Mr. Speaker, I will echo what the minister just mentioned and say that the official opposition will be supporting the bill. When it gets to committee it will be passed quickly, I am sure. However, just to let the birds on the east coast know, the bill, unfortunately, will likely not pass into law before we head into the election.
I do have to chastise the minister just a tad for talking about the early and decisive government action on this topic. He has been the environment minister for approaching several decades now, I would think, and this is the first time we have seen this bill. An early and decisive move to protect these birds, this is not. This is a long overdue bill. I do not know why it was not in here a long time ago.
The bill is now before the House and, as the minister knows, it will pass through quickly. We have one speaker today because the bill is not controversial. The provinces are on side, we are on side and I think everybody is on side. It will go to committee but, unfortunately, it will not get passed into law before the House is dissolved and we go into an election.
Let me reiterate a little of what the minister said. There are hundreds of thousands of birds that face a terrible death. It is very agonizing for the bird and agonizing for us to watch it. The unfortunate part is when birds come into contact with oil and they get to the stage where they are struggling. Although a lot of people try to help, there are volunteers and efforts are made, once the bird is in that stage, seldom do they get saved. The fact is, they are done. We see volunteers scraping the oil off, trying to fluff the feathers and do what they can for these birds. The trouble is, once they have lost that protective natural coating because of their contact with oil, it is almost always a death sentence for them. That is why the bill needs to pass. Eventually, if the bill is not passed in this House, in this Parliament, then I hope early in the next Parliament the Conservative government will bring it forward again and we will get it into law, because it is long overdue.
One of the amendments to the Migratory Birds Convention Act and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act would make stricter fines possible. The potential fines would be raised to $1 million for shipowners who pump their bilges or put oil into the water. This is a good move and a good idea that we support.
It is interesting that our laws will finally be harmonized with the United States. As the minister himself said, this is a good thing. We share a common coastline and what we do not want are shipowners who might try to make it a few more miles before they pump the bilge. This is not a get out of jail free card but it is certainly an easier and cheaper way to clean the bilge or pump the oil and not as likely to get prosecuted. That has to stop. This will harmonize our laws more consistently with the United States and make it neither profitable nor desirable to dump bilge oil within our 200 mile exclusive economic zone. It is obviously a good thing.
It is a positive example of how harmonizing our laws here in North America is a good thing. I imagine if Maude Barlow were here today in the House, she would be up on her hind legs squawking about the fact that there is a corporate agenda somewhere and it is a terrible thing to work with the Americans. I am sure it is in her mind and in many other people's minds that the Americans are part of an evil empire.
The truth is that the Americans are away ahead of us on this. We are playing catch up here. The fact that we can harmonize our laws with the Americans to make the North American coastline safer and a tougher place to pollute for all of us, is just a recognition that pollution does not know boundaries and good laws, good regulations and sound international law, the rule of law, is a good thing when we can work in harmony for the betterment of all. In this case it is for the betterment of both the environment, certainly the birds, and also our relations with the Americans.
I do think the minister is on the right track here again. Harmonizing these laws with the Americans is a good thing and it is a good thing for all the reasons I mentioned.
The bill also would iron out some of the past jurisdictional problems between the various government departments that claim responsibility for protecting our coasts. The minister mentioned that $2 million or $3 million would be involved in making these amendments workable, and that is a good start.
However we have concerns that the government will continue to augment in other departments the monitoring efforts on all our coasts and not be careful about how it manages both the Coast Guard and our other monitoring methods. No law will work without monitoring and enforcement.
I want to assure the minister that this is consistent with Conservative policy. I want to read for the record, for those watching and for members in the House, exactly what our policy says on this. It says:
A Conservative government will expand oil-dumping detection; prohibit ships from entering sensitive sea areas; legislate ship operators to account for their ships' waste; and offer incentives to dump waste at our port facilities, not in our waters.
A Conservative government will massively increase fines for illegal oil dumping, a practice that kills hundreds of thousands of sea birds every year along Canada's coastlines and is encouraged by current Canadian laws that make profitable the practice of dumping oil in the ocean instead of disposing of it legally at a port. Ship operators caught illegally dumping oil will face criminal charges and be prevented from plying Canadian waters.
In other words, the Conservative policy is a get tough policy for those who would pollute. In fact, it reminds me a bit of the policy of the current Prime Minister when he was the environment critic in 1990. He said at that time that people should face criminal charges for willingly and knowingly polluting Canadian waters with oil. He said that criminals like that should spend time in jail.
We know what has happened since then. The Prime Minister's own company, CSL, has been caught pumping bilge water over the side. Apparently another case is pending. I am not sure who he thinks should go to jail for doing that. However it is interesting to note that in 1990 he had a very tough policy when he was environment critic. I only mention this to point out to the minister that this early and decisive action that he talked about in his speech is getting to be decisive but it is not very early.
Back in 1990, 14 years ago, the Prime Minister said that this should be toughened up. Now, 14 years later, we have a bill that will not pass through Parliament in time and is not as tough as what the Prime Minister wanted 14 years ago.
We will be supporting the bill because it is the right thing to do and because it is a step in the right direction. However I will not be doing cartwheels on behalf of the birds on either coast because the legislation has been a long time coming. It is well overdue. I hope it is not window dressing for the upcoming election, like the headlines we read about the government getting tough on those nasty people who are overfishing on the east coast. I hope this is not another one of these bills where the government wants to show how tough it can be. It will not pass but the government wants to show people how tough it can be.
I hope the government will get tough and that the legislation will pass. The Conservative Party will get tough. We will legislate it as an early and decisive action of the Conservative government. We will not wait for an election call to do it.
This should happen. The bill will go to committee. We will support it and are happy to do so. I again point out that it is part of our strong environmental commitment. It is part of what we want to see happen, not just with CSL but with any corporate or private shipowner who might use our waters improperly. We want to make sure that the good ones have nothing to fear but that the bad corporate citizens and bad shipowners realize that Canada is not a place to dump their pollution.