House of Commons Hansard #162 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was regard.


Pipeline Safety ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.


Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I posted on social media some time ago that Canadians had been as nice to the nearly departed as they were to the dearly departed. The same is holding true in the House. I thank my colleagues for their comments. It is unfortunate that I was unable to use those comments in my last election brochure, but it is better late than never.

I welcome the question about absolute liability, because my colleague is absolutely right. It seems with the government that, often, these numbers are just pulled out of thin air. The member will recall that we debated nuclear liability in the House, not just twice, but three times, I think. Each time, the amount of money that the government had included under the liability regime changed. There was never any reason given for that change in numbers nor, frankly, for the first number that it chose.

Now we are dealing with a bill that targets that number at $1 billion, as was the case with nuclear liability and offshore liability. I suppose we should at least celebrate the fact that there is some consistency here. However, we do need to have a close look at that number in committee.

If we believe in the polluter pays principle and that companies ought to be responsible for the environmental damage that they cause, the number ought to be whatever the cost of environmental damages. If it is $1.2 billion, companies should be paying $1.2 billion. The figure of $1 billion is entirely arbitrary.

Perhaps the question about how the government got that number would have been better put to the minister. It will not surprise my colleague that I cannot speak for the Conservatives. Getting into their minds has always been scary place for me, and I would not venture to do that here today. However, it is a point that we will definitely have to pursue once the bill gets clause-by-clause scrutiny in committee.

Pipeline Safety ActGovernment Orders

January 26th, 2015 / 1:10 p.m.


Dan Harris NDP Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her response for the Conservative member. It is nice to see the Conservatives seem to finally be remembering that there is a manufacturing sector in Canada. For many years it was one of the leaders of our economy and certainly could be again with the right kinds of decisions made. However, unfortunately the government chose to pick one resource, one part of the country and one part of our economy to the exclusion of everything else, putting all of our economic eggs in one basket, in a boom-or-bust basket to boot.

I also want to thank the member for bringing up U.S. Steel Canada Inc. in her riding. Changes to the Investment Canada Act would certainly improve what happened there.

The member talked about confidence and certainty. Businesses, like Canadians, need to have confidence and certainty in order to make investments and the right decisions that will bring well-paying jobs to Canada.

It is interesting that we are dealing with liabilities now, when the actual regulation of pipelines and the safety and security of them is a complete and total mess. The government eviscerated the navigable waters act, which prevented many improvements from happening when future pipelines would cross rivers, streams and bodies of water, in some cases not even requiring stop valves on either side of the river.

Would this bill perhaps not be putting the cart before the horse, where we need to fix the regulations so we can have certainty before we can figure out what kind of problems we will have?

Maybe the member can comment on any of the great number of things I just brought up.

Pipeline Safety ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.


Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I really do have a plethora of things on which I could comment. I will start with a point that I did not get to highlight in my speech as much as I had wanted to.

One of the things that is obviously true in Canada is that much of our pipeline infrastructure is aging. It is one of the reasons why Canadians are so concerned about the possibility of spills. The Americans are way ahead of us on that, or at least in recognizing there may be a problem.

Members in the House may be aware that there has been a second spill in Montana. This spill was near the city of Glendive, Montana. Over 40,000 gallons spilled and contaminated downstream water supplies. Relatively speaking, I guess that was the minor spill of the two spills that happened in Montana. However, when the local senator, who is a Montana Democrat, was asked about that, he told the media that more frequent inspections by regulators were needed and older pipelines should face stricter safety standards.

In Canada, we are going the exact opposite way. As I said, in 2011 it was pointed out to the government that we needed greater oversight and stricter regulations. The Conservatives, as my colleague from Scarborough Southwest said, are gutting regulations. They have gutted the navigable waters act. It is no wonder that Canadians are concerned about pipeline safety in our country.

I do not often say this, but in this instance we ought to be taking a page out of the book that is south of the border, where the Americans are actually taking environmental damages and the potential for environmental damages more seriously than we are in Canada. Canadians deserve that kind of certainty when it comes to potential impacts on the environment.

Pipeline Safety ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.


Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak today in the House to Bill C-46, the so-called pipeline safety act.

I listened closely to the speeches by the last two speakers in the House, and I hope that we can work together here in the House, but also at the Standing Committee on Natural Resources, on improving this bill and making it stronger and more effective. This is a major issue for the environment, for the industry and for Canada.

I hope this legislation will not suffer the same fate as the legislation that we finally passed through the House last year, which addressed the liability regime in Canada's offshore oil and gas sector. That legislation, Bill C-22, as I mentioned earlier in a question for the minister, was introduced numerous times by the Conservatives only to be left to languish on the order paper for several years. The government seemed to be in no hurry at all to move that forward, for the longest time, so the fact that it seems to be a bit more anxious now is encouraging. When that bill finally moved through the House, the government refused to accept a number of solid amendments that would have improved the bill, made it stronger, and given greater protection for the offshore environment.

I hope it will be a different story for Bill C-46. Perhaps one might say, when I express optimism, that I am feeling hope despite all past evidence to the contrary. However, I remain an eternal optimist.

The Liberal Party recognizes that pipelines are a critical part of our energy sector's infrastructure. We have all seen the consequences of the government's failure to provide the means to get our resources to market. We have all seen what it has meant domestically in Canada for communities and in the international community in terms of how the Conservative government is viewed as a regulator of the environment. It is certainly not seen as a defender of the environment, and it has no credibility when it comes to environmental regulations, which makes it harder to get acceptance, for example, for the Keystone XL pipeline in the U.S. or to sell our resources in the international market and around the world.

Bill C-46 has already drawn a number of comments from members of Parliament and from interested stakeholders and other groups. Some have raised concerns over the potential impact of leaving many of the proposed changes in Bill C-46 to the discretion of cabinet and the National Energy Board, as I was saying earlier. Again I am an eternal optimist, but hopefully the government side will address this issue during debate on the legislation or perhaps in committee.

I am also looking forward to hearing at some point from the leader of the Green Party on this legislation, who according to media reports, sees nothing in the bill that she would oppose. However, she also indicated that she looks forward to a discussion about why her party will always oppose any pipeline shipping diluted bitumen. I certainly look forward to hearing that discussion.

One thing on which there is consensus is the importance of the energy sector to our economy. It is undebatable. The energy sector makes a large direct contribution to jobs and economic growth in this country. That is perhaps one of the reasons we are so aware across Canada of the impact on the oil and gas sector of the recent drop in the price of oil.

Let us look at what generally has been the case in that sector. For instance, we have seen average annual government revenues of $26.6 billion from the oil and gas sector. That pays for a lot of doctors, a lot of schools, and a lot of teachers. It is a significant number, to say the least. Per year, it is $155 billion in the country's GDP and approximately 300,000 jobs. There are indirect impacts in engineering and construction jobs, about $2.5 billion in engineering and research and development in 2010, and $32 billion in annual energy efficiency savings across the economy in 2010. Important research development is happening in the energy sector. This is, without question, an important sector. In my view, this has to be part of the equation when we consider what ought to be the absolute liability limit for pipelines.

Overall, there seems to be a consensus that, while the bill is long overdue, it is a move in the right direction or at least a good first step. I do not think anyone would argue with the fact that we need to strengthen the safety and security of pipelines to ensure that companies operating them take every measure to prevent any spill from happening and of course be held accountable if a spill does occur.

I know the Minister of Natural Resources is fond of pointing out that between 2008 and 2013, 99.9995% of oil transported in federally regulated pipelines moved safely. It is not perfect, but it is certainly a very good record, and our pipeline companies do deserve recognition for this important achievement.

The fact of the matter is that we use petroleum products in our country every day. We could go outside to the nearest street and watch the number of cars that go by. They are not all electric, by any means. Most of them obviously are not. We use it to heat our homes. We use petroleum products in so many ways. We rely on pipelines. They are an important part of our economy and are likely to be for quite a while to come. They play an important role in our society, and it is vitally important that they be run safely. When they are, it is appreciated, and we have to find ways to ensure it is done as well as possible at all times.

However, we also need to look to the future and take every step possible to continue to prevent spills, because they are the last thing we want. We heard about one in Montana a few minutes ago. That is very alarming. We do not want to see the kind of damage that oil can do when it is released to the environment.

We need to put in place proper measures to efficiently and effectively clean up spills and assign appropriate liability to make sure that companies have a really strong incentive to look after those pipelines, to renew them, and to maintain them appropriately. Canada must have the safest pipelines in the world, and we need to ensure that this pipeline safety act is well designed to achieve that goal.

In the bill, the National Energy Board would be given increased regulatory control over the 73,000 km of pipeline that transport more than $100 billion worth of petroleum products across Canada annually. Bill C-46 would build on previous moves to give the NEB the authority to increase the number of pipeline inspections and double the number of yearly safety audits. It does not guarantee the NEB would actually do either of those things, but at least the bill gives it the authority. In that sense, it is a step in the right direction. The worry is the amount of discretion that would be given to cabinet and to the NEB, as I mentioned earlier.

The NEB would also be asked to provide guidance on the best available technologies for pipeline construction and operations. We have seen the measures that set out how the government would work with aboriginal communities and industry to develop a strategy to better integrate aboriginal peoples and pipeline safety operations. That is something those communities are very concerned about, for obvious reasons. This would include planning, monitoring, incident response, and related employment and business opportunities. I hope this is an indication that we will see some progress in this area.

However, let us look at some of the key provisions in Bill C-46. Previous speakers have noted that there would be at least the $1 billion absolute or no-fault liability limit. In other words, in a case where there is negligence or fault shown, the liability would be in fact unlimited. However, no-fault or absolute liability applies when that negligence or fault is not shown. It means that no matter what they have done, if the product is a deleterious product that could be toxic, we would hold them accountable when there is a release of it, whether or not it can be proven they were negligent. That is an important measure because it is a valuable product and it produces important revenues for the industry, so we have to hold them to account appropriately. We are talking here about an unintended or uncontrolled release of oil, gas, or other petroleum product from a pipeline.

Absolute liability applies to companies operating major oil pipelines; that is to say, those with capacity to transport at least 250,000 barrels per day of oil. Lesser amounts—so smaller pipelines—will be prescribed by regulation for companies that operate smaller pipelines.

It should be noted that Bill C-46 confirms that the liability of the companies operating pipelines would remain unlimited if the spill is the result of negligence. Companies would be required to maintain the financial resources to pay the amount of liability that applies to them and must make sure that the resources are readily accessible to ensure rapid response to any spill situation. They would be required, as stated in the bill, to have the materials and equipment necessary nearby in order to deal with a spill. I hope the NEB would enforce that.

Under the bill, the NEB would have the authority to take control of an incident response if a company were unable or unwilling to do so and to order reimbursement of any level of government, whether it be an aboriginal governing body or a federal-provincial-municipal government or an individual, for cleanup costs. That is a positive measure. Again, would be left to the discretion of the NEB, and that discretion is a concern.

If the NEB takes control of an incident response, the government may also establish a claims tribunal. Again, it is “may establish”. We do not know that the government will do this; we hope it would. It may also establish a claims tribunal to streamline claims for compensation for those affected by the spill. This could be a good measure, depending on how the government used its discretion in implementing this.

While the government would provide the resources to take control of an incident and set up a claims tribunal, it would have the authority to recover the costs from the individual or the company. That is a good thing.

The bill would also ensure that companies are liable for their pipelines until they are removed from the ground, and the National Energy Board would be authorized to make sure companies are responsible for the maintenance of their abandoned pipelines. Clearly these and other measures in Bill C-46 signify a much-needed overhaul of the liability regime for federally regulated pipelines.

The no-fault liability, the additional authorities given to the NEB, and measures around abandoned pipelines are welcome, and the Liberal Party will support sending the legislation for further study at committee. I expect that the process will lead to amendments at committee that strengthen this legislation. I hope we will be surprised to find that the government will actually adopt such amendments, because our past experience has been that this is not the case.

For instance, groups like Ecojustice have already noted that the effectiveness of the changes proposed in Bill C-46 would be left largely to the discretion of the National Energy Board and the government. I think this is an issue we will hear more about when the bill goes to committee for further study.

To wrap up, as I said earlier, I was a bit surprised to be debating Bill C-46 on the first day of the House coming back after the holiday recess and given the fact that this legislation was only introduced on December 8, 2014. Perhaps the haste with which the government is proceeding has more to do with trying to restore public confidence in pipelines after it has completely bungled the file so often.

As my colleague from Papineau has said, when it comes to pipelines, the Prime Minister and the government are all hat and no cattle. This is a government that has failed to effectively protect the interests of the oil and gas sector or the environment. Of course, the oil and gas sector needs pipelines to get its product to offshore markets and other markets domestically in North America in the safest manner possible. I suspect members would all agree that, in terms of transportation of petroleum products, a pipeline is safer than a truck or a train.

Look at the government's record. It has botched the handling of the Keystone XL project. It bungled the northern gateway. It has orphaned energy east. Let us not forget that this is a government that has swallowed itself whole with regard to its attitude toward the energy sector. It was not very long ago that the government and the Prime Minister were constantly boasting about how Canada was a petro-state. The Prime Minister boasted that we are an emerging energy superpower to anyone who would listen. As a result of his fixation with the oil and gas industry, his party became dismissive of the importance of other sectors.

Of course, that was when the price of oil was in the $100 a barrel range, and perhaps it will be there again in six months or a year. Who knows when? However, now that the price of oil has fallen dramatically, the Prime Minister and his minions have adopted a new mantra to try to cover their incompetence and their failed economic strategy to put all their eggs in one basket.

Today they are telling Canadians that the energy sector is just a small percentage of Canada's GDP and that the economy as a whole is strong. They should tell that to the workers who are experiencing downsizing these days.

Some voters might believe the empty rhetoric, if there were not obvious signs of panic and chaos within cabinet ranks. We have a finance minister who one day says that his economic forecast remains on target and the very next day says that he is forced to delay the budget for several more months because of severe economic uncertainty. How do those two things equate? How do they go together? Clearly, the finance minister is hiding his budget, for obvious reasons.

I hope the natural resources minister is not hiding the real reason he is moving so quickly on Bill C-46. I hope the government is serious about pipeline safety, when it comes to Bill C-46, and is not just trying to cover up its ineptness and incompetence. I guess we will find out when we see its response to our efforts to enhance and strengthen this legislation to make sure that Canada has the safest pipeline infrastructure in the world. I hope that means the government will allow us to hear what experts have to say about what the limit ought to be and how this bill ought to be amended to be improved. After all, Canadians deserve nothing less.

Pipeline Safety ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.


James Lunney Conservative Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with much interest to our colleague across the way. I have a lot of respect for my hon. colleague and for most of his remarks. If I overlook the partisan nature of the last five minutes, he made some very good points.

The member mentioned that we are bringing in new measures on pipelines and an absolute liability of $1 billion. He mentioned that there is Liberal support for measures around abandoned pipelines and so on. There are a lot of good measures coming in to build on an already tremendously successful pipeline record in Canada.

I think the member noted in his speech that there are some 73,000 kilometres of pipeline in Canada. Converted to miles, it is about 45,360 miles, with a few decimal points after that. That is almost two times around the world.

I will just make this point, and then I will pose my question. We had a pipeline going through Burnaby for more than 60 years, and most people in Burnaby did not even know it was there until someone, a few years ago, inadvertently put a backhoe through the pipeline and caused a minor spill. There has been no environmental disaster.

We have had a lot of furor, particularly in the community in Burnaby and other places, about pipeline security.

We have one of the largest and most secure pipeline systems in the entire world, and I appreciate the member acknowledging that. I wonder if the member would acknowledge that there has been a lot of media hype related to pipeline security, which has raised the angst of the public, and that it is a good idea to emphasize the safety record we have in this country, one that is enviable in the world. We are looking to work with our colleagues to make sure it is even better with the legislation before us today.

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1:30 p.m.


Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I must say, first of all, that I was impressed watching my colleague do the conversion in his head from kilometres to miles. He said he could not come up with the decimals, but I thought the rest was pretty precise. That was very impressive.

The member talked about how in a community in his riding there is a pipeline that has been there for 60 years, and people do not know it is there. One of the concerns we ought to have as we look at this bill and what the limits should be and how we regulate the pipeline sector is the concern that where there are pipelines that have been in place for 60 years they are being properly maintained and checked.

I am sure my colleague knows about the mechanisms used to run through pipelines. They are called pigs that go through pipelines. They are not actual pigs. That is the name of the machine that goes through the pipeline to examine the condition of the pipeline. We need to make sure that this is being done as it should be and that no pipeline is left in the ground longer than it ought to be, becoming a danger.

While it is true, as the member noted, and as I did earlier, that the safety record of pipelines in our country is enviable, it is not perfect, and we want to perfect it. The last thing we want in any community is a spill of oil or any kind of petroleum product, especially one that ends up in some of our fresh water or soil. That is a grave concern.

It is very important that we look at this in detail. I hope to be able to have a thorough study of this bill at committee.

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1:30 p.m.


John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his speech, and I share his skepticism with respect to whether we will have a thorough study in committee. However, hope springs eternal, and maybe in 2015 a committee will actually study it and make recommendations, and the government will actually make changes to the bill.

I would like to get the member's commentary on the $1-billion threshold for liability. As the member rightly points out, it is a no-fault threshold, and thereafter it is unlimited liability. In the matter of oil spills, particularly significant ones, $1 billion is actually just a rounding error. It is nothing in terms of the catastrophic effect an oil spill can have. To use my own community of Toronto as an example, if there were an oil spill and it leaked into Lake Ontario close to a water pipe intake, the consequences would be catastrophic

I wonder whether the committee might actually give some thought to whether $1 billion is a threshold. In fact, liability beyond $1 billion is limited by bankruptcy legislation. No company is immune from bankruptcy, and a company can hit its bankruptcy threshold pretty quickly in some of these things.

The third thing I would like the member to comment on is a terrorist incident. If there were a series of well-planned incidents by people who wished to do us harm, how would the liability play through, both for the $1-billion threshold and the post-$1-billion threshold?

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1:35 p.m.


Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, on this question, I think it is important that the committee actually look at the options in terms of what the threshold should be for absolute liability.

It is kind of an odd coincidence that when the government has done its calculation, when it has weighed all the factors it thinks ought to be weighed, it so happens to have picked this round number of $1 billion. Why is that the number, and why do the Conservatives feel that it is the correct number?

That is why it is important to have experts talk to us about what might be the impact on the environment and on the industry if there was a different threshold. What is the argument for this particular threshold, and what are the arguments for other possible thresholds? I think the NDP is saying, basically, that it should be unlimited, but let us hear the argument on that and the impact it would have.

My hon. colleague talked about bankruptcy. I think another consideration here is insurance. It is not just a question of whether the company itself goes bankrupt in a case like this. It is also a question of whether the insurance company also goes bankrupt. One would expect the insurance to cover the consequences of a spill and to cover the liability provided for in the legislation, whether it is unlimited liability where fault is found or absolute liability where no fault is found.

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1:35 p.m.


John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, with friends like me, he does not need any enemies. This is actually an opportunity to have a real debate about this liability, as opposed to the usual nonsense that passes for debate around here.

I wonder whether the concept of pooled insurance would be a concept the committee might consider. It may well be similar to Lloyd's of London. The insurance company would take the first hit on the liability, and thereafter some form of Lloyd's-type insurance, either from the industry itself or from Lloyd's, would actually pick up the balance.

I appreciate the significance of the cost of the premiums, but on the other hand, as they say in the economics trade, these are externalities. These externalities are things that heretofore we have not actually factored into the cost of transporting carbon. We feel it is perfectly fine to pollute the environment, the water, the air, and that sort of thing and not price it, as opposed to other forms of energy generation. These are the kinds of things I would like to see a committee get into.

Does the member accept the minister's statement that it is 99.99% safe? There seem to be a heck of a lot of incidents in the newspaper about spills, small and large.

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1:35 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

The member is going to use up all the time, and the member for Halifax West is not going to have an opportunity to respond.

The member for Halifax West.

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1:40 p.m.


Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate your intervention.

I do not think I can answer all the points and questions my hon. colleague raised. It is remarkable. In my time in this job, I have found it interesting how often some of the most fascinating debates around here happen within our own Liberal caucus. It is great to have discussions, because we need to have that kind of debate around here.

I think this question of pooled insurance is one we ought to consider. We have to have enough companies in the sector to make it worthwhile. For instance, in the nuclear sector in the U.S., apparently there are enough to do it, while it would not work here in the nuclear sector. Perhaps it might work well in the pipeline sector. It is a good question to raise in committee. I hope we will have the chance, with a good study of the bill, to do so.

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1:40 p.m.


Guy Lauzon Conservative Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member from Saskatoon—Humboldt today.

Let me begin by saying I am very pleased to have the opportunity to speak to the pipeline safety act and its critical importance to all Canadians.

Most Canadians hardly think twice about the impact pipelines have on their day-to-day lives. These energy highways are essential for delivering energy that Canadians need to heat our homes, power industries, and fuel our vehicles. When Canadians turn up the thermostat, we hardly bat an eye. We tend not to consider where energy comes from. Like mine, most homes in Canada are heated with natural gas, all of which is delivered by pipelines, but Canadians do not need to give it a second thought, because it all happens so safely and seamlessly every single day.

Behind the scenes is a vast network of federally regulated pipelines. There are some 73,000 kilometres throughout Canada. These pipelines transport $100 billion worth of oil and natural gas each year. When we stop to think about it, energy fuels our daily lives and pipelines carry that energy. Pipelines are used to move oil from producers to refineries and on to customers right across the country. Whether we travel by car, bus, train, boat, or airplane, our journey is fuelled by energy that was most likely transported by pipelines at some point.

The oil and gas sector is tremendously important to Canada. It generates almost 8% of Canada's gross domestic product. As members know, energy is our leading export. Central to all of this economic activity are Canada's pipelines. In fact, 94% of all Canadian transportation is fuelled by energy from petroleum products moved by pipelines.

One thing is certain: pipelines are the cornerstone of Canada's oil and gas sector and are also an important national industry. In 2012, pipelines added nearly $9 billion to Canada's gross domestic product and over 6,800 jobs. They also account for between $40 billion and $55 billion in private sector investment each year. That is a lot of dollars being invested in the Canadian economy.

It seems that Canadians cannot pick up a newspaper or turn on the television these days without hearing about pipelines. Some Canadians have concerns about pipelines after a few recent incidents, but when it comes to safety, Canada's record is outstanding. In fact, our pipelines are among the safest in the world. Between 2008 and 2013, 99.999% of oil delivered through federally regulated pipelines arrived safely. As a result, our pipeline safety record easily tops that of Europe and the United States. What is more, during the last three years, 100% of the liquids spilled by these pipelines were completely recovered. Therefore, pipelines have proven to be one of the safest means of delivering the energy we all use.

Every day, Canadian pipeline companies move about three million barrels of oil. Moving the same amount of oil would require 15,000 tanker trucks or 4,200 railcars. Transporting oil through pipelines also consumes less energy and causes fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

However, we know we can always do better, and when it comes to the safety of Canadians and the safety of our environment, there is no second best. That is why new pipeline safety legislation is so important. With this legislation, the Government of Canada is building on its already impressive safety record through a suite of measures in the areas of prevention, preparedness and response, and liability and compensation. We are taking action to strengthen pipeline safety and modernize the National Energy Board Act.

This legislation proposes preventative measures that will clarify the rules and responsibilities of pipeline owners to prevent pipeline incidents, increase safety for Canadians, and better protect the environment. It will ensure that pipeline operators have the financial resources to respond in the unlikely event that an incident occurs. For example, major oil pipeline operators will be required to show proof of $1 billion in financial resources. In addition, they will be required to carry a certain portion of these resources as cash on hand in order to ensure an immediate response.

New regulations would also give the National Energy Board the power to directly administer tough new penalties that would address contraventions quickly so that larger issues would not arise in the future. We would enshrine the polluter pays principle in law so that polluters, not Canadian taxpayers, would be held financially responsible for the costs and damages they caused.

The bill also introduces absolute or no-fault liability. This means that pipeline operators would be held liable even when fault or negligence has not been proven. For companies operating major oil pipelines, the amount of absolute liability would be set at $1 billion. The pipeline safety act would also give the NEB authority to take control of incident response and cleanup if a company is unable or unwilling to do so. At the same time, it would expand the authority of the National Energy Board to recover costs from industry if the NEB ever steps in and takes charge.

Beyond the legislation itself, our government is taking a wider approach to pipeline safety and resource development. We are deeply committed to working directly with aboriginal peoples in all aspects of pipeline safety operations, including planning, monitoring, incident response, and related employment and business opportunities. We believe that aboriginal peoples must be partners in everything we do, from ensuring the safety of our pipeline system to protecting our marine environment from incidents to sharing in the benefits of developing our resources. That is why our Conservative government is working with aboriginal peoples to ensure the responsible development of our resources and the long-term prosperity of our communities for the benefit of all Canadians.

Taken together, these measures would ensure that Canada's pipeline safety system is world class and among the safest in the world. Building safe pipelines is something Canadians have done well for decades now; with the proposed legislation, we are making Canada's robust pipeline safety system even safer.

When it comes to the handling of oil and gas, our government should and will strive for the highest safety standards possible. Canadians expect and deserve nothing less. Canada's pipelines carry the products that fuel our economy, support the livelihoods of thousands of Canadians, and support our day-to-day high quality of life. I am a big promoter of continuing the great record we have.

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1:45 p.m.


Bruce Hyer Green Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, my dad was an investment banker and taught me from the time I was two that the first rule of business is “Buy low, sell high.” Here in Canada, we buy the world's most expensive oil in the east. We have an 80% dependency on oil from places like Arabia, Nigeria, and Venezuela, oil that has a large carbon footprint and is very expensive, and we sell at a huge discount in the west.

Yes, we want safer pipelines. This act is not going to do it without some major changes, but the real question for the member is this: does he understand that we have to reduce our use and export of oil, that we need to transport it more safely, and that this bill is not going to do what we really need to do, which is to stop putting all of our eggs in the oil basket?

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1:50 p.m.


Guy Lauzon Conservative Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, ON

Mr. Speaker, diversity is, of course, a key to the success of our Canadian economy. Yes, I agree with the member opposite that we have to look at all alternatives for energy, but when we have a 99.999% success rate using pipelines to transport oil, it is incumbent on us to continue to look at this as a very viable option. With this new act, we would even improve on that record.

As long as we are going to use oil as an energy source, we need to do the best job we can in transporting it. Pipelines have one of the finest records so far, and this act will do nothing but improve that record.

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1:50 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt that the issue of pipeline safety is of great concern for Canadians from coast to coast to coast. We understand and appreciate the need to capitalize on the potential of Canada's contribution of a very important energy source, but in looking at the legislation, one cannot help but be somewhat disappointed, in the sense that the government seems to be offloading quite a bit through regulations and the National Energy Board. The government could have been more precise in terms of how it is going to deliver that world-class pipeline safety.

My question for the member is this: does he not believe that the government has fallen short, in terms of having stronger legislation that would have provided assurance to Canadians that we are in fact serious about going forward?

Yes, we have a great record on pipeline safety, but there is more that we could have done through legislation, as opposed to being so dependent upon regulation. I would ask him to comment on that.

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1:50 p.m.


Guy Lauzon Conservative Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member agreed that our record is great, and it is nice to hear that from an opposition member. I must say, though, that the previous government's record was not necessarily great. We lived through a period of time of about 13 years when that particular government's record was not great.

Now our government is doing what it is supposed to do. We are supposed to keep Canadians safe and we are supposed to keep our economy growing and going forward, and this is what the act is all about. It would push the economy of this wonderful country forward and ensure that we deliver energy in a safe, secure manner. The bill would do nothing but that.

Pipeline Safety ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Saskatoon—Humboldt.

I advise the member that he will have approximately six to six and a half minutes before we end the debate for question period.

Pipeline Safety ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.


Bradley Trost Conservative Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, like many members who arrive late on Monday mornings as a result of flights, I unfortunately have not been able to listen to all of the remarks of my hon. colleagues, so I hope I do not engage in too much duplication in my remarks.

By way of quick summary, as someone who has been on the natural resources committee, I would point out that I quite enjoy doing legislation like this. The pipeline safety act and the other safety acts we have done clearly demonstrate how we as a government and as responsible legislators try to bring together natural resources and the environment to provide for safety and to deliver results for all Canadians. This is something that we sometimes take for granted here in this country, because we have a modern society, a technologically advanced society, a clean society and clean industry that in many parts of the country is based on natural resources.

Other parts of the world do not necessarily have this. They produce natural resources and products for world markets, but they do not always have the safety, the technology, or the culture and mentality to deliver and produce natural resources in a safe way. That is why I enjoy talking about issues such as the pipeline safety act. Canada does have extraordinary expertise with respect to pipelines and an extraordinary safety record. The environment and oil production can go hand in hand.

I will make some comments on what I think a few other people will already have said in this debate, but which need repeating.

Building and operating safe pipelines is something that Canadians have done well for decades. Federally regulated pipelines in Canada have transported 99.999% of oil safely. Our environmental performance has been strong. It is world class. As technology and regulations are improved, safety standards are raised.

The government has structured its plan based upon four key objectives. First of all, we make regulatory review processes for major projects and pipelines fit in a more timely and predictable way. Another goal of all of our legislation involving natural resources and issues like pipelines is to reduce duplication. We also try to strengthen protections for the environment in everything that we do. Our government is also strongly committed to engaging first nations in every aspect of resource development.

Across Canada the opportunities for prosperity in aboriginal communities from infrastructure and resource development have never been greater. It is one of the reasons the government is determined to forging a strong and lasting relationship with aboriginal peoples in Canada in the development of oil and gas resources. There are not many economic opportunities for many aboriginal communities located in rural areas, except for natural resources.

Over the past year, as part of its responsible resource development plan, the government has initiated a series of new measures to ensure the safe development of natural resources. We introduced new enforcement mechanisms and monetary penalties for non-compliance, along with new legislation, regulations, standards, and environmental requirements. Oil and gas pipeline inspections have increased by 50% a year and comprehensive audits of pipelines have doubled.

The government has also brought in tough new measures for oil tankers to ensure the safe transportation of our energy resources through our waterways. With respect to the Safeguarding Canada's Seas and Skies Act, an expert panel reviewed Canada's current tanker safety. As Canadians can see, we are committed to safety from the second oil is pumped from the ground right up until the time it is delivered and leaves not only our lands but our waters as well. Building on these measures the government is taking steps to improve the pipeline safety record and ensure that it remains truly world class.

The new legislation focuses on prevention, preparedness, response liability, and compensation. It takes concrete action to strengthen pipeline safety and would modernize the National Energy Board Act.

I am just going to summarize my remarks by saying that in everything we do, we should have in mind a motto that goes something like this:

Good, better, best,
Let's never rest.
Our good is better;
Our better is best.

That rule should apply to everything in this place, and especially to environmentally sensitive legislation. Legislation like this would help to protect Canada's environment while our natural resources are developed.

Michel GuimondStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.


André Bellavance Independent Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, it was with great sadness that we learned of the passing of our colleague, Michel Guimond, the hon. member for Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord from 1993 to 2011, with whom I had the honour and pleasure of sitting for seven years.

Michel had a distinguished career as a lawyer, a municipal councillor, a lecturer, a sovereignist member of Parliament, the chief whip of the Bloc Québécois, a municipal chief of staff, and the list goes on. Through his career he made a difference in the lives of many.

He was loved and respected by friends and foes alike. He will be remembered for his determination, passion, outspokenness, and fiery and lively spirit. His straight talk is probably still echoing in this House. Nonetheless, he was above all a very giving person. I would be remiss if I did not mention his love of singing. In the evening, he would often regale us with his famous version of Piano Man.

I offer my deepest condolences to his partner, former MP Johanne Deschamps, his two children, his grandson, his parents, his entire family and all his friends.

Michel, you are gone too soon, but everyone you befriended, served and helped will never forget you. Thank you, my friend.

Assistance to BusinessesStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario


Pierre Lemieux ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, last week, I was proud to announce more than $120,000 in federal funding for two businesses in Rockland, Ontario: RONA J. Lalonde & Fils and A. Potvin Construction.

Our federal government fully supports these types of businesses and is committed to doing so, not just by providing grants, but also through many initiatives that yield positive results.

For example, under our leadership, we have reduced corporate income taxes from 22% to 15%.

These significant tax reductions strengthen our businesses; they keep more of their hard earned money to reinvest in their employees and create new jobs. This is a winning recipe for economic growth and job creation.

I am delighted that our government provides ongoing support for our businesses, which promotes the growth of the Canadian economy and all our local economies.

Preservation of our Natural EnvironmentStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Djaouida Sellah NDP Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, my riding of Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert is in a forest corridor with 4,000 wetlands and 18 exceptional forest ecosystems. It is also home to no fewer than 84 endangered species.

Today, I would like to recognize Nature-Action Québec, the Fondation du Mont-Saint-Bruno, the City of Saint-Bruno and all of the people who work to preserve our natural environment.

Because of their commitment, our region is rich in biodiversity. Too often, the personal interests of certain members of the other chamber threaten these areas that we hold dear.

That is why I am inviting my constituents to join the many conservation projects of Nature-Action Québec, the Fondation du Mont-Saint-Bruno and the City of Saint-Bruno, so that we can continue to enjoy a healthy environment.

Your Life Challenge: 28 Days Without AlcoholStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Jacques Gourde Conservative Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Speaker, how can we properly and easily understand the role that alcohol plays in our lives? I invite the people of Canada, the people of Quebec and the people of Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière to learn the answer to that question by joining me in the Longest 28 Days of Your Life Challenge.

The objective of the challenge is to raise $100,000 and to make 50,000 teens aged 12-14 more aware of the many risks of using alcohol and drugs.

We all know that over the long term, irresponsible alcohol use has devastating effects on young people, their friends, and their family.

I invite everyone who wants to join in, for one dollar a day for 28 days, to track their progress with the help of a downloadable mobile app and to work together to achieve the objective of this second Longest 28 Days of Your Life Challenge.

Alzheimer's Awareness MonthStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Frank Valeriote Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, January is Alzheimer's Awareness Month, a time to renew our efforts to be more attentive to and to better combat Alzheimer's disease, its stigma, and the heavy burden it places on the family and caregivers of the hundreds of thousands of Canadian sufferers.

In Canada, someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease every 5 minutes, and with baby boomers approaching their senior years, this rate will increase exponentially over the next few decades. Beyond the $33 billion direct cost to our economy, this disease takes a terrible physical, psychological, and financial toll on the many families who care for a loved one with a form of dementia.

Family caregivers spend hundreds of unpaid hours a year looking after loved ones with cognitive impairment. It shook the foundation of my family when my father, Mico Valeriote, developed Alzheimer's. The disease took a terrible toll, not only on his quality of life, but it also dramatically altered how my mother, siblings, and I related to him and to each other.

In his memory and the memory of so many Canadians with Alzheimer's we all know, let us be the difference this year.

John A. MacdonaldStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Chungsen Leung Conservative Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my honour today to rise in honour of Canada's first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, as we celebrate the 200th anniversary of his birth this year.

Our first prime minister turned his vision of trade and prosperity into a reality. Sir John A. Macdonald approached challenges without intimidation and asked for a big vision for Canada.

Canada's first prime minister was the first national leader to attempt to grant women and aboriginals the right to vote. Sir John A. Macdonald is remembered for his role in expansion of Canada's boundaries from sea to sea, the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway and the creation of the North-West Mounted Police.

The 200th anniversary of Sir John A. Macdonald's birth speaks to what Canadians have accomplished together, to the historical moments that have served to define us and to the promising future of this great country. In this country, where we celebrate our diversity, our values of freedom, unity and tolerance, let us be reminded of the great works of our first prime minister, but above all, let us be Canadians.

Pierre-André FournierStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, last Sunday, over 1,500 people gathered at the Saint-Robert-Bellarmin church in Rimouski to pay their final respects to Monsignor Pierre-André Fournier, Archbishop of Rimouski and president of the Assembly of Quebec Catholic Bishops, who died suddenly on January 10.

Although he was the Archbishop of Rimouski for just six years, he loved his adoptive community and region deeply, and was so beloved in return by the people of his diocese that one would have thought he had been archbishop there for 60 years.

Humble and genuine, he was so approachable and so close to people that many of his friends called him PAF, after his initials. He had a gift for making every person he spoke to feel that he or she was the most important person in the world to him at that moment. He spent countless hours with the poor, the vulnerable and the marginalized, exemplifying his episcopal motto, “Blessed are the poor.”

He gave generously of himself. Rarely did he turn down an invitation from his community, be it to a community supper or a meeting to stand up for what mattered to the region.

As one person in the enormous crowd of people who attended the funeral called out, “Thank you, PAF”, not just for everything you did, but also for everything you were.