House of Commons Hansard #83 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was oil.


Safeguarding Canada's Seas and Skies ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.


Lisa Raitt Conservative Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, when we brought the bill for reintroduction, in October of last year, it was a bill that contained a number of items, as I have already outlined. However, these are all items that are practical, pragmatic, and have the ability to make a change now.

One of the examples I gave was that we are ensuring that aids to navigation, which are buoys, lights, and other devices to mark locations and preferred shipping routes, are installed and maintained. It is these kinds of practical, action-oriented devices that we want to accomplish, to make sure we are not studying, not waiting, nor contemplating; we are moving forward. We are getting action, and we are going to protect the environment in the short term, and not thinking about it in the long term.

Safeguarding Canada's Seas and Skies ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.


Hoang Mai NDP Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-3.

Before I start, I would like to commend my colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster for the extraordinary work he has done on this bill.

It is important to take a look at what this bill does. It has a rather long title: 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. This bill involves a number of different acts.

Since the bill already involved a number of other laws, we requested that it be expanded and be a little more open, so that we could take a good look at what is going on with environmental protection.

The Conservative government has made cuts that affect the environment, particularly in western Canada, in British Columbia, but also in the east, where the government has closed rescue stations. The government's actions contradict its claims that it wants to protect the environment.

We lobbied, we wanted to talk and we wanted to see meaningful action. Unfortunately the government refused to listen to us.

Yes, this bill is a step in the right direction, especially in terms of marine protection and safety. That is why we will support the bill at this stage.

However, the committee heard testimony from a number of experts. We made very reasonable suggestions to improve the bill. Unfortunately, once again, the government refused any amendment from the opposition.

Unfortunately, this bill is yet more proof that the government does not have an open approach. Not only did it refuse to expand the scope of the bill, but it also refused to listen when we scrutinized the bill and made suggestions based on expert studies. Unfortunately, this is not the first time this has happened.

The bill has four rather major parts dealing with separate issues. The first part deals with the aviation industry indemnity. This allows the Minister of Transport to compensate certain airlines for any losses, damages or liability caused by events known as war risks. We support what has been proposed on this issue. It is a solution to a problem that was there before.

The second part amends the Aeronautics Act to give the airworthiness investigative authority the power to investigate aviation accidents or incidents involving civilians and aircraft or aeronautical installations operated by the Department of National Defence. In the event of military-civilian occurrences, this part gives the airworthiness investigative authority the power to conduct investigations.

However, we have noticed a problem. In the past, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada used to carry out the studies and investigations. At the end of the day, since the board was responsible, the report was made public. In this case, the report will be submitted to the Minister of National Defence. The minister will be able to see the report, but he will not be required to make it public.

The NDP proposed to force the government to make the report public so that anyone who has questions can be informed and the public is reassured. Once again, unfortunately, the government rejected our amendment. However—and this is not in defence of the government—we heard that it is in the interest of the Department of National Defence to make these reports public.

They are telling us that the reports will be made public on an administrative level. If the information is confidential—for example, if the reports are talking about strategic or other types of military issues—we can understand why they would not be made public. However, nothing prevents the government from making these reports public. Even the officials from the Department of National Defence who testified in committee said that all existing reports on these types of investigations are made public.

Why did the government not take the NDP's proposal to make these investigations public? Our proposal took into account that the reports would not have to be made public if they contained confidential information or strategic national security information, and the government already has that right. This government already does it. Most of the time, when the public wants to see a report or investigation, only a part of the report will be disclosed—not the full report.

This is in the interests of transparency, which is very important to the NDP. Unfortunately the government did not accept our proposal.

I would now like to talk more about part 4, which we think is one of the most important parts. As the minister mentioned, this part will fix a problem that existed before with respect to compensation for victims or others who have to pay in the event of disaster. Here is what is going on. Canada was a signatory to the convention.

Canada was a signatory to the HNS Convention, and what we are doing here is actually implementing the convention. The reason for the convention and the reason we are supporting part 4 is that we are moving forward. We need to have these rules, these regulations, to make sure that the convention is applied. We want the convention to be applied here because it would actually allow us to access a fund. It is an international fund for HNS, hazardous and noxious substances. In case of a spill, we would be able to use money from that fund.

Also, the bill would actually limit the responsibility of the shippers. Just to make it simple, if a spill happens with HNS, the shipper will be responsible up to a certain amount, which is approximately $230 million. That amount changes. I will not go into detail about why, but that is the amount.

The information we have from the Library of Parliament is that the other amount will be covered by the convention. The fund will cover up to $500 million. In excess of that, what happens? That is the question we were asking. What happens if there is a spill that exceeds $500 million in terms of liability, in terms of damages? Basically, the answer from witnesses, and also now from the minister, is that it might not happen.

What if it happens? Before all the oil spills, we were saying that it was not going to be a problem. Everything was safe. However, when we saw what happened with the Exxon Valdez, for instance, and when we saw what happened in Lac-Mégantic, where in terms of insurance, the company did not have enough insurance, who ended up paying for it? It was the taxpayers. What is worse, the people who have to do the cleanup are going to be on the hook for that.

A fund already exists. Duties were taken for oil, so the fund exists already. We wanted to make sure that at the end of the day, it will not be the taxpayers who have to pay. We could use that fund to make sure that we protect Canadians. Unfortunately, again, the government refused our amendment.

It is really hard for me to understand why we do not want to make sure that Canadians are off the hook, especially when the government has said that polluter pays is really important. In this case, if something happens, again, Canadians could be on the hook.

It is an amendment we thought was reasonable and would make sure it was in the right direction. The response from the government was not satisfactory. We do not understand that position.

I would like to come back to the fact that the bill contains some good features, including part 5, which is an interesting part because it sets out further safeguards. Operators of oil handling facilities will have to meet some additional obligations, such as submitting an emergency or response plan to the department to ensure that they have a plan for their operations. When petroleum is moved from one source to another, be it by boat or by train, there is a transfer here, which is when we want to be covered.

In addition, a certain form of liability will provide some freedom to the first responders on site in emergency or problem situations. In other words, response organizations will be entitled to some immunity, which is important. Indeed, in committee, the first responders told us that this was important to them too, which is why we are supporting it.

However, we can do more and look at the government's way of doing things. I will make a parallel with what is happening in rail safety. There are regulations in this sector that the government says are strong. However, in practice, what we have is deregulation. Companies are increasingly being allowed to self-regulate and self-inspect.

The Auditor General clearly stated that Transport Canada did not have the resources needed for the inspections, which is what concerns me in this case. Indeed, we are taking a step in the right direction with the legislation by providing for inspections and an obligation to submit response plans. However, if we look at the budget and how the government is doing things, there has been no follow-up at all on that. For example, there was no increase in the last budget to ensure protection in rail safety.

Once again, inspectors are being given more duties without necessarily being given the resources they need. The Auditor General was scathing in his report. The department said that it would follow-up. We are waiting to see this follow-up to determine whether the government is committed to protecting Canadians first and foremost. Although this is a step in the right direction, the government's actions suggest otherwise.

When a response plan is produced, what co-operation will there be? What information will we have as interested parties to find out whether the government is doing its job?

It is easy to draw a parallel between this issue and rail safety because we started studying that issue in committee after the Lac-Mégantic tragedy, which concerns the same department, the Department of Transport. That is why we are trying to identify the real shortcomings. We have to admit that Lac-Mégantic opened our eyes. We saw that there were shortcomings not just in the measures implemented by the government, but also in how laws are managed and implemented.

Now, on the one hand, we are headed in somewhat the same direction by enforcing the laws and asking companies to submit a plan to us. On the other hand, we do not have the resources to ensure that these plans are safe.

Once again, I am drawing a parallel with emergency response plans. After the Lac-Mégantic tragedy, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada asked that these plans be put in place. However, we do not know if these plans will be put in place correctly because Transport Canada does not have the resources to check everything. We believe that is a problem.

Furthermore, there is a lack of transparency in the government's approach. If I am drawing so many parallels with rail safety, it is because we have clearly discovered shortcomings.

In this case, the same type of system is being put in place. That is where the problem lies. The government is presenting a plan. However, neither the public nor parliamentarians can obtain all the information.

We asked the government to ensure that municipalities, for example, have all the necessary information about dangerous goods transported by rail through their area. We were told that it would be a step in the right direction to ask companies to submit the list of dangerous goods, albeit after the fact. In other words, people will be told what has already passed through their area, but will not be told what is soon going to pass through. This would have allowed municipalities to have the information they need to ensure that they have the necessary resources in place.

Unfortunately, the minister at the time said that if the municipalities wanted that information they would have to use the Access to Information Act. That is just ridiculous. Once again there is a lack of transparency. We believe that this approach unfortunately does not show any goodwill on the part of the government or any concern for informing the public and working with the municipalities to ensure that everyone has the information needed to move things forward.

That is why I am making a comparison with rail safety. As I explained, that is what the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities is now studying. In this case, we had very little time to study the bill. We had a few meetings. Still, we did make requests to flesh out the bill so that we could study other issues. This bill addresses some problems with liability. Implementing an international convention is a good thing.

However, there is nothing about protecting our coasts. Some of my colleagues are very worried about how the government operates and the measures it introduces. As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The time for that is now. Unfortunately, the government is refusing to listen to what the opposition has to say and what its concerns are. Several MPs from eastern Canada, and many from western Canada, are very concerned about everything to do with supertankers. They are very worried about the coastlines. They are very worried about the government's approach, about the lack of transparency and especially about the government's failure to protect our coasts and the environment.

This would have been a good opportunity to study this issue. Since this bill already affects four other laws, why did the government not take the time to do something good? The minister replied that it was time to take action, not to do more studies or think long term. We are asking the government to take action to protect the environment.

Taking action does not mean cutting the services, resources and personnel that are meant to protect us. What we are asking the government to do is reverse those cuts because they have serious consequences. If problems come up after those cuts are made, the government will realize that it made a mistake. That is why environmental protection is so vitally important to the NDP. It is terribly unfortunate that the government did not listen to us. That is why we will continue to fight to protect our coasts and the environment.

Safeguarding Canada's Seas and Skies ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.


David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech today.

For the benefit of the members in the House and the Canadians who are watching, I would like to present some simple facts and key points. I would like to share them with my colleague and see what he has to say.

We know from the 2012-13 public accounts that VIA Rail was cut by 15%, aviation safety was cut by 11%, marine safety was cut by 25%, road safety was cut by 5.5% and rail safety remained relatively constant. At the same time, we know that the Conservative federal government spends more on economic action plan ads than on rail safety.

Could my colleague comment on these cuts and explain the fundamental adverse effects they will have on safety in Canada?

Safeguarding Canada's Seas and Skies ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.


Hoang Mai NDP Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague, and I would especially like to say how pleased I am to work with him on the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.

The government is reducing spending to balance its budget and fulfill its 2015 election promises. However, what the government is not saying and what we are clearly seeing is that there is a direct negative impact on public safety.

I know that the Minister of Transport does not like it when we say that people are not as well protected, but those are the facts. When inspectors are not doing the job, when there are fewer and fewer inspections and companies are increasingly allowed to self-regulate and do their own inspections, at the end of the day, you have what happened in Lac-Mégantic. When the government chooses deregulation and abandons rail safety, that is what happens.

That is why we are concerned when all the government does is cut spending. Yes, it will amend the legislation and say there are more reasons to protect people. However, in reality, we know that inspectors do not have the resources they need to really ensure that the safety of Canadians is a priority.

Safeguarding Canada's Seas and Skies ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.


Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Brossard—La Prairie for an excellent speech. I know that he is doing incredible work as part of the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, and I thank him for that. I am certain that many Canadians are appreciative of the fact that he is standing up to the Conservative government, especially on a topic as important as the one before us in the House today.

The NDP proposed very reasonable amendments to this bill to ensure that Canadians will not be held responsible for compensation and cleanup costs if there is a spill involving noxious and potentially hazardous substances, for example. We also asked the Conservative government to expand the scope of the bill. Unfortunately, the government rejected all of those requests.

This bill contains some extremely disappointing elements, and it does not go far enough. For example, it does not cover oil spills. I am thinking about my colleagues from British Columbia, which is home to many oil projects. I am also thinking about my colleagues from the east, in the Maritimes, who are seeing the same thing happen there.

What does my colleague think about the fact that the Conservatives do not want to broaden the scope of this bill or the fact that they do not want to better protect our environmental resources or the health of Canadians?

Safeguarding Canada's Seas and Skies ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.


Hoang Mai NDP Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Alfred-Pellan for her very good question.

It is hard for us to understand why the government will not expand the scope of the bill to ensure that we are protecting our coasts and coming up with tangible measures.

I get the impression that the government does not want us to see all the negative things it is doing that go against protecting the environment and the public from these spills.

My colleague is absolutely right. Some very reasonable amendments have been proposed to ensure that taxpayers are not on the hook at the end of the day. Unfortunately, the Conservatives rejected our amendment, in favour of the oil companies.

Safeguarding Canada's Seas and Skies ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.


Alain Giguère NDP Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Auditor General recently presented a report on rail safety. We learned that the self-regulation system has led to some unthinkable situations.

My colleague can confirm and make a case for this statement: only 23% of inspections are done. Verifications of these analyses indicate that everything was done incorrectly. Only 23% of the job is being done and it is done poorly. What is more, apparently Transport Canada did not do any follow-up. When it detected an incident or an irregularity, it contacted the company and did not verify whether corrective action was taken. Nothing is done.

My question is simple: after 20 years of using a system that produces such poor results, can we really talk about rail safety?

Safeguarding Canada's Seas and Skies ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.


Hoang Mai NDP Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question.

As I was saying, a connection must be made with rail safety when we are talking about environmental protection and all the rest. We are talking about the same department and the same way of doing things. The government has introduced legislation that we support and that, on paper, offers better protection. However, in reality, Transport Canada does not have the resources necessary to follow up and ensure that the safety and protection of Canadians are the top priority, and that is a problem. We are not the ones saying so; it is the Auditor General. Even if Transport Canada wanted to provide Canadians with greater protection, the Conservative government is cutting those jobs. It is cutting inspector jobs and the department's budget.

The legislation says one thing, but in reality, the government is letting companies regulate and manage themselves, which sometimes results in catastrophe. That is why victims are suing Transport Canada. That is too bad, because it is time to take action and find solutions. Unfortunately, when we propose solutions, the government does not listen.

Safeguarding Canada's Seas and Skies ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.


David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, on two or three separate occasions, members of the NDP have unfairly characterized the notion of a safety management system as deregulation. That is not quite the situation. The problem, as we have learned from the Auditor General's important report on rail safety, is not the notion of a safety management system. The problem is the fact that one of the essential partners in the safety management system, Transport Canada under this government, is not doing its job. That is because it is, as Ronald Reagan might say, a question of trusting but verifying, with inspections and audits.

Therefore, I would like to get a better understanding on where the NDP stands on the notion that we can have co-operation between regulated sectors and the regulator, the federal government in this case, and be able to provide a safe environment for rail safety and other forms of transport safety.

Safeguarding Canada's Seas and Skies ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.


Hoang Mai NDP Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question because it gives me the opportunity to highlight how the Conservatives' and Liberals' ways of seeing regulation are similar, and how they are heading toward the right direction.

I have heard time and time again in committee my colleague ask companies, like railway companies, whether they have read the Auditor General's report, or whether they think they should go forward in terms of making it safer. I do not think it is the responsibility of the private companies to self-regulate.

The real position, our position in the NDP, which is contrary to the Liberals' and Conservatives' position, is that the government should make sure that the rules are the strictest rules, to make sure that safety is the number one priority. What we have seen from the Conservatives, and the Liberals, is deregulation, letting the companies self-regulate.

What we have seen after that is that the Auditor General says the system, the way it is done, is not working because the inspectors do not have enough resources to actually look at what the companies are doing, so there is a problem, and it came from the Liberals.

Safeguarding Canada's Seas and Skies ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.


David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is a wonderful starting point for my speech this afternoon on this bill, Bill C-3, which is a follow-up to Bill C-57 from the last session of this House.

In truth, this is a bill that should have been dispatched some time ago. It was not, because of the very long prorogation brought in by the Conservative government.

It is a technical amendment bill in many respects. It makes a number of good, positive contributions to improving transportation. However, my remarks this afternoon will be couched in a broader context, and I think it is important for us to keep in mind how these changes are but a step forward in a transportation environment that is, in my view, in a very serious and precarious state in Canada today.

It is a conclusion I and our party do not come to lightly. It comes from many dozens of witnesses who have appeared before committee. It comes from the exhaustive and detailed report from the Auditor General on rail safety released late last fall, which can fairly be described a scathing indictment of the Conservative government's performance on rail safety over the past eight years.

In some respects, Canadians are not surprised, because this is the fifth minister in eight years. What we have had is a succession of ministers transiting through the transport portfolio. Whether they are transiting upwards or downwards or out is another question, but what it shows is that those five ministers have not been paying attention to their brief. They have moved through, and Transport Canada's systemic problems remain.

When my colleague from the NDP persists with his seatmates to point to the private sector as the bad guys, or the bad gals, what it really demonstrates is the fundamental problem with the NDP, which is that it has a difficult time with the free market and a difficult time with free market operators. It does not understand that in today's world in the 21st century, companies derive their licence to operate not from any one order of government—not from the federal government or a provincial government or a municipal government—but from the Canadian public.

It is a concept that is widely known as the social licence to operate, and woe befall a company that crosses the Canadian public. However, that said, the notion of a safety management system as put forward by the Auditor General and as put forward by many actors who participate in safety management systems is that it is a partnership, a partnership between the regulated and the regulator. In this case, the regulator is the Government of Canada, through Transport Canada, the department responsible for transportation and transportation safety.

It is a partnership. It takes two to tango in a partnership.

The thrust of my remarks this afternoon is as follows. One of the partners is falling well short of its responsibility in making sure the safety management system is working, whether it be in the marine sector, the airline sector, the rail sector, or the road transport sector. That partnership, that point at which the regulated company and the regulator come together, is why we are studying safety management systems at the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities today.

Let us talk a bit about the role and purpose of government.

The NDP believes that there should not be this kind of partnership with the private sector. I believe that is a mistake. I believe there are efficiencies, good faith, goodwill, and many other drivers in the private sector that can be harnessed in a partnership to make sure that conduct is appropriate and that things remain safe.

On the other hand, the Conservatives believe that the real role and purpose of government in the 21st century is to withdraw government. I believe the Prime Minister is what I would describe as a constitutional purist. He does not believe the federal government should be involved in many areas where it is involved today, and he is—by stealth, by subterfuge, hidden behind the scenes—removing the federal government from very important areas. That is manifesting itself in this sector.

That is why, when we look at the public accounts for 2012-13, this is what we learn. The numbers do not lie.

The Minister of Transport will get up and say, for example, that the government has spent $100 million on safety since 2009. It sounds like a big number, except that it spent $600 million on advertising over those same years. It spent $550 million on outsourced legal fees. Let us set that into context and look at the public accounts.

The office of Infrastructure Canada was cut 17%. VIA Rail was cut 15%. Aviation safety was cut 11%. Marine safety, which this bill addresses most specifically, was cut 25%. Road safety was cut 5.5%. Rail safety has a very marginal increase at a time when we are seeing great stress and pressure on our railway system, particularly as it relates to the transportation of dangerous goods like oil and diluted bitumen. There is pressure from Canada's oil sands and from the Bakken oil shelf in North Dakota and from southern Saskatchewan. Many different sources are now putting lots of pressure on our rail safety system.

What would we expect of a government that believes in the role and purpose of government and believes in getting the big things right, such as safety? What would we expect it to do in full knowledge that there is increased pressure on our railway system and our marine system because of increasing traffic? We would expect it to invest more, not less, in safety. However, we have seen systematic cuts in investments in safety.

Crude oil shipped by rail in Canada has increased 32,000% since 2009. The government has known that for eight years. It was given this information when it received its briefing books when it formed the government back in 2006, so we have to ask what has happened since then.

The most definitive voice we can rely on, as Canadians would agree, is the Auditor General of Canada. That is the most trustworthy and objective voice we have so far. There will be more to come, I am sure, as more information is made available.

Let us take a look at the Auditor General's incredibly important report, because it has a bearing on this bill and whether or not this bill goes nearly far enough to deal with the crisis in rail safety.

Moments ago the minister stood and said, quoting the Auditor General, that the concept of SMS is sound. She is right in quoting the Auditor General. That is what he wrote. He wrote that the concept of safety management systems is sound, but then he went on to eviscerate, to make plain, to expose to the light of day the absolute failure of the Government of Canada under the Conservatives to make sure its side of the partnership is upheld in the notion of these safety management systems.

Here are the fundamental conclusions that the Auditor General of Canada has reached. This is undeniable. The government knows it, all members know it, and Canadians know it.

First, Transport Canada does not have an audit approach that provides a minimum level of assurance that federal railways have implemented safety management systems to manage their safety risks and comply with safety requirements. Wow. It does not have an audit approach that provides a minimum level of assurance. That is conclusion number one.

Next is conclusion number two, and it gets more serious as we move forward in the report. On safety, here is what the Auditor General said explicitly, in words in black and white. In speaking of safety, he said that despite the department's discussions with the industry, it does not have clear timelines. The report says: does not have a formal process to set clear timelines for overseeing significant safety issues from the time they are identified until they are resolved.

The report goes on to state:

We found that the work plans are vague in terms of timelines for monitoring progress on important safety issues.

Conclusion number three is as follows:

...the Department was missing other important risk and performance data to supplement inspectors’ knowledge gained from previous inspections.

Unbelievably, here is the list. This is in the wake of the Lac-Mégantic tragedy. This is what we learned.

We are missing the federal railways' own internal risk assessments. That is a fundamental part of the safety management system of our railway system.

We are missing information on the sections of track that are used in transporting dangerous goods. We are missing information on the condition of railway bridges, which are carrying tens of thousands of cars carrying dangerous goods, and we are missing the financial information of privately owned federal railways. That is not publicly available. Therefore, we cannot even assess the financial status of many of the companies that are being regulated and are participating in the safety management system.

There is something else, and it is perhaps the most egregious aspect. It really is shocking.

The Auditor General looked at Transport Canada over three years. It took 36 months. The report said that the department set up a three-year cycle for auditing the safety management systems of each federal railway. There are 31 federal railways, and that cycle is supposed to be completed once every three years for each railway.

In three fiscal years, Transport Canada completed 14 audits on eight federal railways—not on 31, but on eight. That is according to Transport Canada's own determination.

Inside, it says it needs to perform way more audits than it actually did. How many did it perform? How many did it complete out of the number it said it had to complete? It completed 26%. Just one-quarter of the audits that Transport Canada itself said had to be performed to keep railways safe were performed.

Just to set this in context for Canadians, four million passengers a year ride VIA Rail, and that is a good thing. We want to encourage people to use light transit. We want to work toward reducing our greenhouse gases and make our transportation system more efficient.

In the three years it was audited by the Auditor General, VIA Rail and its safety management system was not audited once. Four million passengers a year and not one audit was performed by Transport Canada. That is very serious business.

The Auditor General goes on to say at the conclusion:

These findings indicate that Transport Canada does not have the assurance it needs that federal railways have implemented adequate and effective safety management systems.

That is where this is falling down. It is the responsibility of the Conservative government to invest in the capacity it needs at Transport Canada to do its job, not to work toward fictitious and arbitrary deadlines for the elimination of deficits so the Conservatives can run on it in the 2015 election campaign. As they do this, we see behind the scenes what they are doing to transportation safety. It is undermined.

The Auditor General says that even the methodology being used to determine the number of inspections it is supposed to perform is outdated and flawed, and it goes on. This is how serious it is right now.

The Auditor General's office examined whether there were enough inspectors inside the department to perform the inspections they had to perform on aviation, on marine, on road, on rail, on all forms of transportation for which the government is responsible.

The Auditor General found, according to Transport Canada, that it needed 20 system auditors to audit each railway once every three years. How many did Transport Canada have on staff over the three-year period audited by the Auditor General? Ten. One half of the actual amount of inspectors and auditors it required to do the audit required is actually on staff.

It gets even more challenging. Not only does it have half of the inspectors it is supposed to have on staff, on top of that Transport Canada is now responsible for overseeing another 39 non-federal railways. That is 31 federal railways and 39 non-federal railways for which it has responsibility.

For the 10 inspectors it had on staff during the three-year audit, Transport Canada did not know whether the inspectors actually had the required skills and the competencies to do their jobs. It says that inspectors and managers are not trained in a timely basis. It cannot even warrant that the inspectors who are there are objective and independent because they come mainly from the federal railways that are regulated.

In short, we have a government that does not get it. It does not get the role and purpose of government in the 21st century. It is about cut and withdraw, and what happens? We compromise cherished Canadian public services and values.

It is the responsibility of a government to get the big things right. That includes safety in the transportation sector, but we have no evidence, and we have waited for it, that the government will take it seriously. I hope, beyond all hope, that it does not take another tragedy like the tragedy at Lac-Mégantic to get the government's attention.

Safeguarding Canada's Seas and Skies ActGovernment Orders

May 8th, 2014 / 1:20 p.m.


Francine Raynault NDP Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his speech.

He spoke a lot about dangerous cars and rail safety. He also spoke a lot about the Auditor General's report.

As a result of an agreement with the Province of British Columbia that dates back 40 years, oil tanker traffic is basically prohibited off the coast of British Columbia. However, this agreement was never put in writing and now risks being abandoned by the Conservatives.

Do the Liberals support the NDP's request to impose a written moratorium on oil tanker traffic on the west coast in order protect the coastline?

Safeguarding Canada's Seas and Skies ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.


David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Party of Canada believes there has to be proper quasi-judicial regulatory bodies in place, properly resourced, to do their jobs. What we have seen under the Conservatives are changes, for example, to the National Energy Board, our national energy regulator responsible for pipeline hearings, interprovincial issues. What has the government done? It has done two things. It has made the test to appear in front of the National Energy Board much more difficult to meet because it wants to winnow away different voices, suppress them. It describes them as radical voices.

Second, the Conservatives have said that it that does not really matter what the National Energy Board decides. It has taken the power for decision-making away from the NEB and given it to cabinet.

Therefore, we are seeing the usurping of authority, no more arm's-length between the process to decide what should happen vis-à-vis our west coast, because big daddy government under the Prime Minister knows best. That is unfortunate. We have a tradition in our country of working with arm's-length organizations that have provided us with decades of very good service.

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1:25 p.m.


Ted Hsu Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Ottawa South may know that the CN main line passes through my riding of Kingston and the Islands. I remember recently looking at the trains with my young daughter and telling her which cars contained what. I remember telling her that many cars were full of oil. The composition of the trains has certainly changed in the last few years.

Could the Liberal critic for transport tell my constituents in Kingston and the Islands what effect better regulations and better surveillance and auditing of Canada's rail system would mean to the people who live along that rail line?

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1:25 p.m.


David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his incredible service to Kingston and the Islands. He is a strong advocate not only for his region but for many of these safety issues.

It is important for us to remember a couple of things. Given the expansion of Canada's oil sands and given the expansion of the shale deposits in the Bakken field in North Dakota and southern Saskatchewan, we will see by 2024 one million barrels a day of excess oil that will not be capable of being transported by pipeline. Where is that oil going to go? The railways tell us it is going to go on rail. The oil companies tell us it is going to go on rail. The Conservative government tells us that it is going to go on rail.

The problem is that the government has not stopped long enough to project out where we are going to be, the importance, as my colleague suggests, of bringing regulation and enforcement. We need capacity to enforce, inspect and audit. That would make it much safer.

Finally, the government did a deal with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. It said that it would inform the federation 90 days after the fact that a dangerous substance went through, for example, Kingston. That is wrong. Advance prior notice should be given to municipalities so they can be best prepared in the event of a mistake, an accident or a tragedy.

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1:25 p.m.


Alain Giguère NDP Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is not a new problem we are discussing. The policy allowing transport companies to regulate themselves in terms of safety was introduced 20 years ago, and after 20 years we have learned that this work was never done. This is not just about the government opposite. There has been a lack of governance for 20 years.

It gets worse. We are discussing transport companies, but first and foremost they are public services. I would like to remind everyone that at one time Air Canada and Canadian National were crown corporations. They were privatized later by the Liberal government. This government neither took the care nor had the vision to ensure that these companies would continue to safely provide public services. How is it going to fix this 20-year-old mess that the Liberals created? At some point, you have to stop criticizing others and take a hard look at yourself.

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1:30 p.m.


David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is where we really see the difference between the NDP and the Liberal Party.

There is no doubt about the fact that the NDP does not believe in the private market. No doubt about that. Apparently, the state has to own everything. In today's world, the private sector can believe in the role of government in the 21st century and want to work with the government. That is the difference between our two parties.

Progress definitely has to be made. By working together, we can make many changes. However, that takes the will to invest and put in place the means to ensure that Canada's transportation system remains safe. The Conservative government does not have that will.

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1:30 p.m.


Hoang Mai NDP Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to a few of the hon. member's responses and even parts of his speech, but his illustration seems a bit simplistic to me.

It is true that the problems have been around for 20 years. However, the DOT-111 cars were under the Liberals. What did they do? Nothing.

Now they are saying that they want to change things. However, they put in place a system whereby companies self-regulate. Even today, in committee, they are asking companies to make regulations. Instead of considering that the government is responsible for regulating safety, the Liberals are asking companies to create better regulations for improved safety. That is how they see things, and therein lies the difference.

The NDP believes that the government is responsible for ensuring that the safety of Canadians is the top priority. What the Liberals want to do is take a hands-off approach and hope for the best. That is the major difference.

What does my colleague think about the deregulation that started under the Liberals and is continuing under the Conservatives?

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1:30 p.m.


David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is hard not to chuckle, because first it is a mischaracterization of the position of the Liberal Party to suggest that we are asking private companies to self-regulate. That is false. I and the party believe that the most successful nation states on the planet today are those where government, NGOs, civil society and business work together. It is not an us and them; it is not a them and us; there is no bad guy or gal. We are all in this together. The New Democrats are stuck because they have difficulty dealing with the realities of a free market.

The important thing, going forward, is to ensure that we see the requisite investments we need in the capacity of Transport Canada so the good people who work there, including the inspectors, auditors, clerks, analysts and economists, are all together having the desired effect, and that is to ensure transportation in our country remains safe and safety is enhanced, particularly given the big challenges we face, as I alluded to earlier.

There is a fundamental difference between the New Democrats and the Liberals, and clearly it has to do with an understanding of and a willingness to work within a free market.

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1:30 p.m.


Fin Donnelly NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to 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.

The length of the bill's title would suggest that it is quite a comprehensive bill, but in fact, one of the opposition's primary criticisms of the bill is that it is too modest an approach. It was a missed opportunity here to broaden the scope of the bill to make comprehensive changes to protect our coasts.

As deputy fisheries and oceans critic for the official opposition, I have heard many concerns over the past years about how the current government has closed B.C.'s oil spill response centre and shut down the Kitsilano Coast Guard station and is shutting down Marine Communications and Traffic Services centres in Vancouver, Tofino, and Comox. Many of these closures fly in the face of conventional and practical wisdom.

During second reading of the bill, I spoke at length about the closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard station in Vancouver. There was a lot of anger and frustration among British Columbians when the minister made this decision and shut the station down. This anger and frustration only continued as expert after expert stood up and said that this decision was a bad idea and was guaranteed to put people's lives at risk. These experts included the Vancouver police chief, the Vancouver fire chief, the mayor of Vancouver, and the premier of B.C. Yet the Conservative government chose to completely disregard the facts and the evidence. Instead, it sped up the closure and dismantled the station as fast as possible.

Put simply, it is increasingly difficult to trust that Canadians' concerns are being taken seriously.

In terms of the bill before us today, I acknowledge that there are some positive parts in it. The NDP is pleased to see a few new measures for increasing tanker safety, including increased inspections of foreign tankers, expanded aerial surveillance designed to monitor ship traffic and detect oil spills, a review of tug escort requirements, and expanded research into the science of oil spills. However, British Columbians are very concerned about the preservation of our coast and the way of life in coastal communities.

In 2012, our province was reminded of the very real threat of a catastrophic oil spill when two major shipping vessels ran aground on the west coast. Given the Conservative government's apparent desire to end the moratorium on north coast tanker traffic, the threat of a spill is something our province must seriously prepare for. That is why I introduced a private member's bill to ban tanker traffic in this important and sensitive area off B.C.'s north coast. It is why so many British Columbians are opposed to the Enbridge northern gateway pipeline proposal in the north and the Kinder Morgan pipeline proposal in the south.

If an oil spill or a spill of hazardous and noxious substances were to happen, Canadian taxpayers should not be on the hook for cleanup costs and damages following a spill.

The bill before us today would amend the Marine Liability Act to implement in Canada the International Convention on Liability and Compensation for Damage in Connection with the Carriage of Hazardous and Noxious Substances by Sea, 2010, to which Canada is a signatory.

The HNS convention establishes a liability scheme that limits shipowners' liability to approximately $230 million. Damages in excess of shipowners' liability are to be paid by an international HNS fund, up to a maximum of $500 million. My concern is that in the event of a spill of hazardous and noxious substances, the cleanup bill is likely to exceed these limits.

The opposition has attempted to work with the government to improve this part of the bill. The proposed reasonable amendments are to prevent Canadian taxpayers from being responsible for damages exceeding $500 million. Unfortunately, the Conservatives rejected our proposal to make the bill more comprehensive.

I would like to read into the record a quote from the Union of British Columbia Municipalities' submission on Canada's marine oil spill preparedness and response regime.

Our members have a strong interest in the changes to the federal oil spill preparedness and response regime given the proposed pipeline and liquid natural gas projects in our province. B.C. Local governments have indicated that environmental protection is a top priority, and have supported several resolutions with respect to a polluter pay principle, environmental issues and restoration, working with local governments, and the need to increase federal agency staffing and training.

B.C. municipalities support the polluter pay principle, and they do not believe that current environmental measures are adequate to clean up damages caused by these types of large-scale spills or disasters.

The bill before us today is by no means ideal. Its scope could have been broadened to include more comprehensive measures to safeguard Canada's coasts.

Despite the bill's shortcomings, I intend to vote in support of moving it forward. I suppose a modest improvement in marine security is better than no improvement at all.

If the opposition had its way, the bill would have been vastly different. It would have reversed the government's reckless cuts and closures in marine environmental safety.

I should also mention that I am splitting my time with the member for Surrey North.

I have already spoken about the Kitsilano Coast Guard station and the three MCTS centres in British Columbia that are slated for closure. The NDP wants to see a reversal of these Coast Guard closures. We want to see cuts to the MCTS centres cancelled. We also believe the government should cancel the closure of B.C.'s regional office for emergency oil spills responders.

A number of environmental NGOs have highlighted Canada's insufficient safety measures in regard to oil tanker traffic. Unfortunately, Bill C-3 focuses on administrative organization and is lacking in actual environmental improvements.

British Columbians are very concerned about maritime safety. The Conservative government has demonstrated time and time again that it does not take these concerns seriously. Conservatives ignore first nations. They ignore fishermen, and they ignore our coastal communities. I do not believe that the bill will serve its intended purpose of convincing British Columbians that the federal government takes coastal safety seriously.

While I will vote in support of this modest attempt to play catch-up with industry regulations, I would ask the federal government to start listening to British Columbians' concerns. Stop gutting marine safety resources and spending millions on trying to sell the people of British Columbia on risky oil pipeline projects that will see tanker traffic increase exponentially.

I held a series of town hall meetings in my riding of New Westminster—Coquitlam and in Port Moody. I heard these concerns. In fact, I had a follow-up focus group in Port Moody, which is right on the Pacific Ocean, in Burrard Inlet. They are very concerned about marine safety. They are very concerned about an increase in tanker traffic. They are very concerned about pipeline projects that are proposed for our area. In fact, a pipeline project is proposed to go through Coquitlam, and there is a staging area in the park of one of our sensitive areas. This is right on the other side of my riding, which borders the Fraser River.

These are very real concerns to the people living in my riding. They have concerns. They have expressed them to me. When I hold public sessions, when I consult, when I ask for feedback, I time and time again hear how important it is to protect our coastal communities, our way of life, and the concerns that are raised on these projects. I am trying to bring forward these I think reasonable and modest amendments to the government to make these changes. Unfortunately, we do not see the government listening and incorporating these changes.

I hope the government will listen to the people in my riding who have these concerns and make changes going forward. The way I think we could have a productive Parliament would be to have this exchange, and I am not seeing it. I hope the government will listen not only to the opposition but to the people in my riding. Those concerns are real, and they want to see those changes made.

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1:40 p.m.


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague from New Westminster—Coquitlam for putting so strongly the views of his constituents, which I must say are shared with, if anything, more enthusiasm by my constituents.

I have just been reading through the so-called Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain 15,000 pages of alleged evidence about how it can safely move, through tankers and pipelines, a substance called dilbit.

I do not know if the member has had time to dive into this yet, but let me just inform him and the rest of this House that their evidence on dilbit's behaviour in a marine environment comes from a couple of tanks the company set up in Alberta for 13 days. It put dilbit in with salt water. They say that they mimicked wind and wave action by stirring.

I do not know what the member thinks of a test on the marine environment based on tanks found in Gainford, Alberta. I wonder if the member would like to comment on what we know about the behaviour of dilbit in the marine environment and the threat to our coastlines.

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1:45 p.m.


Fin Donnelly NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, while I do not know if I have actually dived into dilbit, I certainly have done some research on how this substance can affect our marine coastline and our precious oceans.

Let me say that this is a big concern. It is a concern across the country. It is especially a concern on the west coast. In communities that live there and rely on getting their employment from the ocean on Canada's west coast, any kind of threat to that way of life is paramount to them. Whether it is for the fishing industry, tourism, or first nations, the way of life we have on the west coast is precious. We want to ensure that this way of life can continue, as it has for thousands for years on the west coast. We want to see that continue into the future.

Certainly in looking at the types of noxious substances that are going to be carried, either on rail or through pipelines, it is critical that we get that right.

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1:45 p.m.


Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe NDP Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech. It is clear that he truly cares about his constituents' concerns.

Last week I participated in a waterfront cleanup in a park with some people from my riding of Pierrefonds—Dollard. It was great to see the public involved in cleaning up the environment and the waterfront.

However, the bill is not just referring to garbage being thrown out by people in a specific community. Should the public be responsible for the costs associated with toxic spills? The NDP does not think so, as my colleague mentioned earlier. We want those responsible to be held accountable, and Canadians or the people living in the communities affected are not necessarily those responsible.

I would like to quote Mr. Sumaila, a professor at the University of British Columbia and member of the Fisheries Economics Research Unit, who testified in committee regarding this bill. He said:

Who pays for this? We have mechanisms to cover up to $1.35 billion, but as I gave you in the example from the ExxonMobil incident, about $6.5 billion was needed to do the cleanup.

He does not think that the measures go far enough and thinks that we should ask ourselves why the public should have to pay the difference. I would like to hear what my colleague thinks about that.

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1:45 p.m.


Fin Donnelly NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, in my community, there are many efforts to be involved with river conservation, ocean cleanup and protection, and beach cleanups.

People are very concerned about making a difference in the community. They want to see that way of life protected. That is why I spoke in my presentation today about the importance of shifting the burden of responsibility to fund cleanups from the Canadian taxpayer, from public funds, to where it should be, and that is with companies. They should have the funds necessary.

This bill does not go far enough. The NDP tried, in committee, in an attempt to make changes, to make reasonable amendments. Unfortunately, the government did not listen. There are many experts who are saying that we need to increase the liability, the funds available, to make these cleanups happen, and we are just not seeing that. Unfortunately, we are seeing that transferred to the taxpayers. We find that unacceptable.

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1:45 p.m.


Jasbir Sandhu NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to speak on behalf of the constituents of Surrey North. Before I get to the bill I do want to mention something else that has come up. As you are aware, Mr. Speaker, we have recently raised awareness about organ donations in our country. Organ Donation Week took place a few weeks ago, with Canadians signing up to donate their organs to have them available for those who need them at a particular time. One such drive took place in Toronto.

Members of the Amar Arts of Life Academy, with Amarjit Rai, who is a founding member, along with Balvinder and Amendeet Rai, and over 200 volunteers signed up over 1,200 members of our community to be organ donors. This is a huge accomplishment that took place in Brampton around the Vaisakhi Khalsa Day parade. I congratulate the Amar Arts Academy for taking this initiative and signing up organ donors.

It is a pleasure to speak to this bill. I spoke to the bill at second reading. At that time, I was hoping the government would listen to the opposition and critics to improve the bill. Unfortunately, as we have seen, the Conservative government has failed over and over to listen to the opposition and critics, academics and experts, to make the bill better so that our environment, our pristine waters off the coast of British Columbia that provide employment for hundreds of thousands of people throughout British Columbia and the rest of Canada, are protected and safe for travel.

Tourism on our waters is a huge industry in British Columbia. There could be an impact on tourism. Also, fisheries is a huge part of British Columbia. As the previous member, the member for New Westminster—Coquitlam, has pointed out, the government has not taken into consideration jobs related to our coast in British Columbia that could be affected by the bill. We wanted to broaden the scope of the bill to include a number of other initiatives that could be taken to protect our waters off the west coast of British Columbia and across the country.

I know I have a limited time, but I want to speak to a particular part of the bill that really concerns me. I will share that, not only with members in the House, but also with the audience of Canadians at home. This concerns part 4 of the Marine Liability Act, to implement in Canada the international convention of liability and compensation for damage in connection with the carriage of hazardous and noxious substances by sea. The HNS convention establishes a liability scheme designed to compensate victims in the event of a spill of hazardous and noxious substances. Basically, the shipowner's liability is limited to approximately $230 million and there is an additional fund available that caps the liability for these hazardous materials spills to about $500 million.

I brought up this story before, just to put it in perspective. A total liability of $500 million is not enough when a hazardous or noxious material is spilled, or there is a disaster. I talked about this before and I am going to bring an example from my family, from my young children. It will highlight that if a 7-year-old can understand the economics of disaster, why is it that the Conservatives cannot understand?

Here is the scenario. I have two children. I have a seven-year-old son and a seventeen-year-old daughter. My son is a typical seven-year-old. He likes to not take responsibility. He was playing around with his toys, they were all over the place, around our living room and the kitchen. He thought he would pull a fast one when mom asked him to clean up his mess. He cleaned up a bit of it, but he said, “No. My sister should do it. My sister should clean up my toys.” When he asked his sister she said, “No. It's your mess. You made this mess, you clean it up.” Both of them went to their mom and my wife understood that. She said, “Well, Jaron, it's your mess, you clean it up.” My seven-year-old understood that it was his mess and he should clean it up.

Therefore, if there is a hazardous material spill of a noxious or hazardous substance, here the government is only limiting the liability up to $500 million when we know that disasters cost a lot more to clean up. It is in the billions of dollars. The Conservatives want Canadian taxpayers to pick that up. If a seven-year-old can understand, I am sure the Conservatives understand that liability should not be put on taxpayers. That is of huge concern to me.

There are many other related issues that we could have addressed in this bill. We want to broaden this bill to address a number of issues that have been plaguing our coasts, east to west and up in the north. What are some of the things that the Conservatives could have or should have done or not made cuts to? They made cuts to the Kitsilano Coast Guard station. The summer season is coming up. There will be a lot of activities in our harbours. I know that Vancouver is a very busy place during summertime. We get quite a bit of traffic in Burrard Inlet. What did the Conservative government do? It cut the very measures that allow for safety in our harbours.

Those are the kinds of things that the government needs to address in order to ensure that we have safe and secure passageways in our waters. Time after time, we have seen the government step away from its responsibility to ensure that we have those waters off our coasts protected.

Another thing that the government has done is cancel cuts to the marine communications and traffic services centres, including the marine traffic control communications terminals in Vancouver and St. John's. We have heard stories where sailors in distress would pick up the phone and the call goes into some third country. We do not know whether the people who take the calls will be able to communicate in English or French. These are the kinds of cuts the government is making that are putting the lives of sailors, shippers, and leisure cruisers in danger. These are the kinds of steps the government can take in order to improve safety and security in our waters.

The government cuts include the closure of the B.C. regional office for emergency oil spill responders. We talked about the increase in tanker traffic in the last 10 years in British Columbia alone. That will have an impact on tanker safety. Therefore, we need to ensure that this government, at the federal level, puts measures in place to ensure the safety of our waters. Time and time again, the government is failing.

The list goes on. I can go on and on about cuts to environment, fisheries, and a number of other safety measures that we could have worked on and included in this bill. Time after time, we have seen the government shirk its responsibility to ensure our waters are protected, that we can protect jobs, that we can protect tourism, and protect fisheries.