House of Commons Hansard #180 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was environment.


Canada Shipping Act, 2001Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I have to say that the member is incorrect. What the bill actually says is that:

...the receiver of wreck shall take reasonable steps to determine and locate the owner of the wreck, including by giving notice of the wreck in the manner that the receiver considers most effective and appropriate.

We currently have a receiver of wrecks program, and the receiver of wrecks program does not actually require the receiver of wrecks to pay for the apprehension of the vessel.

As I would presume the member knows, I cannot require taxpayers to spend money in a private member's bill and there is no effort in this bill to do so. I would not be requiring taxpayers to spend money. What I am asking the government to do is to take some leadership on this very serious issue.

Washington State has a model where it is not the taxpayers who pays for the derelict vessels. In the Washington State model, there is a designated fund that is somewhat like the recycling fee that is applied to other products in this country. That money is put aside. There is a mechanism that is not taxpayer funded to deal with derelict vessels, and I would encourage the government to look at that model.

Canada Shipping Act, 2001Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Ryan Cleary NDP St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Nanaimo—Cowichan for bringing forward this very important private member's bill. Derelict vessels, wrecks, and abandoned vessels are a problem off all coasts. As the member pointed out in her speech, this is the first step, giving the Canadian Coast Guard the regulatory power it needs to take action before it becomes a problem

My question is this, and the hon. member just touched on this a moment ago. What are the second and the third steps? The hon. member mentioned what happens in Washington State. How successful has the model been in Washington State? How many derelict vessels and how many shipwrecks have been cleaned up because of Washington State taking charge?

Canada Shipping Act, 2001Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl for that question, because he is absolutely correct.

In Washington State it was becoming a crisis, and I think the parliamentary secretary acknowledged that it is a significant problem in Canada. What was also done in Washington State was to improve the ability of other levels of government to actually deal with the front-line issues with regard to derelict vessels. I do not have the precise number, but authorities have taken hundreds of vessels out of the waters in Washington State. They have this fund. They have clearly identified authorities who can deal with it.

I am very well aware that the Minister of Transport has convened a working group, but the government promised some information back in 2013 and we still have not seen it. Every winter that goes by, with our big winter winds and big seas, we have more vessels that end up foundering. I would encourage the Conservatives to support this bill. If they are suggesting that there is a way to amend it, let us amend the bill so at least we have some action in which municipalities have some confidence.

Canada Shipping Act, 2001Private Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Essex Ontario


Jeff Watson ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be here today to speak about Canada's current role in dealing with the ongoing issue of abandoned vessels and wrecks across the country.

More specifically, I would like to address the issue in the context of Bill C-638, an act to amend the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, and why the government cannot support the proposed bill.

Our government has a robust mandate to deal with the safety of navigation and the environment. In fact, two of Canada's oldest pieces of legislation in the marine domain continue to be the foundation for navigation safety and the protection of the marine environment. I am referring, of course, to the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, and the Navigation Protection Act.

Canada's principal legislation governing marine transportation safety and the protection of the maritime environment is the Canada Shipping Act, 2001. The act covers a vast array of safety requirements for shipping and recreational boating and includes stringent provisions for the protection of the marine environment. It also includes international commitments varying from ship safety standards to ship source pollution.

In fact, part 8 of the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, clearly outlines the roles and responsibilities of both Transport Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard regarding pollution prevention and response.

Transport Canada is the lead regulatory agency for the pollution prevention and response regime, which includes management and oversight; the development of regulations and standards; and the implementation and enforcement of those regulations, notably relating to response organizations.

The Canadian Coast Guard is responsible for spill management under section 180 of the Canada Shipping Act, 2001. Specifically, it provides a national preparedness capacity, manages the national response team, and is the federal monitoring officer, or on-scene commander, for marine pollution incidents.

Together, Transport Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard work diligently to ensure that the safety and environmental provisions under the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, are carried out efficiently for incidents, including abandoned vessels and/or wrecks that pose an imminent risk to the marine environment.

Regarding provisions for wrecks, part 7 of the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, clearly outlines the functions and current capabilities of the receiver of wreck for wrecks in Canadian waterways. In general terms, these functions continue to serve the best interest of the Canadian public by helping protect the rights of the vessel owners and by assisting those who wish to salvage wrecks when and were possible.

The receiver of wreck functions are administered by Transport Canada's navigation protection program. These are the same Transport Canada officials who administer the Navigation Protection Act.

As members are aware, the Navigation Protection Act is Canada's principal piece of legislation allowing for the safe construction and placement of works in Canada's busiest waterways, while maintaining safe navigation.

While the main focus of the act is to review, authorize, and approve works, such as bridges and dams, in navigable waters, the act also includes provisions for being able to deal with obstructions in waterways listed in the schedule of the act.

For the purposes of the Navigation Protection Act, an obstruction can be a vessel, or part of one, that is wrecked, sunk, partially sunk, lying ashore, or grounded. This means that sections 15 to 19 of the Navigation Protection Act can deal with abandoned vessels or wrecks that have become an obstruction to navigation in navigable waters listed in the schedule of the act.

In addition, section 20 of the Navigation Protection Act allows the Minister of Transport to authorize any person to take possession of and remove the vessel, or part of the vessel, under certain circumstances.

I have presented a brief overview of our government's current legislative mandates that respond to the abandoned vessels and wrecks that pose imminent danger to both safe navigation and the marine environment and, in general terms, whereby the owner of these vessels are not known.

There are certain considerations that our government has taken into account in its review of the proposed bill.

First, currently, under the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, part 7, the Minister of Transport can take action when and where necessary to manage wrecks that pose a hazard to navigation and the marine environment.

Making obligations mandatory would require the receiver of wreck to take action on every wreck and to take every reasonable measure to locate the owner of the wreck, regardless of its location or state. This would create a financial burden on the federal government, and that means on the Canadian taxpayer. In the same vein, it would be costly to the Canadian Coast Guard and it would divert resources from responding to priority vessels, causing damage to the marine environment.

Our government recognizes that the current part 7 of the Canada Shipping Act does not capture all wrecks that are vessels of concern. In particular, wrecks where the owner is known but unwilling to act are not captured. The proposed bill does not provide a solution to this issue.

In addition, the bill only addresses remediation through government intervention. It does not address the issue of vessel life cycle management. Public outreach focusing on the roles and responsibilities of vessel ownership is needed in order for any remediation program to be effective. I understand that work is under way to promote greater understanding among vessel owners of their life cycle management responsibilities.

The bill proposes that the Canadian Coast Guard be designated as receiver of wreck. However, designating the Canadian Coast Guard as receiver of wreck for all wrecks in Canadian waters will not only make it difficult for the Coast Guard to focus on its current mandate for pollution response, it will duplicate Transport Canada's functions, causing operational inefficiency and confusion.

Finally, I would like to point out that under federal legislation, the Coast Guard is not a separate legal entity in and of itself. It is considered part of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Therefore, the Canadian Coast Guard cannot be receiver of wreck or make regulations regarding their management.

While our government appreciates the importance of the issues surrounding vessels of concern and wrecks in Canadian waterways, Bill C-638 does not address them. Instead, the bill would obligate the federal government to use valuable resources on abandoned vessels and wrecks that pose no hazard to marine safety or the marine environment. In addition, the bill is impossible to implement under current federal legislation and therefore fails to present a viable solution to the issue of wrecks. For these reasons, the government opposes Bill C-638.

Prevention should be the focus of this issue, not mandatory government remediation measures. Our government supports the immediate initiatives being led by Transport Canada and undertaken in partnership with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and other interested parties to develop an implement a public outreach campaign. This proactive approach includes targeting the broader issue of vessels of concern and ensuring that owners have the information that they need to take responsibility for the life cycle management of their vessels.

Canada Shipping Act, 2001Private Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

Mr. Speaker, first of all I want to thank my colleague from Nanaimo—Cowichan for bringing Bill C-638 before the House of Commons. Coming from the west coast, she fully understands what an issue this is, and coming from the east coast and living on an island with a lot of ports and wharfs around, I fully understand the problem that the bill is trying to address.

Abandoned and derelict vessels are a serious concern for community harbour authorities and shorelines and also property owners. They can create obstacles for mariners and impact on the environment and commercial and recreational activities. Their removal requires financial and technical resources, and often it is not possible to identify the vessel's owner to seek compensation.

This results in the financial burden falling on the property owners, community organizations, or municipal or provincial governments. This issue is particularly difficult because it crosses so many areas of jurisdiction. Many different agencies and governments are responsible for dealing with these hazardous boats, which creates misunderstanding, uncertainty, and frustration.

Therefore, it is important to clarify which agency will deal with the wrecks and derelict vessels and to ensure all possible measures are taken to identify and locate the owners of the wrecks. The Minister of Transport can become involved in instances where a vessel is the cause of an obstruction to navigation.

The Canadian Coast Guard responds to incidents where pollution can be a threat and can recover the cost of its expenses to deal with pollution from the ship source oil pollution fund. But once the pollution and the sources are dealt with, it does not have the authority to deal with the abandoned and derelict vessel itself.

If an abandoned or derelict vessel is not a major environmental concern and is not posing an obstacle to navigation, there is usually no action taken by government, and these vessels can remain hazardous and an eyesore for communities and harbour authorities—and a great expense for harbour authorities, I might add.

This issue has become a growing concern over the last few years and will continue to be a major issue as commercial and recreational fleets age and numbers grow. Currently there are 2.6 million pleasure craft licensed in Canada. A few years ago, I was pleased to be part of a study by the fisheries committee into the country's small craft harbours.

The report, entitled “Small Craft Harbours: An Essential Infrastructure Managed by and for Fishing Communities”, included a section on derelict vessels and recommended that Fisheries and Oceans Canada consider legislative changes to facilitate the removal of abandoned and derelict vessels from its harbours. The government supported this recommendation, but unfortunately no action has been taken, as of yet, and that is too bad.

We know that approximately $1 billion has gone unspent at DFO since the government came to power. We know that the government has cut the budget for small craft harbours from $200 million down to now under $100 million. Conservatives are promising more money now right before the election, but the harbour authorities I talk to say, even with the new money, the problem in this country with our harbours and wharfs will not be properly addressed.

During the fisheries committee study, we heard the harbour authority representatives say that they do not have the proper authority and budget to deal with derelict vessels. We heard that there is no long-term plan for dealing with derelict vessels and there is a need for legislative changes to facilitate the removal of the abandoned and derelict vessels.

As Ben Mabberley of the National Harbour Authority Advisory Committee put it:

The truth is that one sinking of a derelict vessel at your harbour can bankrupt the harbour authority. It's that simple. We need to find a solution for it. This is going to be an issue right across the country.

As he indicated, it is becoming much more of an issue on the east coast.

More must be done to assist with the problems associated with these derelict vessels. The federal government must show leadership and work in collaboration with provincial and municipal governments, harbour authorities, and community organizations to deal with this. This is simply not going to happen under the present government.

Bill C-638, while perhaps not providing all the answers, is a step in the right direction. This bill seeks to amend the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, with respect to wrecks by designating the Canadian Coast Guard as the receiver of wrecks, by requiring the receiver of wrecks to take responsible steps to determine and locate the owners of the wrecks, and by providing the power to the Minister of Transport and the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to enact regulations that must be followed by receivers of wrecks to remove, dispose, or destroy the wrecks.

Bill C-638 would also require the Minister of Transport to file a report every five years before each house of Parliament regarding the operations of part 7 of the act. Currently, the receiver of wrecks is an officer of Transport Canada who acts as a custodian of the wreck in the absence of the rightful owner. The receiver has a responsibility to attempt to locate the owner within 90 days.

If after this period no owner is located, the receiver may dispose of the wreck to the salvor or sell it through public sale. The cost of removing a vessel or wreck can be significant and can include environmental and technical assessments, investigative work to determine the owner, salvage contracting for the removal, bringing equipment to the site, preparation for removal, removing the vessel and associated waste, managing final disposal and, finally, the legal fees associated with this.

Stakeholders, while in favour of this bill, have also stressed to me that funding is the key issue to deal with this problem. As has been indicated here, Washington State has set up a fund, and over the last number of years it seems to have made some progress on this issue while here in Canada the government has made absolutely no progress.

In 2009, the fisheries committee submitted a report to the government on small craft harbours, which included a recommendation and a lot of testimony on dealing with abandoned and derelict vessels. In 2012, Transport Canada put out a study on abandoned and derelict vessels in Canada. It is now 2015 and the government has still not taken any real action or shown leadership. It is time for the government to step up, work together with municipal and provincial governments, harbour authorities, and all stakeholders to deal with this issue.

These derelict or abandoned vessels are an environmental problem, a navigational problem and, of course, they are a bigger problem on the west coast. We also have to realize that there are 2.6 million pleasure crafts registered in this country and I can only see this issue becoming a much bigger one. I hope that the Government of Canada will support Bill C-638, take some appropriate action for the environment, safety, and navigation around the ports and not leave it to the port authorities, which do not have the financial capacity to handle these issues.

I am very pleased to indicate that the Liberals will be supporting this bill and we very much hope that the government will take up its responsibility and put the money where it should be.

Canada Shipping Act, 2001Private Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Ryan Cleary NDP St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Mr. Speaker, I begin my speech, on the topic of shipwrecks and derelict vessels, with cannibal rats, and more specifically, Canadian cannibal rats. That should get everyone's attention. It is not every day that Canadian cannibal rats make it into a speech in this honourable House.

How is this for a headline? “Ghost ship crewed only by Cannibal rats feared to be heading for Scottish coast”. That is from the Scottish Daily Record.

This is another from the Plymouth Herald: “Ghost ship full of cannibal rats could be about to crash into Devon Coast”.

The last quote is, “Hedging its bets, declared, 'Ghost ship full of diseased cannibal rats could crash into coast of Devon OR Cornwall'.”

Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are known far and wide as the friendliest people on the planet, but sending a ghost ship full of cannibal diseased rats across the North Atlantic is no way to treat one's European neighbours. We are better than that.

The ghost ship crewed by cannibal rats was the Lyubov Orlova, a 38-year-old, 4,250-tonne Russian cruise ship that was tied up in the St. John's Harbour for two years. It was tied up for two years after it was apprehended by the RCMP after a financial scandal involving the boat's European owners. The ship was an eyesore. It was a rusty, dirty smudge on the St. John's waterfront for months. Nothing, apparently, could be done about it.

Finally, in January 2011, the Lyubov Orlova was towed to the Dominican Republic, where it was to be taken apart for scrap. The ship was only out of St. John's Harbour for a day when the tow line broke. In the words of our then Transport Canada critic Olivia Chow, Transport Canada should have never given a “licence to allow an unreliable and unsafe tugboat to tug the Orlova in the first place”, but that is another story.

The ship drifted for a week toward offshore oil platforms on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, which was a real risk, before it was towed clear by an offshore supply boat. The Lyubov Orlova was then towed by a vessel hired by Transport Canada, but that tow line also broke, and the ship, full of Canadian cannibal rats, if we believe the headlines, drifted into international waters, where it made international headlines for the threat it posed of crashing into the Scottish and Irish coasts.

The ship eventually sank, or that is a widespread belief. Members should keep in mind that it is a ghost ship.

The story of the Lyubov Orlova is a bizarre one. It comes across as a Canadian joke. However, it is not funny; far from it. The Lyubov Orlova was an eyesore in St. John's Harbour for months. The ship was a threat to our offshore oil platforms and a threat to shipping. It was a threat to the British coast.

This brings us to this private member's bill, Bill C-638, An Act to amend the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 (wreck), which my party supports. If this bill had been in effect when the Lyubov Orlova was still around, the world could have been spared the suspense of where the transatlantic cannibal rat ship from Newfoundland and Labrador, from Canada, would end up. This bill would give the Canadian Coast Guard the regulatory power it needs to take action before a derelict vessel becomes a problem. That is a perfect example of why the Canadian Coast Guard needs to be given that power.

As has already been pointed out, derelict vessels are a growing problem across Canada, with the aging of both industrial and pleasure craft. In 2013, the National Marine Manufacturers Association estimated that there were 4.3 million boats in Canada. The number of derelict and abandoned vessels was pegged at 240 in November 2012, with the majority of those boats on the Pacific and Atlantic coasts. Normally, only a vessel that is an immediate hazard to navigation or the environment will be dealt with by any level of government.

That leaves derelict vessels like the Lyubov Orlova in a grey zone. No one is responsible for preventing them from deteriorating and becoming a problem. This bill would designate the Canadian Coast Guard as the receiver of wreck for the purposes of the Canadian Shipping Act, allowing the Coast Guard to take action without being directed by a ministry. It would compel the government to create regulations for the removal, disposition, and destruction of derelict vessels or wrecks.

Giving the Canadian Coast Guard the authority to deal with derelict vessels is only a first step. The hon. member for Nanaimo—Cowichan, who tabled this bill—and a fine member she is—wanted to create a derelict vessel removal regime similar to that in Washington State. There, a fee on the annual vessel registration helps pay for the costs of removal of derelict vessels. A single public agency, the Department of Natural Resources, is responsible for administering that program.

However, that was beyond the scope of a private member's bill, so we have this first step: a private member's bill that would give the Canadian Coast Guard the power to take action before a derelict vessel becomes a problem. It makes sense.

To elaborate on what happens in Washington State, the abandoned and derelict vessels program there has been in place for 10 years and has resulted in the remediation of roughly 500 vessels.

There are signs we may be headed in that direction. We would not say that after listening to the speech from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, but let me quote from a letter that his minister wrote to the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan. In that recent letter, the minister stated:

Transport Canada will be further analyzing wider policy options related to derelict, abandoned and wrecked vessels, including legal authorities and governance models.

That shows a sign of hope. My party will be keeping an eye on that to ensure there is follow-through.

I also have an example of an abandoned vessel in the waters off Newfoundland's northeast coast that has been an environmental hazard for years. It has been leaking oil into the waters off Newfoundland's northeast coast for years. To date, the current Conservative government has failed to fix the problem permanently.

The Manolis L, a paper carrier, sank 30 years ago this year in the waters off Notre Dame Bay with 500 tons of fuel aboard. The wreck sat dormant for years, but a powerful storm two years ago dislodged the vessel. That storm also dislodged the 500 tons of fuel that were in the vessel's hull. Last year, the Canadian Coast Guard replaced a cofferdam, a device that catches leaking oil, in order to stop the fuel leak. However, that is not a permanent solution at all. Oil-covered ducks and other animals have been discovered, and with eastern Canada's largest seabird colony just 100 kilometres away, people are worried, and rightly so. So they should be.

In the words of local resident David Boyd, “The patient is slowly bleeding out, and we're putting a Band-Aid on it rather than going in and doing the operation that needs to be done.” The operation that needs to be done is the removal of that oil.

There is no consistency in this country when it comes to derelict vessels or shipwrecks. A couple of years ago, the Canadian Coast Guard launched a major operation to extract hundreds of tons of fuel from a U.S. army transport ship that sank in 1946 off British Columbia's remote north coast. There is no consistency. The oil aboard the Manolis L off Newfoundland and Labrador's northeast coast has not been cleaned up, yet it must be cleaned up, and permanently. Why would the Canadian Coast Guard clean up a wreck off the B.C. coast and not clean up a wreck off Newfoundland and Labrador's coast?

First things first, though. Let us pass this bill and give the Coast Guard the regulatory power it needs before a derelict vessel becomes a problem.

Canada Shipping Act, 2001Private Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be here today to speak about Bill C-638. It is a short bill, but it would have a significant impact. It is an act to amend the Canada Shipping Act, 2001. The bill proposes to address certain concerns being raised among Canadian coastal communities regarding abandoned vessels and wrecks.

While our government fully understands the importance of this issue, and I appreciate the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan speaking passionately about this—it is certainly an issue that is near and dear to her heart—it is our position that this bill does not adequately address the problems that Canadians are facing in this regard. The bill is looking to ineffectively amend this important act in order to deal with abandoned vessels and wrecks, but doing so would challenge the existing mandates under the act that are already in place and working well for the Canadian public. It is for that reason that our government cannot support Bill C-638.

It is clear that certain communities in British Columbia and the Atlantic coast consider the issue of abandoned vessels and wrecks as one that negatively affects their enjoyment of their local marine environment. However, it is important to note that not all abandoned vessels and wrecks pose an imminent danger to safe navigation and the environment. The bigger issue that Bill C-638 does not address is the prevention of the abandonment of vessels. That is at the crux of the matter. There is also the need to educate vessel owners on their responsibilities of vessel life cycle management.

As members are aware, Transport Canada's role under the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, is vast in nature. The Canada Shipping Act, 2001, is Canada's principal legislation governing safety in marine transportation and recreational boating, as well as protection of the marine environment. It applies to all Canadian vessels operating in all waters and to all foreign vessels operating in Canadian waters, including recreational boats, cruise ships, and large tankers. The act promotes the sustainable growth of the marine shipping industry without compromising safety, and it is responsible to the needs of Canadians in a global economy.

Transport Canada plays a large role in the administration of the provisions under this act, including the receiver of wreck functions under part 7. This private member's bill is a sincere attempt to address the issue of abandoned vessels and wrecks. However, when we look at the facts, we see it is clear that the bill does not provide the proper mechanisms needed to respond to the issue.

For example, the first component of the bill looks to amend part 7 of the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, which deals with wrecks, and to designate the receiver of wreck functions to the Canadian Coast Guard. Transport Canada navigation protection program officials are currently designated as the Canadian receiver of wreck and, as such, continue to administer the functions under this part of the act. The role of a receiver of a wreck is primarily to take adequate measures in finding the owner of a wreck prior to selling it or disposing of it.

Furthermore, the Minister of Transport currently has the ability to designate anyone as a receiver of wreck, including Canadian Coast Guard officials. Coast Guard officials have not been designated as receivers of wreck because this would duplicate Transport Canada's functions, creating operational inefficiencies and confusion.

In addition, the bill would place obligations on the Canadian Coast Guard to respond to every wreck, including those that do not pose a risk to navigation or the environment. This would have a significant impact on the Canadian Coast Guard's ability to focus its expertise and resources on those marine incidents that significantly impact public safety and the marine environment.

The Canadian Coast Guard and Transport Canada continue to serve Canadians by means of their existing expertise and long-standing legislative mandate.

This bill should be opposed not only because it would create redundancies but also because the Canadian Coast Guard cannot, under federal legislation, be designated as a permanent receiver of wreck. Under the federal legislation, the Coast Guard is not a separate legal entity in and of itself. It is considered part of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Therefore, the Canadian Coast Guard, as an organization, cannot be a receiver of wrecks or make regulations regarding their management.

Our government understands the importance of the issues surrounding abandoned and wrecked vessels, but the proposed bill focuses solely on the remediation of wrecked vessels and does not include requirements for vessel owners to prevent their vessels from becoming wrecks. It is an obvious area that requires attention. That is at the heart of the matter and really needs to be addressed.

Transport Canada has made efforts to research existing programs and deal with derelict and wrecked vessels, including the Washington state derelict vessel removal program. The Washington state program officials shared what they learned about their experience in the initial implementation of their remediation program. It was concluded that remediation without prevention could have unintended consequences, such as encouraging vessel owners to abandon their unwanted vessels, relying on the federal government for their disposal. This cannot become so here.

Today, the program's success is attributed to measures to increase the accountability on the part of owners of vessels, a robust enforcement regime and engagement with partners. Those are two very fundamental aspects of the program and not really dealt with or mentioned in the bill.

The bill is proposing mandatory remediation through the removal, disposal or destruction of wrecks, which would generate substantial cost to the federal government and therefore ultimately the Canadian taxpayer. Transport Canada has estimated that the remediation of vessels over 100 feet in length can range from between $10 million to $50 million per vessel, not an insignificant sum.

I would like to reiterate that our government recognizes that vessels of concern, including abandoned vessels and/or wrecked vessels, can pose marine navigation hazards, public safety risks, environmental threats and economic costs. In response to this, Transport Canada, in partnership with other federal departments, such as the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, is currently examining the gaps in the existing system to deal with these types of vessels. Together we will build an approach that will focus on prevention. It is important that owners take responsibility for the full life cycle of their vessels. That is why Transport Canada will develop and implement a public outreach strategy targeting vessel owners, advising them about responsible vessel ownership and life-cycle management. As mentioned previously, prevention is the key in achieving a positive end result.

Bill C-638 does not address the issue of abandoned vessels and wrecks in Canadian waterways.

First, the bill would remove the flexibility for the receiver of a wreck to determine whether the abandoned vessel or wreck was actually harmful to safe navigation and the marine environment. It would do so by placing an obligation on the Canadian Coast Guard to answer to all of the complaints regarding abandoned vessels and wrecks, not just those that were harmful.

Second, responding to every wreck would impact the Canadian Coast Guard's current capabilities to protect Canadians and Canada's marine environment from dangerous spills of pollutants. Mandatory remediation could cost the federal government hundreds of millions of dollars as the bill does not reflect the concept of polluter pays. We have heard a lot about that concept, even today in the legislation dealt with in the House, where polluter pays must be an important principle of legislation such as this.

It is for these reasons that our government cannot support Bill C-638. There is no question there is an issue with abandoned vessels and wrecks, regardless of their level of impact, to safe navigation and environment. That is why work is under way to examine the current gaps in the existing regulations to deal with these types of vessels. We will look to develop a comprehensive strategy targeting the public at large and vessel owners on their responsibilities for managing the life cycle of their vessels. The current legislation and operational regimes in place continue to be the cornerstone for the safety and protection of Canadian waterways.

While our government does not support Bill C-638, we are committed to continuing to work with interested parties, including key stakeholders and all levels of government, on the development and implementation of a national prevention strategy for life-cycle management of all vessels. It is in that context that we oppose this bill, but we know that it is a serious and important issue that needs to be addressed. The government will be doing that in the course of time.

Canada Shipping Act, 2001Private Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.


Raymond Côté NDP Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am rising again in the House to speak about a situation that is poisoning the lives of many people in my riding of Beauport—Limoilou.

Again, it has to do with the dust contamination caused by the Port of Québec. The follow-up done by the Quebec Department of the Environment shows that the new standard in Quebec for the amount of nickel dust in the air, which has been in place since the beginning of 2014, has been exceeded regularly, several times a month since the beginning of the year. The real problem is that given the configuration of the land and the direction of the prevailing winds, which mainly come from the southwest, on most days of the month, the winds do not spread the dust over Limoilou and a good part of Quebec City's lower town.

However, the rest of the time, the winds coming from the east—those that often bring bad weather—easily spread that dust. I am not just talking about nickel dust. There are also other compounds in the air that fall as dust on the residents of Limoilou and Quebec City's lower town.

The problem is that the number of times dust levels exceed the standard every month is high enough that the problem can still be considered acute. Recently, citizens who are keeping a close watch on activities at the port and on the presence of dust in the air observed an alarming peak in dust levels. This happened on a night a few weeks ago. It appeared to be directly related to ore transshipment activities on a ship moored on the Baie de Beauport side, which is ideally located for unloading activities to spread dust all over Limoilou and Quebec City's lower town.

Contrary to what the government always says, nobody is really doing anything about this problem. A while ago, I was informed of the rules that govern, among other things, the release of various polluting substances by Quebec Stevedoring's activities. I would like to thank the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment for the answer he gave me at the time about the National Pollutant Release Inventory.

Despite claims by the port and Quebec Stevedoring, we still do not have solid evidence about whether the situation has improved or not. We also have no information about whether Quebec Stevedoring is required to consider pollutants released by its activities to determine if it has to report them to the National Pollutant Release Inventory. The people of Quebec City's lower town and my Limoilou constituents are being kept in the dark.

Why is the government refusing to shed light on this matter and take action so that people know where they stand? That is a reasonable request.

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.

Essex Ontario


Jeff Watson ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Beauport—Limoilou for his question and for his concern, which we share, for the health of his riding.

First of all, Quebec government officials have confirmed that there was no indication of a threat to public health caused by nickel transshipment in the port on the date mentioned by the member for Beauport—Limoilou. We must be very cautious about making connections that could raise unnecessary health concerns for the people of Quebec City.

Air quality in the Limoilou sector, in connection with the activities of the Port of Québec, is closely monitored by Transport Canada, Environment Canada, the Quebec Port Authority and the Government of Quebec's Department of Sustainable Development, Environment and the Fight against Climate Change, among others. There are frequent communications among the various stakeholders on this matter, and immediate action would be taken in the event of an incident or data indicating a risk to public health. Transport Canada is satisfied with the partnership established to ensure that air quality standards are met.

As mentioned before, following the red dust episode in October 2012, many measures were put in place by the port, the company involved and other partners. Since that time, the Quebec Port Authority and its partners have invested $27 million in various environmental measures, including a real-time air quality monitoring network; water cannons; a monitoring patrol that works 24 hours a day, seven days a week; and waterproofing measures for the transshipment equipment.

The fact is that the Port of Québec is determined to meet the environmental standards and has made considerable efforts to do so. Transport Canada is satisfied with the measures put in place by the Quebec Port Authority, which is an independent organization that is responsible for its own activities.

The mission of the Quebec Port Authority is to promote and develop maritime trade, serve the economic interests of the Quebec City region and Canada, and make sure it is profitable while respecting the community and the environment.

We are confident that the measures that have already been put in place and the ongoing co-operation with the various relevant stakeholders will allow the Quebec Port Authority to fulfill that mission.

We support the Port of Québec as a key player in the economic development of Quebec City, the province of Quebec and Canada. Environmental and public health concerns are important priorities for Transport Canada and the Quebec Port Authority.

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.


Raymond Côté NDP Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, where is the evidence that there is no problem? From the access to information requests I was able to obtain from Transport Canada, which I might add were very late in arriving, the only thing that was proven was that Transport Canada and the Minister of Transport were always behind the times. The government's reactions were closely related to the newspaper headlines. That is absolutely ridiculous.

What is more, I am not at all surprised to hear the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport reaffirm his complete confidence in the Port of Québec. We must not forget that the board of directors of the Port of Québec is mostly made up of representatives of port users, who are therefore judging themselves. How can the parliamentary secretary give me such feeble guarantees?

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.


Jeff Watson Conservative Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, the government takes air quality in the Limoilou sector very seriously. A number of measures were taken in response to the dust emissions in 2012 to ensure that air quality standards are met and to prevent further incidents. The Quebec Port Authority is working closely with the province and Quebec City on this issue. Transport Canada is satisfied with the measures the port has taken and with its ongoing co-operation with the authorities. Quebec government officials have confirmed to Transport Canada that there was no indication of a threat to public health caused by the transshipment of nickel in the port in February. Transport Canada will continue to monitor this matter.

Social DevelopmentAdjournment Proceedings

February 26th, 2015 / 6:35 p.m.


François Lapointe NDP Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, this evening I am following up on a question I asked on February 17. I will remind anyone who is kindly watching CPAC at this late hour of my question:

Since the CMHC was involved in building and renovating assisted-living housing for frail senior citizens, could the Minister of Employment and Social Development tell us whether he has read the report and what measures will be taken to help the owners of seniors' residences cover the costs related to sprinkler installation?

When I asked that question on February 17, the reaction from the ministers was shocking. It was clear that no one was prepared to answer the question. It was rather disarming. The Minister of State for Science and Technology essentially told me that the provinces had access to programs. It would be hard to come up with a lazier and more meaningless answer.

This question is a relevant one. As we know, L'Isle-Verte has seen a lot of human pain. Since I represent this town, I have unfortunately witnessed this first-hand. L'Isle-Verte was devastated by a fire that killed a number of seniors. It was a profound tragedy.

Nearly a year later, the Delâge report has revealed some important findings. They are relevant not only at the provincial level, but at the federal level too. The report states, for instance, that seniors residences with more than 10 housing units need to be given financial support so they can install sprinklers, and that should become a standard.

Following the release of the Delâge report, the spokesperson for the Regroupement québécois des résidences pour aînés, Yves Desjardins, had this to say:

Soon after the release of the Delâge report, we made it clear that we did not want this report to be shelved and that immediate action must be taken in order to prevent another tragedy like the one that occurred in L'Isle-Verte.

I could not have said it better myself. We have a collective duty to do something in the wake of such a tragedy. In Quebec alone, over 700 seniors residences need to invest in the installation of sprinkler systems in order to keep our seniors safe.

This ties in directly with CMHC and calls by the Regroupement québécois des résidences pour aînés. For example, residences with 50 housing units or more can apply to a CMHC program for a loan guarantee. However, residences that have between 10 and 50 units, which is in line with the recommendations of the Delâge report, cannot apply to that program.

Instead of just making sure the Prime Minister attended the ceremony after the tragedy, the federal government should have heeded the Delâge report recommendations and done the necessary follow-up, which would have been the compassionate thing to do. It should have been ready to talk to Canadians about the possible changes CMHC might make in order to provide better support for the owners of seniors residences, in accordance with the findings of the Delâge report.

Again, we are talking about seniors with reduced mobility, some of the most fragile Canadians. This evening, I hope to get the beginnings of a constructive response that is useful to this debate.

Social DevelopmentAdjournment Proceedings

6:40 p.m.

Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont Alberta


Mike Lake ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to respond to comments made earlier by the hon. member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup regarding construction and safety standards in this country.

The safety of Canadians is of primary importance for our government. We were all terribly saddened by the tragic fire that occurred at a nursing home in January of last year in L'Isle—Verte, Quebec.

This tragedy brought to all of our attention the consideration of building codes, in general, and sprinklers, in particular.

As members may know, it is the responsibility of provinces and territories to regulate construction and fire safety standards under their respective jurisdictions.

Following a thorough review, Coroner Delâge released his report on February 12. As the coroner's report highlights, tragedies like the fire in the community of L'Isle—Verte can only be avoided through concerted efforts from all concerned parties. He noted in his report that the absence of automatic sprinklers in the nursing home was a contributing factor in this tragedy.

As members may be aware, the Quebec government has decided to make it mandatory for private seniors homes to be equipped with automatic sprinklers.

The role of the federal government related to building codes is to develop model codes, which help ensure uniformity in building construction. These codes are published roughly every five years and, as these are indeed model codes, provinces and territories have the flexibility to adopt them exactly as they appear or, instead, to develop their own.

The process of updating the model codes is managed by the Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes, which is an independent and public committee. Over 300 volunteers from industry, the regulatory community, and general interest groups make a considerable contribution to our country by ensuring that the model codes take into account developments in their respective fields of expertise. This consensus-based approach leads to a list of proposed technical changes, which are then submitted for public review. Any changes are approved by the commission before they are included in the new model codes.

The current iterations of the model codes were updated in 2010 and require any new or renovated care facility to have sprinklers. Updated versions of the model codes are expected to be released later in 2015.

Social DevelopmentAdjournment Proceedings

6:45 p.m.


François Lapointe NDP Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, at least we are taking a small step in the right direction.

Clearly, someone in the government did some research into the findings of the Delâge report. This is a small step in the right direction, but it is not enough. Hiding behind the absolutely essential principles of the national building code contributes nothing to this issue.

I explained previously that a seniors residence owners group proposed a very simple solution. The solution is to allow residences with fewer than 50 housing units to have access to a CMHC loan guarantee. That way, those with a dozen or so housing units would have access to loan guarantees. This is a tangible measure that will not drain the public purse.

Could my colleague tell me whether the government might consider the request by the residence owners group? They will be making major investments in the short term, in the coming years, to improve safety for some of our most vulnerable seniors in Canada.

Social DevelopmentAdjournment Proceedings

6:45 p.m.


Mike Lake Conservative Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

Mr. Speaker, let me reiterate that our colleagues on all sides of the House were saddened by the tragic fire that occurred last January at the nursing home in L'Isle—Verte.

By working together, we can significantly reduce the likelihood that this type of occurrence will happen again.

As members know, it is the responsibility of the provinces and territories to regulate construction and fire safety standards under their respective codes.

As for the model codes, the Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes and its volunteers are currently working on the next series of model codes, which will be published in late 2015.

Social DevelopmentAdjournment Proceedings

6:45 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted.

Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:47 p.m.)