Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak to the House today and add my comments to those already voiced about Bill C-15, this important initiative that would help prevent the needless deaths of hundreds of thousands of seabirds every year across our coasts.
As has been indicated by my colleagues, I too am seeking to prevent the deaths of murres, puffins, great black-backed gulls and many other species of seabirds every winter as a result of the intentional or negligent illegal release of oil from some ships into marine waters.
In amending the Migratory Birds Convention Act and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act as proposed in Bill C-15, which is before us for third reading, we would be making important improvements to the enforcement regime in marine waters and ultimately preventing the deaths of hundreds of thousands of birds.
In particular, Bill C-15 would allow us to increase the ability to enforce provisions in these two seminal pieces of environmental legislation in Canada's exclusive economic zone. It would enhance the capacity of these two laws to protect our species and our environment and, at the end of the day, to protect us all.
Achieving the sustainability of our environment is why we have worked so hard on environmental legislation in this country. This is why we have led the way on international efforts and are known for that leadership. This is why we need to act now to deal with the ongoing pollution of our waters that threatens many species of seabirds. We would be able to put significant fines in place that would stop the illegal discharge of oily bilge waters from ships, which is threatening natural resources in our coastal waters.
The dumping of oil into water is avoidable. Many ships travel through Canadian waters far from the sight of land. It has not been easy to determine which ships are responsible for the many discharges of oil into marine waters. For this reason, some ship operators who pollute may think they will never get caught.
Furthermore, without laws providing for fines that are proportionate to the environmental cost, some members of the shipping industry may believe it costs less to risk the fine than it does to discharge their oily bilge waters before they arrive in port. We need to stop such practices.
Bill C-15 would increase the maximum fines for such pollution offences so that they are more in keeping with those of the United States.
The result should be that ships that pass through Canadian waters to dump oily bilge waters before proceeding to U.S. waters, where enforcement has been much stricter and fines much higher, would be deterred from dumping illegally into our marine environment.
Bill C-15 would put in place other provisions to ensure valid ships' records and to require equipment to avoid environmental pollution.
We can make sure that some of the worst perpetrators discover that they cannot get away with dumping oily bilge waters off Canadian coasts any longer without suffering consequences for those actions.
Not only does the Government of Canada intend to improve surveillance through satellite technology, the fines available upon passage of Bill C-15 will be a strong deterrent to illegal action.
After careful deliberations over Bill C-15, the Standing Committee on the Environment strongly supported the proposed bill with one amendment. I want to take this opportunity to thank all members of the Standing Committee on the Environment for all the work that they put into this legislation.
We heard my hon. colleague speak of the minimum fines of $300,000 on summary conviction and $500,000 on an indictable offence that would be imposed if ships over 5,000 tonnes violate the amended Migratory Birds Convention Act and pollute illegally.
Large ships over 5,000 tonnes should be expected to have modern and effective oil management systems. Shipping, as everyone in the House is aware, is big business, and the non-compliant companies that operate large ships must respect the polluter pays principle and provide the means to reduce or eliminate polluting activities involving their vessels. Those who do not abide by the rules will be penalized, should be penalized and ought to be penalized.
Bill C-15 deserves support in the House. I also urge support for the amendment by the Minister of Environment that the minimum fines for polluting ships over 5,000 tonnes be deposited directly to the environmental damages fund. This amendment will ensure that the proceeds of fines will be directed to the restoration of the damaged environment.
Fines in the case of ships exceeding 5,000 tonnes will go toward cleaning up the problem that was created in the first place. I think we all want fines to be used to reduce environmental damage. I think we want those who pollute our water and kill our birds to have to pay for the crime in ways that will have a direct benefit to our environment.
The option is consistent with the Government of Canada's philosophy of ensuring environmental sustainability, not only through its own funding but through the fines paid by those who threaten that sustainability through pollution activities.
As we can see, the committee's amendment and good work are reinforced with this further refinement, but we can put the fines imposed on floating vessels of more than 5,000 tonnes to work where they are needed. It is good policy work, good legislative work and also good practice.
Members will notice that I am referring to amendments to existing laws. Many of us here worked on these laws and were proud to enter our names in their official support.
This means that we are not creating burdens for the shipping industry and we are not changing course. Quite the opposite. With Bill C-15, we are showing that we believe in what we have on the statute books and in Canadian commitments within international agreements.
The bills shows, nevertheless, that we are ready to improve federal wildlife protection statutes and are willing to act accordingly in the best interests of migratory seabirds and cleaner marine waters. This approach adheres to the goal of protecting and maintaining biodiversity, which in fact supports human existence.
What more can I say? The value of Bill C-15 speaks for itself. We would be putting in place measures that will help achieve a robust environment as essential to a competitive economy and thus to securing Canada's place in the world. In acting today, we are endorsing that vision and giving it strength.
Bill C-15 provides the means to enforce the high standards we have set, standards of which we are very proud, standards that will make us Canadians. We find these standards in our laws. We have committed to them in international agreements. We have committed to ourselves, to our children and to their children that we will conserve biodiversity and protect our natural heritage.
For the reasons I have just recited and for the other reasons that were referred to in the previous speeches given in support of this legislation, I urge all members to support this bill.