Mr. Speaker, with your permission I would like to add my voice to those who have addressed this House today in support of the Marine Transportation Security Act, Bill C-38.
The primary purpose of the Marine Transportation Security Act is the prevention of violent acts which could result in the loss of lives or impairment of the national transportation system. It is necessary however to also consider the financial implications of the bill before us now.
This government has a responsibility but even more this government has an obligation to ensure the security in marine transport, not only for Canadians but for our guests and visitors to this great country.
The Government of Canada has promised that regulations subsequent to this act will be made in full consultation with interested parties, consultation which is beyond that normally required for regulation. These consultations will include parties which have already contributed a great deal to the development and promotion of good security practices in Canada such as
Canada Ports Corporation and the North West CruiseShip Association.
I know that my colleague, the Minister of Transport, will ensure that such consultations are pursued with full vigour in order to ensure achievement of the optimum method of protecting the system while at the same time enhancing its competitiveness.
This legislation has been specifically designed with the flexibility to require enhanced security measures when threats are increased thereby requiring minimum expenditures in time and dollars when there is no apparent danger. This approach is in keeping with the current lack of threat to Canadian marine interests. The government has also promised to utilize to the fullest extent possible best industry practices and performance standards instead of detailed technical specifications. These commitments by the government will result in the most appropriate regime at the very lowest cost.
Very little in this world is free. The financial resources that a regulatory regime pursuant to this act will require the marine industry to expend are truly very minimal. We know that most passenger vessels have the technical and human resources to comply with very little effort should they choose to do so.
Unfortunately because Canada has such a good reputation as a safe destination, a safe haven, some operators tend to be less than diligent here in their observation of security precautions. This legislation will help ensure that passenger vessels do the things that are necessary and not only the things that are minimal to avoid becoming victims of unlawful acts while in Canada.
Other elements of the industry such as major cargo vessels, major ferries and the ports which serve them will have to expend a small amount of time to develop and practise contingency plans and conduct security surveys. Employees of major Canadian ports will also have to take basic preventive security training in line with regulatory requirements. Many of the ports implicated already have security plans and surveys. Some go well beyond the requirements envisaged.
For those areas that will have to expend limited resources, it is certainly not more than would be required to conform with good business practice and management. The government will add from its existing base of expertise in the Department of Transport, administration, training, monitoring and co-ordination resources that will make the sum of the security efforts greater than the individual parts.
The international cruise trade is worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Canada annually. This trade over the last 10 years has grown at an average of 10 per cent a year. It shows no sign of abating. One incident of violence against a cruise vessel in the Mediterranean, the Achille Lauro , resulted in major losses, direct losses to the Greek economy of more than $300 million U.S. This does not account for losses in subsequent years of recovery. The preventive insurance this bill proposes is insignificant in comparison to such potential losses.
My colleagues have pointed out that other nations have increased their marine security. In particular, we know that the U.S. has security legislation already in place and that it will likely implement a marine security regime this year. The U.S. already has the authority to issue travel warnings regarding destinations it considers not to provide adequate security. I would remind members of this House that approximately 85 per cent of Canada's cruise ship trade is made up of American citizens. They come to Canada because they feel safe in Canada.
It would be folly to treat visitors to our land or indeed to treat Canadians themselves moving within each jurisdiction within this land with less concern and less respect than our American neighbours do. Will we not be good hosts as many nations already are, requiring security which adds to the ultimate enjoyment of travel? I would suggest that considering the cost of the security proposal before us, failing to offer it to our guests and to Canadians alike would be like buying friends a meal in a fine restaurant but refusing them a dinner mint after because of the cost. Failing to provide adequate protection certainly runs the risk of discouraging tourism and losing important revenue.
It was only last week that our Prime Minister was speaking on tourism for Canada, admitting that we will put money, billions of dollars, into the industry luring international conventions and trade to come here. They will come here because they feel good about Canada and they feel safe about Canada. Their interests will be better protected with this legislation.
I do not think I am far out on a limb when I suggest that safety in travel is a primary concern of all travellers, for all citizens. All responsible nations, including Canada, have a range of laws to ensure that our planes, trains, ships and cars travel with security. Now it is time that we ensure that marine travel is also guaranteed that same security. We offer to our people less safety and perhaps a threat of death if we do not engage in this legislation in this House. We have still more laws governing operation of the transportation system such as capacity to drive rights of way, waterways, roads, et cetera. People simply would not travel if they were in fear of tragedy of death en route.
None here can have forgotten the tragedy of the Air India disaster. Security in mass transportation is as critical as a failed engine or as an impaired driver. It is an important element that travellers and tourists need and want and that we must ensure.
The Saint John Evening Times Globe in a March 4 article about cruise lines stated: ``For passengers from Miami, New York and Los Angeles security is a huge consideration. Cruise lines like to go places where they know their passengers are safe, and not just from pickpockets but safe from terrorism and the whole works''. They want safety first. There can be little doubt that security is critical to life, but it is important to competition and to the economy and cannot be overlooked.
I urge my colleagues to support the bill to ensure that Canada has this important competitive advantage. In so doing it will ensure that visitors to Canada enjoy the beauty of the country, the serenity of the landscape, and arrive and depart with memories of Canadians that will live on forever and, above all, will ensure their immediate and quick return to Canada.
I live in Nova Scotia. I live on the water. Cruise ship lines come into our ports annually. Their great desire to come to these small ports, to these unique and scenic landscapes, is growing immensely. It increases more than 10 per cent a year in the east. We look forward to promoting it even more. The potential is tremendous not only for the pleasure of it but for the economic value. Those people tell us in the follow up reports that they love Canadians and want to come back.
I urge my colleagues to support the bill. It is imperative and obligatory that we serve Canadians and our visitors with dignity and security of safety.