Evidence of meeting #76 for Transport, Infrastructure and Communities in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was tankers.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Natasha Rascanin  Assistant Deputy Minister, Transformation, Department of Transport
Gillian Grant  Team Leader and Senior Counsel, Maritime Law, Department of Transport
Jennifer Saxe  Acting Director General, Marine Policy, Department of Transport

October 19th, 2017 / 4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON

Thanks very much.

Minister, there is a document that your department put out about some of the key indigenous groups that were consulted. In your opinion, do all the groups listed have to consent to this bill for it to be a success?

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC

No. When there are large numbers of communities that are impacted—and there are many communities in the area we are talking about—you are going to get opinions that can vary depending on which first nation you are talking with. You then have to make a decision based on what was the sentiment of the majority of first nations. That varies a lot depending on their circumstances and where they are located on the coast.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON

Not too long ago, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples talked about the responsibility and the duty to have some consent. If some communities feel that they have not been adequately consulted, there would be a debate on that, whether they are supportive or not supportive of this bill.

I know of a project in my riding that will be many years in the making. They've already started consulting with indigenous Canadians about something that might be 20 years down the road, and they are very conscientious about their responsibility to consult. Then I look at this. It says it was started in January 2016. Quite likely, the indigenous communities just outside my riding would not agree that this would be an appropriate length of time to consult adequately on such a significant impact, both environmentally and economically.

With that being said, would it be fair that we should continue to have committee meetings until we've heard from all concerned indigenous communities? Would that be something you are open to?

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC

In my opinion, we did a sufficient amount of consultation—it really was—and I have the list of all of the first nations that we consulted with. Some of them were individual and some were represented by larger groups, such as the Aboriginal Equity Partners. Again I will say to you that not everybody agreed. Some agreed violently with the idea of the moratorium. Others had different feelings about it.

It's our job as government to make a final decision on this. Some of those decisions are not always going to be unanimous, but it is our responsibility to take all factors into account and all stakeholders into account, and then make a final decision.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON

With all due respect to that point, I've sat in meetings where I've heard from different organizations that have said this project will not move forward until we have consent from indigenous Canadians.

I'm not sure how on one hand we have people who have consulted with federal departments saying one thing, and at a meeting today, we hear that we're not going to have 100% agreement. I'm not sure how on one project we need to have 100%, and on another one it's up to the minister's discretion on when he has consulted enough.

By the way, if we as members of Parliament want to invite all the communities on the list that you consulted with to confirm what you're telling us here today, we have no opportunity to do that. That's unfortunate.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC

It would always be great if we had everybody 100% on board for everything we do in this country. Whether we're dealing with first nations or other groups in Canada, you, as a politician, know that one cannot always get unanimity, even though we strive for it in bringing forward our points of view.

We did unprecedented consultation with groups, and I might add that I think we're setting a new standard in this government in terms of consultation. However, there is a great practical reality that after we have done the consultation and taken in some good ideas and suggestions along the way, we have to act. That is what a government has to do.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON

I have one last quick question.

In your documentation, you also mentioned the resources on the southern coast that are not available on the northern coast for an array of safety precautions.

What would you do if the industry came to you and said they would cover those costs, that they'd ensure the same protections are in the north as they are in the south? Obviously that is one of the concerns you've put in your documentation. What would you do then, as minister, if they said they'd provide all the same guarantees that the southern coast has on the northern coast.

Would you repeal this at this time?

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC

No, I would not. I would welcome the industry's willingness to provide more resources, if it chose to do so.

Let me be clear. The Port of Prince Rupert is a growing port. It's a very impressive port, and it has many natural advantages. Right now it is carrying a lot of shipping to the Asian markets, and we hope to grow that port in the years to come.

There is enormous potential for many other products to be shipped out of the north coast of Canada, and we would like to see that happen. If the shipping industry or other groups are willing to help increase the resources that are available for monitoring and responding, we would be delighted.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Judy Sgro

Thank you, Minister Garneau.

We'll move on to to Mr. Fraser.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

Thank you very much, Minister, for being here. I'll be saving a bit of my time at the end to share with my colleague, Mr. Sikand.

As a follow-up to Mr. Lobb's comments, I catch myself on occasion being guilty of treating indigenous communities as a singularity who have common interests, which I know is not the case. I find in the energy industry, proponents are getting much better at dealing with individual concerns in communities.

When you go through a period of consultation, as you have, and there are competing interests and differing opinions, how do you end up with a decision? What's the process you go through, as the minister, to determine which side of the coin you're going to fall on?

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC

You've encapsulated what government is about.

One has to make decisions, and you can't end up falling between two stools. If you're looking at putting a moratorium in place, it can't be a partial moratorium; it has to be a complete moratorium. Yes, you're going to get a range of opinion, but as government we are always attuned to what the majority of different stakeholders feel about it. The majority of stakeholders are supportive of the moratorium.

That is why, back in 1985, David Anderson, who was the environment minister at that time, created the exclusion zone with the willingness of the United States. That is why in 2015, we said that we would put in place a moratorium.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

Thank you.

To shift gears for a moment, when you were describing the unique ecosystem of the coast in question and the pristine nature of it, I couldn't help but think of a certain part of my own riding off the eastern shore of Nova Scotia, which has hundreds of wild islands that have been untouched, have unique species that can't be found anywhere else in the world, and the local communities have come together to try to build a very impressive tourism initiative for the world to enjoy that coastline. I invite you to come and join me any time you're available.

There's not a similar protection for other different pristine ecosystems. The tanker traffic on the east coast is almost three times the number of vessels, although perhaps not the same volume, most of which land in Saint John, Come By Chance, or importantly for this part of the region, Port Hawkesbury. Do you feel that the measures outlined in the oceans protection plan will offer the protection we need both from a preventive point of view and from a spill-response point of view, God forbid it ever happens, to these other pristine ecosystems like the wild islands on the eastern shore of Nova Scotia?

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC

Yes, we do. Our intention was never simply to put a moratorium on the north coast of British Columbia and then do nothing else. The oceans protection plan is an unprecedented plan, and it addresses the southern part, as well as the east coast. You're right about the traffic. In some places where the traffic is going through, there is more infrastructure in place to help in case of an incident. At the same time, we need to improve our performance in terms of protecting the marine ecosystems on the east coast. We've already announced some of the elements of that for all of the east coast where you come from. Also, I'm on the St. Lawrence system and that's part of it as well, because a spill there can also have some devastating effects.

The oceans protection plan is a way of recognizing that we need to continue to be a commerce country. We are a trading nation, and a lot of what leaves our country leaves by ship. At the same time, we need to do much more, and that's why the oceans protection plan is in place. We think that, in the areas where there is shipping that's part of that commerce, we need to beef up our capability. That's what the OPP is doing.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

Thank you.

I'll share my remaining minute and a half with Mr. Sikand.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Judy Sgro

You have 90 seconds.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Gagan Sikand Liberal Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

It's nice to see that you're doing well, Minister. I know that you were under the weather last time.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC

Yes, I was in rough shape last time.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Gagan Sikand Liberal Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

I'll be quick with my question. In response to my colleague, you mentioned that the ecosystem off B.C. is quite fragile. It seems I can support the spirit of the bill, and I think certainly most Canadians would. I'm just wondering if you took into consideration the operating speeds of oil tankers, and if that is or was a consideration.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC

You bring up a good issue, and this is generalized not just to oil tankers but to any shipping traffic and any part of our coasts. We had an unfortunate example of that on the St. Lawrence this spring with shipping going too rapidly along the St. Lawrence and creating enough of a bow wave that it was exacerbating the flooding that occurred here along the St. Lawrence in a place called Yamachiche.

We recognize—and this is part of our focus in the oceans protection plan—that ships create bow waves and those bow waves can affect the shore, change the shore, and damage the shore. It's not part of the moratorium, but it is part of our larger science with respect to the oceans protection plan.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Judy Sgro

Thank you very much, Minister.

Now we go on to Mr. Lobb.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON

I have one quick question, and then I'll turn it over to Ms. Block.

From my perspective with the oil industry, my guess is that in the short term what they'll try to do is develop a refinery, whether it's in Prince Rupert or in Kitimat, and use the rail lines there and refine it down to varieties of gasoline, diesel, etc. Obviously, those are allowed to be shipped across. Do you feel that there's a potential for huge increases in tanker traffic of those products? Is that something that you're looking at enforcing down the road, to take those off if the volumes become too high? Could you let us know what you might do in the future?

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC

It's a good question.

If a company were to get access to a port along the north coast, and if it were to perhaps send in the pipeline an unrefined product but then refine it before putting it in a ship, and if that product were not on the schedule of persistent oils, then from the moratorium point of view, it would be possible for it to have tanker traffic from that port.

Obviously, in getting it from, let's say, Alberta to the coast and building the refinery, there are other environmental evaluations that have to be done that come under Environment Canada and other ministries, but if those were satisfied, and the product that was put in a ship was a lighter, non-scheduled hydrocarbon, then that would not violate the moratorium.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek, SK

From our perspective, we've been clear. We've had an opportunity to debate this bill for a couple of hours in the House. We had an opportunity to ask some questions during time allocation, and we've basically said that this doesn't appear to be a true moratorium on tanker traffic on B.C.'s west coast because that's going to continue. This appears to be a moratorium on the oil sands development and a pipeline that could eventually carry that oil to tidewater.

Canadian oil is extracted and transported under some of the safest and most environmentally strict regulations in the world. Preventing our Canadian oil from reaching customers in other countries only serves to proliferate the use of oil products extracted and transported in less safe and less environmentally friendly ways.

I'm wondering if you can explain what is to me the strange contradiction in your views that the proliferation of Canadian oil is bad, but the proliferation of oil from other countries with less stringent regulations is good, because we will keep importing whatever we need rather than developing our own resources.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC

I have to say that I reject the premise of your comment. We think that it's important for Canada to have the capability of selling our natural resources, including oil, to other countries because of the demand. That is why the TMX was approved with conditions. That is why we support the Keystone. That is why we also approved the Line 3, going from Alberta to the northern United States.

These, I think, are very clear indications that we want to allow the economic development of this resource within the parameters we gave ourselves for the pan-Canadian framework in the Paris accord, and there is every expectation that we will be able to satisfy that.

We are, in fact, in favour of that, but we're also a government that believes that you must and you can balance the environmental side of the equation as well. We've said this, of course, repeatedly in the House of Commons, and we have taken measures. We think it's a very sensible thing for us to have the moratorium, have the OPP, and continue to be supportive of Alberta and Saskatchewan's oil industry.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Judy Sgro

Thank you very much, Minister Garneau.

Mr. Cullen, you have one minute left.

Mr. Cullen is not in the room, and unfortunately there is only a minute left.

Minister, thank you very much for being here for this hour. I appreciate it. I know you're leaving your officials here with us for the upcoming remainder of time, so thank you very much.

We will suspend for a moment.