House of Commons Hansard #12 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was workers.


Offshore Health and Safety ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Eglinton—Lawrence Ontario


Joe Oliver ConservativeMinister of Natural Resources

moved that Bill C-5, an act to amend the Canada-Newfoundland Atlantic Accord Implementation Act, the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act and other Acts and to provide for certain other measures, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I want to congratulate the Prime Minister and the Minister of International Trade for the agreement in principle on the Canada-Europe trade agreement, the largest free trade agreement Canada has completed. This is a great achievement and demonstrates that our economic action plan is working.

We are here today to talk about the new legislative provisions to amend the Atlantic accord implementation acts, in order to extend occupational health and safety jurisdictions to Canada's offshore areas.

Before we talk more about these legislative provisions, I would like to set the stage by emphasizing how vital the offshore resources industry is to Atlantic Canada and to our country's economy.

There is no question that the offshore oil and gas industries have made an enormous economic contribution to Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia. Indeed, it is not an exaggeration to say that these industries have transformed the economy of eastern Canada.

Not long ago, the province of Newfoundland and Labrador was receiving the highest per capita equalization payments in the country. Today it is among our strongest provincial economies and now contributes to the equalization program.

Newfoundland and Labrador's GDP has performed at or above the national average in nine of the past 13 years. A large part of that success comes from offshore oil and gas, which accounted for 33% of Newfoundland and Labrador's GDP in 2011. Resource revenues, again primarily from the offshore, have allowed the province to steadily pay down its debt. The total provincial debt was about $7.7 billion in 2012, down from a high of $12 billion just eight years ago.

Simply put, offshore energy development has given Newfoundland and Labrador more jobs, lower taxes, and new investments in services and infrastructure that play an important role in building stronger communities. These benefits will continue to grow.

Hibernia was the largest project of any kind ever undertaken in Newfoundland and Labrador. As valuable as Hibernia has been, the Hebron project may be even bigger. Hebron represents a capital investment of as much as $14 billion. It could deliver $20 billion in taxes and royalties for the province over the 30-year life of the project.

Just a few months ago, the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board announced its latest call for bids for exploration licences for the offshore of Newfoundland and Labrador, netting $117 million in work commitments by major players in the oil industry.

Nova Scotia's offshore area also offers enormous potential. The Play Fairway analysis, undertaken by the government of Nova Scotia, estimates that the offshore area may contain eight billion barrels of oil and 3.3 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. The Atlantic offshore is a major gas producer, with three gas fields serving Atlantic Canada and the U.S. northeast.

In the past two years, the Nova Scotia offshore area has seen the largest bids ever for offshore parcels in Atlantic Canada, with more than a total of $2 billion bid for 12 parcels of land. Shell Canada and BP clearly see the potential that exists in the Nova Scotia offshore.

Meanwhile, there is an estimated 120 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and production continues to grow. Sable Island's 270 million cubic feet a day will soon be joined by 200 million cubic feet a day from Deep Panuke.

It is essential that Canada continue to ensure that our offshore industries carry out their activities safely and in compliance with the most stringent environmental standards. Canadians expect to see a world-class regulatory body, and our government is taking the measures necessary to ensure Canadians' continued satisfaction in that regard.

That is why we are bringing in new legislation to clarify provincial and federal responsibilities when it comes to offshore occupational health and safety.

The accord's implementation acts are the cornerstone of all offshore oil and gas activities. They give the boards the legal authority to regulate oil and gas activities on behalf of the provinces. Every day, Canada's offshore workers have to deal with a difficult work environment.

The harsh weather conditions in Atlantic Canada and the remoteness of their workplace are just two difficulties that come to mind. The safety of the courageous men and women who work in this environment must always be our main concern.

The changes we intend to make need to be mirrored by provincial legislation in order for the amendments to come into force. Our Conservative government has been working closely with the governments of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia to achieve this. Both provinces introduced their legislation in May, and both have given royal assent to their respective bills. This time, they must wait for the legislation to pass our federal Parliament for the new regime to come to fruition.

The proposed amendments would address gaps in the current legislation. They would invest authority for offshore occupational health and safety in the accord acts.

There are two safety regimes that apply to workers offshore. Occupational health and safety pertains to the workers in the sense of the hazards they may face, their protective equipment, and safeguards on the equipment they use in their functions. It also pertains to three essential worker rights: the right to refuse dangerous work, the right to information, and the right to participate in making decisions on workplace health and safety. Under the current regime, occupational health and safety is the jurisdiction of the provinces.

Operational safety pertains to workplace systems, facilities, and equipment as well as the risk management and integrity of those systems, facilities, and equipment. Examples are the prevention of gas blowouts, the ability of a facility to withstand storms, and a facility's fire suppression systems. Operational safety was included in the accord acts and provided that the offshore petroleum boards be responsible on behalf of both levels of government.

Following a tragic accident, when a worker was killed due to an improperly installed door, the overlap of occupational health and safety and operational safety created a grey area. It was not clear whether the door's installation fell under operational safety or occupational safety. The lack of clarity prevented any party from being liable. It was unclear under whose jurisdiction the incident should be regulated. The provinces and the federal government agreed that the best course of action was to eliminate the grey area and to incorporate the power to regulate occupational health and safety directly in the accord acts.

For the section on occupational health and safety, which would typically fall under the purview of the Minister of Labour, the legislation specifies that the Minister of Natural Resources may receive advice from the Minister of Labour and that any regulations related to occupational health and safety must be made on the recommendation of both ministers.

In addition to fixing this historic issue, the legislation would establish a hierarchy of responsibility. It would make operations operators ultimately responsible for all activities related to their authorization. It would also spell out the specific duties expected of operators, employers, supervisors, employees, contractors, and interest holders.

The nature of the offshore is that work sites are usually hundreds of kilometres from shore. We would be ensuring that the health and safety regime also applied to workers in transit to the offshore. These workers could refuse to be transported if there were safety concerns.

The legislation would also include powers to establish regulations related to additional safety equipment for workers in transit. Offshore board inspectors would also have the power to conduct compliance audits on the vessels used to transport workers. These measures would significantly enhance workers' safety in the offshore.

This legislation would also give new powers to offshore board officers to further enhance safety. For example, they would have the power to inspect anything, take samples, meet in private with any individual, and inspect living quarters.

Due to the distance and isolation offshore activities regularly require, offshore board officers would have the power to act in exigent circumstances. That is, they could act without a warrant to preserve evidence or to prevent non-compliance. The requisite warrant would have to be sought from and granted by a judge or a justice of the peace post activity.

The legislation would also clarify certain issues regarding the chief safety officer. The position of this officer could not be held by the CEO. This would ensure that safety was an independent function within the senior management of each offshore board. The chief safety officer would have to review and provide written recommendations related to safety on all authorizations. This would formalize the process that both boards are already following.

Chief safety officers would also be granted the power to allow regulatory substitutions, which would be made on application by an operator who would have to satisfy the SFO that the substitution provided an equivalent or greater level of safety. The SFO also could require that the operator or employer establish a special occupational health and safety committee. The committee would be in addition to the workplace health and safety committee that all workplaces with more than five employees must establish.

We would also introduce a new appeal process for the most serious cases. In certain special cases, the provincial minister would be able to appoint a special officer. The legislation is very clear that this could only be done where there were reasonable grounds to believe that such an appointment was warranted to avoid a serious risk to health and safety and that the risk could not be avoided by the use of other means available through the accord acts. Both the federal and provincial ministers would have to agree that the required conditions had been fulfilled. The orders of a special officer would supersede those of all other officers, including the chief safety officer.

These amendments would create a more transparent regime for Canada's offshore industry. The health and safety of Canadians and protecting the environment are among the Government of Canada's top priorities. That is why Canada's offshore installations and the equipment and training required to operate them must meet strict regulatory standards that are among the highest in the world. Nevertheless, we recognize that our offshore regime can be improved, and today we are taking steps to do just that.

Our government recognizes that accidents can happen anywhere, regardless of laws and safety measures. We are also very confident in our safeguards. We have very strong environmental laws and standards and a robust, well-developed safety regime for offshore exploration and drilling.

On our east coast, the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board and the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board are responsible for evaluating every project for compliance with federal regulations. Drilling cannot occur unless the responsible board is satisfied that drilling plans are safe for workers and safe for the environment.

Beyond high standards for training, safety, and equipment, oil and gas companies are required to maintain environmental protection and spill response plans. The government is committed to the polluter-pays principle and the responsible management of risks. The responsibility rests with operators to immediately take all reasonable measures to clean up a spill and prevent further spillage. Of course, the government needs to be prepared to step in to help if need be.

As the regulators, the National Energy Board or offshore boards would be the government's lead agencies for the response. Using aerial surveillance and satellite imagery for detection and tracking, they could provide advice about a spill with trajectory modelling, weather and sea-state forecasts and warnings, the location of wildlife and sensitive ecosystems, and cleanup and remediation options.

I am certain that once these legislative provisions are in place, the offshore boards will do their job and determine what is safe for workers and the environment.

I would like to speak very briefly about the creation of a separate regulatory body for offshore safety.

First, I would like to make it clear that these legislative provisions are not related to this issue.

Work on these provisions started well before this recommendation was made for the first time. These legislative provisions were the result of the accident off the coast of Nova Scotia, which I mentioned earlier.

With respect to the actual recommendation, we continue to work with the provinces on this very important issue. We expressed concerns about the fragmentation of our offshore regime and the proliferation of regulatory bodies. We want to ensure that the system is as simple as possible and protects Canadians' health and safety. We will continue to discuss these issues with our provincial counterparts.

Our government has always adopted a safe and prudent approach to offshore drilling, an approach that protects Canada's offshore workers and the environment.

It is vital that all development activities in Canada, and not just offshore activities, ensure the safety of workers and protect the environment. We have adopted many measures in Canada's resource sector to ensure that this objective is the main focus of our regulatory bodies.

I hope that all members will support this important legislation.

Offshore Health and Safety ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.


Alain Giguère NDP Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is nice to see that this government wants to protect workers for once. However, it could have done better. Unfortunately, the government missed an opportunity.

The minister mentioned all kinds of things in his statement, especially with respect to profits. I remind him that profits do not usually go hand in hand with workplace health and safety. This bill should be about workplace health and safety exclusively, and I urge the minister to honour that.

After the Ocean Ranger incidents and the helicopter crash on March 12 in which 17 people died, why did the government not agree to the 29th recommendation in the Wells report? By the same token, why did the government not express an interest in enhancing the Canadian Coast Guard and increasing the number of rescue helicopters in the Royal Canadian Air Force assigned to offshore rigs?

Offshore Health and Safety ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.


Joe Oliver Conservative Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, this legislation has nothing to do with the tragic helicopter accident off the coast of Newfoundland. This legislation is a response to an accident that happened in Nova Scotia, in which someone was killed as a result of an improperly installed door.

The legislation was not clear about who was responsible, and as a result, no legal action could be taken. This legislation fixes the ambiguity with respect to workplace health and safety in the accord implementation acts.

The boards are established along with the provinces, and this legislation was developed with Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador. Both governments support and have passed their corresponding legislation.

We will continue to discuss Commissioner Wells' inquiry with Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Offshore Health and Safety ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.


Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the minister's comments today. However, his answer had more to do with the question I will be asking than the question from my hon. colleague from the NDP.

I do want to ask about the Wells commission, because the accident, which happened three kilometres off of St. John's, Newfoundland, occurred four years ago in 2009. We still have not seen any legislation from the government to deal with the recommendations made by Commissioner Robert Wells, particularly recommendation no. 29, which talked about the creation of a new, independent, stand-alone safety regulator to ensure offshore safety.

The minister talked about the role of the chief safety officer, who would report to the board. If the board is dominated by representatives of employers, people who in the past have worked for employers as officers and so forth or senior people in companies, what would their predilection be? Hopefully they would be concerned with safety, but we have to look at this question of a separate regulator.

The minister also talked more broadly about the industry nationally. Does he feel that his past comments about environmental groups and his references to eco-terrorists and so forth have helped to create fertile ground in the U.S. for the support of Keystone XL?

Offshore Health and Safety ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.


Joe Oliver Conservative Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, those are two rather different questions, one is non-fiction and the other is closer to fiction or science fiction.

Let me deal with recommendation no. 29 of the Offshore Helicopter Safety Inquiry, the recommendation to establish an independent safety regulator.

Canada's offshore regulatory regime is world-class and strong. I want to emphasize that it has independent regulators and high standards for worker safety, environmental protection and resource conservation. These are independent boards and are not beholden to industry in any way. It is important to note that the federal government does not support the proliferation of regulators when the result would do nothing to enhance safety, worker protection or environmental protection, for that matter.

Nevertheless, senior officers at Natural Resources Canada remain in close contact with their counterparts in Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia on a host of issues relating to offshore oil and gas production and in respect to this particular recommendation. We will be continuing to pursue that dialogue and hope that we can arrive at something that will be satisfactory.

Moving on to the fiction, the allegation, those words, which I will not repeat, were not stated by me but attributed to me on a number of occasions by political opponents and others. We very much respect the concern that Canadians have for their safety as well as for the environment and our beautiful natural heritage. We have done a great deal to protect the environment and will continue to do so.

Offshore Health and Safety ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.


Stephen Woodworth Conservative Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, in my riding the top issues that concern us are jobs and the economy. That is why I have always been proud that our government is focused like a laser on jobs and the economy.

This particular bill is about a robust regulatory regime to contribute to our offshore resources. I understand that it will contribute to economic growth in Canada. Therefore, I would ask the minister to elaborate for the House if and how he thinks these amendments would contribute to a sustainable oil and gas industry.

Offshore Health and Safety ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.


Joe Oliver Conservative Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful to the member for the question because this area, as I indicated in my comments, is crucially important not only for Atlantic Canada but for all Canadians.

Offshore oil production from Atlantic Canada contributes significantly to national production, including 35% of total Canadian light crude production and 10% of total Canadian crude production in 2009.

The offshore oil and gas industry is important to provincial economies. In 2009, it was 3% of Nova Scotia's GDP, and directly and indirectly employed over 4,700 people, while offshore oil and gas accounted for 33% of Newfoundland and Labrador's GDP in 2011. The offshore oil and gas industry has also provided approximately $8 billion in royalties to those provinces since the offset of production. The industry also provides economic benefits through spinoff activities and contributes to federal and provincial tax revenues, which are so important for funding critical social programs such as health care, education and housing.

The offshore oil and gas industry contributes more to national GDP than all other ocean-related industries, such as fisheries, government, tourism and transportation, by a significant margin.

Providing safety for workers is a critical underpinning to this industry. That is why we ask all members to support the bill.

Offshore Health and Safety ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.


Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the minister could comment on the fact that the bill provides a safety regime in legislation for the offshore for the first time, but we also have before the House Bill C-4. This is a 300-page omnibus bill amending over 70 pieces of legislation, one of the provisions of which strips the health and safety officers in regimes and jurisdictions across the country of their powers and puts nearly all of those powers in the hands of the minister. On the one hand the legislation purports to give authority to the C-NLOPB and the offshore safety regulation, and on the other hand, Bill C-4 takes it away.

Could the minister explain why the government is doing that and why it thinks the health and safety of workers throughout this country is so malleable in its hands?

Offshore Health and Safety ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.


Joe Oliver Conservative Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, discussions with the province led to the conclusion that it was impossible to define the term “danger”. It was decided that the best course of action was to rely on the standard interpretation of that word, but to create a power to define the term if the standard definition or legal interpretation changed to a point that altered the effectiveness of the OHS portion of the accord acts. That is why we are seeking power to define certain terms by regulation when this is traditionally a power reserved for Parliament.

The terms “dive site” and “diving operation” and “incident” were later added to this list. The provinces also requested that the definitions of Nova Scotia's social legislation and Newfoundland and Labrador's social legislation be amendable in this fashion as it most closely follows the existing accord acts. This is a practical way to achieve the public policy objective and it is more effective done through regulation than through legislation.

Offshore Health and Safety ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.


Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak to this legislation, Bill C-5, at second reading. This is an extremely important piece of legislation as it affects the offshore of Newfoundland and Labrador and the workers who risk their lives in a dangerous occupation, travelling back and forth to oil rigs, working on exploration vessels and working offshore for as much as three weeks at a time in an industry that is constantly changing.

At the beginning of offshore exploration, exploration was going on in shallow waters near to shore. Now there are oil rigs and exploration hundreds of kilometres offshore. Transportation is by helicopter, which takes as much as two or three hours to get back and forth. That is clearly a dangerous situation, as we know. Not only are risks being assumed by individuals in pursuit of a livelihood for themselves and their families; but it is also extremely important economic activity for the provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia, as well as for the taxpayers and the Government of Canada in terms of sharing in the revenue from the offshore oil industry in Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia.

Unfortunately, for many years, going back as early as 1992, the offshore safety regime was not controlled by the provinces themselves for workers in Newfoundland and Labrador or in Nova Scotia. The labour portfolios had responsibility for occupational health and safety. That was taken away in 1992 by legislation and given over to the offshore petroleum boards. In their supposed wisdom of the day, they had draft regulations. It was not a situation in which somebody who did something contrary to those draft regulations could actually be charged, treated as an offender, taken before a court, fined or dealt with appropriately and be required to follow the regulations. No, it was a very different regime. The regime was that there were draft regulations, and those draft regulations were really just a framework or guideline. That was entirely unsatisfactory to the workers, and my party in both Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador were very strongly opposed to this particular approach.

I will quote from former Justice Wells, of the Offshore Helicopter Safety Inquiry, who talked about this issue. The minister claims that this has nothing to do with the Cougar crash and inquiry, that this is something that has been going on for a long time, but it is very important to know that Mr. Justice Wells did a very extensive study of the offshore health and safety regime. He led an inquiry into the Cougar helicopter crash that happened in March of 2009, in which 18 people were on board a helicopter that crashed; 17 were killed and there was 1 sole survivor. It led to an inquiry being undertaken by former Justice Wells into these fatalities. He talked about his work, learning about how health and safety deficiencies are attended to in the offshore oil industry. On page 275 of his report, he stated he learned the differences between prescriptive regulation and performance-based regulation.

What we have in this particular situation, until now, is what are called performance-based regulations. In other words, the regulator comes up with a plan and objectives for safety, and the companies decide how they shall go about meeting those objectives; whereas the regulatory regime in this legislation says what must be done, the standard that must be met, and the requirement is to comply. New Democrats have been calling for this power for years. When anyone objected to the regime that only had guidelines, the answer always given was, “We have the ultimate power, and that is to shut down the operation if it is deemed to be unsafe”.

That, of course, never happened. With the cost of doing that, the way of getting compliance was not satisfactory. We then get into a situation where the same agent, the same organization, the same agency that is responsible for the management and control of the operation, control of the whole of the exploration and production activity, methods, schedules and all of that, is also dealing with health and safety.

That has been deemed by many countries and by the Wells commission of inquiry to be unsatisfactory. He says in his report—and recommendation no. 29 has already been mentioned by one of my colleagues—that there should be a new independent stand-alone safety regulator:

Such a Safety Regulator would have to be established, mandated, and funded by both Governments by way of legislative amendment, regulation, or memorandum of understanding, or other means.

In the lead-up to that he said:

I believe that the recommendation which follows this explanatory note will be the most important in this entire report. Until the end of 2009, the C-NL offshore operated under a primarily prescriptive regime which established the requirements under which the oil operators filed their Safety Plans, received authorizations, and conducted their exploration and production. The essential task of the Regulator was to ensure that the oil operators adhered to what was required of them. This was called the prescriptive system of regulation.

They then changed that entirely. The regulations changed into the performance goal-based regime whereby the regulations specify, and the regulator sets the goals and the operators respond by saying how they will achieve them.

He was not satisfied with that. He said that the new offshore goal regulator regime was introduced by regulation in January 2010. There were no changes made at the time to the regulatory body to strengthen and prepare it for the new and much more demanding regime. He says that there ought to be a separate, powerful, independent, knowledgeable body equipped with expert advice, and he made the recommendation I just quoted.

That is the one flaw in this regime. We support this legislation because it brings us from a situation of operating with draft regulations to a situation where we now have regulations in force. We have authority by legislation. This has been worked on for a number of years by negotiators on behalf of the workers in both Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador. The former NDP Government of Nova Scotia and the PC Government of Newfoundland and Labrador worked on these for a number of years.

The labour representatives support this approach. They support the fact that this regulation is there. They worked very hard to achieve a situation where they believe that the offshore workers have the same level of protection as the onshore workers. That is an important principle that is included in this bill. As a result of the work of the labour representatives in these negotiations, they believe this has been achieved.

The second principle is the protection of employees' rights to know and to participate, to refuse unsafe work and to be protected from reprisal. That is there, as well as support for an occupational health and safety culture that recognizes the shared responsibilities in the workplace between employees and employers for a safety regime.

That is why we support it. We think it is a good step forward to ensure that the safety regime is covered by enforceable legislation, and we think that is going to be a better system to protect workers and to protect workers who refuse unsafe work.

Where we have the problem is in the fact that it is included in the same regulatory body as all other aspects of offshore development, whether they be plans for production or exploration, design of facilities and all of that. There is no separate regulator.

Why should we have one? Looking at other countries, we see that in 2001, for example, Norway adopted the concept of having a separate safety regulator. A few years later, Australia did the same thing. Their rationale for imposing separate safety regulators was that there may be inherent conflicts within a single regulator that, on the one hand, regulates exploration and production and at the same time is required to make the hard decisions that a safety regulator must make.

We also had the same situation in the United Kingdom, where it was also believed that this was required. These changes were made and they came from government, not from industry. The changes have been fully accepted by industry, however, and they are deemed to be working, according to Justice Wells in his report, and he said that it was “...independent minds outside the industry which perceived the inherent conflict between exploration and production on the one hand and safety on the other...”.

A second problem that goes against the notion of continuing with a single regulator is something called “regulatory capture”, which is well known in the industry and other types of industrial regulation. I am reading here from the report at page 277:

...regulators and those they regulate work so closely together that friendships and close working relationships can develop. Common interests and what are sometimes referred to as cozy relationships may unconsciously influence the hard decisions that safety regulation requires.

The report did not state, nor did Justice Wells say, that he found that type of regulatory capture in existence. The offshore industry is relatively new and small, and he did not expect regulatory capture to occur. “Nevertheless”, he said, “every effort should be made to ensure that it never happens”.

These are two of the reasons why this should be a separate regulatory body. As Justice Wells said, the recommendation was one of the most important ones he made. It was adopted by the Newfoundland and Labrador government; it supported that recommendation. The workers themselves support that recommendation. The Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour supports that recommendation 29. We supported it in Newfoundland and Labrador and we support it here, that there should be a separate regulatory body.

The minister says we do not need to have a proliferation of agencies and organizations. We are not talking about a proliferation here; we are talking about a separate health and safety regime in the Newfoundland and Labrador offshore industry where it is extremely important to have that concern.

We have a situation now, and it is relevant to the Newfoundland and Labrador offshore and also to the situation involving helicopter transport back and forth to the rigs. That has to do with the resumption of night flights. During the course of Mr. Justice Wells' inquiry, he made an interim recommendation that all night flights of helicopters back and forth to the rigs be stopped. That has been in place since around February 2010, when he made that recommendation. It was implemented by the C-NLOPB, and night flights have not been a part of the regime of the offshore, much to the relief of the workers because part of the evidence heard during Mr. Justice Wells' inquiry was that the survivability from a crash at night in a helicopter was significantly lowered because it happened at night.

The situation is that this helicopter crashed because it had a loss of main gearbox lubricant. The pilots thought, and were told, that the helicopter had the capability of flying for 30 minutes in what is called a “run dry“ state, with no gearbox lubricant. That is a standard for all class A helicopters in use in the world. Unbeknownst to the pilots, there was an exemption given to Sikorsky, and the helicopter did not have that capability, so 10 minutes after the helicopter lost main gearbox oil it crashed, killing 17 of the 18 people on board.

In its February 2011 report, the Transportation Safety Board recommended that all class A helicopters be required to have that 30-minute run-dry capability and asked Transport Canada to enforce that ruling. Transport Canada did not accept that recommendation, nor did it place any restrictions or limitations on these helicopters being used to transport people hundreds of kilometres over the ocean. It left that in place, following what the American FAA did in saying that it would not require Sikorsky to retrofit its helicopter fleet.

That created a regime of concern by offshore workers. They made protestations about it. They made representations to the C-NLOPB. A moratorium on night flights was maintained up until now. However, now the operators, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, are going back to the C-NLOPB seeking to resume night flights. We are back to the situation in which the regulator, which is in charge of all aspects of offshore production safety and regulations, looking at this very question of offshore health and safety.

I believe there would be more confidence among the workers and the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia if they knew that a decision that was going to be made would be made by a separate, independent health and safety regulator whose only mandate and only concern was the safety of workers. The independent regulator would be making that decision and would take into consideration what the options are. One of the options would be to have more helicopters instead of having night flights.

The issue is how many people can be transported and in what period of time. The reason they want night flights and want to fly in the dark is they do not have enough helicopters to do the transportation in the daytime. The simple solution is to have more helicopters. There is a cost involved, yes, but if safety requires it, then I would expect that an independent health and safety regulator, with no concerns other than health and safety, would be in a better position to make the decision that night flights would not be permitted in the offshore, even if it was a tough decision.

That is one concrete example of the concern that was raised about this issue and the need for an independent regulator. Recommendation 29 of Mr. Justice Wells' report on the offshore helicopter safety inquiry states it very eloquently, with a lot of background information. A lot of work was done, with a lot of consultations and visits to other countries. Whether from the U.K., Norway, or Australia, experts and expertise were brought forward. Retired Justice Wells did a most thorough report and made that recommendation.

It is a pity that it was not adopted by the Government of Canada. The government failed to do that despite the urging of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Mr. Justice Wells, the unions involved, the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour, and many others who are concerned about the offshore health and safety regime.

That said, we do regard this bill as a step forward. Bill C-5 would put into regulation and legislation what was treated as draft regulations for nearly 20 years. It is an unsatisfactory situation that would be resolved. For that reason, we are supporting the legislation at second reading.

I see that my time is nearly up, but I would be happy to answer any questions or respond to any comments my colleagues would have with respect to the bill. As I say, we support it, but we are concerned that there is a lack of an independent regulator to enforce these regulations.

Offshore Health and Safety ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it was interesting when the minister introduced the legislation. He started off by talking about the prosperity the region is enjoying because of its natural resources. Maybe we could echo some of those comments, in the sense that we in the Liberal Party acknowledge that natural resources have been able to contribute to the overall wealth of our nation. It is gratifying to see the different regions of our country that are able to tap into those natural resources and generate wealth. Seeing some of the things going on out on the Atlantic coast is very encouraging.

That said, it surprises me, given the importance of our natural resources and being able to tap into them, that we have to be concerned about health care, safety, regulations, and the right to deny work in dangerous situations. These are all very important issues that Canadians want us to stay on top of.

My question to the member is this: does he believe that the government could have and should have acted in a quicker fashion, given that the incident that precipitated this legislation took place back in 2009? Given the importance of the industry for all of Canada, why has it taken so long to provide this legislation?

Offshore Health and Safety ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.


Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, yes, natural resources are important, and it is gratifying to see provinces like Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia benefiting from offshore oil and gas exploration and development.

I think a lot of Canadians do not realize that in the case of oil, for example, the operations off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador produce the equivalent of 40% of Canada's requirement for light crude, or close to it. Much of it is exported. Almost all of it is exported directly to the United States or elsewhere by the operators, although some of it is refined in Newfoundland and Labrador. The extent of the production is really very high when compared to the Canadian requirements for light crude. It could contribute to energy security for Canada in a very important way, and we have just seen some new exploration successes that will see the industry continue for quite some years to come.

I am not sure if it is true to say that the decision to bring forth this legislation was prompted by the Cougar helicopter crash in 2009. Discussions and negotiations have been going on since 2002. I think we have to all agree that it has been at a rather slow pace and that there did not seem to be a degree of urgency on the part of the Government of Canada to move this measure forward. I am disappointed that it has taken so long.

As I indicated, our party raised the issue on numerous occasions in the legislature of Newfoundland and Labrador when I was there and leading the Newfoundland New Democratic Party. We urged the kind of legislation and regulation that we now have, which was to take it out of the draft, put it into the regulations, make it enforceable, and have a proper regime.

It has been a long time coming. I suppose there was resistance from the industry, which believed it had a new way of doing things and that we could not tell it what to do. The industry believed that it knew more about it than the government. That was the attitude, and I think the Government of Canada listened to that for far too long.

Offshore Health and Safety ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, contrary to the impression left by the Minister of Natural Resources, the bill before us, Bill C-5, deals entirely with offshore health and safety affecting the workers, transportation of workers, and their right to refuse unsafe work. The member for St. John's East has knowledge and a deep background on the very slow pace of the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board and the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board in taking worker safety seriously, and that is a real concern for me as well.

I would like to underline that although the Minister of Natural Resources talked about how this bill would make environmental progress, there is none of that in the bill. I would like to know if my hon. colleague would agree with me that it falls far short of the independent safety board that we really need, because in practice, these offshore petroleum boards are not unbiased; in practice, they operate to promote offshore oil and gas.

Would my hon. colleague agree with me that the legislation before us is indeed better than nothing, but falls far short of what we would all like to see, based on the recommendations of Mr. Wells?

Offshore Health and Safety ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.


Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, the member is absolutely right: it is a good step forward, but it falls far short, particularly in terms of recommendation 29 with respect to independence.

The member is also right in saying that although the minister talked about environmental issues, there is absolutely nothing in this legislation that deals with the environment. In fact, that has been another criticism of the offshore oil and gas regime, particularly with respect to even having access to the environmental monitoring that ought to be taking place. That monitoring is not done by independent monitors; in fact, researchers and academics are denied access to the oil platforms for the purpose of even counting birds, doing basic studies, or following up on baseline studies that might have been done years ago.

As a result, we have a situation in which the people who are expected to follow the regulations are the ones who are doing the monitoring. It is not being done by somebody independent. That is the situation in the environmental field, and unfortunately that was also the situation with respect to offshore safety when it came to the lack of regulations: the standards were being set by government, but how to do it was left up to the industry.

In this particular case, we still have a problem in that the same regulator is dealing with both aspects of offshore operations, and we believe that is wrong.

Offshore Health and Safety ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.


Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the member to elaborate on how he would see a stand-alone safety regulator operating and how he would see such a regulator set up.

Also, the member may have heard my question to the minister earlier about his past comments. In relation to environmentalists in Canada, the minister referred to environmentalists and “other radical groups”. I wonder if the member feels that is the sort of thing that creates fertile ground for Canada in making the case it is trying to make in the U.S. these days.

Offshore Health and Safety ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.


Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, obviously the kind of language used by the minister and other representatives of the government in dismissing concerns about climate change, dismissing representations being made by environmentalists and others, and dismissing science in general has been detrimental to the case for proper development of oil and gas in the country.

In fact, the government has made it difficult for people to understand the details and to be able to participate in regulatory reviews. That has led to tremendous difficulties in the United States, where there is strong opposition to the Keystone pipeline development and others. The government has itself to blame for some of the opposition that has occurred. I agree with the member on that point.

In this particular case of the offshore safety regime, I would like to underscore my concerns about this regime not being an independent safety regime. That is an important aspect of our participation in this debate.

Chatham O'Donaghue's IronmenStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Tilly O'Neill-Gordon Conservative Miramichi, NB

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to congratulate the Chatham O'Donaghue's Ironmen baseball team, which recently won the New Brunswick Senior Baseball League Championship.

This is the 11th championship title for the Ironmen over the years. They will be going on to represent the province of New Brunswick, while in Newfoundland, at the Canadian Senior Baseball Championships.

It was a great team effort, but I do have to single out the skipper, who celebrated a milestone birthday along with the win.

I also acknowledge the dedicated fans who have supported and cheered for the Ironmen at every game. These fans will get the chance to cheer them on at home, as the Ironmen have just been selected to host the 2015 National Senior Championships.

The Ironmen are wonderful representatives of not only New Brunswick but of the Miramichi. We are all very proud of their accomplishments and wish them great success in Newfoundland in 2014.

HockeyStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Glenn Thibeault NDP Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to highlight the return of men's hockey at Laurentian University after a 14-year hiatus and the launch of women's hockey for the first time. Sport brings people together and reflects many of the values that our country holds dear.

I had the opportunity to attend with my daughter the LU men's home opener this past weekend, and it was clear that the university's goal of bringing the community together had been a tremendous success with a completely sold out arena, a usual occurrence this year.

As I looked around the crowd, I could see young and old enjoying the game and I was filled with a sense of pride for my community and my university.

I also want to thank Laurentian University for its academic leadership. Laurentian is working on its second campus in Barrie. My colleague across the floor, the MP for Barrie, is lucky to have such a great university partner in his community as well. At least now on a few occasions we can cheer for the same team.

With that, I would like to say: Go Voyageurs Go.

Diwali and Bandi Chhor DivasStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Parm Gill Conservative Brampton—Springdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, this coming Sunday, people around the world will be celebrating Diwali and Bandi Chhor Divas.

Diwali is the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil and the renewal of life.

Bandi Chhor Divas commemorates the release of the sixth Sikh Guru, Guru Hargobind Singh Ji , from prison and his subsequent arrival in Amritsar during the Diwali festival.

It is a time of great joy, celebration and light. It is when the whole family and friends get together, enjoy wonderful food, company and fireworks.

As we all gather with our families and friends to celebrate, on behalf of the Government of Canada, I would like to wish everyone celebrating around the world a very happy, healthy and prosperous Diwali and Bandi Chhor Divas.

Brain Tumour Awareness MonthStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, today marks the end of Brain Tumour Awareness Month in Canada. During this month, over 800 Canadians will have been diagnosed with a brain tumour, like our dear friend Trevor Harrison, and we keep them in our thoughts.

Unfortunately, not all Canadians will have equal access to the treatments they need, as geography remains a significant barrier for Canadians to get the care and help they require.

Where is the mechanism to count all diagnosed tumours for each province and territory in accordance with a motion passed in the House in 2007?

Great strides have been made in research about this unique form of cancer, but much more work remains to be done. That is one of the reasons we need 2014 to be the year of the brain and a national brain strategy for the 10 million Canadians who will be affected by a brain or psychiatric condition at some point in their lives.

CharleswoodStatements By Members

11 a.m.


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

Mr. Speaker, today I rise to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Charleswood.

Charleswood is unique among Winnipeg's suburban areas in that it retains a semi-rural atmosphere. Many streets remain unpaved, do not have sidewalks and some are lined with ditches.

There are many places to enjoy nature. There are many trails and a very large urban forest. Charleswood is blessed with the spectacular Assiniboine Park on the east side and the Assiniboine River on the north side.

The people of Charleswood embrace all that is Canadian sport, from world champion curler Jeff Stoughton, who curls out of the Eric Coy rink, or the thousands of kids who played for the Charleswood Hawks and Rangers hockey teams, or the Charleswood Broncos football team or the Oak Park High School Raiders.

I wish to thank the Charleswood Historical Society for reminding all of us of our proud heritage. Happy 100 years, Charleswood: Go Broncos, go Hawks, go Rangers, go Oak Park Raiders.

France DemersStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Pierre Jacob NDP Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour of recognizing the work of Ms. France Demers, from Magog. She was named woman farmer of the year by the Fédération des agricultrices du Québec. Her farm, Ferme Magolait, is a large dairy farm in my riding of Brome—Missisquoi.

Ms. Demers, who has four children, has become an expert in work-life balance over the years. Despite having a very busy schedule, the whole family is involved in various activities. Family members participate in several regional competitions in the Eastern Townships.

Through her dedication and hard work, Ms. Demers has become a role model for other Canadian farmers.

It is precisely to help businesses like Farm Magolait that the government should establish as soon as possible a national strategy to promote local food production.

I call on the House to support this bill on local foods.

Canadian ForcesStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, as November 11 approaches, I rise to remember 41 brave women and men from CFB Petawawa who made the supreme personal sacrifice for their country as members of the mission to Afghanistan.

Lest we forget, it was the decision of the previous government to play politics with military procurement. The short-sighted cancellation of the Sea King helicopter replacement contract led to many preventable casualties. By forcing our soldiers onto roads mined with bombs and improvised explosive devices, precious Canadian blood was spilt. Only after our Conservative government provided the right equipment, heavy-lift Chinook helicopters, did casualty levels drop.

Lest we forget, the opposition continues to play politics with military procurement. Come next election, we will remember.

JusticeStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Ray Boughen Conservative Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, Canadians are concerned about crime. That is why our government is taking action to keep our streets and communities safe. We have already passed over 30 measures to crack down on criminals. However, there is still much work to be done.

The number of sexual assaults in Regina has gone up by 17.3% over the last year and homicides have gone up by a shocking 50%. There is clearly much more work to be done.

We committed, in the Speech from the Throne, to end the misguided practice of automatically releasing serious offenders early and we committed to making life sentences mean life behind bars.

I call on the NDP and the Liberals to support these common sense measures to help us keep Canadians safe.

International Film Festival in Abitibi-TémiscamingueStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, nobody can deny that the international film festival in Abitibi-Témiscamingue makes a tremendous contribution to forging Quebec's cultural identity.

For the past 31 years, this film festival has been everything a film festival should be and more. It has helped launch many artistic events, making Rouyn-Noranda the Canadian cultural capital it is today.

This evening, the curtain will close on the 32nd edition, remarkable for the many films spotlighting artists from Abitibi-Témiscamingue, including children of the festival itself: technicians, screenwriters, actors, producers and teachers who discovered the world of film thanks to this festival.

That is why I would like to congratulate the festival's many volunteers and partners. I would also like to thank the founding presidents, Jacques Matte, Guy Parent and Louis Dallaire, for their outstanding contribution to raising Abitibi-Témiscamingue's profile.

Enjoy the show.