moved that Bill C-22, An Act respecting Canada's offshore oil and gas operations, enacting the Nuclear Liability and Compensation Act, repealing the Nuclear Liability Act and making consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I want to take this opportunity to thank my constituents from the great Kenora riding for their support over the past almost six years and in this capacity to serve them as the minister responsible for natural resources.
I want to take this opportunity today to highlight our government's action on energy safety and security in Canada's offshore and nuclear energy industries.
Our government is determined to maintain a world-class liability regime in Canada's offshore and nuclear energy industries.
We are responsible for ensuring the safety and protection of Canadians and our environment. We are committed to authorizing only development that can be done safely.
One of the key elements of the legislation would raise the absolute liability limits in both the offshore and nuclear sectors to $1 billion. These changes would bring Canada's offshore and nuclear liability limits in line with the international community. This important measure would be proactive action to ensure that if there were an accident, taxpayers would not be on the hook.
For oil spills, these changes would help further strengthen safety and security to prevent incidents and ensure a quick response in the unlikely event of a spill.
In our Speech from the Throne, we were clear. We will enshrine the polluter pays principle in law. We also committed to increasing the required liability insurance and setting higher safety standards for companies operating offshore.
Bill C-22 would achieve these goals.
Regarding the management of Canada's offshore oil and gas industry; as we know, Canada's booming offshore oil and gas industry has transformed the economy of Atlantic Canada. The offshore industry has pumped billions of dollars into Canada's economy and provided thousands of employment opportunities. Offshore development is currently one of the fastest-growing sectors in Canada. Right now, there are five major projects currently producing in the Atlantic offshore.
As my hon. colleagues know, Canada's environmental record in the Atlantic offshore is already very strong.
Our responsible development plan strengthens environmental protection by focusing resources on reviews of major projects.
Our government has put forward new fines to punish those who would break Canada's rigorous environmental protections. We have also increased the number of inspections and comprehensive audits of federally regulated pipelines. What is more, we are bringing in tough new measures for oil tankers, to ensure the safe transport of our energy resources through our waterways. These measures include the introduction of the safeguarding Canada's seas and skies act and the formation of an expert review panel to examine Canada's current tanker safety regime and propose ways to strengthen it. Building on these measures, our government is taking important, tangible steps today to make our already-robust offshore liability regime even stronger.
As many of my Atlantic Canadian colleagues know well, the Government of Canada shares the management of the Newfoundland and Labrador offshore area and the Nova Scotia offshore area with both of the respective provincial governments. Offshore oil and gas projects, therefore, are regulated by either the Canada–Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board or the Canada–Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board. Each board ensures that operators exercise due diligence to prevent spills from occurring in Canada's offshore. With this in mind, we have worked closely with these two provinces to update and expand legislation to ensure that Canada's offshore rules remain world-class.
Regarding the key changes to offshore liability, this legislation would ensure that the liability limits reflect modern standards. The current offshore petroleum regime specifies that operators have an absolute liability for up to $30 million. Given the value of the resource and the capacity of those who develop it, all members can agree that this amount needs to be raised. That is why we would increase the benchmark by 33 times its current level to an absolute liability limit of $1 billion. Doing so would bring Canada in line with similar regimes in Norway, Denmark, and the United Kingdom.
We also need to ensure that companies operating in the offshore have the financial capacity to meet these and their obligations. Before any offshore drilling or production activity can take place, companies must prove that they can cover the financial liabilities that may result from a spill. Typically, the financial capacity requirements can range from $250 million to $500 million, with $30 million to be held as a deposit to work in the Atlantic offshore and $40 million to work in the Arctic. This deposit is held in trust by the offshore regulator as a letter of credit, guarantee, or bond.
With these legislative amendments, the minimum financial capacity would be raised to $1 billion, in line with operator’s absolute liability. Regulators may require higher amounts if deemed necessary and, in addition, we would increase the amount of funds to which operators have unfettered access to $100 million per operator. Industry would also have the option of setting up a minimum $250 million pooled fund, and operators could choose to use membership in such a fund to serve as their financial responsibility. We would also establish a cost-recovery regime for regulatory services provided by the offshore boards. I am pleased to say that the companies operating in Canada's Atlantic and Arctic offshore would be subject to one of the highest absolute liability standards in the world.
Regarding the nuclear industry, the second important part of this legislation focuses on updating the absolute liabilities for nuclear energy. In fact, it is one of the main reasons that our electricity supply is one of the cleanest in the world; 77% of Canada's electricity mix is non-emitting. Our government recognizes the importance of the industry to the Canadian economy. The industry generates nearly $5 billion a year in revenues and provides jobs for more than 30,000 Canadians. This is the number of jobs that the New Democrats want to destroy with their anti-nuclear position. We know that nuclear energy can be generated safely. In fact, Canada's nuclear safety record is exemplary and there has never been a claim under Canada's Nuclear Liability Act.
Our nuclear industry has sound technology, a qualified workforce and stringent regulatory requirements. However, as a responsible government, we must ensure that our security system is up to date and able to respond to any incidents that may occur.
The responsibility for providing a liability and compensation regime, a solid framework to protect Canadians and provide stability to this important industry, falls under federal jurisdiction. The Government of Canada, then, has a duty to all Canadians to assume its responsibilities in this area, and we are committed to doing so.
Although the basic principles underlying Canada's nuclear liability legislation remain valid, the Nuclear Liability Act is nearly 40 years old. It needs updating to address issues that have arisen over the years and to keep pace with international developments. Bill C-22 serves to strengthen and modernize Canada's nuclear liability regime. The proposed legislation is a major step forward in modernizing this act. It puts Canada in line with internationally accepted compensation levels and clarifies the definition for compensation, spelling out exactly what is covered and the process for claiming compensation.
This bill is the culmination of many years of consultations involving extensive discussions with major stakeholders, including Canada's nuclear utilities, the governments of nuclear power generating provinces, and the Nuclear Insurance Association of Canada. This is the fifth time that this nuclear legislation has been introduced, and I hope my hon. colleagues recognize the critical need for finally passing this legislation in a timely manner.
Let me be clear. If it had not been for the past filibustering by the NDP, the nuclear liability limits would already have been updated. It is my sincere hope that New Democrats will have a more reasonable approach this time around to modernizing nuclear liability. Bill C-22 significantly improves the claims compensation process, increases the financial liability of nuclear operators for damages, and provides greater legal certainty for the nuclear industry in Canada.
Like the offshore sector, under Bill C-22, the nuclear industry will also see an increase in the amount of operator liability, which would go from $75 million to $1 billion.
A liability of $1 billion balances the need for operators to provide compensation without burdening them with exorbitant costs for unrealistic insurance amounts, amounts for events that are highly unlikely to occur in this country. It is critical to remember that liability must be within the capacity of insurers, otherwise taxpayers would be held accountable for the cost. The $1 billion strikes that balance between protecting ratepayers and holding companies to account in the event of an accident.
Let me assure all hon. members that the new legislation will maintain the key strengths of the existing legislation. Most importantly, it will mean that the liability of the operator will be absolute and exclusive. There would be no need to prove fault, and nobody else would be held liable. Our government would also provide increased coverage for lower-risk nuclear facilities, such as small research reactors at Canadian universities.
Bill C-22 also features other key improvements.
First, Bill C-22 will broaden the definition of compensable damage in order to include physical injury, economic loss, preventive measures and environmental damage.
Second, it would extend the limitation period for submitting compensation claims. The limitation period for bodily injury claims, for example, would be expanded from 10 to 30 years. This would help to address latent illnesses that may be detected many years after an accident or incident. This is another way that our government is continuing to protect Canadians.
Finally, Bill C-22 will establish the authority to implement a simplified process for dealing with claims that can replace the regular court proceedings if necessary. This would allow Canadians to submit their claims more quickly and effectively.
Our government is taking concrete steps to address important issues for the nuclear sector. This includes responsible management of legacy waste; restructuring of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, AECL; and promoting international trade.
When it comes to nuclear power, we are talking about a global issue that knows no borders. I am very proud to announce that Bill C-22 will also serve to implement the provisions of the International Atomic Energy Agency's Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage.
My colleague signed the convention and tabled it in Parliament in December. The convention is an international instrument to address nuclear civil liability in the unlikely event of a nuclear incident.
By adhering to this convention, Canada will bolster its domestic compensation regime by up to $450 million by bringing in significant new funding. This would bring the total potential compensation in Canada up to $1.45 billion.
Joining this convention also reinforces our commitment to building a strong global nuclear liability regime. It is important that Canada's legislation is consistent with international conventions, not only financial issues, but also in regard to what constitutes a nuclear incident, what qualifies for compensation and other matters.
These changes will help establish a level playing field for Canadian nuclear supply companies, which welcome the certainty of providing their services in a country that is a member of the convention.
Given that our closest neighbour, the United States, is already a member of the convention, our membership will allow the two countries to establish civil liability treaty relations.
Korea and Japan have also signalled their intention to sign the convention. Once Canada becomes a member, the convention will be one step closer to becoming a reality.
In conclusion, these are just some of the ways that our government is ensuring that Canada is amongst the strongest liability regimes in the world. Bill C-22 provides a solid framework to regulate the offshore and nuclear liability regimes in Canada.
Although an offshore or nuclear incident is highly unlikely, we have to be prepared to deal with such incidents, which could result in cleanup, liability or other costs. Bill C-22 seeks to help prepare for that possibility. Its legislative provisions focus on the responsible promotion and development of our offshore and nuclear industries, which are essential.
In closing, I urge all honourable members to support this important piece of legislation.