Thank you, Madam Chair.
Madam Chair and esteemed members of the committee, I am pleased to be here with you again today to speak about a third bill that advances my mandate priorities.
I'm sure I hardly need to remind you that we Canadians enjoy some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. Among the many beautiful places in our country, the stretch of rainforest along British Columbia's northern coast is unique. There is nothing quite like it. The thought of this pristine ecosystem being fouled by oil pollution is simply intolerable.
That is why I am here today to speak to the proposed legislation intended to preserve and protect these coastal areas—namely, Bill C-48. I'm happy to outline the rationale for Bill C-48, the oil tanker moratorium act. The comprehensive measures of the proposed legislation are the result of extensive consultations with Canadians. While there continue to be differing perspectives, what we did hear loud and clear is that the transport of both crude oil and persistent oils by sea should be prohibited near the pristine coasts of northern B.C.
The proposed moratorium would cover all ports and marine installations in the area encompassing northen B.C. and extending from our border with Alaska in the north down to B.C.'s mainland adjacent to the northern tip of Vancouver Island. Tankers with more than 12,500 tonnes of crude or persistent oil as cargo would be prohibited from stopping, loading, or unloading at ports or marine installations in this area.
The definition of crude oil in the proposed legislation is based on the one in the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, which is familiar to the shipping industry. Persistent oils are heavier and stickier. Because of this, they tend to break up and dissipate more slowly, and if they are spilled, they are more likely to cling to birds, wildlife, and shorelines. Examples of persistent oils in the moratorium schedule include partially upgraded bitumen and synthetic crude oil. We may consider changes to the list of targeted goods if a review of the scientific evidence and innovations in the transportation of oil or cleanup technology show that changes are justified. The safety of the environment will always be the main consideration, and any changes would have to be made through a regulatory amendment.
We recognize that many communities in the area of the proposed moratorium are not accessible by road or rail and depend on oil to be brought in by ship. To ensure the resupply of these communities and their industries, this act would allow individual shipments of less than 12,500 tonnes of crude oil to continue.
To reinforce how seriously we take this matter, the Oil Tanker Moratorium Act also includes reporting requirements and strict penalties for violations.
All tankers capable of carrying more than 12,500 metric tons of oil would be required to report on the cargo they are carrying, or picking up, within the moratorium area. This information would have to be submitted 24 hours before the tanker calls at a port or marine installation.
I want to reassure shippers that the reporting burden would be kept to a minimum, because we are aligning the new requirements with existing reporting processes.
The only additional requirement for shippers would be to report the specific type of oil they are carrying and the amount of oil that would be loaded or unloaded at a port or marine installation in northern B.C.
With respect to enforcement, Transport Canada already has marine inspectors who enforce existing marine legislation. These inspectors would enforce the proposed Oil Tanker Moratorium Act to ensure compliance.
The powers these inspectors would have under this act would be similar to the authorities they have under existing marine legislation such as the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999.
Inspectors would have the authority to board an oil tanker and take samples, or conduct tests, to verify compliance with the act. If a marine inspector had reasonable grounds to believe the law had been violated, the oil tanker could be detained.
Again, I want to emphasize that the safety of the environment is our top priority in advancing this legislation. Lest anyone doubt that, let me note that we would support this moratorium with an enforcement regime that could result in fines for violators of up to $5 million.
These strong measures against potential oil pollution are what Canadians want and expect.
Canadians helped us set the parameters of the oil tanker moratorium act. In 2016, I undertook an extensive series of engagement sessions, and met with stakeholders with clear views on a proposed moratorium. I talked to coastal and inland indigenous groups. I also met with environmental organizations, marine and resource industries, and representatives of affected communities. I met with colleagues from provincial and municipal governments as well. People across Canada logged on to our website to comment on the proposed oil tanker moratorium. I listened to their views on improving marine safety in Canada and formalizing an oil tanker moratorium.
It's clear that Canadians share certain goals—to keep our economy strong and protect the environment. We understand that marine safety is a precondition to sustainable economic development.
Madam Chair, this legislation complements our government's larger national strategy to promote marine safety and coastal protection under the $1.5-billion oceans protection plan, which we announced in November 2016. As part of this plan, we are investing in new prevention and response measures, based on the latest oil spill cleanup science and technology.
Madam Chair, and members of the committee, this legislation is long overdue. Canadians have been asking for this for years. Fortunately, it is not too late. Once passed by Parliament, the Oil Tanker Moratorium Act will provide an unprecedented level of environmental protection for British Columbia's north coast.
The oil tanker moratorium will allow us to preserve this precious ecosystem for the enjoyment and benefit of future generations. We have an opportunity now to accomplish something of historic importance. And we should grasp that opportunity.
And so I urge this committee, and my fellow parliamentarians, to support this bill.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I would now be happy to answer your questions.