill in committee, let me remind my colleagues on the government side of the House that the Canadian Environmental Law Association had requested the federal government to undertake a meaningful public consultation on how the Nuclear Liability Act should be modernized to acknowledge lessons from the Fukushima disaster. Instead, Natural Resources Canada has been privately consulting Canadian nuclear operators on how to revise the NLA. This behind-closed-doors consultation with industry is completely unacceptable. The NLA transfers the financial risk for reactor operations from industry to Canadians. It is imperative, therefore, that Canadians be consulted.

The former minister of natural resources, who now serves as the Minister of Finance, did promise that there would be plenty of time for consultation with the public. He said:

Once a new bill is introduced, members of Parliament will have the opportunity to call witnesses before committee to provide comment and debate the legislation line-by-line.

I trust that the new Minister of Natural Resources will honour his colleague's commitment and will not cave in to his House leader's draconian predisposition to shut down all debate. But as always, the proof will be in the pudding, and I do not expect we will get a clear answer on that here today.

Returning to the bill itself, I do want to point out a few other provisions. The bill does set up a quasi-judicial claims tribunal, which, if needed, will handle damage claims in the event of an accident.

Second, the bill stipulates that only half of the $1 billion liability coverage for nuclear operators will have to be covered using traditional insurance. Operators will be allowed to put up other forms of financial security for the remaining $500 million.

Third, it is the Government of Canada that will provide some of the coverage for lower risk nuclear facilities, such as smaller research reactors.

Last, it bears pointing out that the bill mandates a review of liability amounts at least once every five years. While the five-year review is certainly an important safety valve giving Parliament the opportunity to re-evaluate the adequacy of the $1 billion liability limit down the road, I think it is important that we do our level best to get it right the first time. It is our job as legislators to protect the interests of Canadian.

Frankly, if the government is so convinced that nuclear power is a mature industry, then it is an industry that can and must pay for itself. Instead, the bill is just one more corporate handout by making taxpayers liable for nuclear risk. Taxpayers should not be on the hook for subsidies to nuclear energy over other renewable power sources. Other countries certainly seem to agree with me on that and have decided that their citizens deserve much higher protection in the event of a nuclear accident. Why will the Conservatives not offer Canadians that same protection?

I will wrap up by reiterating my bottom line on the bill. First, if the government truly believes in the polluter pays principle, then taxpayers should not hold the risk for these energy projects.

Second, if we measure risk correctly and assign liability, then industry will improve its safety practices, reducing the likelihood of catastrophic accidents.

Third, we have to study global best practices and ensure that the federal government puts Canadians first.

Fourth, the Canadian government should prepare a comprehensive assessment of the risks posed by nuclear power plant operations in Canada, and the opportunities for reducing that risk and the accompanying risk costs and risk reduction costs.

Fifth, we must engage publicly with a wide range of stakeholders to discuss risks and options to improve nuclear liability in Canada. We must have comprehensive public hearings on the bill.

Sixth, we must review the liability regime regularly moving forward to make sure that our laws are up to date. It is completely unacceptable that successive Conservative and Liberal governments have waited decades to address this. Canadians deserve so much better than that.

I would just conclude by saying that while the bill before us today talks about who will clean up after an accident, what Canadians really deserve is a government that puts their interests first. That means a government that understands that what we need is an offshore and nuclear liability regime that focuses on ensuring that these kinds of disasters never happen in the first place. That is real leadership and the kind of leadership Canadians can expect when they elect an NDP government in 2015.

Energy Safety and Security ActGovernment Orders

March 25th, 2014 / 10:55 a.m.
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Kenora Ontario


Greg Rickford ConservativeMinister of Natural Resources and Minister for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's intervention. I am just wondering how realistic the New Democrats think their plan is to make liability limits unlimited. Have they actually looked into the impact their plan would have on families who rely on nuclear power for electricity?

For our part, we have done our research. Our legislation raises the limit to an amount that is fair and reasonable, and that protects Canadians in the event of an incident and protects ratepayers from exorbitant costs.

What would the costs be to consumers under the plan the NDP are proposing?

Energy Safety and Security ActGovernment Orders

March 25th, 2014 / 10:55 a.m.
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Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to see that the minister, uniquely on that side of the House, cares so passionately about workers in this country. He is quite right. There are 30,000 people who are currently employed in the nuclear industry, but my goodness, is it not the health and safety of those workers as well that is at stake here? Frankly, these 30,000 workers are taxpayers as well. So if the government essentially has to pick up all of the costs of a $1 billion nuclear accident, it is those 30,000 employees as well who will be on the hook for those costs.

I would suggest to the government that raising the liability limit is something we cannot afford not to do. We have to raise that limit precisely to protect taxpayers, to protect workers, to protect hardworking families in this country. For the minister to suggest that this cannot be done is clearly wrong in the face of the evidence, because countries like Germany, Japan, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Austria, and Switzerland have all done it. I think it is a false argument to suggest that all of those jurisdictions are doing it in a way that is harmful to employees.

Energy Safety and Security ActGovernment Orders

March 25th, 2014 / 10:55 a.m.
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David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, on several occasions my colleague from the NDP alluded to the NDP's position on nuclear power. I am sure she would agree that nuclear power as a form of electricity generation and power going forward is going to be part of our energy mix for the foreseeable future. But I take it from her comments that the NDP is officially opposed to nuclear power. Some 60% of Ontario's power is now nuclear. California is expanding its examination of the use of nuclear for many other reasons.

I want to get a better sense of what the official NDP policy is with respect to nuclear power. If it is against nuclear power, how quickly would it phase it out in Canada?