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

March 27th, 2014 / 3:45 p.m.
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NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hard-working colleague for his question. I have always admired the work he has done in the House, and I hear glorious accolades for him from his constituents as well.

From my teaching perspective, I think 13 years to get to this point is really slow. However, we got here. If we were in continuous progress, we are at the halfway mark, but we still have a long way to go.

I actually was flabbergasted that we did not have this done a long time ago. Since I have been a parliamentarian, I have seen the government with a bill it wants to railroad through the House, as it did with Bill C-525, which was a union-busting bill, so to speak. It actually managed to ram that through with only about two and half hours of witness testimony and an hour of clause-by-clause. It then changed the orders so as to have it debated last night so it could be pushed through.

It is really about will. I am glad to see that the Conservatives have that will today to debate this, but it is long overdue. Even if it is long overdue, I am glad that it has reached this point.

Offshore Health and Safety ActGovernment Orders

March 27th, 2014 / 3:45 p.m.
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NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have been waiting for a question like that for a long time.

I actually believe in parliamentary democracy. I believe in debate, where we listen to each other and sometimes actually persuade others to change their minds on something. I believe in a process where the bill goes through all its legitimate stages, with the right to amend, discuss, debate, and hear testimony, unlike my colleagues across the way, who, yesterday, sat silent while they rammed through a bill that was an attack on working people. They sat silent for the whole debate. Not even the mover of the motion had the courtesy to stand to speak to the bill. That is not parliamentary democracy; that is something else.

Offshore Health and Safety ActGovernment Orders

March 27th, 2014 / 3:45 p.m.
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NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet NDP Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, based on my colleague's speech, she clearly really cares about the people around her and about workers. Her last comments really struck home.

In her speech, the member talked about certain problems and about ways this bill could have been improved. For instance, she talked about an independent safety regulator. Certain things were suggested in committee, for instance, including a mandatory review of the legislation in five years. She even said that the witnesses supported such a measure. That is also Justice Wells' position.

Does my colleague see any downside to including a mandatory review in five years?

Offshore Health and Safety ActGovernment Orders

March 27th, 2014 / 3:50 p.m.
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NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, when a bill is before us that I feel is already lacking, that does not have independence and separation, I think five years is too long. I think this bill is in need of review even before it has been acclaimed. Because I fundamentally believe that and support what was recommended by the panel in the report, five years is too long to wait to review this piece of legislation.

As I said, in 13 years we have managed to get to about a C. In order to get an A grade, we need to make sure that there is independent regulation of offshore safety. Therefore, for me, five years is far too long.

Offshore Health and Safety ActGovernment Orders

March 27th, 2014 / 3:50 p.m.
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NDP

Isabelle Morin NDP Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Brossard—La Prairie.

As everyone knows, the NDP is very concerned about the health and safety of Canadians at work. Bill C-5 is a step in the right direction for offshore workers. Nevertheless, it has some flaws, and that is what I would like to talk about.

The debate on amending the Canada-Newfoundland Atlantic Accord Implementation Act and the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act and other Acts and to provide for certain other measures began in 1999, when an offshore worker died off the coast of Nova Scotia. Negotiations, however, did not get underway until 2001. The issue came up again in 2010 following the report by Justice Robert Wells.

On March 12, 2009, a helicopter crashed off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador, killing 17 people. There was one sole survivor. After the accident, an inquiry was launched. It was carried out by Justice Wells. The judge himself stated that the most important part of the report was recommendation number 29, which recommended that:

a new, independent, and stand-alone Safety Regulator be established to regulate safety in the C-NL offshore.

This recommendation from Judge Wells illustrates the first obvious flaw in this bill, even though it has the support of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. This fact has been criticized by Tom Marshall, the Minister of Natural Resources for Newfoundland and Labrador. Judge Wells also proposed a three-point plan in case that recommendation was not adopted. He recommended that the government:

Create a separate and autonomous Safety Division of C-NLOPB, with a separate budget, separate leadership, and an organizational structure designed to deal only with safety matters;

Establish...an Advisory Board composed of mature and experienced persons fully representative of the community and who are unconnected with the oil industry;

Ensure that the Safety Division would have the mandate and ability to engage, either on staff or as consultants, expert advisors to assist it in its regulatory tasks.

I remind members that at the committee stage, the NDP proposed an amendment to Bill C-5 regarding the implementation of this recommendation. The amendment would have required the minister to table a report to Parliament within five years on the enforcement and implementation of the bill and on the need for a separate and autonomous offshore safety regulatory body.

The answer seems to be that the government's top priority is resolving this issue as quickly as possible, despite the fact that negotiations have been under way since 2001. Then, they will not have to worry about it anymore, even though revising this bill could only benefit Canada's offshore workers.

Second, let us talk about relations between the federal and provincial governments. The Conservative government does not co-operate with the provincial governments enough, despite the fact that they have to have the federal government's consent to change their safety regulations for offshore workers.

An NDP federal government would have worked closely with the provincial governments in order to protect the safety of these workers. It would have addressed this issue in 2001, when the negotiations between the federal government and the governments of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador began.

This is nothing but another blatant case of the Conservative government failing to listen to the provinces' demands. Let us not forget that these negotiations began in 2001 and that the bill still has not been passed.

What excuse do the Conservatives have for dragging their feet on this issue, which was on the table before they even came to power? How, in almost eight years, have the Conservatives not found enough time to resolve this issue?

I could ask the same question of our Liberal colleagues, who could have considered the issue as early as 1999. We cannot waste any more time. We need to pass this bill now, once we have finished with the necessary debate.

Shell and BP are preparing to explore for oil off the coast of Nova Scotia, and I am certain that no one here wants a repeat of the catastrophic Deepwater Horizon spill. On the contrary, I think that everyone here wants to know that offshore workers will be safe and healthy.

Third, I firmly believe that Bill C-5 is a step in the right direction when it comes to protecting workers. This bill will give workers the right to refuse tasks that they believe are unsafe. In addition, the bill will protect workers from reprisal if they report unsafe situations. In so doing, this bill further ensures the safety of offshore workers.

However, I want to reiterate that this bill would be an even better fit if it implemented Justice Wells' recommendation number 29 or if it would at least call for a review, in five years, of how the bill is being enforced to determine whether the creation of a new, independent and stand-alone organization to regulate safety issues in the offshore is warranted.

In closing, the NDP recognizes the merits of Bill C-5, which is a step in the right direction when it comes to better protecting workers. However, we deplore the fact that it has taken so long to get to this point. The NDP deplores the government's dismal co-operation with the Governments of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador and the fact that it is ignoring Justice Wells' recommendation 29 on the creation of an independent and stand-alone safety regulator for the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador offshore, which was the most important recommendation in his report.

Before becoming an MP, I took human resources management and occupational health and safety courses. These are critical issues. Safety is paramount when doing one's job and many studies show that we do a better job and we feel better if we feel safe. When we do not have that pressure, we feel happier about going to work and when we feel happy we do a better job. Therefore, it is essential.

A Conservative member asked why we were taking the time to discuss this and why we did not simply want to end debate and vote. The reason is that it is very important to have the opportunity to express our views about a bill in the House. The Conservatives often use time allocation motions to impose closure in order to quickly pass as many bills as possible.

As parliamentarians, our role in the House is to rise and debate these bills. This is a means of communicating with my constituents. I tell them about the speeches I give on various issues. Even if I am in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, which is in Montreal, Quebec, and far from where these issues are centred, these issues are of interest to Canadians across the country. This is about health and safety and it is important to take the time to discuss this issue.

We are nonetheless pleased to support this bill because it is an improvement, even though it does not go far enough.

Offshore Health and Safety ActGovernment Orders

March 27th, 2014 / 4 p.m.
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NDP

Hoang Mai NDP Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague on her excellent speech about a danger that she clearly takes personally. It is important to talk about this issue.

Why does she think it took 12 years to introduce this bill? Since this all started 12 years ago, the Liberal government of the day is just as responsible for it as today's Conservative government.

Can my colleague tell us why it took so long, considering that it involves important worker health and safety rights?

Offshore Health and Safety ActGovernment Orders

March 27th, 2014 / 4 p.m.
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NDP

Isabelle Morin NDP Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question.

I do not know if I can answer it. I cannot read the Conservatives' minds, so I do not know why they did not act sooner. Maybe it is because they want to push their agenda through.

This is the 41st Parliament. We were elected three years ago, and since the beginning, the Conservatives have passed all of the bills that were in line with their values and on their agenda. I guess they wanted to get those things done first.

Since coming to power in 2006—not all Parliaments have lasted four years—maybe they decided to deal with their priorities first. That is a shame, because worker safety is very important.

The fact that it took 12 years is disgraceful. It is important for workers to feel comfortable and safe at work. The Conservatives are not the only ones to blame for the delay, because 12 years ago, the Liberals were in power. This is a sad situation.

The NDP is the party that can do the best job of protecting workers, their health and their safety. Those other two parties have just proven that this issue was not on their agenda or one of their priorities.

Offshore Health and Safety ActGovernment Orders

March 27th, 2014 / 4 p.m.
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NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet NDP Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, this morning, during the meeting of the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, we were reviewing the transportation of dangerous goods by rail and the role of safety management systems. One witness from the steelworkers union said that Transport Canada was not doing its job and was not enforcing the rules. Rules are proposed, but Transport Canada is not enforcing them. It also gives companies permission to do all sorts of things and that is how we end up with situations like the one in Lac-Mégantic.

Does my colleague not think that having an independent body—an independent safety regulator—might help solve this type of problem?

Offshore Health and Safety ActGovernment Orders

March 27th, 2014 / 4 p.m.
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NDP

Isabelle Morin NDP Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her question. She does excellent work on the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.

The committee’s study on dangerous goods is very important. I do not really know who said it, but it is true that Transport Canada does not enforce the regulations. We have seen this, with what happened.

I think this independent organization, whose mandate would be to ensure that the rules are enforced, is essential. With the Conservatives, it is always a question of self-management. For instance, the NDP asked that companies be required to tell us when a drug shortage might occur. However, the Conservatives said that they would not require them to do so. The result was another shortage of drugs. Here again is a case where the department is being asked to self-regulate. I do not think this is a good idea, and this is why we wanted to see an independent agency set up. This is also why we wanted there to be a reassessment in five years. We would then have been able to decide whether an independent agency was necessary or not. The regulations must be enforced. I am sure that people are doing what they can—I believe in the basic goodness of people—but sometimes things are forgotten, and there can be lapses or shortcomings. This is why independent agencies exist. They exist in order to monitor the situation. Their role is to make sure that everything is all right. It would have been a good idea to include an independent agency in the bill.

We are going to vote in favour of the bill, because it is a step in the right direction. Its content is good, but it does not go far enough. There are half measures in the bill. There may perhaps be repercussions, but we are going to support it anyway because it includes some helpful measures for employees, even though it does not go far enough.

Offshore Health and Safety ActGovernment Orders

March 27th, 2014 / 4:05 p.m.
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NDP

Hoang Mai NDP Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to give my opinion on 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. The title is a bit long, but the purpose of this bill is to correct certain long-standing deficiencies in order to protect offshore workers who work specifically in the oil and gas field. This is a matter of health and safety.

The reason why I say this matter has dragged on and that these are long-standing deficiencies is that we have known about these problems for more than 12 years. They came to light more particularly following an accident. I lament the fact that this has taken so long. Why did the governments of the time, both Liberal and Conservative, wait so long to take action to protect the health and safety of workers? That is the least we can do.

On the other hand, I do want to acknowledge that this is indeed a step in the right direction, since such recognition is deserved.

This issue is of course somewhat complex in that there had to be a lot of co-operation between the federal and provincial governments. Once again, I admit, the government has managed to speak and work with the provinces. I will come back to what could have been done better later, but I want to say that this is a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, that is not the case often enough.

As an aside, in the case of the Champlain Bridge, a matter that concerns me directly, the government clearly does not want to co-operate with the provincial government or the municipalities. It has decided that if there are no tolls, there will be no bridge. However, when we talk to the provincial government and a number of municipalities, we see that they are opposed to the government’s plan. The NDP is also opposed to the government’s plan to charge a toll to replace the Champlain Bridge. Now I will get back to the subject at hand. I wanted to point out that sometimes the government can work with the provinces. It has managed to do so on this bill, and I do not understand why it does not do so all the time, why it insists on working behind closed doors and not co-operating to advance matters for the public good. In this case, this is a step in the right direction.

However, as my colleagues mentioned in committee, the NDP wanted to move amendments. One of the main points pertains to recommendation 29 of the Wells report. In fact, an inquiry was conducted following a rather tragic accident that caused a number of deaths off the coast of St. John’s. The report of the investigator, Mr. Wells, contains recommendations, one of the main ones being that an independent organization be made responsible for conducting follow-up. I am going to quote the report for greater clarity: “I believe that the recommendation which follows this explanatory note will be the most important in this entire Report.” Recommendation 29 calls for a new, independent and stand-alone organization to be established to regulate safety in the offshore. That recommendation is very important and was made following the inquiry. It really stated how important it was to establish such an organization.

The idea of creating a safety regulator is not a new one. We did not come up with it. We see it elsewhere. By comparison, for example, such independent, stand-alone organizations have already been established in Norway, the United Kingdom and Australia. Even the United States has a virtual equivalent called the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.

A solution was recommended following a very important inquiry. We do not understand why the government refuses to go that route, why it is rejecting an amendment that might have been positive and practical and might have helped to improve health and safety.

The government often says that it will conduct studies and consider recommendations. However, it has been doing nothing for at least 20 years, even though the Transportation Safety Board says that DOT-111 tanker cars are unsafe and even dangerous. A Liberal government was in power 20 years ago. Today, we have the Conservative government and it is still doing nothing. It has no timeline to replace the old DOT-111 cars. That is what troubles me.

Bill C-5 comes in the wake of the helicopter crash in St. John’s, and the Transportation Safety Board’s recommendations were made in response to the Lac-Mégantic tragedy, which caused 47 deaths. The Transportation Safety Board recently released a report stating that the problem with the DOT-111 tanker cars was linked to that tragedy. Despite that fact, the government is taking no action.

There is still a parallel with this case. It has taken 12 years to act. In the case of the DOT-111 tanker cars, it has been 20 years and the government still has not done anything.

Yesterday I asked the minister when he would have a timeline, and I got no answer. In fact, I got a vague, meaningless answer. There is still no timeline even though we know it can be done in a few years. However, the government has to be willing to take action. It has to show that this is what it wants. That takes a little trust and political leadership on the government’s part. That would be very much appreciated on this side of the House.

Bill C-5 is a step in the right direction. That is why we are supporting it at this stage. However, having been a member of several committees, I regret the fact that the government, which also has a majority in committee, rejects virtually all amendments whether they are moved by the official opposition or by the third party. It does not listen to the other parties.

That is unfortunate because the current situation is very real. The official opposition did not create it. This comes from an inquiry report. Experts have studied the problem. I am not an expert, but I trust the opinion of the people who went into the field and examined the situation. Those people made a recommendation to us, saying, moreover, that it was definitely the most important one, but the government set it aside. Why? That is hard to understand on this side of the House.

We want to establish an independent, stand-alone agency because we want to improve safety regulations. That is very important. I apologize for constantly drawing a parallel with Transport Canada because this relates directly to the file I am working on, but it reveals the same attitude on the government’s part. It receives recommendations, but it does nothing.

Once again, in committee today, we heard from experts who told us about the problems. Unfortunately, I can anticipate the government’s attitude. It will say that it has heard some good recommendations but that it is going to shelve them and do what it wants.

With regard to the railway safety example, I find that situation unacceptable. The Transportation Safety Board made three recommendations in its report on the Lac-Mégantic tragedy, which caused 47 deaths. That report is not yet complete because the investigation is still under way. Unfortunately, the government is doing nothing to move this matter forward. That is deplorable because we are talking about saving lives, about helping people by improving health and safety. The government has turned a deaf ear despite the experts’ recommendations.

I am going to conclude by congratulating the government for doing something quite positive after procrastinating for 12 years. There has been some co-operation with the provincial government. However, the government can and should do better.

Offshore Health and Safety ActGovernment Orders

March 27th, 2014 / 4:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I know that I have had the opportunity to ask a number of questions related to the bill. The member intrigued me when he made reference to the DOT-111 railway cars and to the fact that we are talking about 20 years.

The question that I have for him is related to an area that he says he is quite knowledgeable about. When did the NDP recognize that the DOT-111 cars were not worthy enough to be on the rail line, and how long does he believe they should continue to be allowed to be used by rail line companies?

Offshore Health and Safety ActGovernment Orders

March 27th, 2014 / 4:15 p.m.
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NDP

Hoang Mai NDP Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question. I think it is interesting that he is asking me this question, even though the Liberal government of the day did not do anything. Now it is the opposition that is being blamed. When blame falls on the Conservative government, the Conservatives blame the Liberals, and the Liberals are now blaming us as the opposition party. This is interesting.

I am going to answer this question, which is not entirely related to the issue before us today—but I appreciate it anyway. The Minister of Transport says that 10 years is too long. The idea of 10 years came from the United States, who said they were going to try to replace the cars in 10 years. CN told us yesterday said it was going to replace the old DOT-111 cars within four years. Irving Oil told us they would do it within a year. Today we heard in committee from a manufacturer of DOT-111 cars who thought that the number of cars that needed to be replaced was around 80,000.

Unlike the Minister of Transport, I do not have any information about the discussions the government has with all the parties involved. However, what I am asking is that the minister give us some kind of timeframe, in light of all the information and authority she has. In fact, despite having held discussions, having commissioned a report on the DOT-111 railway cars and having received TSB recommendations, we still do not have a timeframe. It is necessary to take action. The time has come to put a figure to the timeframe.

Offshore Health and Safety ActGovernment Orders

March 27th, 2014 / 4:15 p.m.
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NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I really enjoyed hearing the statement by my colleague from Brossard—La Prairie. This bill has been studied in committee and an amendment was put forward by the NDP members that sit on the committee. The amendment would have required the minister to table a report in Parliament within five years on the enforcement and implementation of the act and on whether or not it was necessary to establish a stand-alone, independent offshore safety regulator.

I have been thinking about this since I studied the bill and I still cannot find an explanation. Could my colleague enlighten me on this issue ?

Offshore Health and Safety ActGovernment Orders

March 27th, 2014 / 4:20 p.m.
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NDP

Hoang Mai NDP Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Gatineau for her question and for all the work she has done. I have worked with her, and it is quite amazing.

Her question is accurate and relevant. I can say that we have suggested that the situation be reviewed in a few years.

My colleague from Nickel Belt sits on the committee. He explained that the members of the Conservative Party who sit on the committee were not even interested in discussing the issue. As I understand it, it is not really very interesting to them. It comes back to what I was saying in my statement: every time the opposition wants to make an amendment, the Conservative government is not interested, even though the amendment is supported by experts who say that it would be an improvement. I have seen this clearly because I have sat on a number of committees. I think this is pure partisan politics, simply because if an amendment comes from the opposition the Conservatives think it is a bad idea. This is unfortunately an old, worn-out government. I think we are going to replace it in 2015.

Offshore Health and Safety ActGovernment Orders

March 27th, 2014 / 4:20 p.m.
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NDP

Élaine Michaud NDP Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in the House to join with my NDP colleagues, since we are the only ones taking part in this debate, in supporting Bill C-5 at third reading.

First, however, I would like to say that I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the member for Gatineau.

We in the NDP believe that Bill C-5 is particularly important, because it is intended to correct major problems in the current legislation and in the authority for making regulations associated with occupational health and safety standards in the offshore oil and gas industry.

In concrete terms, all this means that passing Bill C-5 would enshrine safety practices in the legislation. The employer would assume primary responsibility for occupational health and safety and would be required to take part in implementing and co-ordinating the measures needed to ensure employee safety.

For their part, employees would now have the opportunity to refuse to perform an activity that they have reason to believe is not safe. This provides some critical autonomy for our workers, who are always concerned about their safety and security in the workplace. Employees would also be protected from reprisals if they report a situation they consider unsafe.

Bill C-5 is a necessary and constructive improvement in occupational employee health and safety in offshore areas, and this is why the NDP is proud to support it. Employee protection has always been, and will always be, a priority for the NDP, in every field of work.

In our view, it does not matter whether the workers are land-based or working in offshore sites. They deserve the same level of protection. The provinces have the same view. Back in the day, the NDP government of Nova Scotia put a great deal of work into this issue. Newfoundland and Labrador also worked hard and sent numerous requests to the federal government for this kind of occupational safety system to be implemented. Of course, the NDP in Newfoundland and Labrador was very active in pushing the analysis and discussion on this issue forward.

Clearly, we in the NDP are going to support all the efforts that have been made by the provinces and we are delighted to see the improvements that will be implemented when the bill is passed.

The amendments we are talking about here were requested over 10 years ago by the provinces, primarily Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador, as I mentioned. It was high time that the federal government considered this issue. It is a matter that will also become more and more important for Quebec, as there is more and more discussion of oil development off our coastline, regardless of any personal views on the subject. These could also be important measures for Quebec workers, who may well be working in these areas in the future, here again, notwithstanding anyone’s personal opinion about oil development per se.

We in the NDP would also like to commend the federal government and the provinces for their willingness to work together, which made it possible to arrive at the bill that is before us today. It is a sign of openness to dialogue and co-operation that I personally find quite surprising on the part of the Conservatives, as we have grown accustomed to a great deal more inflexibility and intolerance from them. Nevertheless, I hope they have developed a taste for this new approach and that they will decide to continue along this path. Let us think positively. We can always hope that this method of working in co-operation with, rather than against, the provinces will be a model for dealing with any future issues they will have to address together with the provinces.

These days, safety is a major concern. With a great deal of effort, we got back to the issue of workforce training. Here again, however, there were disputes, because the Conservatives’ approach was simply to bully the provinces, asking them to do what they were told, failing which they would no longer support them. They would not get the funding requested and would be the losers. Be that as it may, I will continue to encourage them. I will therefore ask the Conservatives to maintain this admirable receptiveness with the provinces in the future.

With respect to the bill now before us, it has to be said that it is not a cure-all, and does not resolve all the existing problems. Despite the efforts of the NDP and the repeated requests from the provinces, Bill C-5 still does not contain a provision to establish an independent offshore safety regulator.

This measure had originally been proposed by Justice Robert Wells in his 2010 report. He stated the following in the report: “I believe that the recommendation which follows this explanatory note will be the most important in this entire Report”.

This was recommendation 29, which called for the creation of a new, independent, stand-alone agency to regulate offshore safety. This recommendation is important, because it would finally lead to the establishment of a single independent agency responsible for regulating safety.

The issue came into prominence following an accident that caused a death. It was in that context that the debate focused on the creation of such an independent agency. It is very important for us in the NDP, and unfortunately it is not included in the current bill.

In comments made a little earlier by my colleagues, both Conservative and Liberal, I heard complaints about the fact that we were still discussing this bill, that we were wasting our time and that we should pass it at once. I wonder where they were 12 years ago, when the negotiations began.

Both Liberal and Conservative members have taken this issue lightly, and done absolutely nothing. In their place, I too would wish to avoid the subject, I would not want to talk about it, and I would want it to be voted on as quickly as possible in order to forget about what was not done in the past.

I found it was unfortunate to be hearing these comments, because the experts who testified before the committee made clear the importance of having such an agency, in order to put in place the necessary measures to protect our offshore workers. Unfortunately, we have come this far and still nothing has been done. Elected representatives in Newfoundland and Labrador, among others, have deplored the fact that the agency is not included in the bill.

An NDP government would take all the necessary action, and hold all the necessary discussions, to work with the provinces to set up such an independent agency. In our view, it is a priority. Yet it does not seem to have been a priority for the current government or for the previous Liberal governments.

In 2015, the political landscape will have changed, as we will have a New Democrat government that will at last be able to achieve the practical results so long awaited by the offshore workers. This is really important to us.

In his remarks a little earlier, my colleague from Brossard—La Prairie mentioned that the NDP had proposed an amendment in committee to try to improve the bill. The amendment called for a provision to ensure that the effectiveness of the legislation would be reviewed five years after it was passed. Therefore, it would have been possible to see whether it could be improved, possibly through the creation of an independent agency, as recommended by Justice Wells. We are not yet at that point.

I do not wish to say that the Conservatives are acting in bad faith, but I see no other reason. We are therefore going to insist on this. Because of the bad faith of the government in place, the amendment was defeated. The result therefore is a law that is somewhat lacking, but nevertheless represents a definite improvement for the workers.

With a view to additional protections for those working offshore, the NDP can support the bill. As I was saying, it is unfortunate that we were not successful in resolving all the problems that had nevertheless been made very quite clear by the provinces and by numerous experts. Some years ago, one of those problems was directly demonstrated by the death of a worker, yet we are still engaged in the same debate. However, the province of Newfoundland and Labrador has stated that the current federal government clearly did not have the desire to establish such an agency.

In spite of everything, being able to incorporate better measures in the legislation for occupational health and safety is a significant step in the right direction. Given the expanding development of offshore oil and gas, this step should have been taken a long time ago. We are nevertheless getting the desired results. That is good. The NDP is very proud to support this bill.

I also wish to reiterate my pride in the work done by New Democrat MLAs in Newfoundland and Labrador and the then NDP government of Nova Scotia. They worked very hard to achieve this outcome. They can be proud of the work they did.