An Act to amend the Offshore Health and Safety Act

Status

In committee (House), as of April 30, 2021

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Summary

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

This enactment amends the Offshore Health and Safety Act to postpone the repeal of its transitional regulations.

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.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill S-3, An Act to amend the Offshore Health and Safety Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Fight Against Tax EvasionPrivate Members' Business

April 30th, 2021 / 2:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, I believe if you seek it, you will find unanimous consent to put the question on Bill S-3 at second reading.

Offshore Health and Safety ActGovernment Orders

April 30th, 2021 / 1:25 p.m.
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Bloc

Andréanne Larouche Bloc Shefford, QC

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

He talked about the issue of the safety that Bill S-3 brings and the importance of speeding up its implementation. I would like to come back to a point that was raised by my colleague from Manicouagan, namely exploratory drilling in Newfoundland.

When it comes to oil drilling, the question is not if there will be incidents or accidents, but when. These have repercussions on the safety of workers, on fish stocks and on fishers. How can the Liberals claim to be a green government while continuing to promote 40 or so exploratory drilling projects in Newfoundland?

Offshore Health and Safety ActGovernment Orders

April 30th, 2021 / 1:10 p.m.
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NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to enter into the debate today at second reading of Bill S-3, an act to amend the Offshore Health and Safety Act. This act deals with safety regulations in the Newfoundland and Labrador offshore oil and gas industry in particular. However, I am very concerned about the necessity of this legislation and what it reveals about the Government of Canada's commitment to safety in the Newfoundland and Labrador offshore oil and gas industry.

We support the speedy passage of the bill, because it will restore the offshore health and safety regulations put in place in 2014. They were established as interim regulations, with an expiry date initially of December 31, 2019, allowing five years for the relevant parties to develop permanent regulations. Five years is a long time, and they did have regulations in place.

The deadline was extended for one year, but the government has allowed the regulations to expire, leaving no enforceable regime in the offshore to protect workers who are expected to go to work every day with the expectation that a regime is in place to protect them, but it is not there.

It is very well for the minister's parliamentary secretary to say that the government will make it retroactive, but that is not good enough. The legislation before us today specifically says:

No person shall be convicted of an offence under a provision of a regulation revived under subsection (1) if the offence was committed during the period beginning on January 1, 2021 and ending on the day before the day on which this section comes into force.

That is clearly indicative that the government has no ability at this point to enforce these regulations, which supposedly will be revived. It is shameful that the government would allow that to happen, particularly given the history and the importance of marine safety in Canada and, in this case, of our offshore oil and gas industry.

Some who are looking carefully at their screens in this virtual hybrid sitting will notice that I am wearing a necktie that is peppered with images of lighthouses. These are, of course, the most ancient and iconic symbols of the need for safety at sea. Other recognized symbols of the dangers of maritime life and work are the images of the bright yellow Cormorant rescue helicopters of the Canadian Forces, the bright red hulls and the fuselages of the Canadian Coast Guard ships and helicopters with the white stripes.

These are important images for Canada, which is a significant maritime country, with three oceans and the longest coastline of any country in the world. The protection of mariners and all offshore workers, including those in the fishing industry and the offshore oil and gas industries, are of paramount importance to Canada.

We know, from the early history of offshore oil and gas development in Canada, the dangers that this industry exposed workers to from the monumental tragedy of the Ocean Ranger disaster, which has been mentioned by a couple of speakers today.

In 1982, the Ocean Ranger, a semi-submersible offshore oil drill rig, sank with the loss of 84 lives, including many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and other Canadians who died in that great tragedy. The memory of that February 14, 1982, date is carved in the memory of those affected and all those in Newfoundland and Labrador who received this shocking news and had to relive these events over many months of a royal commission of inquiry, seeking answers and detailing important recommendations to ensure the safety of workers in this harsh environment.

Unfortunately, the legal regime that was put in place for the health and safety of offshore workers was inadequate. The labour portfolios of the various jurisdictions had responsibility for occupational health and safety, but as the jurisdictional issues were sorted out, responsibility was taken from these departments of labour in 1992 and given to CNLOPB, the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board.

CNLOPB comes easily off the tongues of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who have an interest in the offshore and how it is managed. However, giving it the safety responsibility for occupational health and safety was not a wise decision in my view and the handling of that since then has been inadequate.

In its supposed wisdom of the day, the Newfoundland board and the Nova Scotia board, the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board, had in place draft regulations. They were not enforceable. It was not a situation in which somebody who did something contra to these regulations could actually be charged, treated as an offender, taken to court if necessary, fined or dealt with appropriately and be required to follow the regulations. It was a very different regime. The regime was there as draft regulations or really just a framework or a guideline.

That was entirely unsatisfactory to the workers involved. It was objected to by them and by the unions, by my party and both the Nova Scotia and the Newfoundland and Labrador legislators. There was very strong opposition to this approach.

I have familiarity with these regimes, as a lawyer, having had a client who was on the Ocean Ranger and having represented his family in the aftermath, seeking to get some compensation for those who had lost their lives and looking closely at the regulations that were involved.

In the 1990s and the 2000s, up to 2006, I was in the Newfoundland and Labrador legislature as well. I am very familiar with the arguments as to how these regimes were supposed to work. In fact, they were unsatisfactory as was also agreed to by Mr. Justice Wells in the commission of inquiry that took place after another sad tragedy, the crashing of the Cougar flight 491 in the Newfoundland offshore, with the loss of 17 lives in 2009. This was a serious problem that was caused by a fault in the helicopter involved.

After the sad loss of those 17 individuals, there was an inquiry, which also looked into these questions of how the offshore safety regime was managed. Mr. Justice Wells concurred that the situation and the regime were unsatisfactory, and called for enforceable regulations. He also called for an independent body to enforce those regulations. It was recognized that these regimes had a built-in conflict of interest and that, in accordance with their obligations and mandate to foster the industry, there was an inherent conflict of interest, which was recognized in other jurisdictions.

He did a very comprehensive report and his most important recommendation, as he called it, was recommendation 29, which was that there be an independent regulator for safety in the offshore. That followed the circumstances that existed in Australia, United Kingdom and Norway. Norway may have been the first. These regimes would require that there be an independent regulator so the issues of health and safety of workers be paramount and the only responsibility for those in charges.

This regime that is now in place in Canada failed to undertake that recommendation brought in by the Conservatives in legislation that was before the House in 2013 and passed into law in 2014. All of a sudden, as a result of these recommendations, we did have enforceable regulations. Workers had legislated the right to refuse unsafe work, which they did not have before, except in accordance with collective agreements in some of the rigs. Established by this legislation and by regulations in 2014 was a provision for an offshore safety advisory council where the representatives of both the provincial governments involved, the federal government and the workers would work to provide advice to the safety regulator for offshore safety regulations.

There is another failing of the government since the legislation was put in place. Believe it or not, since 2014, the requirement for the establishment of an offshore safety advisory council has not been put in place in Newfoundland and Labrador. The Nova Scotia board was put in place in 2019, and it has met twice a year since then. No board is in place in Newfoundland and Labrador.

That is a shocking dereliction of following up on the importance of the safety regulations. I am told that the federal part of the board has been appointed, but the provincial board has not. Indeed, one of the requirements of the legislation is that the workers' representatives and unions, if there are unions, should be consulted in the appointment of the persons representing workers.

I am advised that there has been no consultation with either the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour or the relevant union representing two of the rigs offshore. That is another failing of the government in terms of taking its commitments to the health of safety in the offshore seriously.

The fact is that the regulations were allowed to lapse. An extension passed through legislation in 2018 to extend the deadline for putting permanent regulations in place to December 31, 2020. However, the government waited until December of last year to do that. It then brought in legislation in the Senate to get the extension it required to continue on past the expiry that was coming up.

That is a shameful dereliction of duty. How did that happen? We heard the parliamentary secretary attempt to give an explanation today about how many pages were involved and how many regulations there were, etc. However, this has been going on for six years. The government has had six years to do this. It is now asking for another year. It has to be done, obviously, so we will support the legislation.

However, the most serious issue has been the failure of the government to recognize that these regulations were expiring. In fact, they were automatically repealed at the end of that period. As of December 31 of last year, they do not exist. There is no opportunity to enforce these regulations right now. No one can be charged.

The shocking part is the fact that the government showed a lack of foresight, failed to notice that the regulations would expire, or somehow or other did not take it seriously enough to ensure that the legislation was before the House of Commons prior to the end of last year.

These are some of the reasons why we are very unhappy with the level of commitment by the Government of Canada to health and safety in the offshore. Workers in the offshore are rightfully outraged that the government has failed to take this matter seriously.

We do need to have enforceable regulations. We do need to have the right to refuse unsafe work. We do need to ensure that we can ultimately have an independent regulator. Unfortunately, it is not good enough to repeat a mantra about how safety is our most important and first priority, and all those comments which give lip service to the safety, when we have these instances where the regulations are allowed to lapse and there is a failure to take these responsibilities seriously.

We will support the legislation. It needs to be fixed. It needs to be replaced and put back in place as soon as possible. It is not good enough to have the situation where we are faced with this circumstance and a failure by the government to act quickly.

Offshore Health and Safety ActGovernment Orders

April 30th, 2021 / 1 p.m.
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Bloc

Marilène Gill Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to speak in the House today about Bill S-3, which virtually everyone seems to agree on.

However, I would like to voice a few of my concerns about the bill. I will start by summarizing the bill and the position of the Bloc Québécois. Then I will illustrate my position with a parallel before wrapping up my remarks.

First, I would like to point out that this bill merely amends an act so that two regulations can be repealed no later than seven years after the clause comes into force. It would allow extra time to do things right. Essentially, it is very simple.

This bill does not affect Quebec. Although I am sharing the position of the Bloc Québécois on the bill, it concerns Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, the federal government and the provincial governments because of the occupational health and safety initiative. We hope that the provinces themselves will speak out on the issue.

Nevertheless, as I often say, the Bloc Québécois is a party that defends workers and advocates for their health and safety. We have tabled many bills aimed at defending workers, including our federal anti-scab bills, aimed at solving a problem that Quebec addressed a long time ago.

We care about workers. I would like to remind the House that, last week, I was defending my bill that also aims to protect retirees and workers and their pension funds. This issue is one that the Bloc Québécois really cares about and that is part of our values.

I would like to draw a parallel to illustrate my concerns about Bill S-3, in that I hope that it will be adopted quickly in order to avoid leaving a gap. We know very well that leaving a gap hurts Canadians and their well-being by threatening their health and safety. As for my parallel, I remember the early days of 2020, at the beginning of the current government's term. We discussed Newfoundland and Labrador extensively for other reasons.

It was the beginning of the Ocean Decade, and the Prime Minister of Canada's way of celebrating was to authorize 40 exploratory drilling projects in a marine area recognized by the United Nations for its ecological and biological importance.

Now we are talking about Newfoundland and Labrador again, in another context, but we saw things moving very fast. The government authorized 40 exploratory drilling projects and also decided to abolish the environmental assessment process. It did not modify it, it did not reform it, it simply abolished it.

It is interesting to note that the government can green-light projects in as little as 80 days. Today in the House, we are talking about repeals within five or seven years. In my example, it was 90 days. Essentially, the government is saying that it is greener than the Green Party, that it wants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and that it is doing a lot to achieve that very quickly, but we have absolutely no idea how it wants to go about it. The government has made a statement, but it is totally unsupported.

Even fishers in Newfoundland and Labrador expressed concerns at the time about what was happening. When we are talking about fishers, we are talking about workers and their working conditions. This is a protected area recognized for its diversity and richness. Very quickly, at the beginning of 2020, in the early days of its term, the government authorized exploratory drilling projects. The unions also weighed in on the matter because they were concerned about the health of the people and workers in Newfoundland and Labrador.

That is the parallel I want to draw. I would like to point out the government's double standard. When it comes to defending the oil industry, rather than workers, the government can move very quickly. When it came to the House in early 2020, it tried to smooth the way for oil companies, to put it mildly, or even eliminate all obstacles for them. It only works that hard for the benefit of oil companies, not for the biodiversity of this world-renowned protected area or for workers.

It should be pretty clear that the Bloc Québécois and I support the bill, but we do not want to see any further delays. The government has proven that it can move very fast when it comes to exploratory drilling, so I imagine it is capable of moving fast on Bill S-3.

Still, I am worried there might be delays. Back in 2020, the government managed to act very fast for oil companies, but it seems disinclined to do the same for workers. Here again, unions are saying they need protection, and Unifor Quebec said it has to happen fast.

Tragedies have happened to people. I have not yet talked about how there have been a lot of incidents in the oil industry. I have talked about fisheries, but these incidents are obviously going to have repercussions for people in the oil sector itself. As I just said, I would like to see the government work quickly to pass Bill S-3. Protecting employees and workers should take precedence over protecting oil companies.

I think this is going to take a lot of work. It is faster and easier to destroy than it is to build. This bill, Bill S-3, is an opportunity to build something that is absolutely doable. I think this bill will get the unanimous consent of the House. I would like to remind the government that it was capable of acting very fast in Newfoundland and Labrador on another issue for the good of someone other than workers. I hope it will side with workers this time.

Offshore Health and Safety ActGovernment Orders

April 30th, 2021 / 1 p.m.
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Bloc

Andréanne Larouche Bloc Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to hear my colleague's thoughts on a very worrisome aspect of Bill S-3.

Last year, the union condemned the fact that offshore exploratory drilling had been left out of the bill.

We know that the exploratory drilling in Newfoundland carries risks for the fisheries, the environment and workers.

What does my colleague think about the fact that these platforms are excluded from Bill S-3?

Offshore Health and Safety ActGovernment Orders

April 30th, 2021 / 12:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Chris d'Entremont Conservative West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Calgary Centre for sharing his time with me today to speak to Bill S-3.

On December 31, 2020, our offshore oil and gas workers were instantly stripped of their health and safety protections. This date saw the expiry of a transitional, or what we could call temporary, safety regulations that had been in place for the previous six years. They came with the 2014 version of the Offshore Health and Safety Act.

Since then, for almost four months, there have been no codified regulations protecting offshore workers’ rights to health and safety, despite the fact that our workers, day in and day out, are still engaging in challenging and sometimes risky work. In Canada in 2021, no worker who puts their safety at risk in their workplace should ever have to do so without being protected by health and safety rights.

Bill S-3 seeks to extend these same transitional regulations for two extra years to the end of 2022 in order to provide time for the government to finally implement the long-awaited permanent regulations. During the study of this bill, many witnesses were heard from, including the minister and his senior officials, from industry, the unions, and individuals.

To indicate to everyone how important this bill is and how seriously it has been studied, I will tell of Mr. Robert Decker. He has been mentioned a few times here today, and he was the sole survivor of the helicopter crash in 2009. He does not often speak publicly about it, but he shared a brief on his experience. For him to reach out and send the committee such a note, as he did, not only speaks to the importance of safety, which we all know and we have all heard about, but it also speaks to the necessity of getting this done and getting it done quickly.

Offshore health and safety requires our attention and speaks to the fundamental role of government, which is the protection of its citizens. Unfortunately, on this side of the House, we too often need to remind the government of its responsibility, and that is a shame.

Whether it is concerning the protection of our communities or the security of women regarding domestic violence, or the protection of our women in uniform, the victims of sexual misconduct in our armed forces, we still have to remind the government of its responsibilities and fight for that. Why is it so hard for the government to take responsibility for protecting its hard-working citizens?

Offshore workers should be able to arrive for their shift every day knowing that the government have implemented the proper regulations to ensure that they will be as safe as possible and that they will be able to return home to their families. For so many in our Atlantic provinces, just like in my beautiful province of Nova Scotia, these issues are not just a matter of legislation. They are personal, affecting their lives and their loved ones' lives.

In recent decades, the province of Newfoundland and Labrador has had to face devastating offshore tragedies, some that have been mentioned a couple of times today. There was the Ocean Ranger disaster on Valentine’s Day of 1982. The Ocean Ranger was a semi-submersible drilling rig, and it was described as indestructible. I would like to share a short but important and meaningful summary of this tragedy.

On February 14, 1982, there was a storm off the coast of Newfoundland, which capsized the rig, resulting in the tragic deaths of all 84 people on board. There were no survivors. This was Canada’s worst tragedy at sea since the Second World War. A very good friend of Senator Wells, who supports this bill and has spoken passionately to it as well, Mr. Darryl Reid was one of the 84 who lost their lives. Gerald Keddy, a retired colleague from this House of Commons, also served on the Ocean Ranger. He lost a number of his friends that day.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, as in Nova Scotia, these tragedies hit directly because they are small, tight communities. Everyone is within two or three degrees of separation. I can certainly understand the feeling. Nova Scotia has had its share of tragedies during the last year, and everyone has been affected by them. Everyone knows someone who has been affected by one of them.

Later on, almost 30 years later, on March 12, 2009, Cougar helicopter flight 491 crashed into the North Atlantic after experiencing mechanical trouble. The helicopter was ferrying 18 offshore workers to oil platforms off the coast of Newfoundland. Tragically, 17 lost their lives and the only survivor was Mr. Robert Decker.

I completely understand and deeply share Senator Wells' frustration regarding the fact that the minister in charge of getting this done, and who has not done it, is also a Newfoundland and Labradorian. Once again, I find it sad that we have to speak out to ensure the protection and rights of the courageous workers who have more dangerous occupations than others.

Catastrophes, like the ones mentioned earlier, have brought so much devastation to Newfoundlanders. They are deeply rooted. Like the Portapique tragedy in Nova Scotia, no one ever forgets, even several years later. The victims of any tragedy should never be forgotten. Health and safety legislation and regulations affect so many. Bolstering offshore health and safety means decreasing the likelihood that these devastating events will happen and the likelihood that more parents, spouses and children will spend their lifetime grieving.

In Canada, prioritizing the health and safety of our workers should never be part of any debate; it should be a given. Many Canadian industries are investing time and money in implementing a safety culture and are working tirelessly to ensure that workers stay safe. Offshore workers deserve to know that we care about their safety.

Offshore petroleum boards, the one in Newfoundland and Labrador, the other in Nova Scotia, play critical roles in meeting our health and safety goals. However, these boards cannot do it alone; they require the co-operation of government to prioritize these issues and to push forward necessary legislation and regulations.

The 2014 Offshore Health and Safety Act was a promising step forward. Bill S-3 simply asks for the extension of two years. The government's legislative summary states that it is necessary because of the complexity of the regulations and the need to secure agreement from Newfoundland and Labrador, and from Nova Scotia, which I am sure are ready to go.

The 2014 Offshore Health and Safety Act outlines a path toward permanent health and safety regulations for our Atlantic offshore. However, I understand that the act of putting permanent OHS regulations into place is one that requires study and coordination, so transitional regulations were put in place when the Offshore Health and Safety Act was enacted, giving the government a five-year period of time to conduct the necessary analysis and to determine permanent regulations. These transitional regulations were necessary at the time, but critical elements were still delayed awaiting this five-year window, including the establishment of an occupational health and safety advisory council. What few people know is that an extension was already given in the second budget in 2018. That was a one-year extension tucked into the 884-page omnibus bill.

Offshore workers have been waiting for too long. Bill S-3 should represent the final extension of the deadline to adopt permanent health and safety regulations.

Furthermore, the Department of Natural Resources must submit an implementation progress report to the House before the end of the parliamentary session, including the implementation schedule to the expiry of the transitional regulations.

The government has failed our workers. I ask again: What is more important to the government than bringing safety to some of our most at-risk workers? In the past six years, the government could not find the time to develop permanent regulations, ones that are simple and clearly based on existing provincial and federal regulations, and the practices of the board, including the provisions of conditions of licence. Why has it taken so long and why are we scrambling for an extension mere weeks from the expiry of the transitional regulations and mere days from Parliament adjourning, back in December, until 2021?

The safety of citizens is a fundamental responsibility of government. Of course, we want to see this bill pass quickly in this House of Commons so workers can be protected. Again, the largest question that continues to go through my mind is this. Why has it taken six years for us to get here?

With those short comments, I am looking forward to a few questions before I have to get off to the health committee, which has already started.

Offshore Health and Safety ActGovernment Orders

April 30th, 2021 / 12:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Greg McLean Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. speaker, I am pleased to finally have the opportunity to speak to Bill S-3 virtually in the House of Commons.

As I am here safe while doing my job, I am reminded that offshore workers do not have the same protections. In fact, it has been 120 days since offshore oil workers were stripped of their health and safety regulations because the Liberal government let the temporary safety regulations expire. Safety at work should not be a luxury or a privilege. It should be the most basic guarantee given to workers. By failing to keep workers safe on the job, the Liberal government is failing in its most basic responsibility.

The Conservatives understand how important this is. In 2009, 17 people on board Cougar Helicopters flight 491 were killed when their helicopter crashed into the Atlantic Ocean. It was a routine flight carrying them to work on an offshore oil rig.

The Conservative government at the time knew that we needed to do whatever we could to prevent another tragedy, so we got to work without delay on completely overhauling the health and safety regime for the offshore oil industry. In 2004, we put in place world-class safety protections for offshore oil workers.

The Liberals have had five years to finalize permanent regulations after that regime was introduced. It failed to meet the deadline in 2019, and instead extended the temporary regulations by another year, until December 31, 2020. When the Liberals extended the deadline in 2018, they buried the time limit extension in an omnibus budget bill. They probably missed an opportunity to do this last year, because they decided not to present a government budget for two years.

The government brought this bill forward in the Senate in December 2020, days before the interim regulations for worker safety in the offshore were due to expire. Anticipating the inevitable reality that the House of Commons would not be able to see it through our legislative process prior to the end of the year, the legislation includes language to retroactively impose the transitional regulations that lapsed on December 31, 2020. In the interim, we have a regulatory void.

Today is April 30, 2021, and it has been 120 days since the Liberals let those regulations expire. Offshore oil workers are back where they were in 2009, when the Cougar crash happened. Frankly, it is shameful that the Liberals have allowed things to get to this point. Workers have gone months without protection. It is complete negligence of the government's basic responsibilities, and there is no reason for us to be in this position today.

Offshore oil workers do some of Canada's most challenging and, sometimes, most risky work, and they deserve better protection on the job. However, after six years, we are not here today to finalize permanent safety regulations for the offshore oil industry. Instead, we are just trying to get the temporary regulations back in place so that we can keep workers safe while the Liberals ask for more extensions.

I will be clear on our position on Bill S-3. As Conservatives, protecting workers is our top priority. We support getting this bill passed as quickly as possible so that workers do not have to go another day without safety protections. I have personally been asking the government, over the past several months, when it was finally going to move Bill S-3 forward, because every day that we wait is another day that offshore workers are unprotected.

These delays and excuses need to stop. There is nothing more important than Canadians' safety when they show up for work every day. We cannot end up back in that position again.

Offshore oil workers need permanent protection in terms of health and safety. We will not stop pushing until that happens.

In the meantime, Bill S-3 is an urgently needed stopgap to protect workers in the offshore oil industry. I want to thank the Senate for passing this legislation as quickly as possible, and I hope we can do the same here in the House of Commons.

We in the House need to recognize that even though the government is delaying, offshore oil work does not stop. There are people going to work every day in the offshore oil industry who are continuing to hold themselves to the highest safety standards, even without government regulations. Their work does not stop, and they are committed to keeping themselves and their neighbours safe, even when the government is failing to do its job.

I want to recognize my colleague in the Senate, Senator Wells, who proposed an amendment to Bill S-3 to shorten the extension time of the temporary regulations from what was originally introduced as a two-year extension down to a one-year extension. We know from committee testimony in the Senate that these regulations are pretty much completed, as they should be after six years. Based on the government's own planning in early 2020, a year is plenty of time to get these regulations finalized.

Members may not understand why we cannot just keep renewing the temporary regulations, but as someone who is very familiar with the oil and gas industry, I want to underscore how urgent permanent regulations are for the offshore industry. Technology in the oil and gas industry has advanced leaps and bounds since 2014. The temporary regulations introduced in 2014 were used as a stopgap measure while permanent regulations could be finalized to keep up with technological changes and keep workers protected in the long term. This is becoming more and more urgent as technology advances beyond what was available in 2014 and beyond the protections in that set of regulations.

It needs to be a priority for the government to implement permanent updated regulations as soon as possible. That is why it is important for this to be the last extension of the stopgap measures. Workers need up-to-date permanent regulations. They cannot go another two years without updated regulations, and they should never again go another 120 days unprotected by any health and safety regulations.

I will end my speech today by reminding the government that these regulations are not some far-removed technical set of rules that can be put off another few years while it focuses on flashier legislation. These are regulations that directly impact people's lives and livelihoods. They mean that workers can do their jobs, that they know they will be safe and that families can trust that their loved ones will come home to them safe at the end of the day. Communities will be able to trust they will not experience a repeat of the absolute devastation of Cougar flight 491 in 2009, which killed 17 people, or of the Ocean Ranger disaster in 1982, which killed all 84 people on board.

The Liberal government needs to stop telling offshore workers, their families and their communities that they do not matter. No one can express this better than Robert Decker, the sole survivor of Cougar flight 491. Understandably, after what he experienced he rarely speaks in public, but he wrote to the Senate about Bill S-3. The fact that he had to relive his trauma to urge the government to act should tell us all we need to know about how dire this situation is.

What he has to say is extremely powerful, and I will leave members with his words. He said:

...those charged with the legislative oversight of safety in the offshore have not learned and don’t care.

While I no longer work in the offshore, my friends and former workmates still do. I want them to have every opportunity to return home to their families. It is not a lot to ask.

Offshore Health and Safety ActGovernment Orders

April 30th, 2021 / 12:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Marc Serré Liberal Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her important question about workers, Unifor and unions.

Obviously that is important. We are committed, and we are are holding consultations with Unifor and many unions. It is important for us to move forward, while taking into account the 300 pages of regulations. We also need to take into account the Canada Labour Code, workplace health and safety, the consultations between the federal government and two provinces, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador, and a possible election.

It is really important to continue the work that we have already started. We said that the delay was unacceptable. However, we did the work and we will continue to do more.

It is important that the House support Bill S-3 with the changes made by the Senate so we can ensure that the bill passes by the end of the year.

Offshore Health and Safety ActGovernment Orders

April 30th, 2021 / 12:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Marc Serré Liberal Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, with the tragedies that have occurred offshore on the rigs, it is really important that we do this. We are getting Bill S-3 done and are getting it right. We are making sure that the safety regulations and labour codes will make sure that we get this right.

We are continuing from the framework of 2014, and we have to make sure that it is implemented in the right way. We will continue to look at other ways to protect the health and safety of our workers. It is important that we look to do this by December 2021.

Offshore Health and Safety ActGovernment Orders

April 30th, 2021 / 12:15 p.m.
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Nickel Belt Ontario

Liberal

Marc Serré LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, I will pick up where I left off before question period.

As I mentioned earlier, our government is consistently working to improve the regulatory framework, and we have to do this the right way. This is strengthened by consulting with others, by consulting with unions, companies and Canadians.

Stakeholders objected to a number of unnecessary administrative burdens. We agreed and scrapped them in order to cut the red tape. Another challenge is that not all interim regulations for 2014 complied with international standards because the government of the day cut corners in order to rush this through. That caused problems and uncertainty with rigs that came from other jurisdictions.

Therefore, in 2017, in the middle of this, we had to fix it, and it took time to clean this mess up. As well, we have to remember this is happening against the backdrop of a global pandemic, which changed everything. It changed how we work and where we work. It is not the reason we did not meet our deadline, but it has certainly exacerbated the delays.

For example, we were scheduled to start full-day, in-person drafting sessions the week of March 23 and then the pandemic hit. Suddenly, we were all working from home, with justice department drafters left to figure out how to do this virtually and securely. The pandemic, simply put, cost us time. All our technical advisers at both the federal and provincial levels are with their respective occupational health and safety departments. They have been on the front lines of the COVID-19 response.

Despite these factors, I agree this has taken too long, but I assure the House we will get this done in the right way. Natural Resources Canada has a detailed implementation schedule, working in co-operation with the Department of Justice and the two provincial governments. We are close, and the Minister of Natural Resources has directed his officials to get this done by year's end.

Bill S-3 would give us the breathing space to get there. Safety is paramount and any shorter time frame would mean shortcuts would be taken, and when it comes to the health and safety of workers, shortcuts are unacceptable.

We must provide these workers with the best protections by adopting a world-class safety regime. I believe in it, and I support it.

Bill S-3 will really help us, and I urge members to support it.

We have spoken to our colleagues across the aisle on the importance of passing this bill quickly, and I want to express my appreciation to them and to the House leaders for agreeing to that. We continue to do the necessary work of protecting our workers today and in the future.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill S-3, An Act to amend the Offshore Health and Safety Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Offshore Health and Safety ActGovernment Orders

April 30th, 2021 / 10:45 a.m.
See context

Nickel Belt Ontario

Liberal

Marc Serré LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, I am addressing the House from my home on the Robinson-Huron Treaty territory of the Atikameksheng Anishnawbek and Wahnapitae peoples.

As members know, this is a very important bill. When we look at the oil-producing provinces here, with the minister's own province of Newfoundland, this is really an important issue to the minister. This is really an important issue that affects his neighbours and friends when we look at offshore issues that we have dealt with.

When the minister first started to work here, with former premier Brian Tobin, he was 20 years old, and that was 20 years ago. At the time, there was only one platform under construction, which was the Hibernia. When we look then and now, we know that developing the platform designs and fabrication work completely ensures that we could work safely in one of the harshest environments there is. Ultimately, achieving first oil was crucial for the financial future of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Today, we have a proud and mature industry, one that has accounted for 30% of the province's GDP, 13% of the labour compensation and 10% of employment over the years. It has been successful because of the people at the heart of this, the determined and proud workers, but also because of efforts by this government to support the industry. Let me be clear: There has been no government that has done more for the Newfoundland labour offshore than this government, not since the time of Brian Mulroney and John Crosbie.

In the face of challenges, we had our workers' backs. We introduced a dedicated offshore component to the emissions reduction fund to address our common mission to lower emissions, and we look forward to having more to say on this program soon.

We provided $320 million to the provincial government to support workers and increase the environmental performance of the offshore, real action to maintain jobs and protect the future of this sector. We cut through a system that represented government at its worst, reducing regulatory hurdles and cutting down on a lot of the environmental assessments, from an astounding 905 days to 90 days, without losing an inch of the environmental integrity. We did this understanding how crucial the sector has been for Newfoundland and Labrador.

The industry provided the province, the provincial government, with more than $20 billion in royalties between 1997 and 2019, funding key services and infrastructure, from health and education to highways and hockey rinks. A similar story could be told for the offshore impact of our neighbours in Nova Scotia. That province's two natural gas projects created jobs for Nova Scotians before they were decommissioned.

When we look at the capital spending, it was about $8.5 billion over 20 years, and $1.9 billion in royalty payments between 2000 and 2017. Most importantly, our offshore impacts people, supports workers, builds communities. In my province, in Newfoundland, where the minister is right now, and it also applies to Nova Scotia, this industry has created an opportunity to generate hope, reunite families and establish livelihoods.

Building this industry has not been easy. We have had to deal with the engineering challenges of safety, extracting oil in the unforgiving North Atlantic, where storms can cause rogue waves as high as 20 or 30 metres, in what the CEO of Exxon Mobil has described to me as a very harsh environment to operate in, one of the harshest places in the world.

The first was the Ocean Ranger tragedy in 1982, which left 84 people dead, 54 of whom were Newfoundlanders. The resulting royal commission led to many safety improvements. The minister was young at the time, but he remembers the delivery of The Evening Telegram newspaper, which carried the news. It was something that shook the minister and a lot of people in the community. Equally agonizing was the sense of helplessness and pain.

Despite these challenges, tragedy struck again in 2009. Mechanical problems sent a helicopter taking 18 workers to the offshore platform plunging into the Atlantic. Only one somehow miraculously survived. A public inquiry after the 2009 tragedy led to the proposed reforms that were largely incorporated under the Offshore Health and Safety Act passed in 2014.

That brings me to the objective of the legislation we are now debating. Bill S-3, as amended by our colleagues in the other place, would give Canada, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland better health and safety regulations for our workers. Passing it would make sure that transitional regulations from 2014 would apply retroactively to January 1 of this year.

I realize this whole process is taking far too long and we are all frustrated. I will explain the reasons for the delay shortly, but let me first speak about the spirit of the act. The Offshore Health and Safety Act clarifies the roles of both levels of government, as well as regulators, in preventing accidents and injuries. It outlines the safety roles played by everyone involved, from owners, operators and employers to supervisors, employees and contractors.

In addition, the act added the following to the safety regime: a new appeal process when someone is accused of violating the rules; the establishment or clarification of employee rights, including the right to refuse dangerous work without the risk of reprisal; a workplace culture that makes clear that these safety concerns are a shared responsibility of everyone involved; an efficiency regulatory regime that contains no jurisdictions of inconsistency; and finally, the inclusion of the transportation of employees to and from these sites.

I want to focus now on the parts of the act that are especially relevant to today's discussion. I am referring to the creation of the 2014 transitional regulations so that three governments could take the time to do this right and finalize permanent regulations.

This transition arrangement was set to expire at the end of 2020. The Government of Canada is asking, through Bill S-3, for an additional year, to December 31 of this year, to get this done. I would be among the first to acknowledge that it seems at first glance rather surprising that we would take up to seven years to finalize this process. This is complex work. These regulations run close to 300 pages. They need to be translated. We need to go over them with a fine-tooth comb to ensure they are precise and consistent in both official languages.

These regulations incorporate by reference 173 domestic and international health and safety standards, which are contained in a document totalling more than 15,000 pages. We need all three levels of government to vet and approve these finalized regulations, which would involve multiple ministries and two joint management regulatory boards. We have to respect our joint management framework. We have to work in partnership, and sometimes that takes more time, but that is how we develop the best legal framework in the world to protect our workers and how we constantly improve it. That is why it is the best. It is strengthened by consulting others, unions, companies and Canadians.

Other challenges are that while others on these permanent regulations—

Offshore Health and Safety ActGovernment Orders

April 30th, 2021 / 10:45 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Chrystia Freeland Liberal University—Rosedale, ON

moved that Bill S-3, An Act to amend the Offshore Health and Safety Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

April 29th, 2021 / 3:15 p.m.
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Honoré-Mercier Québec

Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend from Louis-Saint-Laurent.

This afternoon, we will continue the debate on the opposition motion moved by the Conservative Party.

Tomorrow we will start with the vote on the ways and means motion to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on April 19. We will then move on to second reading consideration of Bill S-3, an act to amend the Offshore Health and Safety Act.

On Monday, we will return to the second reading debate on Bill C-12, an act respecting transparency and accountability in Canada's efforts to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050.

Tuesday will be an allotted day.

Finally, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of next week will be dedicated for debate on the budget bill.