Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak to this bill on a personal basis, as well as a representative of the Liberal Party, Her Majesty's official opposition. As an individual Canadian, and I am sure like all parliamentarians in this House, I welcome the fact that the Government of Canada, any Government of Canada, takes a proactive measure that says what we are going to do is advance the cause of Canada; we are going to advance the interests of Canadians; we are going to promote all those things that make us richer, not just in financial terms but in cultural, social and political terms as well, and more productive for all to see—in other words, that we want to take our rightful place in the world. We see that. We do that with great pride.
The minister, as I said in my intervention a moment or two ago, addressed the issue of this being a powerful demonstration of our commitment to the north, to our claims in the Arctic, and our willingness to take a rightful position in the north, and in fact, in the entire world. Then he said, as well, it is without precedent.
So we want a powerful demonstration of defence of Canadian interests.
Do members know how much we want that, those of us from the official opposition, those of us who work here but want to carry on the tradition of Liberal governments that looked out for the interests of Canadians throughout the ages in all aspects of Canadian interests?
In 1970, so much for unprecedented, the Canadian government of the day, that of Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, passed the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act. It is the basis for Bill C-3, because that act gave the legislative powers to the Government of Canada to not only outlaw waste disposal in the north, but regulate a wide range of fields, including the construction standards of ships using the Arctic. It contained enforcement powers and a regime of civil liability for 100 miles and left the opportunity to extend that an additional 100 miles to be included in Canada's exclusive economic zone.
One might add, why did we not do that then? Did we not recognize Canadian interests should expand and extend that much further?
I will go back to the issue of unprecedented action. Governments of the day would appear to have had a rather mature approach to making claims, ones that the minister opposite just recognized, but we cannot do it unless we are in a diplomatic environment where other people recognize those interests, realize that they are legitimate, and are prepared to support them. Otherwise we have to engage in some military tactics in order to get our point across.
The government of the day continued its diplomatic efforts, and I noted that, reluctantly, the minister opposite conceded that, yes, there was some further activity in 1982 when, pursuant to that Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act, we signed on to an internationally accepted and mandated authority to extend those rights in what is, of course, the UN Law of the Sea, in article 234.
So we have had this authority for quite some time. One might say, why did we not extend it further? Why did we not do that before? One could pose that today in a petty partisan fashion, because after all, the government has been in office for three years and did not think this was important until now. But we are not going to do that, because we recognize that things change and as they change they demand different approaches by governments of the day.
One of those changes, of course, has been global warming and its impact on the navigability of Arctic waters. Because of the navigability of those Arctic waters being improved, there have been a series of interests by various governments and by various private sector organizations that decided they needed to look at the potential of the Arctic.
Keep in mind, it is the potential that is there. For example, scientists coming from the United States Geological Survey went and examined the potential of the subwater beds for conventional energy sources. Ever since the first oil crisis, people have been talking about the shortage of conventional energy resources, basically those that are petroleum-based, natural gas.
What did this centre discover? Well, it discovered that the Arctic holds some 13% of undiscovered conventional petroleum sources are resident in the Arctic. This is an estimated number and we are willing to allow that they may be wrong, that it may actually be underestimated. A further 30% of natural gas deposits may be resident in the Arctic. That is 30% of all potential in the world and a further 13% of natural gas liquids resident in the Arctic of all potential in the world.
We can imagine that there are people who are interested. What did they do? They have to look for indicators. For example, Shell recently paid $2.1 billion for the lease rights in Alaska, in the Arctic Circle. BP did something similar to the tune of $1.2 billion. These companies put money where their interests lay. Exxon contributed something like $585 million, according to a recent newspaper article, for similar rights.
These companies, private sector corporations, interested in exploiting the potential that is held in secret by Arctic waters and ice are now looking at the potential to go and make exploration and economic development. They are doing it.
Countries, on their part, are beginning to do the exploration necessary to see to what extent they can lay their appropriate claim to that territory. We saw the Russians do it recently.
Government members opposite say, “Baa haa haa, that was a gimmick”. Maybe not so much more of a gimmick than that of the Minister of National Defence who decries the fact that the Russians are going in overflights on Canadian territory without telling us, and then we find out not only is that not an accurate reflection of the truth but it is also a distortion of the reality.
Then we find that the Minister of Foreign Affairs says, “We are going to do this. We will not tolerate anybody incurring into our territory”.
Why did he have to do that? According to the minister's speech a moment ago, he was to establish a diplomatic environment where we could advance our cause. Why, for example, would he not then go to the Chinese, who are already taking a look at the possibility of moving a lot of their transport through that Northwest Passage, using the warming that appears to be taking place in the Arctic waters in order to take a look at the economic competitive advantage they want to establish through different transportation modes down the road, building ice breakers and ships that can navigate in waters where icebergs are the norm, and where ice floes are a natural part of the environment and where thick ice may have to be blown over to one side in order to allow this navigation.
They think this navigation will give them a competitive advantage in the transportation field. Rather than use other means, they are going to go through the Northwest Passage to deliver their goods to Europe, not to Canada and North America but to Europe.
So we can see that the interest is there. The Chinese, by the way, contrary to what the Minister of Foreign Affairs would have suggested a few moments ago, are already very busy indicating to the entire world that they are going to consider that passage as international waters.
The minister can claim, all he wants in this House, that there is a powerful demonstration of the Canadian government's willingness to do something, but I think that the facts tell us a different story.
The Americans have already said, “You can say what you like, but this is what we're going to do and, by the way, if you want to do it with us, we'll give you a face-saving way to get out”. However, please do not tell us that this is an unprecedented act to advance Canadian interests. Let us say that this is a necessary item that brings full circle the initiatives that were begun in 1970 and then we will deal with things in a mature fashion because that mature fashion then takes a look at how to protect those interests.
We want to protect the environment. We are well aware of what the four pillars of a northern strategy are. We put them forward from this side of the House many years ago. We do not need to be reminded that they now have a different name and that we are going to try to spin it differently. The fact of the matter is we want to protect the environment. We want to protect the interests of the indigenous population, we want to develop the economic potential that is resident in the north, and we want to expand our position internationally because it is our position.
Not only are we custodians of the environment of the people in the north, but we are the proud heirs of the work done by others. Let us not turn our backs on the work that has been done by others, even if it was done by those with a different partisan stripe.
We took a look at this in committee and members will probably know that the committee said it wanted to support this. A mature approach would say, yes, but we must be prompted by care and due diligence. We need to take a look at what the other part of the government's claim is and that is that this is, again, a very powerful issue and that we are going to do everything we can in order to protect Canada's interests.
For those who are following this debate, they need to understand that the implementation of Bill C-3 is one that says we are going to expand the Canadian territory by an additional 500,000 square kilometres. That is the equivalent of a province the size of Saskatchewan. There are very few countries in the world that are the size of Saskatchewan. That calls to mind immediately the need to engage in diplomatic negotiations with other countries in order to recognize that claim.
More importantly, it then imposes a responsibility on the Government of Canada to ensure that it can do what it says it must do under the four pillars of a northern strategy, an Arctic strategy, that safeguards the environment, promotes the interests of the people who are indigenous to the area, allows Canadian economic interests to be advanced, and allows for us to advance our political leadership in that area.
One would ask, “What are the measures the government is putting in place to substantiate that?” The committee began to ask that question. For example, Mr. William Adams, the chair of the Defence Science Advisory Board, referred to the fact that we will have great difficulties in the case of environmental cleanups because there is a growing probability of a major oil spill.
Émilien Pelletier is a professor at the Institut des sciences de la mer de Rimouski at the Université du Québec à Rimouski.
He says that, “In cold water, after just 48 to 56 hours, oil turns into a sort of pudding that is difficult to pick up. It then becomes impossible to recover”.
What do we have as a measure to prevent that from occurring? Environment Canada officials, who appeared before the committee, said that Environment Canada does not have a mandate to enforce the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act. That is problem number one. If we do not have the authority to enforce it, why do we claim that we have powerful instruments at play?
Transport Canada officials said that surveillance and enforcement are limited to, are members ready for this, a single Dash 7 airplane and access to satellites. A single Dash 7 airplane to cover the territory equivalent to the province of Saskatchewan. Mr. Speaker, that is your home province. Can you imagine one single plane, a Dash 7, patrolling all of Saskatchewan? Except that this territory is spread out over a longer distance and is limited by the amount of fuel that it can carry, given the climatic situations governing flights like those of the Dash 7. Just imagine.
The general public in listening to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, applauds the fact that the government has powerful instruments to enforce our interests. A Dash 7 to survey incursions into our territory. We know they are coming. The Russians have said they are going to do it. The Chinese said they are going to do it and the Americans said, “to heck with you if you want to stop us”, especially with a Dash 7.
Now they are not the only ones. Did not the Minister of National Defence, in a moment of bravado, suggest that if the Russians want to continue their incursions into Canadian territory, whether it be by air or by sea, that they would find us ready? Well, it appears that his own officials said no, the Department of National Defence does not have a mandate to enforce the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act. I do not know whether bluster is allowed to replace fact but the government is trying very hard to establish that principle.
Now hold on a moment, I think I said initially that this was a transportation bill because it was presented by the Minister of Transport. He appeared before the committee and said that in order to have a truly effective legislation, we must have a government that presents legislative items and measures in order to enforce it. We must be proactive, we cannot be reactive and we need to back that up with real action.
I wonder whether he talked to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of National Defence, Minister of the Environment, and Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. Why? Because the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans is responsible for the Coast Guard. Oh, Coast Guard officials before the committee said that they do not have any plans to increase northern capacities in order to assist the enforcement of Bill C-3.
We wonder whether the measures to back up a piece of legislation that we know is the logical conclusion of legislative initiatives by Liberal governments starting in 1970 going to 1982, are ones that we find ourselves having to support. We saw the critic for the Bloc Québécois stand and say the Bloc will support this bill. The government has enormous goodwill from everyone, I dare say even the critic for the NDP will stand and say the NDP supports the bill. Heck, I am critic for transport on this side of the House and we find that we want to close the circle.
However, we cannot accept the government putting a claim down for a bill that skims over its competence to deal with the issue of enforcement and the issues that deal with international cooperation. The minister talked about the issues of consultation and that officials from his department said that most Arctic neighbours who were consulted, although we do not know who they are, did not express concern about Bill C-3. That is imaginable because it is consistent with the normal flow of the first initiatives in 1970 and 1982.
The United States has asked us for more information and the Russians have expressed some concerns but nowhere did they say that they would be as observant about Bill C-3 as we would like them to be.
We will support Bill C-3 because we must support Canadian sovereignty but we have the reflections of concern about the government's competence to handle our interests in an international affair.