House of Commons Hansard #58 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was insurance.


Budget Implementation Act, 1997Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Budget Implementation Act, 1997Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

Budget Implementation Act, 1997Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The division on the motion stands deferred.

Marine Liability ActGovernment Orders

May 9th, 2001 / 3:45 p.m.

Bonavista—Trinity—Conception Newfoundland & Labrador


Brian Tobin Liberalfor the Minister of Transport

moved that Bill S-2, an act respecting marine liability, and to validate certain bylaws and regulations, be read the third time and passed.

Marine Liability ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Algoma—Manitoulin Ontario


Brent St. Denis LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Transport

Madam Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise today on third reading of Bill S-2, the marine liability act.

Before I speak about the bill I would like to acknowledge the critical role played by members of the House, senators and the standing committees that have conducted a thorough examination of the legislation. I would be remiss if I did not take a moment to thank members on the other side of the House for their support and good questions along the way.

Bill S-2 is a good example of our ability to work together for the good of all Canadians. The introduction of the new legislation would not have been possible without the dedicated efforts of government officials, in particular those from the Department of Transport and the Department of Justice.

Throughout the legislative process officials from the Department of Transport held consultations with the industry, including shipowners, passengers, cargo owners, the oil industry, marine insurers and the marine legal community. I take this opportunity as well to thank industry groups for their participation in this reform and their contributions and support for the new legislation.

I am thoroughly convinced that the new legislation represents an important step toward the modernization of the Canadian maritime liability regimes. The act introduces for the first time Canadian legislation regarding shipowner liability for the carriage of passengers and new rules for apportionment of liability in maritime cases. At the same time the act would consolidate existing marine liability regimes into a single statute.

Let me briefly review the principal elements of the new marine liability act. The introduction of a new regime of shipowner liability to passengers is the key substantive element of the bill. This regime is set out in part 4. It is an initiative born out of the concerns of passengers who may be involved in an accident during maritime transport. The provisions of the passenger liability regime as set out in part 4 are based on the 1974 Athens convention relating to the carriage of passengers and their luggage by sea as amended by its 1990 protocol.

The legislation was previously introduced as Bill C-59 and Bill S-17, both of which died on the order paper when parliament was dissolved in April 1997 and October 2000 respectively.

There are currently no statutory provisions in Canadian law which establish the basis of liability for loss of life or personal injury to passengers travelling by ship. The intent of the regime of liability to passengers is to ensure in the event of a loss, particularly a major one, that claimants have a guaranteed set level of compensation and at the same time that shipowners are provided with a means of determining their potential exposure for passenger claims. The financial responsibility of the shipowner to passengers would be abundantly clear.

Of equal concern is the absence of Canadian legislation, with the exception of the Quebec civil code, specifically preventing shipowners from contracting out their liability to passengers. Such contractual exemptions are null and void in other countries, notably the United States, France and Britain.

Similarly such contractual exemptions from liability for passenger death or injury are generally absent in other modes of transport in Canada or are expressly prohibited as in the air mode where the liability of air carriers to passengers has long been regulated by the Carriage by Air Act.

There appears to be no basis for maintaining the contractual freedom currently enjoyed by water carriers to exempt themselves from their liability to passengers. Therefore part 4 would prohibit such a practice in the future.

The second policy objective of the bill deals with the apportionment of liability in maritime cases. The legislation is needed to deal with important aspects of liability in situations where the claimant has been partly responsible for his or her loss. In the past two rules of common law have been the source of serious concerns to the marine community.

The first rule prevents a claimant from recovering anything if it is proved that the claimant contributed, even in the slightest degree, to his or her damages. This is not fair.

The second rule deals with situations where one defendant pays the total amount of the loss but cannot in turn recover his or her costs from other persons who may have contributed to the loss.

The common law provinces have replaced these outmoded and harsh rules with legislation which allowed courts to apportion responsibility and to permit litigation parties to claim contribution and indemnity from other persons. However parliament has never enacted any legislation similar to the provincial apportionment statutes, except for a few provisions covering the topics of damage caused by collisions between ships and pollution from ships.

In its recent decision the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that it was unjust to continue to apply the old common law rules to maritime negligence claims. In light of this decision, new legislation is needed to establish a uniform set of rules that apply to all civil wrongs governed by Canadian maritime law. Part 2 of Bill S-2 would achieve this objective.

The new act would also consolidate existing marine liability regimes and related subjects which are currently located in separate pieces of legislation. This one stop shopping approach to marine liability would avoid in the future the proliferation of separate legislative initiatives in the area of shipping policy.

In preparation for the new legislation on passenger liability and apportionment of liability, it became evident that it was not very efficient or user friendly to leave the various liability regimes scattered all over the legislative map. Thus we are bringing forward the act which would consolidate all marine liability regimes into a single statute. It includes provisions on fatal accidents or personal injuries, limitation of liability for maritime claims, liability for carriage of goods by water, and liability and compensation for pollution damage.

Part 1 of the bill re-enacts the provisions on fatal accidents that currently appear in part 14 of the Canada Shipping Act and revises them to give effect to various Supreme Court of Canada decisions. These provisions have been brought forward in appropriately modernized language.

Similarly, part 3 of the bill re-enacts existing provisions found in part 9 of the Canada Shipping Act on the limitation of liability for maritime claims. This part is based on the 1976 international convention on limitation of liability for maritime claims as amended by its 1996 protocol.

Part 5 re-enacts existing provisions of the Carriage of Goods by Water Act respecting the application of the Hague-Visby rules in Canada and the eventual implementation of the Hamburg rules. The Carriage of Goods by Water Act was last revised in 1993. It was the subject of a recent review in which the minister submitted a report to the House in December 1999.

Part 6 continues the existing regime governing liability and compensation for maritime pollution by re-enacting existing provisions of part 16 of the Canada Shipping Act. This part is based on two international conventions, the 1992 convention on civil liability for oil pollution damage and the 1992 convention on the establishment of an international fund for compensation for oil pollution damage. The regime set out in part 6 of the bill governs the liability for oil pollution damage caused by tankers and pollution damage caused by other ships.

This concludes my overview of the existing regimes that would be consolidated in a proposed marine liability act. I would like to add that, as a supplement to the existing regimes that would be consolidated in a proposed marine liability act, there are other liability regimes on the horizon. Notably, there is the 1996 regime on liability and compensation for hazardous and noxious substances and the regime of liability for spills caused by ships' bunkers adopted in March 2001 by the International Maritime Organization. Another regime currently under consideration at the International Maritime Organization is the new protocol to the Athens convention on compulsory insurance.

I believe that the maritime liability act would serve us well in the future as a logical framework for these new regimes should Canada decide to adopt them.

In conclusion, Bill S-2 would first introduce a new regime of shipowners' liability to passengers and a set of new rules for apportionment of liability, and second, consolidate existing and future liability regimes. The intent of the bill is to modernize our legislation to ensure that it meets the current and future needs of Canadians in legislating shipowners' liabilities, particularly their liability for passengers.

I urge all hon. members to give their full support in order to pass the bill to the benefit of all Canadians.

Marine Liability ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Fitzpatrick Canadian Alliance Prince Albert, SK

Madam Speaker, it gives me pleasure to speak to Bill S-2. The Alliance Party will be supporting the bill because it would be an improvement over the existing policy.

Our sole reason for supporting the bill is that it is better than what we have. However there is a serious omission or flaw in the legislation and I would like to speak to that.

Yesterday in the House, in response to a water crisis situation, we voted almost unanimously in support of a national safe water standard and for the federal government to get involved with quality water. We did not really address the problems, one of which is how communities get the resources in place to put in modern water systems to ensure they have good water. That was completely omitted. I believe North Battleford will spend $20 million to put such a system in place.

We never really gave any thought to what a workable standard is. Somehow we seem to think that we have the wisdom in Ottawa that we would know what it is. We have two judicial inquiries on the subject of water that will take a hard look at the cause of these sorts of problems. I hope they come up with some good recommendations.

In our wisdom, we know what we require for good water standards. We will put it through and forget about the real question, which is how these folks get their resources in place to deliver water.

I am raising that as an issue only because I am going to tie that in with our debate over one defect in the bill. There is no minimum mandatory passenger liability insurance in the bill, this despite the fact that in committee industry representatives from the insurance sector said that type of insurance would be a very minor cost and would not create any great burden for the industry.

We tried to make some common sense amendments to the bill which would allow for minimum passenger liability insurance, but those advocating that were stonewalled by members of the government who thought there were all sorts of problems with it. We could not get a logical explanation as to why it would be a great difficulty, but in their wisdom they blocked it. Last night we had two motions to deal with it, both defeated by the government. I find it strange that on the same day the government is unanimously supporting a water safety act it is turning down minimum passenger liability insurance coverage.

What would minimum passenger liability insurance do? I think it could avoid a major disaster. Insurance companies do not accept unreasonable risks. If the quality of the vessels is not of a satisfactory standard and if the crews are not competent or have a bad safety record, the insurance industry will not accept that risk. Believe me, there are ways of regulating an economy other than government regulations. Insurance would be one good way of achieving the goal of safety in passenger shipping.

Fortunately we have not had a major commercial passenger ship disaster in Canada. I cannot recall one in my time. That is good, but we know it has happened elsewhere. Some day it could happen in this country. I would suggest that the day it happens here we will have a judicial inquiry and there will be a lot of finger pointing. I would suggest that a lot of the finger pointing will be directed at the government that is in power today. It had a choice and it took the path of neglect and indifference. What will it tell the passengers and their families when that happens? Will it tell them that there is no insurance coverage, that the carrier is insolvent, that there are no assets to pay them, that there is no insurance money? What will it say?

I suppose if it happens during an election campaign the Prime Minister might come up with some instant taxpayer dollars to help out those folks. That would be the government's way of doing things, to roam from one crisis to another.

That is what will happen. A lot of people will be pointing fingers at the government when that happens. That is why I am speaking on this matter. The Alliance Party wants to be on the record at this stage of the game to show that our party did due diligence on this matter but the government was very neglectful of it.

To add insult to injury in regard to the NDP motion last night, if the government is not going to put in mandatory insurance coverage there could be a simple notice published on the ship to inform the public that the carrier does not have insurance. The government does not want to do that. Just about anybody in industry who provides a service to the public is required to provide warnings and notices, but the government in its wisdom says it does not want to do that. Why inform the public? Why inform passengers when they are getting on a ship that there is no insurance on the ship? Why inform them that the ship may be insolvent, that if it goes under there is not going to be any protection for anyone?

In a lot of ways the government's response to these amendments is shameful. The day a disaster happens and this thing crops up, the folks on the other side of the House will have to hang their heads in shame and try to justify why they ignored this very simple amendment to the legislation.

When our constituents voted for us to come to the House of Commons, one of the skills they asked us to have is foresight. We develop public policy in the House. We pass laws. The folks who sent us here expect us to have foresight. I think we have anticipated a serious problem here. We have tried to use foresight. The opposition parties have tried to used foresight. The government has ignored very real legitimate concerns.

That is typical of a Liberal government. A Liberal government, as has been said before, likes to drive in the middle of the road. However, when we drive in the middle of the road we run into a lot of yellow stripes and skunks. The Liberal government likes driving in the middle of the road. It likes that neighbourhood. I guess it is called compromise. The Liberals will put some things in the Shipping Act, but not others. As one of my colleagues said, it is like Liberals making porridge. If one mixes some sand in the porridge, it may look like porridge, it might even smell like porridge and it might taste like porridge, but it will be hard to swallow and it will be hard on the digestive system.

Folks on the government side have the power to do things the right way. Why do they not do it? Why do they always insist on going only halfway? In this case they could have gone the full way and addressed some really key areas the opposition raised. It was not just the Alliance people who raised this issue. The Progressive Conservative member brought it to the attention of the government, as did the Bloc member and the NDP member. We all tried to work on constructive ways of solving this, but the Liberals just would not listen. We gave the Liberals two opportunities last night to address this problem in a certain way and they would not do it. Why? Is it a sign of arrogance or what? They were two very constructive proposals.

I will summarize the Alliance position. The bill is an improvement over the existing policy, but I wish the government had gone the full nine yards on this thing and addressed some serious concerns.

Last night we went through the motions and got platitudes for the sake of public image. If a disaster happens in the country, everybody comes to the House. If the people want safe water, bang, the government will pass something in the House: magically in this land from coast to coast our water will be safe because we passed that bill last night. We know how unreal that is and how unrealistic. We cannot manage by dictating results. It takes work.

Last night we proposed to the government ways of managing something to get the results we want, which is safer vessels and good protection for the travelling public, and the government chose to ignore us. Some day when there is a disaster in our country in commercial passenger travel, government members will be held to account for it. They have an obligation and a duty in the House to pass good laws, not incomplete laws. They have failed to do that.

Marine Liability ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.


Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Madam Speaker, first, I want to say that the Bloc supports Bill S-2 as modified, tampered with and fixed up by the government to finally improve marine liability, while at the same time ensuring that the needs and wishes of taxpayers, waterway users and those who are major or occasional users of maritime transport are not met.

What I am saying is important and it is important that those listening understand how, because of the government's arrogance and pressure from political lobbies, a good bill can be turned into a mere improvement on the existing system, which I feel was rotten to the core to begin with. For decades, people have been asking that the legislation be changed to make sea carriers responsible, and that is what the people wanted.

Of course, part 2 of the bill in its premisses, deals with the “Apportionment of Liability”, which has to do with personal injuries and fatalities. What the bill states in clauses 4 to 14 is that this allows the dependants of a person injured or killed in a marine accident to claim damages. This is a situation that exists in Quebec at least. The legislation was changed and the civil code was changed accordingly. Laws are made in such a way that people responsible for damage must compensate for it.

Part 2 of the bill says that in the apportionment of liability, once it has been established that the person causing the damage is liable, there is the principle—which is still a principle of common law in the other provinces, but a principle of civil law in Quebec—that if several persons or ships were liable, the liability of each one would be proportionate to the degree of fault. But if the degree of fault could not be established their liability would be equal.

These are principles of law which are well understood now. In law, the standard is always the reasonable person standard, that is, how a reasonable person would manage as a prudent administrator and ensure that equity and common sense prevail in any situation.

Obviously, if someone causes damages, logically that person is liable and if two ships or pieces of equipment are damaged, their liability, when it can be established, is proportionate to the degree to which they are respectively at fault. When it is not possible to establish who is at fault they are jointly and severally liable for the damages they caused.

Under part 4, liability is defined as “liability for carriage of passengers by water”. Therefore, a whole part of the bill deals with the public. It would be normal for someone travelling by ship, if that person were to suffer personal injuries—which would be rather unpleasant for that person—but also loss of luggage—which is a rather regular occurrence—to be compensated for the damages suffered.

Part 4 of the bill sets as a principle that persons using carriage by water will be compensated for personal damages and for lost luggage.

Unfortunately under clause 39 of this fine bill, the governor in council may require those responsible to get insurance. This is where the rub is; this is where we see the arrogance of the government yielding to the pressures of political lobbies, big shipping companies, and those who would have to get insurance to cover liability for damages caused.

Yesterday in the House we saw the party in power defeat amendments whereby parties were asking that those involved in the carriage by water of passengers be required to carry insurance to cover liability for damages caused.

It is only too easy these days to set up a numbered company and register a ship under it, thus avoiding getting insurance. When one is responsible for damages one is sued. Those who could have collected damages will get nothing because the company is insolvent or bankrupt.

We tried to make this point in committee. One must realize that the shipowner lobby is very powerful and is a main contributor to the campaign funds of several members of parliament. This big lobby was successful in conveying the message that the time had not yet come to impose an obligation to carry liability insurance on all those whose business it is is to carry passengers.

This is difficult to understand all the more so when officials from the Department of Transport appeared before the committee and told us that the insurance industry would not be able to support—if the industry ever had to do it—the whole new economic burden, all the new demands there could be and all the obligations that passenger carriers could have. Apparently it was too big a job. They are not able to integrate into their insurance system the supplementary demands that that legislative amendment would entail.

What did the committee do as a good manager of public interests? We asked that some insurance industry representatives appear before the committee. All the industry representatives had a good laugh at the officials' answer that the insurance industry was unable to accommodate the supplementary volume of business that arises as a result of the obligation for those who carry passengers and their luggage to get insurance and provide compensation for damages. For the insurance industry this can be done very easily. That can be integrated very quickly. The industry already insures much of shipowners' fleet that carries passengers and there would be no problem.

This explains why amendments have been moved by the Canadian Alliance and the New Democratic Party. Believe it or not, all these amendments have been rejected by the government party. One of these amendments went as far as to say, in essence “Listen, if we think the industry, which says today it can integrate this, does not want to do it, let us delay implementation until 2003 so that starting on January 1, 2003 insurance will be compulsory”. Well, this has also been rejected by the government party.

Some things are hard to understand. This is a very good example of a bill that purports to be perfectly logical so that all the users, all our good citizens who pay taxes and travel by ship for leisure or for work, can be insured, just like they are when they travel by plane, bus, coach, city bus, metro, train, and so on.

There was no insurance for carriage of passengers by water. The government has introduced a bill that could have been excellent. Admittedly, it is an improvement. Previously marine carriers were not liable. The government decided to put them on an equal footing with other passenger transport industries and said “From the date this bill takes effect marine carriers will be liable for injuries to individuals, users and passengers and for luggage lost”.

However, I want to warn all Canadians, and Quebecers in particular, that before they get on board a ship they should ensure that the carrier has insurance coverage, because in its wisdom the federal government has decided not to force marine carriers to take insurance. If they do business with a carrier that does not have any insurance, that started its operation as a numbered company and that goes bankrupt, then their families will get no compensation at all if they should happen to die in an accident. If they are injured or if their luggage is lost, they will get no compensation under this great piece of legislation.

Again, this started as an interesting bill, but lobbyists managed to put so much pressure on this arrogant government that it finally brought forward amendments that make it very difficult to get any compensation for losses suffered in an accident.

This is not the only change and the only interpretation made to please the lobbyists and to show how arrogant the government can be.

The sixth part of this bill deals with liability for pollution.

This bill is indeed an improvement. As I said before, the Bloc Quebecois will support it since, in our opinion, half a loaf is better than no loaf. The fact is that with regard to pollution this bill is based on the principle that all those who cause damages will be held responsible and will have to compensate those who incur such damages.

It must be understood that the government had the sense to include in the bill a list of those who could incur damages other than environmental damages.

I am thinking, for instance, of those who earn a living from fishing, from fish farming or from water plant growing, owners of fishing vessels and fish processing plant workers in Canada who suffer a loss of current or future income or a loss of supply as the result of a discharge of oil from a ship. They may now be compensated by a special fund.

Members understand that the government had to act because of pressures coming from all those who wanted something done in terms of liability and compensation for pollution. There were pressures from the industry, from those who rely on sea products to earn a living, from all those people who could or did incur damages. If they incurred damages in the past, they are asking, as would be the case in any industry, that the party responsible be required to provide compensation.

For compensation, a fund is being established and managed by the Government of Canada. For each metric ton of oil carried by ship, a certain amount is paid into this compensation fund, which is managed by the Government of Canada. Believe it or not, these amounts are the same as those that were negotiated in the 1990 international agreements.

Once again, following pressure by shipowners, the influential members of our society, primarily politically influential by means of the campaign funds of our colleagues opposite, they managed to say to them “Now that you are requiring us to compensate people who were not compensated before and are clarifying the law, what we need to know now is the extent of the damages”. The shipowners did not need to be made too liable. They did not want costs to rise.

The money paid into this compensation fund is the same as in 1990 and is indexed. The indexing is expected but does not include the increase in the cost of energy. Finally, most of the text on liability and compensation in the case of pollution covers primarily oil pollution, according to what is in the bill. Imagine, an industry in the business of carrying oil and oil carriers pay into the compensation fund. The money is contributed according to a formula dating from 1990.

These are the same amounts as were contributed in 1990. They are indexed according to the cost of living but not the cost of energy. These people live from energy, and we know very well that the increase in the cost of living over the past three years was due primarily to the increase in the cost of energy.

They managed to convince the government that it would be a good idea to index the 1990 amounts but to ignore the main factor in the increase in the cost of living, that is energy costs. Once energy costs are excluded there is almost no increase. The cost of living has practically not gone up since 1990, if energy costs are not taken into account.

It is once again a perfect example of a very interesting bill aimed at compensating people who depend on sea products for their livelihood, who could sustain damages as the result of an oil spill caused by oil carriers. Compensation will now be provided through a special fund to which corporations and shipowners contribute. The amount they contribute, however, is the same amount they were paying into a similar fund in 1990.

This fund had been adopted in many parts of the hemisphere to provide compensation to people sustaining damages. Shipowners have been paying the same amount since 1990. The amounts are the same, but the liabilities have increased.

Our main question, the one I have asked the government representatives is this: Will there be enough money to compensate everyone? The answer was “Yes, there is no problem. We are talking about $100 million, which is enough”. In an ecological disaster $100 million is nothing, particularly if all the industries and sea products in one part of the country are affected. This amount is nothing. It is a drop of fresh water in an ocean of salted water. This is what this may represent.

Once again we are getting lip service from the government, a nice bill that is an improvement. The industry is being made liable for damages it might cause but the industry does not want to suffer too much economically; we have to be careful, it does not make enough money as it is. Canadian shipowners are allowed to do business in foreign countries. For example, in Barbados, they can manage businesses and through agreements signed by the Government of Canada they pay only 1% in taxes on all the income they may earn.

This is allowed; it is in agreements. The Bloc Quebecois has asked the government in this House to deal with this now ironic situation of businesses moving to the islands. This example is a concrete one. This is an agreement the Government of Canada has signed with the Government of Barbados, allowing for capital transfers, allowing Canadian businesses to have ships registered in Barbados and to pay only 1% in taxes on their profits. This is the reality.

Moreover, in a bill to make them responsible for damages resulting from an accident, a failure or an environmental oil disaster, they are told “Not only are you responsible, but you are to compensate all those who make a living in the fishing industry. The only thing is that there is a limit on compensations that may be paid by businesses”. They contribute to a fund. They pay a given amount for each metric ton carried by sea. They use barrels. The amount has been the same since 1990. As I said earlier, there is a cost of living adjustment that does not include the energy costs when we all know that these companies rely on energy in fact.

What we have here is another example of a very interesting bill designed to protect the interests of all Quebecers and all Canadians, but with this arrogant government and its huge majority that always sides with the shipowners' lobby, I am sure members will agree with me that this will probably just be wishful thinking. I do not wish for an ecological disaster that will make it blatantly clear that the compensation fund is underfunded. That is not what I wish for.

Part 7 of the bill validates among other things the Pilotage Act and the 1992 Laurentian pilotage tariff regulations.

When Canadian or foreign ships enter the waters of the St. Lawrence Seaway system they are taken care of by expert pilots who are members of various organizations and associations. In this case, it is the Laurentian Pilotage Authority. We also have the St. Lawrence Pilotage Authority and the Great Lakes Pilotage Authority. There are about 400 to 500 pilots, men and women, who take care of the ships plying the St. Lawrence Seaway, to avoid any natural disaster.

For several years now lobbyists for shipowners have been trying to decimate these pilotage authorities by systematically urging the government to review the legislation and allow their own pilots to take over from these specialists in the St. Lawrence Seaway system.

With this bill, the government had a wonderful opportunity to finally put an end to all the hesitation and discussions on the future of the St. Lawrence Seaway pilots, who are members of various associations. It was a wonderful opportunity for the government to resolve this endless debate, which has led these people, these men and women, to live in a constant state of insecurity.

They call us and they call members of the opposition to say that once again the shipowners and the government are exchanging letters and documents because of the additional costs.

If the government can refuse to make a cost of living adjustment to the sums invested since 1990 in the compensation fund, it can easily decide to abolish all the associations and the very principle of having St. Lawrence Seaway pilots, people who protect us from serious disasters such as a fuel spill in the St. Lawrence, that estuary which flows into the Great Lakes. One must be careful about this, because some people have been wrong about which way the water in our rivers and lakes flows.

Nevertheless, it was a wonderful opportunity for the government to put an end, once and for all, to all the shilly-shallying about the usefulness of pilots, those experts on the St. Lawrence Seaway. I repeat that these pilots take charge of ships as soon as they enter the St. Lawrence Seaway. They take charge of them and take them to the Great Lakes, to their destination. This is still our best safety measure.

We are not the only country in the world that uses expert pilots. They do it in the United States on the Mississippi. They also do it in Europe. In fact, in all countries where there are large estuaries, tributaries or rivers with very specific characteristics, there is a system of expert pilots.

We are being told today that there are all kinds of technological inventions that can be used to pilot these ships without human involvement. However, the reality is very different. No machine can replace humans. If that had been possible, machines would have replaced humans long ago in the House. That is not the case. Machines have still not invaded this place and I do not foresee the day where they will, the way things are going now.

This is the hard reality facing a government that, once more, is seeking to improve legislation but has failed to give what they want to stakeholders who depend on shipping for their livelihood, for leisure or spare time activities. This is what is so difficult.

We realize how arrogant the government is when, because of its strong majority, it will not even listen to interesting advice given by the opposition, to interesting questions it asked in committee. For example, when we asked questions of representatives of the insurance industry, they said “There is no problem”. Tomorrow, if we make the system mandatory, that is not a problem. It does not raise the premiums and the cost will be less than a person pays for home insurance.

They gave us an example of an 85 passenger ship for which the premium would be $1,600. That is the cost of the insurance. That is the reality. That is what the insurance industry spokespersons told us.

Tomorrow morning, if the decision is made to make insurance mandatory for all those who carry passengers, this will not increase premiums across Canada. The industry is very much capable of handling it. It has already done some market analyses and the actuarial studies are all ready as well. It already has part of this market, since it provides coverage to part of the industry. That is not a problem.

Once again the government decided, in response to pressures from various lobby groups, to take a step backward. In dealing with a bill, especially one in the shipping sector and entitled an act respecting marine liability and to validate certain bylaws and regulations, the orientation must be to make people liable for certain things. In addition to imposing responsibility upon them, they must be required to adhere to certain standards.

I will close my remarks with the comment that this would have been a very good opportunity to settle the future of the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation, which has been operating the 13 locks along the St. Lawrence Seaway for some years.

It has therefore been operated by an independent authority, in connection with which there has been a transfer agreement indicating that all five year plans must be reported to the government, through Transport Canada. From the security aspect, it is also required to administer the locks and marine traffic on the St. Lawrence Seaway. It is also required to ensure its safety.

On June 1, 2000, in St. Catharines, a 70 year old woman lost her life simply because she decided to cross a bridge that was being raised to give way to marine traffic. She did not have time to cross, panicked, fell into the mechanism and died. That was on June 1, 2000.

On July 28, 2000, without waiting for the coroner's report, because obviously such a violent death calls for a coroner's inquest, the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation decided unilaterally, apparently for financial and safety reasons, to tell its employees working at its 13 locks in Canada that starting with the 2001 season, which is now under way, it would reduce staff at all locks. The number of employees would be reduced from three to two.

This was a directive from the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation to its employees. Some permanent employees and some temporary employees were affected. Termination notices were sent to them to say that their contract would not be renewed.

The coroner's report was released on October 17, 2000. Of course it criticized certain facilities at the St.Catharines lock but also made the comment that there should be four employees, not three, on every shift at that location.

People who work at a lock are mostly involved in tying down and control activities. Control is necessary because there are many tourists.

There are those like recreational boaters who use the locks. There are also all those who go for a walk and watch the boats. They should be monitored. To prevent accidents like the one that happened to this lady in her 70s, people should be kept at a fair distance from the facilities.

If there is a problem with a ship it has to be moored. There are cables and mooring bitts. This is done manually. The machine to do this automatically has not been invented yet. There has to be people alongside of the locks to moor ships, especially in case one would break down. Navigation locks are not used only by small recreational crafts. There are also huge oil tankers that share the seaway with these crafts. If one of them were to break down, experienced people are needed on shore to hold and move the others.

That is the reason why the coroner made this recommendation. Obviously the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation was not pleased. At first it said this was a bad report by the coroner, as if it were possible to have good and bad coroner reports. When there is an accident a report is written. The coroner examines the occurrence from the point of view of security and tries to find ways to prevent it from happening again.

One of the recommendations was to have four people instead of three at the locks in St. Catherines. I am raising this because it has an impact, because of the guideline issued by the management corporation. If affects the safety of all 13 locks along the St. Lawrence Seaway.

Since it deals with liability, compensation and definitely safety and since making people accountable forces them to act more safely, this bill would have been a good opportunity to deal once and for all with the need to have the required staff at the locks along the St. Lawrence Seaway in order to avoid a repeat of the situation experienced on June 1 of last year by this lady in her 70s.

We tabled a letter in committee but that letter was not received by government officials for all sorts of reasons. Nothing that comes from the opposition is ever good, apparently, but the government should realize that when we take initiatives in the interest of our constituents, of Quebecers and Canadians, it is always good. This is the logic that should guide this House, not political interests and lobbies.

We recommended that the Standing Committee on Transport hear officials from the management corporation, the officials from Transport Canada who were involved in the inquiry, and workers' representatives. They tried to make us backtrack by saying that this was a labour relations issue. I must say that none of the employees who were notified lost his or her job; they were all relocated elsewhere.

The issue is not workers' interests but the safety of the public, of the boaters and tourists who use the 13 locks along the St. Lawrence Seaway. The Bloc Quebecois cares about these people. Each member of each party in this House should care about these people, not about shipowners.

The problem with the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation is that it charges a fee to ships entering the locks. Of course costs are increasing and shipowners do not want to pay more. These shipowners are asking the management corporation they are part of that fees be reduced, that staff be cut back. Instead of listening to the coroner, who says that the staff should be increased from three to four at the St. Catharines locks, and it would be the same at the 13 locks along the St. Lawrence Seaway, the corporation says it will cut back because there are costs involved. The concern is not safety but fees.

Incidentally, fees have doubled for pleasure craft owners while they have been reduced by 40% for shipowners. This is the reality. The shipowners' lobby is taking control of political organizations. Finally, they know how this works; they know where the campaign funds are and how parliament works.

For us, the representatives of the community, it is hard to see situations such as these and to be prevented in committee to hear at least the seaway management corporation and to ask it: “How did you decide to cut back on staff? Why was the staff cut back when we have a coroner's report saying this is dangerous, this is not safe and the staff should be increased and not cut back?”

I repeat that this is not a problem of labour relations. The permanent employees have all been relocated. This is not the problem. The problem is discussing safety. This bill could have been a wonderful opportunity to do so.

This bill purports to be a bill on marine liability. I repeat, responsibility means that if one is responsible safety must be improved so that damage and accidents do not happen.

In the presentation I made on this particular issue there was a letter from a pilot dated November 11, 2000. This pilot entered the lock at St. Catharines; he had engine trouble and could no longer stop because he could not reverse. He had to warn the stevedores “I am without power. I am drifting toward you. You must stop me. Bring the equipment”. They managed to stop him, but if they had not the ship would have destroyed everything in its path. As he says in the letter he wrote to his union, “If there had been only two of them there, I would have destroyed everything in front of me”.

That is the reality of the situation. This happened in November and it will perhaps happen in the middle of July. I for one, as an MP, would have made the House aware that such situations could have been avoided if parliament had assumed its responsibilities and included in bills such as the one on marine liability provisions making the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation liable for lock safety. If that had been done, they would certainly have taken less draconian measures than they have.

This is a business decision to reduce costs for shipowners, for whom the lives of lock workers or those watching boats or pleasure craft do not matter anyway. What matters is the money they make and put into their pocket and on which they pay only 1% in taxes, because they are registered to Barbados; they are part of a company flying the flag of Barbados.

That is the reality of the situation in Canada. This is why many citizens, many Quebecers, no longer believe in the Canadian system.

We have lost the credibility we had probably earned over the last 100 years. Why? It is because for the past 15 years political lobbies have taken over this parliament.

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4:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the question to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment is as follows: the hon. member for New Brunswick Southwest, National Defence.

Marine Liability ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Norman E. Doyle Progressive Conservative St. John's East, NL

Madam Speaker, it is a great pleasure to make a few remarks on the marine liability act.

First, we support the bill and would advocate its speedy passage in the House of Commons. As a layman in the field, I am somewhat astounded that such a bill is necessary at this time. As a Canadian citizen, I take for granted that I have to carry liability insurance if I want to operate a motor vehicle, be that vehicle the family car or local school bus. As a Canadian, I take for granted that tractor trailers full of freight are fully insured, especially regarding liability insurance.

There is no such assurances if one is a passenger on a ship or is shipping goods overseas. Bill S-2 would consolidate various existing marine liability regimes. It would incorporate certain international conventions on marine liability into Canadian law.

Bill S-2 is long overdue. Canada is playing catch up with its trading partners on this issue. We support speedy passage of the bill.

One of the substantive aspects of the bill is part 4. It concerns the long overdue adoption into Canadian law of the Athens convention relating to carriage by sea of passengers and their luggage. The convention sets forth an internationally accepted comprehensive liability regime for injuries and loss of life by passengers. We support that.

Existing Canadian legislation deals only with global limitation of liability for maritime claims. Part 4 of Bill S-2 sets out the basis upon which liability for passengers may be established. The new regime would apply to both domestic and international carriage of passengers by ship, and accordingly would finally bring Canadian law into line with that of our trading partners. We support that.

The bill also sets out a new regime for apportioning liability for maritime claims where the blame falls on more than one person or vessel. It clarifies what at present is a very confusing area of Canadian law.

There is another area of the bill that is good. Part 1 of Bill S-2 confirms that claims for wrongful death and injury could be made against persons as well as ships. It would enable relatives of deceased or injured to claim for loss of care and companionship. Otherwise, part 1 would generally re-enact the fatal accidents provision of the existing Canada Shipping Act.

One change that sparked debate in committee was the provision of clause 46 that would extend Canada's legal jurisdiction to deal with the cargo claims of Canada's importers and exporters. Representatives of the shipping lines did not want Canadian jurisdiction specified, preferring instead to have clauses on arbitration and judicial proceedings in their contracts of carriage.

Indeed a culture has grown up that sees most of these disputes resolved in British boardrooms and British courts. That suits the big shipping lines and the British legal profession just fine. However I would submit that a small Canadian exporter would be badly outclassed going up against the big boys in that kind of a setting, so we are supportive of asserting Canadian jurisdiction.

Left to themselves, the big boys as they are called, used to insert clauses into their carriage contracts denying liability for loss of goods, or life or limb. Such liability exemptions are no longer allowed in France, the United Kingdom or the United States. Bill S-2 now forbids the opting out of liability in Canada, putting us more in sync with our trading partners. We are pleased that clause 39 of the bill would allow the minister to introduce regulations making marine liability insurance compulsory.

There was some disagreement among stakeholders as to whether or not liability insurance should be compulsory. Some committee witnesses said it would take time to set up a more comprehensive system. They indicated that there was currently no system in place in this nation for licensing vessels to carry less than 12 passengers. However once the provisions of the new Canada Shipping Act currently before the House are enacted, there will be a consolidation of all commercial vessels under the Department of Transport and all pleasure craft under the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. I can see licensing for all these vessels coming and insurance cannot be that far behind.

I assume bank financing and provincial tourism rules might require small tour boat operators to carry liability insurance, but I still feel a little uncomfortable with the fact that the insurance at this point in time is not compulsory.

The Canadian Passenger Vessel Association wrote me recently to indicate that it favoured compulsory liability insurance to protect itself, its passengers and the reputation of the Canadian tourism industry.

I want to indicate to the minister and the parliamentary secretary who is here today that we do support the bill. All in all it is a good bill. It is long overdue. It is worthy of support.

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4:50 p.m.


Bev Desjarlais NDP Churchill, MB

Madam Speaker, I want to commend my colleagues from the Alliance and the Bloc for the excellent presentations they gave on the bill. I know that a lot of what each of them said and what I will say will be repetitious.

As a committee, we had to repeat over and over again the seriousness of the lack of mandatory insurance in the bill. We got absolutely nowhere with the governing side of the committee. Therefore, it is only fitting that we should repeat it again. Hopefully this time a good number of Canadians will hear this and will be as equally upset as we are over the government's failure to ensure that there is mandatory liability insurance.

My colleague from the Progressive Conservative Party said the party would be supporting the bill. My initial critic recommendations were pretty much the same as in the previous parliament when we dealt with this bill. Then because of the feelings of the Prime Minister that it was time for an election everything was dropped. However, the bill is back again.

Previously my critic recommendation ended with suggesting we support the bill. There were a lot a good changes. There was a comprehensive view of this bill amalgamating a number of issues that related to marine liability. It was very positive. The number of people involved in the industry were supportive, and there had been co-operation in coming up with the bill. I would have supported it.

However something happened this time around. I guess that is the benefit of having to redo things sometimes. As a committee, we listened to a transport official who told us the insurance industry could not handle putting in place mandatory liability insurance.

Some people do not realize what happens within the passenger carrying industry and a good part of it is the tourism industry in Canada.

I know we are not supposed to point out who is not here, but I was really pleased that the Minister of Industry listened to a lot of this debate. He must be aware that a lot of the passengers are carried within the Canadian marine tourist industry and that there is no liability insurance for those passengers, only if it is a responsible carrier.

I am also glad to see that the Canadian Passenger Vessel Association supports mandatory liability insurance. It is fully aware that until liability insurance is made mandatory, it will not be found throughout the industry. However, if carriers do not have insurance, the tourist industry has a lot at stake.

We register our cars, we get our drivers' licences and we get insurance. A good number of us probably pay approximately $2,000 a year for car insurance. At the most we can probably carry a maximum of five passengers in our vehicles. For $2,000 we can drive every day and probably put thousands of kilometres on our car every year.

Tourist buses have liability insurance. Airplanes have liability insurance. Helicopters have liability insurance. I am sure the bus lines, the little buggies in Churchill, Manitoba that take people out to see the polar bears, probably have to have liability insurance. The rail lines also have liability insurance.

However do boats that tour the Great Lakes in Ontario have to have insurance? No, they do not. Why do they not have to have insurance? Because the Liberal side of the House said that it was not needed. It does not care if there are accidents. The Liberals do not care if the owners of the boats have liability insurance. If someone wants to sue the person can sue. The Liberals will not ensure that shipowners have insurance.

Each and every one of those members of that committee felt it was necessary and that the regulations would come. They thought it was necessary but they did not put it in the bill.

What do we do when we get a piece of legislation and we know there is a problem with it?

It was recognized that there was a problem and that the act respecting marine liability should be fixed. How many years has it been since it was worked on? It has been a long time.

We now have this bill and we recognize that something is still missing. We should be fixing it now. It is before the House. We should not wait for ten years down the road. We should not wait until there is another accident like the one that took place on Georgian Bay in Ontario. There was no liability insurance. The legislation is before the House. Now is the time to fix it, not five or ten years down the road. That is simply bad business. That is doing a bad job at what we are here to do.

It would be different if we did not know about it. I admit the last time around I did not know about it and I was going to accept it. However not this time around. It is a serious mistake that not to include this in the bill.

The people who are at risk are the people who will get on board the tourist boats this summer. Those tourist boats do not have liability insurance nor do other boats that carry people in our inland waterways. Anyone crossing the ocean will be covered. That is not a problem. However in Canada there will no be coverage because the Liberal side of this House said there would be none.

This was one time in that committee where every member of the opposition tried their darndest to make sure it was put in this bill. We do not often agree on a lot of things on this side of the House, but this was one area that we thought was serious enough because the welfare of Canadians could be jeopardized. It would not hurt the industry because there was no real great cost to the industry, as my hon. colleague from the Bloc mentioned. It would cost a 100 to 150 passenger boat less than $2,000. For an 80 passenger boat, it would cost $1,600 a year. That is less than we would pay for car insurance. How is that going to hurt the industry?

The saddest part is we listened to transport officials tell us that the insurance industry could not handle it. That was a bunch of malarkey because the insurance industry could handle it. What is put in question is the information that came from the transport officials who appeared before committee. I will never trust them again. It was just garbage which was supported by that side of the House.

It was extremely disappointing for me to hear member after member on the Liberal side say they know they have to change the legislation and that it will come.

When? When is it going to come? How many pieces of legislation has the Liberal government said it would bring forward to deal with issues in the country? It never does anything about them. It is all promises, promises, and the government never comes up with the legislation or it drags it out time and time again.

This is an area that should not be dragged out. There is absolutely no excuse for not including mandatory liability insurance in the legislation. My hon. colleague from the Alliance Party put forth an amendment saying we would give the government time and it could put in the bill that this would be put in place by 2003. That is reasonable. All the Liberal members said it will be coming. The parliamentary secretary sat there and said it will be coming because the government knows it is necessary and it will come.

Therefore, the Alliance Party put the amendment saying to give the industry until 2003. Committee witnesses said the insurance industry could already handle it, that it would not be a problem. However, what happened last night in the House? The Liberal side of the House voted it down and said no, the government would not give that to us by 2003.

The New Democratic Party put forth an amendment, saying that if we will not have mandatory liability insurance, carriers should at least post a notice because passengers have a right to know. What happened last night in the House? The Liberal side of the House voted it down, saying in effect that there will be no liability insurance and that the government will not be telling Canadians there is no liability insurance. There are very few Canadians who realize that carriers do not have liability insurance. They expect that carriers do. They think carriers do. They expect that because that is good legislation and good business. Based on that expectation, they are jeopardizing their welfare because they trust us to do the job we should be doing.

From this moment on, with this not in the legislation, I will go out of my way to make sure the message gets out throughout the country so that people know they do not necessarily have liability insurance. The Liberals had an opportunity to correct the mistake and they have blown it. They did not fix it. As a result I think there is an onus on each and every one of us to make sure that each and every Canadian knows there may be no liability insurance on a passenger carrier.

There are good passenger carriers out there. I would say that a majority of them carry insurance. However, it is like anything. Those that do not are the problem. More than likely they are the ones that are not necessarily the safest carriers. That is why it is an issue. We know that good, responsible businesses carry liability insurance. However, what did the Liberal government say about those who do not? It said that they do not have to post a waiver or let anyone know.

There is an onus on each and every one of us to let people know. Not only will it affect Canadians but anyone else who has come to our country and who is travelling on a boat when something happens. Sure they could go through a civil liability suit, but I wish them luck. If a boat with 80 passengers went down, how many of us think that owner would have enough personal insurance to cover anything? How many houses or cars would he or she have to sell off? There would not be enough to cover it.

For the sake of $1,600 or $2,000 a year the Liberal government is willing to jeopardize an industry, because it will have an impact on the entire industry once the message gets out that there is no insurance. It is a serious problem.

I especially want the people in Ontario to hear this, because that is where the majority of those members on that side of the House come from. I will wager that the greatest amount of passenger lake travel takes place in Ontario. Those members are in the group that has said to people in Ontario that they do not need liability insurance.

First, I would like to encourage all the carriers out there to do the good and honest thing, to do the right thing morally, and make sure they carry liability insurance. Second, all those who do carry it should let their passengers know they do so that then they can question the next carrier, which may not have it.

We will have to do whatever we can in a roundabout way to let people know, simply because the government did not do its job. It had an opportunity to put in good legislation. It had an opportunity to fix bad legislation. Each and every member on that side had an opportunity to vote against the bill and let their government know that they did not like it because something was missing, but they chose not to.

They chose to do exactly what the parliamentary secretary did at the transport committee. He got his little ducks in a row and said we cannot do this, we cannot put it in there, guys—sorry, but it was all guys—and everybody did exactly what he said. What happened last night? All the little ducks got in a row again and did not even think about it.

There should have been at least a thought. When there is an Alliance motion and an NDP motion looking for the same thing, it has to be a big enough issue. It has to be important enough to the opposition parties if they are trying to address the same problem. At least that should have flagged for the Liberal members that they had better pay more attention to it.

I was extremely pleased today to hear the strong comments of my colleague from the Bloc. He mentioned a lot of other areas that are of concern. From my perspective those issues did not come into the discussion when we dealt with it the last time. I recognize, the member being from Quebec, that his concern over the seaway is great and rightfully so. The Alliance member spoke very strongly on this as well.

I have to admit I was disappointed in the Conservative member, who had said his party would support it. Actually I had the impression that he may have thought there was liability insurance just down the road. Maybe he did not realize that last night the government voted no and that even by 2003 we will not see it.

I say to the members in the House that this was one of those times when they needed to pay attention to that legislation. For those from Ontario, I absolutely hope that they are not in a situation where they are chewing on this legislation later on, because somewhere down the road somebody will not have insurance and be passengers will be affected.

I would encourage those members and say to them that the government can, under regulation, put this in place. It can make sure there is mandatory insurance. I would hope that members on this side will put pressure on so that it does come out in regulation. I would also hope that the Liberals on that side take a good look at it and push for that regulation, because there is no question that those who will be at the greatest risk will probably be people of the province of Ontario because of the inland waterways and the numbers of passengers. Certainly it will affect all provinces without question.

In regard to the people of Ontario, I listened to the transport minister make a comment one time that had something to do with the toll roads, that people voted in Liberals so they would get toll roads. It was a comment like that, indicating that people voted for the Liberals and if the Liberals think this is the way it should go this is the way it will go. I guess that is it: if we vote in Liberals we get bad legislation. That is what we have here.

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5:05 p.m.


Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill S-2.

I would like to congratulate my colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel who spoke earlier this afternoon. I want to tell him how much I appreciated his comments and how true I found them to be.

What I believe once again is serious. I believe it is a sad thing to see this government introduce bill after bill dealing with a very specific problem. The idea is good, but as soon as the opposition parties bring forward amendments to improve the bill the government says nothing and refers the matter to the parliamentary secretary. As far as he is concerned, everything coming from the opposition has to be dealt with in a very negative way. This is a serious problem.

This afternoon I listened to Alliance members and the member for the New Democratic Party. As I had not debated this bill, it gave me an idea of what should have been included in it. Listening to the opposition parties does not mean one is an idiot, but rather it shows that one is intelligent. They had good ideas, they were on the right track, but they stopped halfway there.

Stopping halfway is serious because this bill deals with a particular problem. We do not rewrite the same laws every year, I believe they are made to last a few years. Why stop halfway in dealing with a problem that really had to be addressed in order to have, in the end, something tangible and forward looking?

I think that, as my colleague was saying, this government is arrogant. It is not a word to be used lightly, but I am sorry to say that this government is indeed arrogant. We were all elected by the people we represent. They told us to represent them, hoping we would pass on to the government their wishes and their suggestions for a better society. I see that they did not get the message, or if they did they did not understand it. It is very sad.

I think we are all people of goodwill, whether we belong to the Canadian Alliance, the NDP, the Progressive Conservative Party or the Bloc Quebecois. Sometimes I wonder if the Liberal government has the same goodwill.

It is too bad that we just had an election because Canadians already feel that this government is not listening to them. It has been only five or six months since it was elected. Imagine how out of touch it will be in three or four years. We will have passed bills that will have done nothing for the advancement of Quebec and Canadian society.

This bill dealing with marine liability validates certain bylaws and regulations. It was introduced in the Senate on 31, January 2001. Current Canadian legislation relating to the marine mode of transportation includes several regimes governing the liability of domestic and foreign shipowners and shippers, and their responsibility for damage to property, environment, or loss of life or injury to others during maritime activity and therefore dealing with the economic and legal consequences of maritime accidents.

The environment is an issue that is very important to me and I will be addressing several parts of this bill that are related to it in various ways. I will finally get the opportunity to talk about threats to the environment. We no longer have the right not to protect the environment for current and future generations.

This is a serious threat to our planet. We cannot afford to make any concession where the environment is concerned. I think we ought to take every known measures and every measure soon to be discovered to fight against any threats to the environment. We have to face some serious threats like oil spills at sea or close to the coast.

The bill would consolidate existing marine liability regimes, fatal accidents, limitation of liability for maritime claims, liability for carriage of goods by water, liability and compensation for pollution damage, into a single piece of legislation which would also include new regimes concerning shipowners' liability to passengers and apportionment of liability applicable to torts governed by the Canadian maritime legislation.

The bill would retroactively validate certain bylaws made under the Canada Ports Corporation Act and certain regulations made under the Pilotage Act. The validating provisions are of a strictly housekeeping nature and are unrelated to the marine liability regimes set out in the bill.

I would like to talk about the description and the analysis contained in part 1 dealing with personal injuries and fatalities. Those provisions are set in clauses 4 to 14.

It follows a decision made in 1993 by the British Columbia Court of Appeal where the court found that relatives of persons killed in marine accidents could sue under part 14 of the Canada Shipping Act.

Part 1 of the bill would generally re-enact the provisions concerning fatal accidents that currently appear in part 14 of the Canada Shipping Act, revising them to give effect to the various Supreme Court of Canada decisions. More specifically, part 1 would update Canadian maritime law to reflect developments in provincial fatal accidents legislation and to confirm that maritime wrongful death and injury claims may be made against persons as well as ships.

Part 1 would apply only in respect of claims for which a remedy would be sought under Canadian maritime law, as defined in the Federal Court Act, or any other law of Canada in relation to any matter falling within the class of navigation and shipping or dealing more precisely with clause 5. Any action based on part 1 of the bill would be barred for two years.

This would improve legislation but would not solve the new problems users would be facing. The Bloc Quebecois agrees with this part, whose aim is to permit the dependants of a person injured or deceased to recover damages and interest. We agree with these measures, but we could have been, as my colleague has said, more attentive to what the witnesses said when the bill was being examined in committee.

I will also address part 2, that is clauses 15 to 23, which set out the apportionment of liability. It involves the application of the principle that if several people or ships are liable each is apportioned part of the blame, and if it is impossible to determine individual degrees of fault all are equally and jointly responsible.

The claimant may initiate proceedings for negligence in shipping matters in Canada. First, the common law defence of contributory negligence prevents a claimant from recovering anything if the defendant can prove that the claimant's own negligence, even in the slightest degree, has contributed to the damages.

Second, a defendant who is found responsible for paying a claimant damages is then prevented from claiming a contribution from other persons. It really concerned these clauses; it improved them and the problems. It also made it possible to link this new apportionment of liability with the Quebec civil code, which had always recognized these rights.

At the federal level, however, apportionment legislation such as currently exists at the provincial level has never been enacted, except with respect to damage caused by collisions between ships. It is important to have this vision so that this problem may be really linked with provincial jurisdictional distribution.

Also, the Quebec government with its civil code has always been further ahead. I am not saying this because I live in Quebec: I think this has been recognized throughout Canada with many issues. The civil code, which was updated a few years ago, has really been updated to respond to what is happening. That is what is important to legitimize, to allow the apportionment of liability in part 2 which includes clauses 15 to 23. We agree in principle with this apportionment of liability in part 2.

I will also deal with part 3, which includes clauses 24 to 34. It covers the “Limitation of liability for maritime claims”. This is very important. I believe it is very important to ensure the apportionment of liability, whether financial or by units of account or special drawing rights issued by the International Monetary Fund under the London convention of 1976 and the Canada Shipping Act, with an extension to cover the liability of dock, canal or harbour owners.

I would also like to point out that claims arising from a ship in collision will be limited to two years. This is in subclause 23(1). However, a court with jurisdiction to deal with such an action could, in accordance with the rules of the court, extend the two year time limit to the extent and on the conditions that it thought fit. As well, the court could extend the time period for arresting a ship if satisfied that the two years had not afforded a reasonable opportunity to arrest the ship within the waters of a province or of Canada.

It is a very important provision, because these things could take a long time. These legal actions took a long time to settle. Ships could be tied down and, before everyone could agree on some kind of settlement undue extentions could be granted. We all know how long judicial proceedings can be.

This clause would speed up the determination of liability and the processing of maritime claims. That is what is called limitation of liability for maritime claims.

As my colleague pointed out, this provision could have been improved upon further. I think that we in the Bloc Quebecois will support this aspect in relation to part 3. Given all we have heard in the past, legal actions that went on for years on end, witnesses that came before the committee urging us to take action and to take all necessary means to do so, I think the government is not going far enough.

I know that my time is quickly running out. As I said at the beginning of my speech, I also want to talk about the environment. As we know, it is a very important issue. It is just incredible how many environmental disasters we see around the world. We hear about ships accidentally discharging their cargo into the environment. We can see how unacceptable this is from the ecological point of view. It will be years and years before all the flora and fauna, all the shore areas affected by spills can recover and finally get back to the way they used to be.

We know that many species are endangered. There are endangered birds and marine species. It is very important to ensure heavy vigilance. I believe we can no longer allow these companies to travel about the planet anywhere they want, doing anything they want.

As for the $100 million figure for the fund, I will take the example of the incident on the coast of France a few years ago. Initially this was to cost a few million dollars but in the end the figure was escalating; $100 million is very low. This bill ought to have given a far higher figure. We have absolutely no idea today what it will cost to restore what we have destroyed.

Far be it from me to alarm the people listening to us today. That is not my intention. I have never wanted to do that, but we must be responsible. As responsible persons we must tell oil companies which have a major responsibility that they must assume their responsibility.

Under the heading “Payments into the Ship-source Oil Pollution Fund”, clause 93 and the following clauses say that ship owners must pay 30 cents per metric ton “in respect of each metric ton of oil in excess of 300 metric tons imported by ship into Canada or shipped by ship from any place in Canada in bulk as cargo”. This levy set as of March 31, 1999, will be adjusted annually. I believe it is generous. This bill is generous toward the oil companies.

These days, for the past year and a half to two years in fact, we have experienced spiralling costs. The government says it is not responsible. Oil companies say they are short of money but they are making record profits. I will not tell the House what people back home are saying. In the Saguenay we have words to describe this kind of people but I will not say what they are because it is not parliamentary. Allow me to think and say that it is indecent. Let us talk about how much money the oil companies are making on the back of the poor.

You must have poor people in your riding, Mr. Speaker. You have farm workers, taxi drivers, school bus drivers. All these people need a car to go to work. Do you not think it is very hard for them?

In the Quebec City area I paid 89 cents for a litre of regular gasoline. It is a lot. What is it going to be this summer? They say that during the holidays people are not cost conscious. I believe it is indecent to think that way.

As mentioned by my colleague, the Bloc Quebecois will support the bill with some reservations. I believe it could have been improved to show that we were finally going to do the right thing.

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5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is the House ready for the question?

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5:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


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5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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5:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


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5:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


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5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Marine Liability ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


Marine Liability ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

All those opposed will please say nay.

Marine Liability ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


Marine Liability ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

In my opinion the yeas have it.

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5:25 p.m.

An hon. member

On division.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the third time and passed)

The House resumed consideration of Bill C-17, an act to amend the Budget Implementation Act, 1997 and the Financial Administration Act, as reported (without amendment) from the committee.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Pursuant to order made earlier today, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded divisions on the report stage of Bill C-17.

Call in the members.

(The House divided on Motion No. 1, which was negatived on the following division:)

Division No. 93Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare Motion No. 1 lost.