Mr. Speaker, first of all, let me tell members that about two and a half years ago we recognized that the legislation simply was not working. We put forward legislation and in our platform we talked about these oil spills and what should be done.
All of a sudden, it is amazing that the government has realized that this in fact is an issue, particularly on our west coast and in the Atlantic provinces. For the Liberals to say that they just could not get this forward any sooner is really a pretty strange thing for the parliamentary secretary to say.
Let us talk about the truth of what will happen here. The bill was brought forward last week. It went to committee and of course we had no time for witnesses, we had no time for expert opinion, and we had no time to get into the issue, but obviously we support it.
It is a great piece of legislation. It needed a few amendments. It needed the consultation to be sure we had not missed anything, but this is our legislation. This is what we would have done, I hope, very quickly upon forming government.
However, the Liberals brought it forward last week thinking they would have the opposition opposing the bill and then they could blame us for defeating the bill, because after all, the opposition would not give it consent. We called the government on it. We have given consent for the bill, but what have the Liberals done?
Let me tell the House and the audience watching that they brought the bill forward through report stage and we agreed to it. The bill then went through third reading, which we agreed to. But the Liberal senators have left town; they have gone. They are not here. They are not sitting until the 25th of May.
If the Prime Minister had to make a decision between having corn flakes and corn flakes in the morning, I doubt he could make it. He would probably have to set up a committee to find out whether or not he should have corn flakes. That is about the same with the bill. Maybe he will not call an election. However, if he does call an election, the bill will never see the light of day.
The government has lost its trump card. It cannot go to Newfoundland and Labrador or British Columbia and say that the rotten opposition defeated it. It will have to say the rotten Liberals defeated it because of poor planning and because they did not bring this forward 10 and a half years ago when they should have. They are really to blame.
The bill is all about politics. The Liberals have no intention of bringing it about. We can ask, is it because of CSL or because of who knows what? However, they will not make it law because the Senate is not here. Who shut down the Senate last night? The Liberals did. Who is to blame for this not becoming law? The Liberals are to blame.
They better believe that in those constituencies where this matters, where those hundreds of thousands of dead birds are, we know who will wear this one.
This great speech we just heard about how the Liberals care about these birds and the extinction of birds and so on is a phony argument. They had no intention of making this law happen or they would have at least informed their senators. It is all about politics. More birds will die because these guys could not get their act together and do something about it.
What should have happened? What is more interesting is what should have happened. How should a competent government have handled an issue like this? A competent government would have set it up years ago.
In question period two and a half years ago I asked the minister, why do we not make fines the same as in the U.S? We heard the parliamentary secretary say that it was a good idea. Why was it not a good idea two and a half years ago? Obviously, if fines are so low and we are dumping bilge oil, we will dump it into the ocean because it is cheaper--and we will probably not get caught--than it is to take it somewhere to be recycled.
The reason bilge oil is not dumped in U.S. waters is that the minimum fine is a million bucks. The minimum fine in Canada is a few thousand dollars, so obviously the shipowners will take their chances. I understand that it costs close to $30,000 to re-treat that oil.
What happens when a ship is caught? We could list the names of ships that have been caught and given fines of $20,000 or $30,000. The biggest fine was $120,000 for the Olga . What happened to the Olga ? The crew members were arrested but they were sent home and did not pay their fine. Their ship was let go because the fine was $130,000 and the handlers declared bankruptcy. The fine was never paid and it never will be paid. What kind of a deterrent is that?
We have had one aircraft patrolling the Atlantic Ocean. That really will catch an awful lot of ships on a big ocean like that.
The government is not serious about going after this issue. It it had been, it would have made the fines the same as in the U.S., which is $1 million. If it had done that, the CSLs of this world would not have be dumping their oil out there and getting caught occasionally.
We have another ship where justice cannot decide what to do. Transport Canada says that it should be involved but Environment Canada says that it should be involved. They are so busy fighting the turf wars within the government that the damn ship sails away and no fine is paid. It is incompetence.
After that happens over and over again, one would think that maybe we need to toughen the legislation, which is what we are attempting to do today, but it is too late. The Senate is gone. It is interesting to listen to government members stand , all righteous, and say that they will fix the problem.
What kind of questions should be asked? The member across said that he has been getting letters. I have been getting letters, too. I have been getting faxes and emails. I hear from those who are saying that we have to do everything possible to get this through. However I hear others who are saying they want a chance to be heard as well.
I have heard from one lawyer who says that this bill now contravenes international conventions that were signed by the Canadian government. The letter goes on to say “ it is our firmly held view that the Canadian Shipping Act, which incorporates into Canadian law”, and it goes on to describe this, “that now this bill will break that law”. That is why we have hearings. We would have called experts and found out that it contravened international agreements that we have signed. Maybe in the Liberals' way of thinking, they do not have hearings because why would they listen to professional facts.
What should have happened? We should have asked questions. We should have done our due diligence. We should have had time to do this. We should have done it 10½ years ago when a lot of us came here. Shortly after that, we should have fixed this. It has been an obvious problem.
One of the questions I would have asked if I had the opportunity would have been: How does it affect the cruise ship industry, which is a huge industry in British Columbia and on the Atlantic? They also put stuff into the ocean. They recycle it. What are the restrictions? How does it affect them? We should ask them, I would think.
We should ask people in the shipping industry how it affects them? They have sent a lot of material about how it affects them and their concerns.
How does it affect the recreational fishermen? How does it affect the whale watching industry? We need to ask those questions.
We need to protect the birds but we need to ask questions of people who use those oceans. We need to ask about the city of Victoria dumping raw sewage into the ocean. We need to ask whether under this bill they could be charged and fined $1 million for hurting birds.
We need to analyze that sewage. We need to know if it contains toxins that will affect birds. Does it have hormones that will affect birds? Should the cities of Victoria or Halifax, the places that dump raw sewage, not have a chance to say that they need money for infrastructure because the House will pass a bill that will affect every one of their taxpaying citizens? The bill says that.
When I was visiting Governor Locke in Washington State we talked about the Sumas project. Governor Locke said that if I wanted to talk about the air in the Fraser Valley he would take me to the Seattle harbour and show me the sewage and tell me where the sewage came from. He said that It came from Victoria. He said that I should not talk to him about the air if I did not want him to talk about the sewage.
How can we have a modern country releasing raw sewage into the ocean? This sewage contains toxins, hormones and all kinds of things. A duck eating a condom, which is what I saw in the Seattle harbour, is probably not very healthy.
The legislation gave us no time to ask those questions. It is the government's incompetence that this legislation was not brought forward two and a half years ago when I started asking questions about it. I wrote to the Minister of Transport and the Minister of Justice. I wrote and spoke to the Minister of the Environment. It is not that they did not know. They knew but they did not do anything until this very last moment. Am I ticked? Believe it, I am.
We do not know what is missing from the bill. We need to know if RADARSAT will be funded. We need to catch these guys and hold their ships if we are going to fine them $1 million, because they will take off.
What about the shipowners? The bill states that we will arrest the owners of the ships. That should be a great front page: the Prime Minister of Canada and his sons arrested and taken to court because they polluted. The bill states that we will arrest the directors and owners of the ships. Is that what it means? Will we really do that? Will we take a Bahamian registered ship and have the owners appear in court? We need to know.
We talked about the nose and tail briefly. The nose and tail are major areas for migrating birds. We do not protect them in the bill and we should be talking about that. I would like to see the ornithological reports on what birds are there, which ones are dying and what the populations are. Those are all questions we need to know because we have to base our decisions on science. The government is very prone to not basing things on science. Kyoto was all about not basing it on science but basing it on scare tactics.
I would like to know what birds are being killed on the east coast, the west coast and in the Arctic. I would like to know how we would go about seizing these crews on the ships. Many of these people, like on Canada Steamship Lines for instance, get paid $2 a day. If they get paid $2 a day they are now supposed to have whistleblower protection. I sure would like to know how the government intends to provide whistleblower protection for a $2 a day foreign sailor who squeals on his captain and is not a Canadian citizen.
We do not have whistleblower legislation in Canada for our own civil servants. How in blazes are we going to guarantee a foreign sailor's protection from his employer for giving information on the sorts of things that go on at sea?
On page 9 of the bill it states that we will use force. I would like to know what that means. Are we going to pull a Captain Canada and fire shots over their bows? Are we going to have armed guards? It is a great threat but I would like to know what it means.
I, like the member of the Bloc, would like to know why we do not have minimum fines? We have a maximum fine of $1 million. Does that mean some judge will decide that because it is a certain company there will be a $1,000 fine? I do not know what that means.
The bill states that we will compensate people for their loss due to an oil spill. How do we do that for the fisherman who claims that he did not catch any lobsters because some ship dumped its oil in the ocean? How do we determine how much should be paid? Is there money in the budget to cover that? The bill certainly does not say there will be. How do we do the science to determine the loss? It is like a farmer saying that if it had rained he would have had a better crop. Are we going to compensate that farmer?
That statement on page 17 of the bill seems to be very vague.
I would like to know about the Attorney General. The Attorney General has eight days to lay a charge against a dumping ship. Is that long enough or is it too long? If a ship heads back to its home port will we be able to stop it? I do not know the answer to that but I would have liked experts to tell me. However, because the government rammed the bill through at the last minute, we have had no opportunity to ask those questions.
Coming from Red Deer, I would like to know about oil exploration in the Arctic and about the tailings that are put on the ice. That will affect them too.
The bill does not just concern oiled birds off the coast of Newfoundland. It also concerns the industries that make up a great deal of western Canada, eastern Canada, Atlantic Canada and northern Canada. The bill is very far-reaching, and so it should be. It should protect sea birds and it should protect our environment.
As senior environment critic, I would be hypocritical if I did not stand and say that I want a strong bill. I want it as strong as it can be to protect the environment but I want to consult with the people the legislation will affect. I want to have answers to this page of questions. I am sure others have pages of questions as well.
I know the shipping industry has questions. I know a constitutional lawyer has questions. He wants to know why we are breaking two international conventions that we signed. Do we know that the bill would contravene those international conventions? We did not have time to find out any of that information because the government basically sprung this legislation on us.
What offends me the most is that I did meet with the environment minister. It is a funny story. I had great difficulty getting a meeting with the environment minister but one day I was on a plane about to fly to Calgary and the environment minister gets on the plane and sits next to me. We had our meeting. However, guess what? Calgary was fogged in, which I pre-arranged, and we had to fly to Vancouver. The environment minister and I ended up sitting on the plane for another three hours. When we flew back to Calgary in the middle of the night, the environment minister was still sitting beside me. I ended up having a 10 hour meeting with the minister.
One of the questions I asked the minister during that meeting had to do with what legislation we could expect to come through. I asked him if he had anything on the table that I should prepare for. He said that he did not but asked if I had any suggestions. I suggested this legislation but I wish he would have acted on it a lot sooner than he did.