Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to rise to speak to the motion.
I have been following the debate and we will, very reluctantly, be supporting Bill C-3, an act to enact the aviation industry indemnity act, to amend the Aeronautics Act, the Canada Marine Act, the Marine Liability Act and the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 and to make consequential amendments to other acts.
As a teacher, I learned a long time ago that one absolutely has to recognize when baby steps are taken. This is definitely a baby step on behalf of the current government to do the right thing.
The reason I am in favour of supporting the bill is because it is a baby step in the right direction. I am hoping that, with positive reinforcement, we will get other baby steps, which would lead to good legislation to address the major concerns we have with what the Conservative government has been doing around environmental protection and protecting our pristine coastlines.
As members know, I come from the most beautiful province in Canada: British Columbia. I used to live in Quebec many years ago, La belle province, and I used to say that it was the most beautiful province. I will say that we live in a country that has amazing geography. For those who were born here and many, like me, who chose Canada to be our home, we are privileged to live here.
I decided to raise my children here not only because of the geography but because I fell in love with Canada and all it had to offer. However, I can assure members that one of the key factors was our amazing geography: our lakes, rivers, seaways, coastlines and mountains. Believe it or not, it was even our beautiful Prairies, which I thought were amazing when I drove across Canada for the very first time.
However, I have had this fear for many years, which is one of the reasons I am a member of Parliament today, because I did not like where Canada was being taken by consecutive governments, especially over the last number of years. One of the key concerns I have is the stewardship of our beautiful nation, and I will speak specifically about our waterways.
As I said, the proposed legislation does take a baby step in the right direction. However, it always amazes me that, over and over again, when the Conservatives actually follow a UN convention that we have been a signatory to for a number of years and decide to implement it, they make it sound as if it is a revolutionary move. In some of the speeches by the minister at the time, he talked about double-hulled vessels. Well, that already exists.
At the same time, we are very pleased that our government has come to realize that, yes, we did sign agreements with the United Nations. It behooves us as a member of the United Nations in good standing to implement those agreements. Members of the NDP are very committed to protecting our beautiful waterways and coastlines, as I am sure are many of my colleagues across the way who really want to agree with us, especially those from coastal communities.
We have all seen the terrible damage that oil spills can do. I had the chance to visit a cleanup. Members should see the birds and the kind of cleanup that has to occur after an oil spill, especially to the environment around it. We have all seen TV images, but to actually see something like that is so scary. I do not use that word lightly. We do not appreciate the kind of damage that can be done.
We want to make sure that we absolutely mitigate and minimize, and put into place extra protections to make sure our coastlines are protected. When we talk about oil spills, we are not just talking about the oil that is lost to the oil producer, we are talking about the impact on our environment. We are talking about the impact on communities and the impact on our food supply, because everything around an oil spill gets damaged.
At the same time, we have to say that the last budget bill, not the current one but the previous one, took so many environmental protections away from our waterways. When we really think about it, that is quite scary. This is a time when we know more about our environment than we have ever known before, when we should be putting in protections. However, the government has taken away the protection.
Now that we are rewarding the Conservatives by supporting this baby step, I am urging them to try to undo the damage that they have done in previous legislation. It is never too late to learn. One thing I learned as a teacher is to never quit. It is always possible for the other person to learn. We are willing to provide the Conservatives with evidence, with science, with whatever they need to convince them, but there is no answer to blind commitment to an ideology or blind commitment to doing damage to our environment in the name of so-called economic gain. There is no economic gain when our environment gets damaged.
Our job is not only about responsible resource development with the right environmental protection, but we are also the stewards of this country for future generations. I would urge all my colleagues across the way to remember that.
The NDP has been calling for a ban on oil tanker traffic through the corridor of the British Columbia coastline for a very long time. As a matter of fact, 75% of B.C. residents support that. It is supported by first nation communities; local, regional and provincial politicians; environmental groups; tourism, recreation, fishing and other potentially affected industries. We are really talking about listening to people, local government, environmental groups as well as everyday Canadians. The evidence is right here and the commitment to looking after our coastline is here.
The current study that the United States Coast Guard is doing, which is on the rising number of tankers on the west coast and their size, is proactive. We should be joining them in that study to decrease the risk of a spill. The United States is taking this risk seriously, and the Minister of Natural Resources is taking the opposite approach, because he keeps telling everyone everything is safe, even with projected increases in tanker traffic. United States Senator Maria Cantwell said that a supertanker oil spill near our shore would threaten the thriving coastal economy and thousands of jobs.
We really do have to start paying attention. I am not a very close supporter of the B.C. government. In B.C. we have a so-called Liberal government, which is really a Liberal-Conservative coalition government.
Premier Christy Clark sounded the alarm bells on October 2, 2013, after her election. That was not so long ago. She sounded the alarm over Canada's inability to handle a major coastal oil spill now, let alone in the future, should new pipelines be approved. She stated that we are “woefully under-resourced”. Yet, the Minister of Natural Resources has told CBC News that the system now in place could handle a fairly large spill off the B.C. coast. He may know something that we British Columbians do not know. He may have all these resources hidden and buried somewhere for the day we need them. What we do know is that the government, through its actions, is limiting the kinds of protections we need. The closure of the Coast Guard facility at Kitsilano is a prime example. Why would they take that away? All of that is very worrisome for us.
That is not the only thing. I have other quotes from people who are saying we need to take a bit of a halt and put the environmental protections in place. We know there are oil tankers going down that coastline. However, we also have to realize that the Burrard Inlet and area is very rocky. I tried to kayak it at one time. I know members will find that strange, but I did used to kayak at one time. My partner has done it many times. I would not say it is a dangerous place to have those huge ships going through that inlet, but it is not that easy to steer through. It is a very narrow inlet. Yet, the tankers would have to go up there.
We have heard similar concerns from the north. They do not want to see those tankers coming down the coast. They do not want to see an increase because they know we cannot take the chance of an oil spill.
We know there are tankers there now, but surely we do not want to double the tankers, which is what the projections are. It shocked me, and not too many things do, but oil tanker traffic has tripled between 2005 and 2010. Tanker traffic is planned to triple again by 2016. It has tripled, and it is going to triple again. The proposed pipeline project would increase crude oil deliveries from 300,000 to 700,000 barrels a day.
As I was saying earlier, Burrard Inlet is the second most dangerous navigational point in Vancouver. It is very difficult to navigate through it. A simple weather malfunction, with a little wind and current, could lead to catastrophic results. This happened in October, 1979 with the freighter Japan Erica. We shut down the north shore bulk terminal for three months and railway traffic for almost five months.
We only have to see the kind of damage that these spills can do. On May 25, 2010, as we all know, the Malaysian registered Bunga Kelana 3 collided in the Singapore Strait. An estimated 2,500 tonnes, or almost 3 million litres of crude oil, poured into the sea.
Let us put that one aside for a minute. The holding capacity of a double-hulled designed tanker would be a million plus barrels. The VLCC class of supertankers dwarfs the Exxon Valdez. Risk assessment measures have to be reconfigured. We cannot keep using the old risk assessments when the tankers are becoming so gargantuan. It is hard to imagine. The shocking part of it is that today's supertanker can weigh up to 320,000 DWT, with a capacity of two million barrels of oil, drastically increasing the risk of a spill.
With the bigger tankers come bigger risks, and the realization that we have to look at this in a different way. Once again, we have to take a look at the risks to the environment.
We will hear from the Conservatives. We will not hear too much today, and not at all this afternoon, I do not think. That is another tactic I do not understand. In my naivety before I became a member of Parliament, I actually thought this was a place where we could debate issues. However, it seems that the government side has decided to sit out the debate for this afternoon.
I am here to make my points and I will answer questions, but it seems that the government does not want to hear or debate anything too much because it has made up its mind. The government sees this part as a bit of a nuisance that it has to put up with because it is part of the process.
However, let me tell members that, for us, this is very serious. The health of the planet, the health of our waterways, and the safety and environmental factors are critical for us as we look into the future.
We also have to take a look at who is going to be paying for these oil spills once they occur. We do not hear the government side addressing that too much. If there is this massive oil spill, who is going to be on the hook for the cleanup? I have not heard much about the kind of protection that would be provided to taxpayers. We have to take a look at some of the ways this is done in other parts of the world. For example, both Norway and Greenland have no pre-set limits, in terms of liability across the board for oil spills. I am not saying that is the solution, but it is a conversation we need to have. We need to bring the right people to the table to have that kind of discussion and debate at committee stage.
By the way, I was proud of my colleagues and our critic in this area. They have, and had, ways to improve the legislation. However, once again, what we have seen is the same as we have seen with most of the bills. There is very little movement from the government side because once it puts something on paper, that is the way it is going to be. It has already made up its mind, so why debate and go through all of those issues?
As was said earlier, when we look at what the government could be doing to make this piece of legislation more effective, the first thing is to pay some attention to what our people said at committee. It is never too late, by the way. Here is an example of what we would like to see in the bill, if anybody on the other side is paying attention. If they are not, I am sure they can read the written record later, which I am sure they are dying to do.
Number one, let us have the government reverse the Coast Guard closures and the scaling back of services, including the closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard station. That is one of the baby steps the government could take in the right direction.
Then, let us take a look at the government cancelling the cuts to marine communications and traffic services centres, including the marine traffic control communications terminals in Vancouver and Saint John. If we are really worried about safety and the environment, then why, when we are talking about increasing all this traffic, would we be closing those offices?
The government could stop the closure of B.C.'s regional office for emergency oil spill responders. It is beyond my comprehension. Why would we want to close an emergency response centre?
We could cancel the cuts to Canada's offshore oil, gas and energy research centre. We could reverse the cuts to key environmental emergency programs, including oil spill response for Newfoundland and Labrador and B.C.
We could also require the Canadian Coast Guard to work with its U.S. counterparts and conduct a parallel study to examine the risks that additional supertanker traffic would cause in Canadian waters.
As I said, we are going to support this legislation because it is a baby step in the right direction, and I am hoping my colleagues will add many other baby steps.