Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to address Bill C-3. It is an interesting bill, to say the least.
I have some opening remarks that I would like to get on the record regarding what I think are some interesting points.
First, it is important to note that here we are in day two of debate, and I give credit to the government as it has not yet introduced time allocation. I think that is an encouraging thing. I hope that I do not precipitate the government bringing in time allocation, but I think it is important to recognize that it has not.
The other interesting thought I want to share with the House is in regard to the name of the bill. It is an interesting name, the safeguarding Canada's seas and skies act. If one has listened to a lot of the debate that has taken place today, there has been a great deal of discussion about our environment and oil, and the importance of those two issues. I plan on adding some comment on that.
Suffice it to say that I believe there is someone somewhere within the Prime Minister's Office, who I suspect gets paid quite well with tax dollars, whose job it is to come up with creative names for the legislation that comes before the House of Commons. I have had the opportunity to briefly go through the bill and I never would have thought of it as being the safeguarding Canada's seas and skies act. To me, that is not necessarily the most appropriate name.
When I think of the bill, after having gone through it somewhat briefly, a lot of the changes are of a very technical nature. In fact, members will find more substantial changes to legislation affecting our waterways or our environment in budget legislation. We have had three huge budget bills that contained, for example, changes for our waterways. Hundreds, if not thousands, of waterways were profoundly affected by using the back door of a budget bill to make significant changes to our waterway and environmental legislation.
Of course, we had a bill within the budget bill, Bill C-38, which was passed, that I thought was quite an interesting change. I think very few people picked up on it, but it was a fairly significant change. In essence, it allowed the cabinet to get more politically involved in pipeline projects by getting the final say. As opposed to allowing our National Energy Board to review and base decisions on science and the best interests of the environment, we had legislation, again brought through under the pretense of a budget implementation bill, that made quite a significant change in allowing the cabinet to make the decision. The bill took the decision out of the regulatory regime and ultimately it now rests with the cabinet. Again, this was something that was done in a budget bill.
Having said that, I want to respond to a lot of the comments made by members of the New Democratic Party particularly, and to a certain extent members from the Conservative Party, that I found quite interesting on the whole issue of oil and the impact oil has on our environment. This has been widely covered in the discussions. The transportation of oil is of national interest. It is not something that Canadians take lightly. Indeed, it is a very serious issue that deserves a great deal of debate inside the House.
It has been interesting to follow some of the debate on this very important issue. Oil is a natural resource from which all of us have benefited immensely. Every Canadian from coast to coast to coast has benefited from Canada's ability to export oil. It is what has enabled us to pay for much of what we have today. It has improved the quality of every Canadian's lifestyle. It is encouraging when we see developments where we have capitalized on this wonderful natural resource, whether in Alberta, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, or Saskatchewan.
It is also important that we behave responsibly with respect to our environment and the way we transport that oil, whether by train, pipeline, or ship. There are areas we can improve upon.
I have been following the debate on the Keystone issue, as have many Canadians. What I like about Keystone is that it has shown the different types of leadership for each political party. All three leaders have gone to the United States to deal with the transportation of oil via pipelines.
On the one hand, the leader of the New Democratic Party, a while back, went to the U.S. and dumped all over Canada, and to a certain degree, our natural resources. I do not think it went well.
The leader of the Liberal Party went to Washington and talked about the benefits of Keystone for both Canada and the U.S., with an emphasis on the benefits to Canada and how important it is that we also pay attention to our environment.
The Prime Minister, bypassed Washington and flew to New York. In New York, his statement was that the government would not accept no for an answer. I suspect that this profound statement by the Prime Minister in New York did not keep President Obama up late at night. Given the importance of Keystone to all the stakeholders, I believe that the Prime Minister should have gone to Washington, discussed it in a conciliatory fashion, negotiated in good faith, lobbied, and shown concern for the environment.
Pipelines are important for transporting oil. If it were not for the pipelines, the amount of train traffic would increase substantially. We are all aware of the rail lines and the number of accidents that have occurred.
We need to do a lot more in terms of rail line safety and ensuring that communities, where there is a high density of population, or even a low-density population, or a pristine environment, whether it is lakes or rivers, are being protected. We could do a whole lot more in ensuring a secure environment in the transportation of oil in our pipelines and on our trains.
When we look at the specifics of Bill C-3 in terms of what it would do, and when we reflect on what I have stated, I am suggesting that once it is all said and done, we could have done a whole lot more in taking that—and I often use these words—holistic approach. I do believe that it is an applicable term for this piece of legislation. I believe we could have taken a larger holistic approach in dealing with these issues, as opposed to it being done in a piecemeal fashion.
In order to illustrate that, I thought I would highlight specifically what is inside the legislation. This way the House will get a better understanding of why I am suggesting it should have been a stronger holistic approach.
In essence, the bill is broken into four different parts. Part one deals with the minister undertaking to indemnify all aviation industry participants. This gets back to the whole issue of terrorism and war risks. The issue of insurance has become a very hot issue in what role the government should and could be playing. This is something that has been deemed necessary. From what I understand, the government in the past has attempted to bring it in, and it has incorporated it into this bill. I suspect the genesis of the idea might be the whole 9/11 issue and the cost that followed 9/11 in terms of insurance. There is some benefit in acknowledging that part one is an important part of the legislation.
We would go on then to part two. I thought part two was interesting. It mentions that new powers, comparable to the powers exercised by the Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board, are being given to the Canadian Forces air worthiness investigation authority to enable it to investigate military-civilian occurrences. Again, this is something that is hard to argue against. Based on my understanding and what has been provided to me, this is a movement in the right direction.
I was a member of the Canadian Forces for a few years. The area I was posted to was squad 435 search and rescue, in air traffic control in Edmonton. I had the opportunity to meet with a number of pilots, navigating officers, radar officers and aircraft professionals, and I can tell the House that there is a high degree of incredible individuals who have a level of expertise that should and could be tapped into. I would think there is some merit in what is being proposed here, and to that extent, there is merit for part two.
We then get into an area in which there has been a great deal of discussion today. That is the area I was referring to on the Canada Marine Act. In relation to the effective date of the appointment of a director of a port authority, we need to recognize we have 18 Canadian port authorities that are operating in Canada.
We are seeing a little more clarity in the appointment process in relation to the effective date of an appointment for the director. There is some merit there. When I say “merit”, it does not necessarily mean it absolutely, definitely should happen; I mean that there is benefit in allowing the bill to go to committee, and in principle I am supporting that aspect of it.
Part 4 is a very important aspect of the bill, and I suspect it is one of the reasons we are getting so much discussion on it. Hopefully I will be able to get through reading this part, because it is important.
Part 4 amends the Marine Liability Act to implement the International Convention on Liability and Compensation for Damage in Connection with the Carriage of Hazardous and Noxious Substances by Sea, 2010, in particular a couple of clauses.
The MLA provides for the liability of ships' owners and operators for damage caused by pollutants. In particular, it implements in Canada the liability scheme established by the International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage; the International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage of 2001, which is known as the bunker convention; and the International Convention on the Establishment of an International Fund for Compensation for Oil Pollution Damage, 1992, and in 2003, the protocol to that convention, the acronym being the IOPCF convention, creating the international compensation fund and a supplementary fund to compensate for oil pollution damage covered by the CCL and the bunker convention.
That, in my mind, emphasizes just how important it is for us to look at the whole issue of oil transportation. That is the reason I spent some time talking about the ways in which we transport oil. We have a lot of control here in Canada through our rail lines. We have control through our pipelines to properly regulate and protect. Where it becomes more challenging is once we get to our oceans and our ports.
It can be very difficult to ensure that we are providing the type of diligence that is important and providing the resources that are necessary for enforcement. We talk about what takes place within the line of responsibility, I believe 200 miles from our coastline, and we anticipate that it will be extended. We have to have an insurance scheme in place, which could lead to a wide variety of revenue sources to support it, but we have to have compensation sufficient to clean up the oil spills that will take place.
There are vast amounts of oil in our oceans today, and the question is what is actually being done to clean up that oil. Not only do we have a responsibility for Canada and our shorelines in that 200-mile zone, but I would argue that we can go beyond that. That is why it is important as a nation that we should be leading some dialogue on how we can have an impact on cleaning up oil spills throughout the world, whether it is the Atlantic Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, or any other international body of water where the restrictions are not as strong. The need is still there, and the Canadian public want and desire strong leadership on this issue.
That is one of the reasons I believe the government could have come up with more substantial legislation to deal with the many concerns that Canadians have on this very important issue.
Mr. Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to share a few thoughts and words.