Pipeline Safety Act

An Act to amend the National Energy Board Act and the Canada Oil and Gas Operations Act

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


Greg Rickford  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.

This enactment amends the National Energy Board Act and the Canada Oil and Gas Operations Act in order to strengthen the safety and security of pipelines regulated by those Acts.
More specifically, the enactment, among other things,
(a) reinforces the “polluter pays” principle;
(b) confirms that the liability of companies that operate pipelines is unlimited if an unintended or uncontrolled release of oil, gas or any other commodity from a pipeline that they operate is the result of their fault or negligence;
(c) establishes the limit of liability without proof of fault or negligence at no less than one billion dollars for companies that operate pipelines that have the capacity to transport at least 250,000 barrels of oil per day and at an amount prescribed by regulation for companies that operate any other pipelines;
(d) requires that companies that operate pipelines maintain the financial resources necessary to pay the amount of the limit of liability that applies to them;
(e) authorizes the National Energy Board to order any company that operates a pipeline from which an unintended or uncontrolled release of oil, gas or any other commodity occurs to reimburse any government institution the costs it incurred in taking any action or measure in relation to that release;
(f) requires that companies that operate pipelines remain responsible for their abandoned pipelines;
(g) authorizes the National Energy Board to order companies that operate pipelines to maintain funds to pay for the abandonment of their pipelines or for their abandoned pipelines;
(h) allows the Governor in Council to authorize the National Energy Board to take, in certain circumstances, any action or measure that the National Energy Board considers necessary in relation to an unintended or uncontrolled release of oil, gas or any other commodity from a pipeline;
(i) allows the Governor in Council to establish, in certain circumstances, a pipeline claims tribunal whose purpose is to examine and adjudicate the claims for compensation for compensable damage caused by an unintended or uncontrolled release of oil, gas or any other commodity from a pipeline;
(j) authorizes, in certain circumstances, that funds may be paid out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund to pay the costs of taking the actions or measures that the National Energy Board considers necessary in relation to an unintended or uncontrolled release of oil, gas or any other commodity from a pipeline, to pay the costs related to establishing a pipeline claims tribunal and to pay any amount of compensation that such a tribunal awards; and
(k) authorizes the National Energy Board to recover those funds from the company that operates the pipeline from which the release occurred and from companies that operate pipelines that transport a commodity of the same class as the one that was released.


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.


March 9, 2015 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Natural Resources.

Pipeline Safety ActGovernment Orders

January 26th, 2015 / 12:15 p.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-46, An Act to amend the National Energy Board Act and the Canada Oil and Gas Operations Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege and an honour for me to serve the constituents of the great Kenora riding and to proceed with the debate on pipeline safety.

One of our country's greatest success stories is Canada's extraordinary ability to develop our natural resources through the use of new technology and innovation. Whether we are unlocking the incredible energy potential of the oil sands, mining uranium to generate nuclear power, or developing our vast hydroelectric power resources, Canada's energy industries continue to rise to the occasion.

As Canada's production of energy resources grows, we have an opportunity to export more of our energy products to international markets with growing demand. The choice is simple: build the energy infrastructure to reach these markets, or leave these products in the ground.

Expanding our energy trade in not merely a priority for our government, it is an imperative. We recognize that for this opportunity to be realized, we must ensure that the public is confident in the safety of our infrastructure.

Through our responsible resource development plan, our government strengthened environmental protection, enhanced aboriginal consultation, and provided predictable timelines for regulatory review. This included bringing forward regulations that ensure that companies, not taxpayers, are responsible in the event of an incident.

There are over 73,000 km of federally regulated pipelines that criss-cross our country. They deliver oil, natural gas, and petroleum products from coast to coast to coast and beyond our borders. These energy products heat our homes and our workplaces. They power factories and farms. They fuel cars, buses, trains, and planes. They transport us across town, across the country, and around the world.

More specifically, in 2013, Canada produced over 3.5 million barrels of oil and 13.7 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day. The vast majority of it, over $100 billion worth, was shipped by pipeline.

While the economics themselves tell a compelling story, we have been clear that if projects are to proceed, they must be proven safe for Canadians and safe for the environment. In fact, more than 99.999% of petroleum products, going through more than 72,000 km of federally regulated pipeline between 2008 and 2013, was transported safely. Much of the credit for this solid track record rests with our stringent regulatory requirements and the excellent work of the National Energy Board.

Companies operating pipelines must anticipate, prevent and manage potentially dangerous situations associated with their pipelines. They must develop programs to address safety issues, deal with emergency situations, manage the integrity of the pipelines, educate the public and protect the environment.

The National Energy Board reviews and audits all of these measures. Although the pipeline safety record is impressive, our ultimate goal is zero incidents. That is the purpose of this bill. The pipeline safety act seeks to further improve Canada's record by modernizing the National Energy Board Act.

This legislation would send a clear signal. Our government would be fulfilling our commitment in the Speech from the Throne to have a world-class safety system that enshrined the polluter pays principle in law.

We are determined to reduce risks to public and environmental health and safety as we capitalize on Canada's energy wealth to create jobs and prosperity for Canadians. This ongoing commitment to safety and environmental protection is part of our plan for responsible resource development. The plan is a continuous process of finding new and better ways to improve our world-class regulatory system.

This legislation represents the next step in our continued process of strengthening Canada's pipeline safety system. It would build on previous pipeline safety measures that gave the National Energy Board new authority to levy administrative monetary penalties and to increase the number of NEB inspections and audits. The pipeline safety act would go even further. In other words, we would build on that 99.999% safety record for more than 72,000 kilometres of federally regulated pipelines.

Our objective here is to ensure that we have a world-class, in fact, elements of it world-leading, pipeline safety system. It would be built on three pillars: one, prevention; two, preparedness and response; and three, liability and compensation.

The pipeline safety act would deliver on our pledge to enhance efforts to ensure that aboriginal peoples are engaged in all aspects of pipeline safety operations.

Let me explain each of these improvements in greater detail.

First, we will look at the preventive measures. In order to develop our resources responsibly, we need to do everything we can to prevent incidents from occurring. We will be asking the National Energy Board to provide direction on using the best technologies available for building and operating pipelines. Technologies continue to improve, and the government is committed to ensuring that every project is environmentally sustainable.

As an additional preventive measure, the act sets out the National Energy Board's powers related to audits and inspections. It stipulates that companies have a legal obligation to respond to any requests the board may have in relation to such audits. To protect pipelines from accidental damage, the National Energy Board will strive to align federal and provincial pipeline safety zones.

Companies must inform the authorities and obtain approval before digging or building in the safety zones. This safety measure will prevent damage to pipelines.

We will also take action in terms of preparedness and response measures. We are strengthening requirements, particularly financial requirements, to ensure that companies are able to deal with an incident, if necessary.

The pipeline safety act enshrines the polluter pays principle. The bill requires companies operating pipelines to hold a minimum level of financial resources for responding to oil spills, set at $1 billion for companies operating major oil pipelines. The companies must demonstrate their financial capacity and a portion of those financial resources must be readily accessible to ensure rapid response to any incident.

The bill includes other measures. It gives the National Energy Board the authority to take control of incident response and cleanup in exceptional circumstances. This means that the government will provide financial security to ensure that the NEB has the necessary resources to pay for the cleanup costs. If a company is unable to pay damages to those affected, the government may establish a pipeline claims tribunal to streamline the complaints process.

In both cases, the legislation expands the NEB'S authority to recover costs from the companies if it is called to respond. Canadians can rest assured that every incident will be dealt with properly and that taxpayers will be protected.

I want to emphasize the government's commitment to working with aboriginal communities. Together with communities and the industry, we will develop a strategy to increase aboriginal participation in pipeline safety measures.

I also want to emphasize the government's pledge to work with aboriginal people in a way that protects the local environment and respects ancestral treaty rights.

The third key area or pillar covered by the legislation is liability and compensation. In this regard, we are world class, if not world leading. Building on companies' unlimited liability when they are at fault or negligent, this legislation would implement no-fault or absolute liability for all companies operating pipelines. For major oil pipelines, the figure would be $1 billion. What this would mean is that pipeline companies would be responsible for damages, regardless of what happened, who caused it, or how an incident arose. This is a standard that would leave no doubt.

The pipeline safety act would provide government with the ability to pursue pipeline operators for the costs of environmental damages. The legislation would also give the NEB authority to order reimbursement of spill cleanup costs incurred by governments or individuals. Companies would bear the full cost of cleanup and compensation.

Also of significance, the legislation would ensure that companies would remain responsible for their abandoned pipelines in perpetuity. In the event of an incident, operators would cover all costs and damages related to their pipelines, even if they were no longer in use. This would reassure landowners that they would never be in a position where a pipeline would become their responsibility.

As well, the act would expand the board's authority to recover its own costs for stepping in and taking charge if industry failed to adequately respond to an incident. Again, operators would be held financially accountable for costs and damages.

Tally up these amendments and the message is clear. The Government of Canada will ensure that Canada's pipeline safety system is world class, that first nations are involved in pipeline safety operations, and that taxpayers are protected.

The oil and gas sector is vitally important to the lives and livelihoods of Canadians, contributing 7.5% of our country's gross domestic product. Canada sold $117 billion in energy products to the world in 2013. That is more than one-quarter, 27%, to be precise, of our country's merchandise exports.

While we have an enormous endowment of petroleum resources, we have only one significant export customer. One hundred per cent of our natural gas exports and 97% of our oil exports currently go to the United States. This relationship has served both countries well and will continue to do so in the future.

However, it is clear that Canada will need to find new markets as Canadian and United States' oil and gas production grows. There are incredible market opportunities, particularly in Asia and Europe. In Asia's case, the International Energy Agency forecasts that by 2035, the world will need one-third more energy than is being consumed today. The rise of China and India, among other emerging nations in that part of the world, is propelling the bulk of that demand.

Although we are making progress toward developing alternative and renewable energy sources, according to the International Energy Agency, by 2035, fossil fuels will still be meeting three-quarters of global demand.

Canada's energy sector can contribute more to our economy and global energy security, but only if we build the pipelines to transport energy to markets, including the domestic market.

Our country needs to develop a new energy infrastructure to diversify its markets and seize this unprecedented opportunity. This is critical if we want Canada's energy sector to prosper and stimulate our economy in the future.

The economic benefits for Canadians would be enormous. According to the International Monetary Fund, building new energy infrastructure would boost Canada's GDP by an additional 2%. That is equivalent to $1,000 for every man, woman, and child in the country.

First nations communities are especially well positioned to benefit from responsible energy development. Many of the existing or proposed energy resources and infrastructure projects are located proximal to their communities, and over the next decade, hundreds of major resource projects worth more than $675 billion are planned or currently under way.

As technology evolves, Canada's oil sand reserves could double to over 300 billion barrels to become the largest reserve in the world, leading to an even greater opportunity in the future for Canada.

Likewise, Canada's marketable natural gas resources are estimated to be up to 1,300 trillion cubic feet. These are incredible reserves. That is not only enough to meet our domestic demands for over 200 years at current production rates, but to meet the burgeoning demand from markets like Europe and Asia over the medium term. That is before we have even considered offshore gas reserves and new discoveries potentially revealed or realized through fracking.

According to the Conference Board of Canada, between 2012 and 2035, the natural gas industry could invest over $386 billion in Canada, almost half of it in British Columbia.

As global energy markets change, Canada also needs to change in order to unlock this potential. Other countries are moving quickly to capture growing energy markets in places like China and India. We cannot lag behind if we want to continue to make the most of our energy resources.

We have a world-class and, in some cases, unique regulatory system to monitor this sector. This legislation further strengthens the regulatory system. It sends a message to Canadians and international clients that pipeline safety is paramount to Canada.

If we continue to innovate in the technology sector and remain committed to working constructively with aboriginal groups and protecting the environment, we will then have all the elements needed to ensure Canada's place as a world leader in responsible energy development.

Furthermore, the government is committed to ensuring that Canada's pipeline safety system is a world-class system that Canadians can trust. We will not be satisfied with a system that is almost perfect; we want absolute excellence.

The legislation we are debating today builds on our world-class safety regime, but the job is never done. We will continuously examine the pipeline safety system to better protect Canadians and the environment. We are striving for zero incidents. We will get there by maximizing advances in technology and innovation.

We can take inspiration from Sir Henry Royce, the English engineer and car designer who co-founded Rolls Royce Company. He built a dynasty in his quest for perfection. His motto was “Strive for perfection in everything you do. Take the best that exists and make it better.” That remains our goal and our focus as we continue to develop and transport Canada's natural resources responsibly.

Pipeline Safety ActGovernment Orders

January 26th, 2015 / 12:30 p.m.
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Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the minister's speech, and those of us on this side of the House would say that indeed it is long overdue that we bring in an updated liability regime for pipelines. As the minister well knows, Canadians are profoundly worried about pipeline safety.

As a general comment, I would say that it is good that we are finally dealing with this bill. One might wonder why we are dealing with this matter now when we had the opportunity to update other liability regimes earlier in this Parliament, such as the nuclear liability regime and offshore oil and gas, but nonetheless here we are. I would suggest, though, that it might be a bit early to celebrate, because as we know, with this government the devil is always in the details.

In fact, when we look at this bill more closely, one of the things that becomes very apparent is that much in the legislation is left to the discretion of both the National Energy Board and the Governor in Council, which means that we cannot really be certain that the government is acting with any kind of real commitment to improving pipeline safety.

I will explain why I am worried about that. There is a briefing note posted online from McCarthy Tétrault to its clients about what this bill may mean, and those clients are pipeline companies.

It talks about the new responsibilities that companies may now have to comply with. Here is the final sentence in that brief:

Accordingly, pipeline companies should consider their safety and financial obligations...to ensure they meet legislated requirements once the Bill’s amendments are brought into force.

It makes one wonder what companies are doing now. Do they not care about safety now, if this is the advice they are receiving from their lawyers? I would want Canadians to know that there is absolute certainty about what this bill is going to do, about how we are going to improve pipeline safety and how we are going to improve the liability regime, because Canadians need to be able to trust that pipeline companies are not going to put their lives and their environment in danger.

Pipeline Safety ActGovernment Orders

January 26th, 2015 / 12:35 p.m.
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Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

Mr. Speaker, first of all I want to say to the member for Hamilton Mountain that it has been a privilege to work with her in her capacity as critic. I understand this may be the last debate that she has on natural resources-related files, and I appreciated the opportunity to work with her.

That was more of a comment than a question per se, but I will take this opportunity to speak to part of it with respect to liability.

What we have done with this measure, this piece of legislation today, is obviously to align it to the extent possible with other liability compensation regimes that we have in other key areas of the national resource portfolio, and in addition to that, to have liability and compensation specifically in marine, rail, and pipeline transport look and feel much the same.

This is not just for the benefit of industry and investor confidence; it is to assure the public that as a matter of confidence we are doing the right thing in a streamlined, efficient, and effective manner to give Canadians that ultimate confidence that in any regard, the energy transport system and the infrastructure required to support it are world class, and in particular are world-leading in areas of liability and compensation.

Pipeline Safety ActGovernment Orders

January 26th, 2015 / 12:35 p.m.
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Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to see this bill come forward. As my hon. colleague from Hamilton Mountain said, it is a step in a positive direction and it is needed.

Considering that the bill was just introduced on December 8, it is good but surprising to see it up for debate, considering that the previous bill on absolute liability concerning offshore oil and gas, Bill C-22, was introduced numerous times over several years but left to languish on the order paper. I am interested in what the hurry is in this case, but I am still pleased. The difference is stark, but it is good to have it come forward.

The minister talked about public confidence. That seems to me to be the test, because that is a huge concern right now for the public and for the industry. The petroleum sector is concerned that when they try to put forward projects, they have difficulty in obtaining public confidence when the public does not have confidence in the government or in the NEB as environment regulators.

In leaving so much discretion to cabinet and to the NEB, how does the minister expect to overcome this challenge and to create any greater confidence in the public so that some of these projects might go forward?

Pipeline Safety ActGovernment Orders

January 26th, 2015 / 12:35 p.m.
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Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am relieved to hear the member from the Liberal Party talk about pipeline safety and offshore opportunity, particularly with respect to safety, liability, and compensation, as an exercise in public confidence. That would be an important term that is markedly different from what the leader of his party is using.

That said, we have already positioned the NEB with considerably more powers with respect to audits and inspections. As well, the penalties for non-compliance have increased significantly. That has put us in a great position when it comes to this piece of legislation.

The National Energy Board, through a number of measures, will ensure timely, effective, and transparent operations. To modernize the damage prevention regime, these changes will ensure clear roles and responsibilities within the NEB and implement mandatory timelines for committee hearings and decisions as well as any Governor in Council decisions that would be made.

I am pleased that the tone of this debate is pointed toward this being a positive step forward with respect to public safety and public confidence. Moving pipeline safety to the forefront is the centrepiece for establishing everyone's frame of reference with respect to how committed this government is to ensuring we have world-class, if not world-leading, pipeline safety for this country.

Pipeline Safety ActGovernment Orders

January 26th, 2015 / 12:40 p.m.
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Calgary Centre-North Alberta


Michelle Rempel ConservativeMinister of State (Western Economic Diversification)

Mr. Speaker, in earlier questions in this debate, the comment came up as to what companies are doing with respect to safety right now. I would like to put to the House that the current safety record for Canadian pipeline operators is a 99.999% effectiveness rate, which puts us as best-practice leaders internationally for the safe transport of energy products. Companies do this through planning, construction, and operation, as well as through emergency response.

With respect to what companies are doing right now, I would ask the minister to comment on something like C-FER Technologies in Alberta, which has a jointly funded operation to look at new technologies in all four phases of safety planning and with which we are a partner.

I would like the minister to comment on the $1 billion liability limit, as I believe that number will be questioned in further debate. I was hoping that he could speak to the acceptability of that number based on international best practice, and to the difference in liability coverage between when companies are found to be at fault and when they are found not to be at fault, and why this particular number was selected.

Pipeline Safety ActGovernment Orders

January 26th, 2015 / 12:40 p.m.
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Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for that question, particularly with respect to her work in western economic diversification and the support this government is giving for certain companies to advance pipeline security, monitoring, and safety.

There is a reference to best available technology in this legislation. Through our support, these companies from Quebec City and across the country through to Alberta are working on exciting new technologies that will give a key frame of reference for all companies in the business of creating pipelines and energy infrastructure to focus on and take the safety element even further.

With respect to liability, there are two key points here. Pipeline companies remain fully liable when they are found to be at fault or negligent. This is referred to in insurance nomenclature as unlimited liability. What builds on that and what is terrific about the pipeline safety act, which on all accounts has been well received by stakeholders, is the absolute $1 billion liability, which means that no matter what the problem source or whose fault it is, the pipeline company would be responsible to pay up to $1 billion.

An analysis of historical data demonstrates that this level of absolute liability is world-class, world-leading coverage. Comparisons to countries around the world tell us that we are at the forefront and assure Canadians and our prospective customers in new markets that energy infrastructure is important to us and that our liability and compensations lead the world.

Pipeline Safety ActGovernment Orders

January 26th, 2015 / 12:45 p.m.
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Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, since this is the first sitting day of the 2015 calendar year, I begin by wishing you, Mr. Speaker, and all of my colleagues in the House a belated happy new year.

I do not know how I got lucky enough to be the first New Democrat to give a speech on a government bill in this chamber this year, but I am certain that there is a short straw with my name on it somewhere in the opposition lobby. Anyway, let us launch right into it.

The bill before us today is Bill C-46, An Act to amend the National Energy Board Act and the Canada Oil and Gas Operations Act. Perhaps it will help people to stop from nodding off if I explain at the outset that despite its unimaginative title, the bill really purports to improve pipeline safety in our country.

That is where we find the yardstick for whether my NDP colleagues and I will ultimately be able to support the bill. Does Bill C-46 actually improve pipeline safety, or is it a rhetorical exercise to provide the government cover in what is, after all, an election year? I will spend the next 20 minutes or so in this House trying to answer that single and most germane question.

I will begin by providing a bit of context first. There is no doubt that Canada's natural resources are a tremendous blessing and that our energy sector is the motor of the Canadian economy. It is imperative that we capitalize on those unique advantages. For New Democrats, that means that we have to leverage them by creating high quality middle-class jobs, by harnessing the full potential of Canada's natural gifts, and by maximizing the benefit of development for all Canadians. That development is vital to our economy and our country.

However, the reality is that resource development can only move forward if development is done sustainably. If we are going to seize the opportunities ahead, if we are going to leverage our resources to create wealth and prosperity for generations to come, then we will have to rise to meet new challenges and adapt to the new reality of the new century, and that requires a new vision, a vision that my NDP colleagues and I have been promoting tirelessly, not just for months, but for years now.

Our vision is one that promotes economic growth without sacrificing social or environmental sustainability, one that looks to the future instead of clinging to the past, and one that creates lasting prosperity instead of feeding endless cycles of boom and bust. To that end, our vision is based on three key principles: sustainability, to make sure that polluters pay for the pollution they create instead of leaving those costs to the next generation; partnership, to make sure that communities, provinces, and first nations all benefit from resource development and that we create value-added, middle-class jobs here in Canada; and most important, long-term prosperity that leverages our natural national resource wealth to invest in modern, clean energy technology that will keep Canada on the cutting edge of energy development and ensure there are affordable energy rates into the future.

For far too long, Canadians have been told they have to choose between our economy and our environment, but that is a false choice. It is an approach that is stuck in the past. A little less than two years ago, government documents revealed the very real economic costs of the environmental cleanup of the Giant Mine at Great Slave Lake. They have doubled from initial estimates, ballooning to nearly a billion dollars.

This is a vast industrial waste site bordering on the second deepest freshwater lake in the world, a Canadian treasure, and yet for more than half of the last century, it was contaminated with no regard for the costs it would impose on our children and grandchildren.

Communities from coast to coast to coast have made their voices clear. We will not let that happen again. However, despite this mess, the Conservative government is continuing down the same short-sighted path. It is dismantling every major piece of environmental protection and hurting Canada's economic development at the very same time.

Past generations can perhaps be excused for the way they treated places like Great Slave Lake, but our generation has no excuse. The fact is, in the 21st century, a social licence is every bit as important as a regulatory licence, if not more. In this day and age, any development model that relies on degrading our environment, on putting public safety at risk, or on exploiting our resources without benefiting our communities is no model at all.

Canadians understand only too well the long-term consequences of the Conservative government's attacks on our environmental laws, and they are reacting because those attacks are sabotaging resource development and ultimately our economy as a whole.

In big cities and in small towns, development projects are meeting increasing resistance. The northern gateway, Kinder Morgan, and energy east pipelines are but three of the most recent examples.

Why should Canadians not be worried? They see the Conservative government gutting environmental assessments, they see dangerous pipeline spills on the rise, and they worry whether their communities will be next.

A recent Harris/Decima poll conducted for the government made it clear that only 27% of Canadians are confident that the Government of Canada is able to respond effectively to a significant oil spill on water. The number is only slightly higher, at 32%, for oil spills on land. Similarly, a significant proportion of Canadians do not feel confident that pipelines, tankers, and trains are transporting dangerous goods safely. When it comes to rail transport, only 29% of Canadians feel confident that it is safe. Only 37% of Canadians believe oil tanker transport is safe, while 47% of Canadians are confident that pipelines can safely transport oil.

Clearly, that is not a vote of confidence in the Conservatives' handling of this critical file.

It is equally clear that Canadians share the belief of New Democrats that we must take steps to ensure that we are developing and transporting our resources in a safe and secure way; that we have to implement effective oil spill prevention measures; that we have to increase inspections in oversight; and that we have to push for expanded liability so that we are giving teeth to the polluter pays principle.

When it comes to oil transport, with the huge expansion in production and transportation of crude oil, we need enhanced safety protection. This is common sense, no matter what the method of transport.

Public safety and environmental protection must be the highest priorities if we are to develop our natural resources sustainably.

That brings us back to the heart of the bill that is before us today. Would Bill C-46 implement a true polluter pays regime in Canada, and would the bill go far enough to obviate Canadians' legitimate concerns when it comes to pipeline safety?

Let us look at what the bill purports to do.

Unfortunately, in the time allotted to me here today, it is only possible to do that in the broadest of terms. However, I am hopeful that we will be able to undertake the detailed clause-by-clause scrutiny the bill merits at the committee stage of the legislative process.

At its most general, the purpose of Bill C-46, would be to improve Canada's pipeline liability regime.

It would be part of the government's larger review of the distinct liability regimes that govern different aspects of Canada's oil and gas development. Here, members will recall that last year Bill C-22 dealt with liabilities related to offshore drilling and potential spills in both Arctic and Atlantic waters. As well, over the course of last year, the government began consultations on the liability regime governing rail transport, as it sought to do damage control in the wake of Lac-Mégantic. Now, we have yet a third piece before us dealing with the liability regime governing Canadian pipelines.

Here is what Bill C-46, would do.

It would reinforce the polluter pays principle.

It would confirm that the liability of pipeline companies is unlimited if an unintended or uncontrolled release of oil, gas, or any other commodity is a result of fault or negligence.

It would establish the limit of liability, without proof of fault or negligence, at no less than $1 billion for companies that operate pipelines with capacity to transport at least 250,000 barrels per day and an amount prescribed by regulation for companies that operate any other pipelines.

It would require that pipeline companies maintain the financial resources necessary to pay the amount of the limit of liability that would apply to them.

The bill would authorize the National Energy Board to order any company that operates a pipeline from which an unintended or uncontrolled release occurs to reimburse government institutions for the costs incurred in taking any action in relation to the release.

It would require that pipeline companies remain responsible for their abandoned pipelines.

It would authorize the NEB to order pipeline companies to maintain funds to pay for the abandonment of their pipelines.

It would authorize the Governor in Council to authorize the NEB to take, in certain circumstances, any action the NEB considers necessary in relation to an unintended or uncontrolled release.

It would also allow the Governor in Council to establish a pipeline claims tribunal to examine and adjudicate claims for compensation for damage caused by an unintended or uncontrolled release from a pipeline.

Many of these changes are long overdue, and I would be less than honest if I did not acknowledge that they appear to be a step in the right direction.

However, it is also true that, once again, the Conservatives are late to the game. New Democrats have been waiting for the government to fix oil spill liability for quite some time. As always, with the current government, the devil is in the details.

Let us take a closer look at the some of the pluses and minuses of what has been presented to us in this bill.

On the upside, the fact that polluters will be absolutely liable for harm caused by a pipeline spill is obviously a good thing. What it means is that any company operating a pipeline will be liable in the event of a spill even if it has not been negligent and has not broken any laws. Moreover, companies must have enough financial resources to cover in full the absolute liability limit. For companies whose pipelines have the capacity to move at least 250,000 barrels per day, that limit will be $1 billion once this bill passes. That monetary amount may be increased by the government in the future, but the bill would prohibit cabinet from lowering it. That too is a good thing.

The bill would also give the NEB new tools to recoup cleanup costs from polluters, and in certain circumstances it even gives the board the power to recover costs from the industry as a whole, not just from the individual polluter.

Finally on the plus side, the bill would make polluters liable for environmental damages. Members will recall that we spent a lot of time when scrutinizing of Bill C-22 on the need to make polluters responsible for environmental damages or losses of non-use value of public resources. It is as important now as it was then to ensure that liability is not just restricted to the environment's commercial value. Bill C-46 sets out to do that and is an important first step in catching up with U.S. oil spill regulation, which is much more developed with respect to the recognition of environmental damages.

However, as a thoughtful analysis by Ian Miron at Ecojustice makes clear, there is an overall lack of certainty in Bill C-46 that may well undermine what would otherwise be this positive first step. Specifically, Mr. Miron points out three things. First, and perhaps most crucially, Bill C-46 does not impose unlimited absolute liability on polluters. No liability regime can truly be called a polluter pays regime unless and until polluters are made absolutely liable for the full costs of environmental harm.

While the $1 billion limit for some companies may be a big improvement over the status quo, it still would not completely cover the cleanup costs of an accident such as Enbridge's Kalamazoo River spill in Michigan. According to recent estimates, that spill, the largest in U.S. history, cost more than $1.2 billion to clean up, not including compensation for damages.

Moreover, Bill C-46 actually takes a step backward by eliminating the government's ability to recover cleanup costs for a pipeline spill under the Fisheries Act, which applies in certain circumstances to make a polluter absolutely liable without limit. In the absence of such unlimited absolute liability, the government and, therefore, Canadians may still be on the hook for spills, and that, frankly, is wrong. If the government is so convinced that pipelines are a mature industry, then the industry is one that can and must pay for itself. Instead, the fact that this bill does not completely enshrine the polluter pays principle means that the Conservatives are giving just one more handout to its friends in the oil patch by making taxpayers liable for oil spill risks.

In that regard, it is also worth pointing out that the bill is completely silent on identifying absolute liability limits for smaller oil pipeline companies, or for gas and other non-oil pipeline companies. While such limits may be set by cabinet down the road, it begs the question of why the government would not do so now. Is volumetrics the only criterion the government has used to assess the potential magnitude of damages from a spill? I hope that in the course of our deliberations the Conservatives will give us an answer to that rather pressing question.

This leads to my final broad criticism of the bill. Just as the absolute liability limits are discretionary for all but the big pipeline companies, many other aspects of the new liability regime are as well. While the bill would create several new tools that could enhance the NEB's ability to recoup cleanup costs from a polluter, the NEB or the cabinet get to decide whether or not they will be implemented. As Ecojustice thus rightly points out, BillC-46 leaves considerable leeway for politically motivated decisions and backroom arrangements between operators and the NEB, a regulator that lacks credibility on the pipeline front.

In fact, this may be a good time to say yet again that the NEB needs a fundamental overhaul. While the Liberals and Conservatives have generally been happy simply to rubberstamp pipeline projects, my NDP colleagues and I firmly believe that major resource projects must be judged on their merits. That means that the NEB has to subject proposals to a rigorous and robust environmental assessment process. Assessment criteria must include the impact of each individual project on our emissions and climate change commitments, on Canadian jobs, and on national and regional energy security. Public consultations must be credible and democratic, not shallow, limited, or by paper only, and projects must honour our legal obligations to first nations.

Clearly, such rigour was absent in the NEB review of both Enbridge's northern gateway and Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain expansion, and the same flawed process is now being applied to TransCanada's energy east plans as well. No wonder Canadians are worried about these pipelines snaking their way through backyards.

Northern gateway has the capacity to move 525,000 barrels per day, 890,000 barrels per day for Kinder Morgan and a staggering 1.1 billion barrels per day for energy east. The potential for disaster is huge, which brings me to the last point I want to raise in wrapping up my participation in today's debate.

While the new liability regime deals with protecting Canadians from the cost of cleaning up an oil spill, my NDP colleagues and I believe the best way to protect Canadians is to ensure such spills do not happen in the first place. Measuring risk correctly and assigning liability may be one tool in the kit to encourage industry to improve its safety practices and therefore reduce the likelihood of catastrophic accidents. However, it is only one tool of many and nothing else is being done. Where is the concrete action to fix the broken environmental assessment process that the Conservatives have dismantled? Where is the much-needed legislation that would bring in better regulation and oversight?

As far back as 2011, the environment commissioned highlighted that the National Energy Board was failing to ensure that known problems were being fixed and that pipelines were being properly maintained. We have a world-class labour force that is ready and eager to do that work. However, without companies making commitments to pipeline safety, Canadians can be forgiven for wondering not whether an oil spill will happen but when.

Canada's natural resources are a tremendous blessing and managed properly and sustainably they can be important drivers for our economy. This is particularly true of the energy sector. However, instead of guiding our energy policy in the best interest of Canadian jobs, the environment and the economy, the Conservative government is gutting assessments and reviews, and failing to address the valid concerns of Canadians. That is such a narrow-minded and counterproductive approach. Social licence, the consent of Canadians for the development of Canada's resources, is crucial to the success of any project. However, instead of working to achieve such consent, the government's intransigence is actually undermining the support for companies in the pipeline sector by exacerbating opposition to energy development right across the country.

There is a better way, and the New Democrats have been championing it for years. It is based on sustainable development. Governments must look at environmental, social and economic impacts before going forward with any development project. That way we can prevent devastating environmental damage, while ensuring that Canadians benefit from Canada's natural bounty of resources. It is the right thing to do, and it finally would allow us to move beyond the all too convenient Conservative canard that Canadians must choose between the economy and the environment. Nothing could be further from the truth.

With the right kind of leadership, Canadians will finally be able to have their cake and eat it too, and that is the kind of leadership the NDP will provide when it forms government, under the experienced leadership of the member for Outremont, later on this year. That will make this a happy new year indeed.

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January 26th, 2015 / 1 p.m.
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Royal Galipeau Conservative Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I would like to wish you and all members of the House a very happy new year.

I listened carefully to the comments delivered by the hon. member. As of today, she has been a thoughtful and considerate representative for her district for 3,291 days, and I congratulate her.

The gist of the message I heard today is that the member is basically against pipelines, but she is for manufacturing, and in her district they manufacture pipelines. I would like the member to make an equalization between those two arguments.

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January 26th, 2015 / 1 p.m.
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Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have not quite counted my presence in the House in days. I guess I have not had enough time to do that, but I do appreciate the numerical count. I thank the member, and I appreciate the good wishes.

With respect to the question being put about whether I support pipelines or manufacturing, it is a little like asking if I support the environment or the economy. It is a false choice. Of course I support manufacturing, and at no point in my speech did I say that I did not support pipelines. It would have been naive to say that we heat our homes with gas, but that we do not need gas pipelines. Nowhere in my speech did I make any such statement.

What I did say was that Canadians needed to have confidence that pipelines were safe, and that the Conservative government and its latest bill would not, on the face of it, provide Canadians with enough certainty that there would not be any pipeline spills. As the member will recall from my speech, I also said that we had a world-class workforce. That labour force, when it is constructing pipelines, is doing the very best that it can with the money and the mandate given to it by pipeline companies.

All I said in my speech was that Canadians deserved certainty. We have to implement the polluter pays principle. We have to develop our resources in a sustainable way. That includes the transport of those resources, of which pipelines are a significant part in Canada.

I would be willing to debate the manufacturing sector next. I would welcome that debate in the House, and perhaps we could do that. Perhaps the member would like to introduce a private members' bill so we could once again debate U.S. Steel, for example, a topic on which the Conservative government has been absolutely silent.

The future of U.S. Steel is obviously a huge issue in my hometown of Hamilton. Thousands of pensioners are concerned about their future. They have been waiting for the government to stand in the House and comment on the manufacturing sector, to bring forward a manufacturing sector strategy, and to take real action on the retirement security of Canadians.

I look forward to that debate.

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January 26th, 2015 / 1:05 p.m.
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Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I think it is correct that the member for Hamilton Mountain has announced that she will not be running in the next election. I would like to congratulate her. It is a pleasure to work with her on the Standing Committee on Natural Resources. I know there is a new critic for natural resources, but I hope she will stay on the committee until the end of this session.

I would also like to congratulate her on the professionalism with which she conducts herself as a member of Parliament, from what I have seen, at all times. I do not want to go too far as she might change her mind and run again, and I would not want to read about my comments in an election brochure at some point.

Let me ask her a question about the absolute liability of $1 billion that the government has proposed. It is curious that is a round number. The government really has not told us what the considerations and criteria were in its calculations which found that this number was the correct one.

In the view of the NDP, what should be the limit on absolute liability and what considerations should be included in that calculation?

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January 26th, 2015 / 1:05 p.m.
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Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I posted on social media some time ago that Canadians had been as nice to the nearly departed as they were to the dearly departed. The same is holding true in the House. I thank my colleagues for their comments. It is unfortunate that I was unable to use those comments in my last election brochure, but it is better late than never.

I welcome the question about absolute liability, because my colleague is absolutely right. It seems with the government that, often, these numbers are just pulled out of thin air. The member will recall that we debated nuclear liability in the House, not just twice, but three times, I think. Each time, the amount of money that the government had included under the liability regime changed. There was never any reason given for that change in numbers nor, frankly, for the first number that it chose.

Now we are dealing with a bill that targets that number at $1 billion, as was the case with nuclear liability and offshore liability. I suppose we should at least celebrate the fact that there is some consistency here. However, we do need to have a close look at that number in committee.

If we believe in the polluter pays principle and that companies ought to be responsible for the environmental damage that they cause, the number ought to be whatever the cost of environmental damages. If it is $1.2 billion, companies should be paying $1.2 billion. The figure of $1 billion is entirely arbitrary.

Perhaps the question about how the government got that number would have been better put to the minister. It will not surprise my colleague that I cannot speak for the Conservatives. Getting into their minds has always been scary place for me, and I would not venture to do that here today. However, it is a point that we will definitely have to pursue once the bill gets clause-by-clause scrutiny in committee.

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January 26th, 2015 / 1:10 p.m.
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Dan Harris NDP Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her response for the Conservative member. It is nice to see the Conservatives seem to finally be remembering that there is a manufacturing sector in Canada. For many years it was one of the leaders of our economy and certainly could be again with the right kinds of decisions made. However, unfortunately the government chose to pick one resource, one part of the country and one part of our economy to the exclusion of everything else, putting all of our economic eggs in one basket, in a boom-or-bust basket to boot.

I also want to thank the member for bringing up U.S. Steel Canada Inc. in her riding. Changes to the Investment Canada Act would certainly improve what happened there.

The member talked about confidence and certainty. Businesses, like Canadians, need to have confidence and certainty in order to make investments and the right decisions that will bring well-paying jobs to Canada.

It is interesting that we are dealing with liabilities now, when the actual regulation of pipelines and the safety and security of them is a complete and total mess. The government eviscerated the navigable waters act, which prevented many improvements from happening when future pipelines would cross rivers, streams and bodies of water, in some cases not even requiring stop valves on either side of the river.

Would this bill perhaps not be putting the cart before the horse, where we need to fix the regulations so we can have certainty before we can figure out what kind of problems we will have?

Maybe the member can comment on any of the great number of things I just brought up.

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January 26th, 2015 / 1:10 p.m.
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Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I really do have a plethora of things on which I could comment. I will start with a point that I did not get to highlight in my speech as much as I had wanted to.

One of the things that is obviously true in Canada is that much of our pipeline infrastructure is aging. It is one of the reasons why Canadians are so concerned about the possibility of spills. The Americans are way ahead of us on that, or at least in recognizing there may be a problem.

Members in the House may be aware that there has been a second spill in Montana. This spill was near the city of Glendive, Montana. Over 40,000 gallons spilled and contaminated downstream water supplies. Relatively speaking, I guess that was the minor spill of the two spills that happened in Montana. However, when the local senator, who is a Montana Democrat, was asked about that, he told the media that more frequent inspections by regulators were needed and older pipelines should face stricter safety standards.

In Canada, we are going the exact opposite way. As I said, in 2011 it was pointed out to the government that we needed greater oversight and stricter regulations. The Conservatives, as my colleague from Scarborough Southwest said, are gutting regulations. They have gutted the navigable waters act. It is no wonder that Canadians are concerned about pipeline safety in our country.

I do not often say this, but in this instance we ought to be taking a page out of the book that is south of the border, where the Americans are actually taking environmental damages and the potential for environmental damages more seriously than we are in Canada. Canadians deserve that kind of certainty when it comes to potential impacts on the environment.

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January 26th, 2015 / 1:10 p.m.
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Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak today in the House to Bill C-46, the so-called pipeline safety act.

I listened closely to the speeches by the last two speakers in the House, and I hope that we can work together here in the House, but also at the Standing Committee on Natural Resources, on improving this bill and making it stronger and more effective. This is a major issue for the environment, for the industry and for Canada.

I hope this legislation will not suffer the same fate as the legislation that we finally passed through the House last year, which addressed the liability regime in Canada's offshore oil and gas sector. That legislation, Bill C-22, as I mentioned earlier in a question for the minister, was introduced numerous times by the Conservatives only to be left to languish on the order paper for several years. The government seemed to be in no hurry at all to move that forward, for the longest time, so the fact that it seems to be a bit more anxious now is encouraging. When that bill finally moved through the House, the government refused to accept a number of solid amendments that would have improved the bill, made it stronger, and given greater protection for the offshore environment.

I hope it will be a different story for Bill C-46. Perhaps one might say, when I express optimism, that I am feeling hope despite all past evidence to the contrary. However, I remain an eternal optimist.

The Liberal Party recognizes that pipelines are a critical part of our energy sector's infrastructure. We have all seen the consequences of the government's failure to provide the means to get our resources to market. We have all seen what it has meant domestically in Canada for communities and in the international community in terms of how the Conservative government is viewed as a regulator of the environment. It is certainly not seen as a defender of the environment, and it has no credibility when it comes to environmental regulations, which makes it harder to get acceptance, for example, for the Keystone XL pipeline in the U.S. or to sell our resources in the international market and around the world.

Bill C-46 has already drawn a number of comments from members of Parliament and from interested stakeholders and other groups. Some have raised concerns over the potential impact of leaving many of the proposed changes in Bill C-46 to the discretion of cabinet and the National Energy Board, as I was saying earlier. Again I am an eternal optimist, but hopefully the government side will address this issue during debate on the legislation or perhaps in committee.

I am also looking forward to hearing at some point from the leader of the Green Party on this legislation, who according to media reports, sees nothing in the bill that she would oppose. However, she also indicated that she looks forward to a discussion about why her party will always oppose any pipeline shipping diluted bitumen. I certainly look forward to hearing that discussion.

One thing on which there is consensus is the importance of the energy sector to our economy. It is undebatable. The energy sector makes a large direct contribution to jobs and economic growth in this country. That is perhaps one of the reasons we are so aware across Canada of the impact on the oil and gas sector of the recent drop in the price of oil.

Let us look at what generally has been the case in that sector. For instance, we have seen average annual government revenues of $26.6 billion from the oil and gas sector. That pays for a lot of doctors, a lot of schools, and a lot of teachers. It is a significant number, to say the least. Per year, it is $155 billion in the country's GDP and approximately 300,000 jobs. There are indirect impacts in engineering and construction jobs, about $2.5 billion in engineering and research and development in 2010, and $32 billion in annual energy efficiency savings across the economy in 2010. Important research development is happening in the energy sector. This is, without question, an important sector. In my view, this has to be part of the equation when we consider what ought to be the absolute liability limit for pipelines.

Overall, there seems to be a consensus that, while the bill is long overdue, it is a move in the right direction or at least a good first step. I do not think anyone would argue with the fact that we need to strengthen the safety and security of pipelines to ensure that companies operating them take every measure to prevent any spill from happening and of course be held accountable if a spill does occur.

I know the Minister of Natural Resources is fond of pointing out that between 2008 and 2013, 99.9995% of oil transported in federally regulated pipelines moved safely. It is not perfect, but it is certainly a very good record, and our pipeline companies do deserve recognition for this important achievement.

The fact of the matter is that we use petroleum products in our country every day. We could go outside to the nearest street and watch the number of cars that go by. They are not all electric, by any means. Most of them obviously are not. We use it to heat our homes. We use petroleum products in so many ways. We rely on pipelines. They are an important part of our economy and are likely to be for quite a while to come. They play an important role in our society, and it is vitally important that they be run safely. When they are, it is appreciated, and we have to find ways to ensure it is done as well as possible at all times.

However, we also need to look to the future and take every step possible to continue to prevent spills, because they are the last thing we want. We heard about one in Montana a few minutes ago. That is very alarming. We do not want to see the kind of damage that oil can do when it is released to the environment.

We need to put in place proper measures to efficiently and effectively clean up spills and assign appropriate liability to make sure that companies have a really strong incentive to look after those pipelines, to renew them, and to maintain them appropriately. Canada must have the safest pipelines in the world, and we need to ensure that this pipeline safety act is well designed to achieve that goal.

In the bill, the National Energy Board would be given increased regulatory control over the 73,000 km of pipeline that transport more than $100 billion worth of petroleum products across Canada annually. Bill C-46 would build on previous moves to give the NEB the authority to increase the number of pipeline inspections and double the number of yearly safety audits. It does not guarantee the NEB would actually do either of those things, but at least the bill gives it the authority. In that sense, it is a step in the right direction. The worry is the amount of discretion that would be given to cabinet and to the NEB, as I mentioned earlier.

The NEB would also be asked to provide guidance on the best available technologies for pipeline construction and operations. We have seen the measures that set out how the government would work with aboriginal communities and industry to develop a strategy to better integrate aboriginal peoples and pipeline safety operations. That is something those communities are very concerned about, for obvious reasons. This would include planning, monitoring, incident response, and related employment and business opportunities. I hope this is an indication that we will see some progress in this area.

However, let us look at some of the key provisions in Bill C-46. Previous speakers have noted that there would be at least the $1 billion absolute or no-fault liability limit. In other words, in a case where there is negligence or fault shown, the liability would be in fact unlimited. However, no-fault or absolute liability applies when that negligence or fault is not shown. It means that no matter what they have done, if the product is a deleterious product that could be toxic, we would hold them accountable when there is a release of it, whether or not it can be proven they were negligent. That is an important measure because it is a valuable product and it produces important revenues for the industry, so we have to hold them to account appropriately. We are talking here about an unintended or uncontrolled release of oil, gas, or other petroleum product from a pipeline.

Absolute liability applies to companies operating major oil pipelines; that is to say, those with capacity to transport at least 250,000 barrels per day of oil. Lesser amounts—so smaller pipelines—will be prescribed by regulation for companies that operate smaller pipelines.

It should be noted that Bill C-46 confirms that the liability of the companies operating pipelines would remain unlimited if the spill is the result of negligence. Companies would be required to maintain the financial resources to pay the amount of liability that applies to them and must make sure that the resources are readily accessible to ensure rapid response to any spill situation. They would be required, as stated in the bill, to have the materials and equipment necessary nearby in order to deal with a spill. I hope the NEB would enforce that.

Under the bill, the NEB would have the authority to take control of an incident response if a company were unable or unwilling to do so and to order reimbursement of any level of government, whether it be an aboriginal governing body or a federal-provincial-municipal government or an individual, for cleanup costs. That is a positive measure. Again, would be left to the discretion of the NEB, and that discretion is a concern.

If the NEB takes control of an incident response, the government may also establish a claims tribunal. Again, it is “may establish”. We do not know that the government will do this; we hope it would. It may also establish a claims tribunal to streamline claims for compensation for those affected by the spill. This could be a good measure, depending on how the government used its discretion in implementing this.

While the government would provide the resources to take control of an incident and set up a claims tribunal, it would have the authority to recover the costs from the individual or the company. That is a good thing.

The bill would also ensure that companies are liable for their pipelines until they are removed from the ground, and the National Energy Board would be authorized to make sure companies are responsible for the maintenance of their abandoned pipelines. Clearly these and other measures in Bill C-46 signify a much-needed overhaul of the liability regime for federally regulated pipelines.

The no-fault liability, the additional authorities given to the NEB, and measures around abandoned pipelines are welcome, and the Liberal Party will support sending the legislation for further study at committee. I expect that the process will lead to amendments at committee that strengthen this legislation. I hope we will be surprised to find that the government will actually adopt such amendments, because our past experience has been that this is not the case.

For instance, groups like Ecojustice have already noted that the effectiveness of the changes proposed in Bill C-46 would be left largely to the discretion of the National Energy Board and the government. I think this is an issue we will hear more about when the bill goes to committee for further study.

To wrap up, as I said earlier, I was a bit surprised to be debating Bill C-46 on the first day of the House coming back after the holiday recess and given the fact that this legislation was only introduced on December 8, 2014. Perhaps the haste with which the government is proceeding has more to do with trying to restore public confidence in pipelines after it has completely bungled the file so often.

As my colleague from Papineau has said, when it comes to pipelines, the Prime Minister and the government are all hat and no cattle. This is a government that has failed to effectively protect the interests of the oil and gas sector or the environment. Of course, the oil and gas sector needs pipelines to get its product to offshore markets and other markets domestically in North America in the safest manner possible. I suspect members would all agree that, in terms of transportation of petroleum products, a pipeline is safer than a truck or a train.

Look at the government's record. It has botched the handling of the Keystone XL project. It bungled the northern gateway. It has orphaned energy east. Let us not forget that this is a government that has swallowed itself whole with regard to its attitude toward the energy sector. It was not very long ago that the government and the Prime Minister were constantly boasting about how Canada was a petro-state. The Prime Minister boasted that we are an emerging energy superpower to anyone who would listen. As a result of his fixation with the oil and gas industry, his party became dismissive of the importance of other sectors.

Of course, that was when the price of oil was in the $100 a barrel range, and perhaps it will be there again in six months or a year. Who knows when? However, now that the price of oil has fallen dramatically, the Prime Minister and his minions have adopted a new mantra to try to cover their incompetence and their failed economic strategy to put all their eggs in one basket.

Today they are telling Canadians that the energy sector is just a small percentage of Canada's GDP and that the economy as a whole is strong. They should tell that to the workers who are experiencing downsizing these days.

Some voters might believe the empty rhetoric, if there were not obvious signs of panic and chaos within cabinet ranks. We have a finance minister who one day says that his economic forecast remains on target and the very next day says that he is forced to delay the budget for several more months because of severe economic uncertainty. How do those two things equate? How do they go together? Clearly, the finance minister is hiding his budget, for obvious reasons.

I hope the natural resources minister is not hiding the real reason he is moving so quickly on Bill C-46. I hope the government is serious about pipeline safety, when it comes to Bill C-46, and is not just trying to cover up its ineptness and incompetence. I guess we will find out when we see its response to our efforts to enhance and strengthen this legislation to make sure that Canada has the safest pipeline infrastructure in the world. I hope that means the government will allow us to hear what experts have to say about what the limit ought to be and how this bill ought to be amended to be improved. After all, Canadians deserve nothing less.