Offshore Health and Safety Act

An Act to amend the Canada-Newfoundland Atlantic Accord Implementation Act, the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act and other Acts and to provide for certain other measures

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

Sponsor

Joe Oliver  Conservative

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

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

This enactment amends the Canada-Newfoundland Atlantic Accord Implementation Act and the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act (the “Accord Acts”) in order to increase the level of safety and transparency of offshore petroleum activities.

The main purpose of the amendments is to establish a new occupational health and safety regime in the offshore areas.

In addition, it amends the Accord Acts to, most notably,

(a) ensure that occupational health and safety officers, special officers, conservation officers and operational safety officers have the same powers for the administration and enforcement of the Accord Acts;

(b) clarify that the new occupational health and safety regime applies to the transportation of persons who are in transit to, from or between workplaces in the offshore areas;

(c) require that any occupational health and safety regulations that apply to the transportation of persons who are in transit to, from or between workplaces in the offshore areas be made on the recommendation of the Minister of Transport; and

(d) authorize each of the Canada–Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board and the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board to publicly disclose information related to occupational health and safety if it considers it to be in the public interest.

It amends the Hazardous Materials Information Review Act to enable health and safety officers to get privileged information and to enable employers subject to the Accord Acts to apply to the Chief Screening Officer for exemptions from disclosure requirements in the same manner as employers under the Canada Labour Code. It also amends the Access to Information Act to prohibit the disclosure of certain information.

It amends the Canada Labour Code to closely follow the Accord Acts with respect to the time frame for the institution of proceedings, and with respect to prohibitions on the sharing of information and on testimony.

It also amends certain Acts and regulations to make terminological changes that are required as a result of certain amendments to the Canada-Newfoundland Atlantic Accord Implementation Act.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

May 12, 2014 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
Nov. 26, 2013 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Natural Resources.

Offshore Health and Safety ActGovernment Orders

May 8th, 2014 / 3:25 p.m.
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NDP

Mathieu Ravignat NDP Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will share my time with my hon. colleague from Churchill.

As always, I am pleased to rise in the House today to talk about Bill C-5, which was introduced as Bill C-61 during the first session of the 41st Parliament, as members probably all know.

I would like to begin by saying that the NDP will support, at report stage, this bill to amend the Canada-Newfoundland Atlantic Accord Implementation Act and the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act to enhance the safety and transparency of offshore petroleum activities.

These amendments would, primarily, create a new offshore workplace health and safety regime, which is a good thing. Bill C-5 addresses long-standing gaps in the legislation, as well as regulation-making authorities associated with workplace health and safety standards and how they apply to offshore petroleum extraction operations in the law. This is an important measure that the NDP has been seeking for some time.

Despite the federal government's refusal to implement recommendation no. 29 of the Wells Inquiry, Bill C-5 is a positive and necessary improvement to the current offshore health and safety regime because it places safety practices into legislation.

Bill C-5 is the culmination of over 12 years of negotiations, which started in 2001. In fact, I wonder what took the government so long to put these worker protection measures into law.

The bill also establishes a framework that clarifies the individual and shared roles of the federal government, the provincial governments, regulators, operators, employers, suppliers and employees. That is a lot of people, and I understand that the whole issue of the safety of our workers is rather complex and important, crucial even.

The bill is based on three basic principles.

First, offshore occupational health and safety laws must provide offshore workers with protection at least as good as that of onshore workers. That seems pretty basic to me. A worker must be protected regardless of where he or she works, whether offshore or onshore. No matter what environment a person works in, the conditions should be standardized and safe. No one wants to lose a colleague, a parent, a sister, an uncle or an aunt in a workplace accident. It is always tragic. During question period today, my colleague mentioned that we have already lost six miners in northern Ontario. That is six too many. It is the responsibility of all governments, federal and provincial alike, to ensure that our workers are safe.

Second, it is important to protect workers' rights: the right to know, the right to participate, the right to refuse unsafe work and the right to be protected from reprisals if they should blow the whistle on unsafe working conditions.

Third, it is necessary to support an occupational health and safety culture that emphasizes shared responsibility in the workplace.

New Democrats in the provinces in question had long been calling for these changes to be enshrined in law, but the Conservative government seemed reluctant to follow through. Nevertheless, we are pleased that this bill was introduced in the House.

However, it is disappointing that the federal government prevented us from making workers even safer by creating a stand-alone safety regulator.

I would like to quote the Honourable Robert Wells, who in a 2010 inquiry report on offshore helicopter safety said:

After a full study of the Transportation Safety Board’s Report, I have concluded that not only should such an independent safety regulator be created, it should also be given a clear and unambiguous safety mandate. This need is more urgent in the light of the TSB Report.

Justice Wells recommended that, even in the event that the recommendation was not considered feasible, a separate and autonomous safety division be created within the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board.

Unfortunately, the government has no interest in creating a stand-alone safety regulator. I am not the only one saying so. When he was the natural resources minister in Newfoundland and Labrador, Tom Marshall said the same thing.

The NDP is determined to work in partnership with the provinces to achieve better results, something that seems very difficult for my Conservative colleagues to do.

Bill C-5 also authorizes the Minister of Natural Resources and the provincial employment ministers, in consultation with the Minister of Employment and Social Development and the Minister of Transport, to develop offshore health and safety regulations. In addition, the Minister of Transport would be required to develop health and safety regulations for offshore workers in transit, because the bill also applies to workers who are moving between offshore marine facilities or structures, and that is a good thing.

This bill is definitely a step in the right direction. It may not be a big enough step, but it is a step nonetheless. It would have been a bigger step had the Conservatives not refused to consider, for example, the entirely reasonable NDP amendment that would have included a mandatory review of the law in five years. This type of provision is found in a number of laws. It is quite acceptable to review a law every five years, because things change. In order to adapt to new conditions, the laws in force must be reviewed so that they can be strengthened and so that they are an appropriate response to needs. They have to be evaluated and amended, if necessary. We thought it was a very reasonable amendment.

The principle of this amendment was supported by a number of key witnesses and corresponds to the position taken by Justice Wells on this issue. We believe that our amendment is necessary, I will repeat, for due diligence and good governance, especially given the complex nature of the bill and the fact that it pertains to several levels of government.

Nevertheless, we will support the bill, which is a positive and necessary improvement to the current regime. Furthermore, it will protect offshore workers at least as well as onshore workers. That is a good thing, and that is why I am pleased to rise in the House to give this speech in support of the bill.

Offshore Health and Safety ActGovernment Orders

May 8th, 2014 / 3:35 p.m.
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NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, obviously we are talking about a piece of legislation that pertains entirely to a specific part of the country. I am wondering if the member could speak to how the negotiations that took place and the benefits that will come from Bill C-5 may also be positive for the rest of the country and all Canadians.

Offshore Health and Safety ActGovernment Orders

May 8th, 2014 / 3:35 p.m.
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NDP

Mathieu Ravignat NDP Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is clear that both provincial governments and the federal government have been involved. It takes a lot for the Conservative government to consult. It takes a lot for Conservatives to admit that they need to consult. In this case, fortunately, though it took some time, it was done, and it seems to have been done across sectors, with organizations.

The fundamental principle is important, and that is that no matter where a Canadian works, whether it be on the earth, in the air, on the sea, they should be given the same protections. There should be the same security standards offered to them so that we lose fewer workers in this country every year. We already lose too many.

Offshore Health and Safety ActGovernment Orders

May 8th, 2014 / 3:35 p.m.
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NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak to Bill C-5, an act to amend the Canada-Newfoundland Atlantic Accord Implementation Act, the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act and other acts and to provide for certain other measures.

I am pleased to speak alongside my colleagues in the NDP in the House on this important bill, a bill that New Democrats support. We want to particularly recognize the hard work that was done by provinces in conjunction with the federal government to establish this bill. We want to note that despite the federal government's refusal to implement recommendation no. 29 of the Wells Inquiry, Bill C-5 makes a positive and necessary improvement to the current offshore health and safety regime by placing safety practices into legislation.

We as New Democrats are proud to support Bill C-5, as we have been calling for this strengthened regime for several years. We will continue to work with Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador to further strengthen worker health and safety by working toward the creation of an independent, stand-alone safety regulator.

As well, we in the NDP support the collaborative efforts between the provincial and federal governments that produced Bill C-5. We believe that collaboration with provincial and territorial governments to produce such measures moves our country forward. This is definitely something that, sadly, the Conservative government does not do enough of.

We know that the federal government, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador will be passing mirror legislation through their respective houses. The provincial governments of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador have made a strong commitment to ensure the consistency of offshore regulation between the two jurisdictions.

Bill C-5 addresses long-standing gaps in legislation and regulation-making powers associated with occupational health and safety standards and their enforcement in Atlantic offshore oil development. The bill would amend the Atlantic accord to place the health and occupation safety regimes in legislation, which is extremely important. It is an important step forward that the NDP has called for in all relevant jurisdictions.

As I noted, however, the bill is not compliant with recommendation 29 of the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Helicopter Safety Inquiry carried out by the Honourable Robert Wells. Bill C-5 does not provide for either an independent stand-alone safety regulator or an autonomous safety division within the petroleum boards. NDP efforts to provide for a review of the bill in five years, which could reopen the possibility of an independent offshore regulator, were unfortunately voted down by the Conservative government at the committee stage.

From our side, an NDP federal government would work with the provinces to put forward such measures in order to further strengthen the health and safety regime for Atlantic offshore workers. Nevertheless, we support this bill, as it is clear that it is well past due and is an important victory for the labour movement, for the former NDP government in Nova Scotia, and certainly for the NDP in Newfoundland and Labrador. They have been advocating for a legislated offshore safety regime for many years.

As I noted during my questions, it is clear that Bill C-5 is very much focused on the reality in the Atlantic, particularly in Newfoundland and Labrador as well as Nova Scotia, where offshore developments are an integral part of the economy.

However, as we know, in resource extractive industries it is workers who do the heavy lifting and put their lives and safety at risk day in, day out to produce the wealth of our country. As someone who represents northern Manitoba, a part of the country that depends in large part on resource extraction and on mining in particular, I am fully aware of the immense risks that people who go underground or work in smelters and refineries live with every day in the work they do. They do that work to provide for their families, contribute to their communities, and give Canadians the wealth and revenue that are so important in going forward.

It is particularly timely that we are talking about this, as it has been just 10 days since the National Day of Mourning, a very important day for all Canadians. It is a day when we take the time to mourn those who have died on the job, those who have been in workplace accidents, those who have been hurt and incapacitated in so many ways.

It is also a day when we take the time to strengthen our resolve to fight for the living, to make sure that we are talking about and acting on how we can make workplaces safer, how we can support health and safety regimes, and how we can ensure that unions have the support and the backing they need when pushing employers to step it up when it comes to health and safety.

It is very clear that we have a lot of work to do on this front. In fact, today my colleague, the member for Nickel Belt, made a very moving statement honouring the memory of two miners who were killed on the job in Sudbury. It reminded us that yes, in Canada and in 2014, people die because of health and safety failures in their workplaces.

Despite the calls for action and despite the work on the ground to prevent these kinds of senseless deaths, there is a lot of work to be done. Sadly, corporations have been negligent in too many cases in our country when it comes to looking out for health and safety.

The NDP's argument has always been to stand in solidarity with workers, no matter what sector they work in or what part of the country they live in. We stand by them and fight beside them for regulations and laws that would hold employers accountable and would ensure that health and safety is not negotiable or a matter of choice, but is mandated and regulated.

We are very supportive of Bill C-5 because it would mandate health and safety for offshore workers in a way that would prevent loss of life and further tragedies like the one in the Atlantic some years ago.

It is clear that there is more to be done. We can build on the successes of Bill C-5 by continuing to fight for an independent offshore regulator.

It is also important to review this legislation and see how it is implemented and how it will serve the best interests of workers.

We are disappointed by the unwillingness of the government in committee to provide for these amendments to the bill. However, we do want to acknowledge the many people in Newfoundland and Labrador and in Nova Scotia who worked very hard to make sure that tragedies like the ones that they and their families lived through are prevented.

We all have something to learn and to strive for in ensuring that workplaces across the country are safe and that no one loses their life doing something as important as going to work.

Offshore Health and Safety ActGovernment Orders

May 8th, 2014 / 3:45 p.m.
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NDP

Philip Toone NDP Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the speech by my colleague from Churchill. I found her arguments to be well reasoned. On a side note, I would also like to commend her for the excellent work that she does in her riding.

We have learned from the Newfoundland New Democratic Party that it is calling for the C-NLOPD, the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board, to be parallel to some extent with the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board, but there might be a certain conflict of interest in that not only do the boards regulate the exploitation of offshore petroleum but they also have important jurisdiction in ensuring the safety of workers and in protecting the environment as well. The Newfoundland NDP is calling for those powers to be separated so that there would be two institutions instead of just one.

I am wondering if my colleague would have any comments along that front.

Offshore Health and Safety ActGovernment Orders

May 8th, 2014 / 3:45 p.m.
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NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague, who I know feels strongly about these issues as well, as he is in a region where resource extraction, and particularly offshore extraction, is a serious issue.

It is important that we hear the voices of those from Newfoundland and Labrador who are concerned about the conflict of interest that the companies are in and that we heed their calls for independent regulation and for clear safeguards when it comes to not only the health and safety of workers but also the environment.

We have seen too many cases in which companies claim to be self-regulating and are encouraged to be self-regulating, yet have track records that are not positive ones. Sadly, this is the pattern we see from the Conservative government. Independent regulation is critical, and it is certainly critical in making sure that workers are not at risk in their daily jobs.

Offshore Health and Safety ActGovernment Orders

May 8th, 2014 / 3:50 p.m.
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NDP

Philip Toone NDP Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for her very interesting answer.

I would like to come back to the reasonable amendment proposed by the NDP involving an automatic review of the law every five years. This practice often comes up when bills are debated in the United States and then such provisions are included in the laws that are passed. However, this practice is not as often seen in Canada.

This practice should be used more often here, precisely because offshore oil and gas development is fairly recent in Canada. We do not have the expertise of other countries, and we have not really had a chance to look at what happened in the Gulf of Mexico, where all the problems occurred following the spill at the BP well whose name escapes me at the moment. We could learn a lot from that.

The United States regularly reviews its laws in order to make sure that they comply with the legal requirements regarding environmental protection. In Canada, we do this less frequently. The bill before us today proposes that we do so. Unfortunately the Conservatives rejected that proposal.

Does the hon. member have any other comments in that regard?

Offshore Health and Safety ActGovernment Orders

May 8th, 2014 / 3:50 p.m.
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NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague.

We congratulated all the governments and entities that contributed to the development of Bill C-5. As the New Democrats have mentioned, we are disappointed that the government did not agree to our proposal to review the implementation of the bill every five years. As we know, the Conservative government does not proactively support facts or science. Unfortunately, we are seeing the same thing with this bill.

A review of the bill would ensure that workers are protected and that the bill is working. In five years, we could strengthen and improve the bill. Unfortunately, the Conservative government did not want to do that. However, the NDP will continue to call for such action.

Offshore Health and Safety ActGovernment Orders

May 8th, 2014 / 3:50 p.m.
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NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Brome—Missisquoi.

I am pleased to speak on behalf of Bill C-5 and to offer our party's support at report stage for the bill. Bill C-5 addresses long-standing gaps in legislation and regulation making powers associated with occupational health and safety standards and their enforcement, in this case particularly with respect to Atlantic offshore oil development.

The bill would amend the Atlantic accord to place the health and occupation safety regimes into legislation. We feel that this is an important step forward. The New Democratic Party has called for this in all relevant jurisdictions across our country.

It is important to point out, however, that the bill is not compliant with recommendation 29 of the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador public inquiry into the offshore helicopter safety inquiry that was conducted by the Hon. Robert Wells. This followed in the aftermath of the tragedy so well known to Canadians. It involved the deaths of offshore oil workers on the Atlantic coast.

Bill C-5 also does not provide for either an independent stand-alone safety regulator or an autonomous safety division within the petroleum boards. New Democrat efforts to provide for a review of the bill in five years, which could reopen the possibility of these measures, including an independent offshore regulator which we believe is essential, were voted down by the government at committee stage, and that is regrettable.

A New Democrat federal government would work with the provinces to put forward such measures to further strengthen the health and safety regime for Atlantic offshore workers and, in fact, for all workers across the country from coast to coast to coast.

Nevertheless, we will support the bill at this stage as it is well past due and an important victory for workers and the labour movement that were instrumental in pushing this issue forward. Both provinces and both provincial New Democratic parties have also been advocating for legislative offshore safety regimes for many years.

By way of background, Bill C-5 is the culmination of over 12 years of negotiations, starting in 2001 between the federal government and the provincial governments of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador. The proposed amendments to the Canada-Newfoundland Atlantic Accord Implementation Act and the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act aim to strengthen offshore health and safety practices in the oil and gas industry.

Bill C-5 seeks to fill a legislative gap created by the 1992 amendments to the Atlantic accord that separated health and safety issues, resulting in the provincial offshore petroleum regulatory agencies effectively enforcing health and safety issues contained in draft regulations.

The bill would put existing practices into legislation by placing authority and fundamental principles of occupational health and safety within the accord acts themselves. We believe this is an important improvement to the offshore occupational health and safety regimes that the NDP has called for in all relevant jurisdictions.

The bill would also establish a framework that would clarify the individual and shared roles and responsibilities of the federal government, provincial governments, regulators, operators, employers, suppliers and employees, the co-operation of which we believe is fundamental to improving occupational health and safety in our country.

The bill is based on three basic principles: first, that offshore occupational health and safety laws much provide workers with protection at least as good as those which exist for onshore workers; second, the protection of employee rights, the right to know, the right to participate, the right to refuse unsafe work and the right to be protected from reprisals; and third, support for an occupational health and safety culture that recognizes the shared responsibilities of the workplace.

Essentially the bill engages the issue of occupational health and safety, the standards that should be applied to the enforcement mechanisms that are so important.

Before I was elected, I worked for a trade union for 16 years and saw the essential work that trade unions did across the country in representing and empowering workers and in advocating for stronger health and safety protection for workers in all occupations. As legislators, it is our duty to respond to that by ensuring that Canadian workers in every industry have the highest standards in the world and have meaningful, effective enforcement of those standards, because standards without enforcement are meaningless.

A few weeks ago, on April 28, workers across British Columbia and Canada marked Workers Memorial Day. This is a worldwide day, an international day of remembrance and action for workers killed, disabled, injured or made unwell by their work. This day highlights the preventable nature of many, in fact, most workplace accidents and ill health.

This day was started by the Canadian Union of Public Employees in 1984. In 1985, the Canadian Labour Congress declared an annual day of remembrance. In 1991, the House, because of New Democrat initiatives, passed an act respecting a national day of mourning for persons killed or injured on the job, making April 28 an official day of mourning across this country.

Speaking of the Canadian Labour Congress, it appears today that we have a new president of the CLC. I would like to personally congratulate Hassan Yousef on assuming the presidency of that organization. I wish him well and I know he will do a wonderful job in carrying on the fine work done by previous presidents, including President Ken Georgetti.

Tomorrow we will be honouring Afghanistan War veterans on this Hill and they, in many respects, are workers as well. They are people who, through their occupation, put their health, lives and wellness on the line for Canadians every day. They pay for their commitment sometimes with their injuries, illnesses and their lives, and it is not always physical. The psychological illnesses that are so well known through the trauma that our men and women in uniform are subjected to is something we will have a chance form coast to coast to honour tomorrow.

I would include our veterans, the heroes of our country, in the great pantheon of workers who ought to be covered and protected by this chamber, and every legislature across the country, to ensure that no workplace injury, illness or death is tolerable if we can prevent it.

There are a couple of people I would like to mention in British Columbia whose efforts over the years for occupational health and safety deserve mention in the House.

First, Jim Sinclair, president of the British Columbia Federation of Labour, has for decades championed the need for us to ensure that workers' health and safety on the job is protected.

Second, Tom Sigurdson, president of the British Columbia Building Trades, has also spent a lifetime both politically and in the labour movement to ensure that workers who get up in the morning and go to work have the right and expectation that at the end of their shifts they will come back to their homes and families.

This bill is symbolic of that as we seek to strengthen the health and protection of workers in the offshore oil industry.

Now, we do not have an offshore oil industry so much on the west coast, but we have a lot of workers off the coast of British Columbia. I hope the bill will serve as a template and reminder for all members of the House, including every member of Parliament from British Columbia, to ensure that we focus on the health and safety of those workers who go out on the Pacific Ocean and put their lives, health and safety at risk every day in order to feed their families and contribute to their communities and our economy.

We hear a lot about the needs of our economy and the need to ensure that we have a strong business climate. That is a particular priority of the government, which is laudable. However, we must also remember that no business and no economy runs without the labour and contributions of the workers who go to work every day and help to create the wealth, products and services that make those businesses profitable.

The New Democratic Party stands in contrast to the Conservatives because we believe that a balance between the interests of business and the interests of labour are not only an ethical and moral imperative, but the performance of our economy depends completely on achieving that right balance.

An economic approach that places the interests of business above and ignores the interests of workers is a policy that I believe will result in inefficient economic performance, and I think we are seeing that. Time and time again, I see examples where the government involves consultation of the business community. We saw that recently with the global market action plan when the Conservative government consulted over 400 stakeholders, not one of which represented a labour or work organization. It is this kind of lack of balance that is responsible for Canada's economy underperforming.

In 2015, Canadians will have an opportunity to select a different approach, an approach championed by the New Democratic Party which understands that a strong business sector, a strong labour sector and a strong government working together will create the most powerful and productive economy. That is what Canadians can look forward to in 2015.

Offshore Health and Safety ActGovernment Orders

May 8th, 2014 / 4 p.m.
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Durham Ontario

Conservative

Erin O'Toole ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I could not resist but to get up for two reasons.

I thank my friend and colleague for his remarks, particularly talking about the tragic Cougar helicopter crash. A good friend and former air force colleague of mine, Tim Lanouette, was on that aircraft, which had a catastrophic failure. We have to ensure that lessons are learned from such incidents, as they are through Transport Safety Board investigations. The health and safety of our workers is important. I am glad the NDP sees that is at the heart of this bill.

I do have to comment on my hon. friend's final remarks about the global market action plan. He listed how many witnesses have been heard, and how many groups have been engaged. Would it not be fair to say that employers themselves, and we have heard from literally dozens of employers about how we need to grow new markets, also have the interest of their workers at heart?

By growing their businesses and becoming productive, it allows them to hire more, secure those jobs and hopefully raise the standard of living and salaries. Would it not be fair to say that consulting employers also addresses some of these concerns?

Offshore Health and Safety ActGovernment Orders

May 8th, 2014 / 4 p.m.
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NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to first offer my condolences to my hon. colleague on his experience of having lost a friend in that helicopter tragedy. It reminds us that no one in the House is untouched by the issue of workplace health and safety. I think we all have a family member, friend, relative or a member of our community who has been injured, made unwell or even tragically killed.

In terms of the second part of my friend's question, business is an important voice. It ought to be consulted. It plays a pivotal role in our economy and in all parts of the business of the House, but so does labour.

This reflects the fundamental difference between the view of my hon. colleague of the workings of the House and ours. I do not believe business can speak for workers anymore than I think workers can speak for business.

If I turned that logic around, I could say that we do not need to consult any business, that we should just talk to 400 labour organizations, and that surely their interest in their employers and business would be sufficient to adequately reflect the interests of business.

I do not think that would be acceptable in the business community, and it ought not to be. Freezing out the voice of workers and labour in determining economic policies moving forward is equally misleading, misunderstood and misguided.

Offshore Health and Safety ActGovernment Orders

May 8th, 2014 / 4:05 p.m.
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NDP

Élaine Michaud NDP Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his excellent speech.

In his speech he spoke about creating an independent stand-alone authority to handle offshore health and safety issues. Unfortunately the current government completely dismissed this recommendation.

Could my colleague tell us why this recommendation is so important to the NDP and how implementing such a recommendation could affect working conditions for our workers?

Offshore Health and Safety ActGovernment Orders

May 8th, 2014 / 4:05 p.m.
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NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, the importance of having independent adjudicators and officers that help to negotiate what are often fields that have different interests is vital. That is no more important than in the case of occupational health and safety, where workers need an impartial arbiter on the issues. They need a place they can go that is trusted, where they can bring their concerns. If we are being honest in the House, this is often not possible within the workplace itself.

The Hon. Robert Wells, in the 2010 offshore helicopter safety inquiry, said this:

I believe that the recommendation which follows this explanatory note will be the most important in this entire Report....

I believe that the Safety Regulator should be separate and independent from all other components of offshore regulation and should stand alone, with safety being its only regulatory task....

I believe the Safety Regulator should be powerful, independent, knowledgeable, and equipped with expert advice, hence my following recommendations...

It is recommended that a new, independent, and standalone Safety Regulator be established to regulate safety in the...offshore [industry].

Hon. Robert Wells said that was the most important recommendation of the report. The government has not followed that advice, and I urge it to do so.

Offshore Health and Safety ActGovernment Orders

May 8th, 2014 / 4:05 p.m.
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NDP

Pierre Jacob NDP Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-5. This bill addresses long-standing gaps in occupational health and safety standards in Atlantic offshore oil and gas development.

The bill amends the Canada-Newfoundland Atlantic Accord in order to enshrine the occupational health and safety regime in law. This is an important measure that the NDP has long been calling for. This is a very important bill for workers who do dangerous work in Newfoundland and Labrador's offshore.

Not so long ago, these activities took place in shallow water close to shore. Now, we have oil rigs hundreds of kilometres from shore. It takes two to three hours to get to the rigs and back by helicopter. The work is done in extreme weather. It goes without saying that it is dangerous. These brave workers do this work to support themselves and their families. However, this sector also benefits Atlantic Canada's economy and the federal government.

As usual, bills like this come about after tragedy strikes. In this case, I am referring to the Ocean Ranger drilling platform, which sank off the shore of Newfoundland in 1982, taking 84 workers with it.

The royal commission that followed criticized the industry for problems with safety training and being lax with inspections. People believed that the government had implemented regulations to reduce risk. However, the offshore was never subject to provincial safety regulations.

There is a clear link between this tragedy and the one that occurred recently in Lac-Mégantic.

Prioritizing profit, the government let a company self-regulate. That decision led to tragedy, and the government betrayed the people's trust yet again.

Let us not forget the Deepwater Horizon. In 2010, neglect resulted in the death of 11 workers and the worst offshore oil spill in history. The Gulf of Mexico is still suffering the consequences of that incident.

In other words, we cannot pretend that will never happen again. The government must make laws. The NDP supports the federal-provincial collaboration that resulted in Bill C-5.

Bill C-5 is the outcome of over a decade of negotiation that began in 2001 between the federal government and the governments of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.

However, I am disappointed that the Conservative government does not work with the provincial and territorial governments on other issues often enough. I am also disappointed that my colleagues opposite still seem to cling to a laissez-faire ideology that benefits corporations but puts our communities and the environment at risk.

Regulation in the offshore oil industry focuses on performance. In other words, the regulatory body drafts a plan and sets safety objectives, and companies decide how to go about achieving those objectives.

In contrast, the regulatory regime set out in Bill C-5 dictates both the standards and the means to achieve them. Compliance is mandatory. That is why I support this bill.

The New Democrats have been calling for this kind of power for years. However, the bill does not act on recommendation 29 of the Honourable Robert Wells' offshore helicopter safety inquiry. That inquiry was held after a helicopter crash that, as we all know, killed 17 workers.

The Wells report contained a number of recommendations, including the creation of an independent safety regulator. Bill C-5 does not provide for the creation of an independent and stand-alone safety regulator, nor does it provide for autonomous safety divisions within the petroleum boards.

It is disappointing that the Government of Canada did not act on this report even though Newfoundland, Justice Wells, the unions concerned, the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour and many other stakeholders concerned about the offshore health and safety regime urged it to do so.

Thus, the NDP's efforts to ensure that the bill is reviewed in five years were rejected by the government at committee stage. An NDP federal government would work with the provinces to establish these measures in order to further strengthen the health and safety regime for Atlantic offshore workers.

Nevertheless, we will support Bill C-5 because it should have been passed a long time ago and it is an important victory for the labour movement. The NDP has been calling for a legislated offshore safety regime for years. Bill C-5 protects offshore workers at least as well as onshore workers. It also protects employees' right to refuse to work in dangerous conditions and to be protected from reprisals.

This bill is timely. In fact, Shell and BP are exploring along the Nova Scotia coast for the first time since the Gulf of Mexico spill in 2010. However, it is unfortunate that the federal government prevented the implementation of even better protection for worker safety by not creating a stand-alone safety regulator. The NDP is determined to work with the provinces to that end.

Offshore Health and Safety ActGovernment Orders

May 8th, 2014 / 4:15 p.m.
See context

NDP

Pierre Jacob NDP Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his excellent question. I want to point out that he does an excellent job in his riding.

To answer his question, I would say that this bill is a step in the right direction, but we could do even more to protect the public and the environment, which is very important. We proposed amendments. We want to pass this bill because it is a step in the right direction.