House of Commons Hansard #48 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was aboriginal.


6:40 p.m.


Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, it has been 59 days since the MV Miner landed on the shores of Nova Scotia on Scatarie Island. It has been about a month since I stood in the House and put a question to the Minister of Transport, which is why we find ourselves here tonight with the Minister of State for Transport.

Over the four minutes that we have allocated during adjournment proceedings, I would like to ask the minister two questions.

The first question is with respect to the liability surrounding the MV Miner. Who is responsible for the removal of it?

Federal officials from the Department of Transport and the Coast Guard have said that they believe their responsibilities have been fulfilled. When I asked the question in the House, that was certainly the approach that the minister had taken in response to my question.

I also want to thank the Minister of State for taking the time to meet with the delegation that came up from Cape Breton, Premier Dexter and two MLAs, Geoff MacLellan and Alfie MacLeod. There was an indication given that there may be room for the federal government to help.

Time is of the essence. The frustration here revolves around determining who is responsible so that whoever that is can start working toward a plan.

If the federal government is not responsible, it is important that the premier knows that so he can start drafting a plan and determine where the federal government can help out.

I would ask the Minister of State to identify that.

The second question is with respect to the regulations. We know that the regulations are far too loose. Certainly, when we were in power we did not address this. Obviously, a case such as this really flags the issue of the loose regulations around towing.

The federal government licensed, permitted and set the regulations for towing the ship up through the Great Lakes. Once it was out in the ocean, it landed on the shores of Nova Scotia because a line was cut. It became Nova Scotia's responsibility. However, throughout that event, the process was a federal responsibility.

It is not uncommon in this salvage industry for people to get together and form a numbered company, bid on a job, pick up the wrecked ship and tow it to a salvage yard, at which point it is insured. Once it is cut loose and ends up on the bottom of the ocean under 300 or 400 feet of water, it becomes an insurance issue and the insurance money is collected.

Unfortunately for the salvage company, this time it did not go to the bottom of the ocean. Rather, it landed on the shores of Nova Scotia. Therefore, I believe that Nova Scotia will be faced with cleaning up this wreck, which some people are saying will cost $24 million.

My first question for the Minister of State is quite straightforward. Who has the bottom line jurisdiction responsible for cleaning up this particular wreck? The second is, will the government move forward on tightening up the regulations with respect to the salvaging of abandoned ships?

6:40 p.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia Manitoba


Steven Fletcher ConservativeMinister of State (Transport)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for raising this issue. He is correct that we had a very thoughtful and thorough discussion with the premier of Nova Scotia and members of the opposition party in Nova Scotia. I would like to use this opportunity to thank the premier of Nova Scotia for meeting with me. I was meeting with him on behalf of the Minister of Transport who was doing important work in Montreal.

The quick answer to the question is that the person or entity that is responsible is the owner of the vessel.

The second part of the question was whether or not we are going to look at what to do in future cases. I think that is definitely something that we need to do.

Let me elaborate a little more. The mandate of Transport Canada is to promote safety in marine transportation and to protect the marine environment from damage due to navigation and shipping activities. In the case of the MV Miner, Transport Canada is investigating the incident to determine if there was compliance with legislation and regulations under the authority of the Minister of the Transport.

The owner of the vessel is responsible, as I mentioned, for its movements, including removal from a place that is not the property of the vessel's owner if it becomes stranded or wrecked. In the case where the vessel's owner is not known, a person designated by the Minister of Transport could act as receiver of the wreck to protect the owner's interests and to deal with any salvage or property claims that may arise. In this case, however, the owner is known and, as such, is responsible for the removal of the vessel. Therefore, it is the owner's responsibility.

It is Transport Canada's understanding that in the early stages, a tug company made several unsuccessful attempts to move the vessel from the beach. The owner contracted a salvage company to remove some of the pollutants, and the Canadian Coast Guard removed the remaining pollutants.

Since being notified of the grounding of the MV Miner on September 20, 2011, Transport Canada, the Canadian Coast Guard, and Environment Canada staff have been working collaboratively, in consultation with the provincial representatives, to address the respective federal responsibilities related to this incident. Transport Canada and the Coast Guard are in regular contact with the Government of Nova Scotia to make sure that there is thorough communication and that expert advice and opinions are provided where possible.

Transport Canada's national aerial surveillance program has been conducting regular over-flights to monitor the vessel and identify any marine pollutants from it. The Coast Guard is involved. We are also providing advice to the province, including issuing a safety advisory through local media and the Canadian Coast Guard to alert people of the dangers from this vessel. We have also provided advice to the province on the removal of the material from the vessel.

I know I am running out of time. Perhaps I will use my second minute to answer any more questions that the member has on this important issue.

6:45 p.m.


Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, I enjoy adjournment proceedings because there is actually an opportunity to get an answer. The minister has provided an answer, although I like his second answer more than his first, the fact that the regulations are going to have to be changed.

Let me ask a supplemental question then, because what I drew from his answer was that the federal government believes that this is a case between the Province of Nova Scotia and the owner. If the owner does not have adequate insurance, if the owner is a shell company and we are chasing ghosts, that is a whole other matter. However, we have to get to the nub of the issue and who is responsible for what.

Does he believe that it is between the Province of Nova Scotia and the owner? That is what I drew from his initial response.

6:45 p.m.


Steven Fletcher Conservative Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for the opportunity to discuss this.

In regard to Transport Canada's involvement, it is investigating the incident for compliance with legislation and regulations under the authority of the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. The investigation involves both the MV Miner and the tug Hellas, which was towing the MV Miner at the time the incident occurred.

Transport Canada is also assisting the Canadian Coast Guard, the lead agency dealing with the threat of pollutants. Of course, we are dealing with marine expertise from all levels of government, across government. Transport Canada is also using aerial surveillance to keep an eye on the situation. We are looking at legal recourse and that is under investigation at present.

I look forward to working with this member and the Province of Nova Scotia on the second part of the member's question, which deals with what to do on a go-forward basis in this type of situation.

6:50 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:51 p.m.)