House of Commons Hansard #192 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was isil.


The House resumed from December 2, 2014 consideration of the motion that Bill C-628, An Act to amend the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 and the National Energy Board Act (oil transportation and pipeline certificate), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Canada Shipping ActPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.


The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for New Westminster—Coquitlam has seven minutes left to conclude his remarks.

Canada Shipping ActPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.


Fin Donnelly NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, ten thousand individuals and organizations, including the provincial government of British Columbia and several first nations, wrote to or appeared before the joint review panel assessing the northern gateway project. Their opposition to the project was nearly unanimous.

I would like to mention my work as an MP to protect coastal communities, encourage sustainability, and protect the marine inland ecosystems. Early in my term, I introduced a bill to ban oil tankers off B.C.'s north coast. I also introduced a bill to protect wild salmon by transitioning west coast fish farms to closed containment. I also helped form an all-party oceans caucus to inform parliamentarians about issues threatening the health of Canada's oceans and of the opportunities to become a global leader in areas like ocean research. I also introduced a bill to ban the importation of shark fins to Canada, which was based on a UN report on the state of the world's oceans. It concluded that our oceans are under threat, with major stress from climate change in the form of ocean acidification, and that large predators like sharks are in serious decline.

I mention these initiatives because they relate directly to the work of my good friend, the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, and specifically to the intent of the bill to protect our way of life on the west coast, not just for current generations, but for future generations as well.

The member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley came to my riding late last year. He spoke to a large gathering of my constituents about the impact that the Enbridge northern gateway project would have on the north coast if it were to go ahead. He was captivating from the start. He was informative and his stories were engaging. He presented alternatives to what the Conservatives are proposing. He spoke of the bill we are debating today and what could be expected with a New Democratic government. The people really appreciated his presentation, his thoughtful analysis, and his well-researched proposal. They liked it.

Energy pipelines and the environment are very much a concern to the people of British Columbia. Not only is there massive opposition to the Enbridge northern gateway pipeline, but there is also opposition to Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline proposal. My colleague from Burnaby—Douglas and the mayor of Burnaby, Derek Corrigan, and his council, have worked hard to expose the shortcomings of the project and the flawed NEB process. We know that over 100 people were arrested on Burnaby Mountain, clearly demonstrating their opposition to the pipeline proposal. I attended a rally in September at the Colony Farm Regional Park, in my riding, where people were very concerned about Kinder Morgan's proposal to use Colony Farm as a staging area for assembling of the pipes for the section of the proposed new pipeline. People were very opposed to this use of a public park.

I have provided background information to Bill C-628. I spoke of my own work relating to protecting B.C.'s west coast way of life. I should add that even before I was an MP, I was concerned about these issues. In 1995, and again in 2000, I swam the 1,400 km length of the Fraser River, one of the world's greatest salmon rivers, to raise awareness about the threats facing this great river system and to our way of life in British Columbia. Over 1.4 million people live within the Fraser River basin. A huge amount of the economy is generated within the basin. The health of the river, like the ocean on B.C.'s north coast, is critical to the health of our way of life on the west coast of Canada.

I am saying that the intent of Bill C-628 is to protect a way of life and to promote a sustainable way of life. It is certainly what motives me to do the work that I do as a parliamentarian. It is why I became an MP, and it is why I am happy to support Bill C-628. I would like to thank my colleague for bringing it forward.

Before I conclude, I would like to provide a quote from Art Sterritt, the executive director of Coastal First Nations, who said, “for too long the concerns of our people and the majority of British Columbians have been ignored. The bill addresses some of our major concerns with Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline”.

What the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley is doing with this bill is not only listening to his constituents, but proposing solutions that make sense for west coast communities and a west coast way of life.

In conclusion, the Conservatives have brazenly tried to force the northern gateway pipeline and supertanker projects on to British Columbians and first nations. The New Democrats will continue to stand with B.C. and first nations to fight for a fairer process for all Canadians. This bill is a common sense initiative to put respect for communities, first nations, and the environment back into Canada's energy conversation, and to make sure that Canadians are getting the full benefit of our energy development.

Canada's Parliament has been mulling over protection for British Columbia's north against oil tanker traffic for over a generation. It is time for MPs, especially those from British Columbia, to rise to the occasion and extend permanent protection for B.C.'s north coast.

Canada Shipping ActPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.


Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have been following this debate very closely, just as our government has been listening very carefully to what British Columbians, and indeed all Canadians, have been saying about economic development and environmental responsibility in this country.

I appreciate the opportunity to respond to the bill before us and to reiterate some of the points made so persuasively by some of my colleagues. I will also add that I find it ironic that this member is proposing such a bill after he and his party voted against our increased measures for pipeline safety. New Democrats voted against doubling the number of audits and increasing the number of inspections on pipelines. They voted against fining companies that break environmental regulations.

Our government is listening to Canadians, and the message we are hearing is very clear: Canadians want balance. They understand the importance of resource development, but not at any price. They understand that economic development and environmental protection go hand in hand, and so does our government.

Environmental protection is and always will be a priority for us. We have been clear that projects will only proceed if they are safe for Canadians and safe for the environment. That is precisely what our plan is, and that is what responsible resource development is all about. Grounded in sound science and world-class standards, that plan ensures that we can develop the energy of the structure we need in a way that protects the environment we all share.

As part of this effort, our government is strengthening marine, pipeline, and rail safety, resulting in stronger prevention, enhanced preparedness and response, as well as improved liability and compensation in the highly unlikely event of an incident.

The members opposite may not be aware, but oil has been safely transported along Canada's west coast since the 1930s, thanks to responsible players in the industry and effective preventive measures. In addition, 99.999% of oil transported on federally regulated pipelines between 2008 and 2013 was moved safely.

This outstanding track record should reassure Canadians, and especially British Columbians, that our energy resources can safety be exported overseas to create jobs and economic growth here at home. That said, even one incident is one too many. Our goal must always be zero major spills or accidents, and to achieve this our government has introduced stringent new safety standards for tankers, together with new navigational supports to better protect our coastal waters.

Put simply, Canada's approach to marine regulations seeks to balance the safety of shipping and the protection of the marine environment with the need to encourage maritime commerce. In fact, we have nine acts of Parliament governing marine safety. These laws complement international regulations established by the International Maritime Organization, and that is before we factor in the tough new regulatory oversight and enforcement capabilities provided under Bill C-3, Safeguarding Canada's Seas and Skies Act.

There is compulsory pilotage in British Columbia's coastal waters. This means that a vessel must have an on-board pilot who is a navigator, certified to a specialized knowledge of local waters. In addition, Transport Canada has more than 300 inspectors who work every day to verify that ships meet Canada's regulations and the international standards that Canada has adopted.

Within the international maritime community, Canada is highly respected as a country that provides a clear and consistent set of rules that promote safety and protect the environment. I would like to quote the British Columbia environment minister who spoke about our government's plan and said the following:

I have a high degree of confidence that [the government is] serious about achieving the goals that we have in front of us and serious about the safety of our coast and the transportation of tankers up and down our coastline.

Canadians want a balanced approach to economic development. They support growth and want good jobs and long-term prosperity for themselves, their families, and their country. What Canadians might be surprised to learn is how important natural resource development is to our quality of life. Over the last five years, the oil and gas sector has contributed an average of $25.1 billion in taxes, royalties, and fees to government. This money helps to support public pensions, provide health care, and build schools, hospitals, housing, and highways.

If we want to maintain our high standard of living and ensure governments have the funds to pay for a wide array of social programs, we need to seize the potential of new markets for our energy. That is something our government understands. It is something business understands, and it is something Canadians understand from coast to coast to coast.

Our focus then is on preventing incidents from happening, cleaning them up quickly in the unlikely event of their occurring, and protecting taxpayers from any cleanup or remediation costs. Under this government, it is polluters who will pay, not taxpayers.

We recently introduced the pipeline safety act, which would enshrine in law the principle of polluter pays. To ensure that pipeline companies can respond in the unlikely event of a major incident, they would be required to maintain the highest minimum financial resources in the world. For companies operating major oil pipelines, that amounts to $1 billion, as well as holding sufficient cash on hand to respond quickly to incidents.

The pipeline safety act would also give the National Energy Board even greater authority so that it could strengthen incident prevention, preparedness, and response as well as liability and compensation.

With all of these efforts, we are seeking to foster greater public confidence in our country's ability to develop its resources and to do so responsibly. We know that building public confidence in major resource projects requires a whole-of-government approach. Our approach to promoting responsible resource development is a balanced approach, and it is the right way to go.

Bill C-628 is not a balanced approach. A ban on oil tankers would have a lasting negative impact on Canada. The NDP's anti-trade, anti-development agenda is clear. This bill would limit further diversifying our energy exports to countries other than the United States, which would severely impact our economy, jobs, and everything. Moreover, such a ban would be looked upon negatively by other countries, which view these waters as open for navigation, and banning a legitimate class of vessel would be contrary to the system that has served Canadians so well for decades.

Canadians want a balanced approach, and that is the path that this government is going to follow.

Canada Shipping ActPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise and participate in this debate on Bill C-628 and to bring a perspective from the east coast, one of Canada's other two coasts, as the member for Halifax West in Nova Scotia.

The bill calls for a ban on oil tanker traffic from the inland waters of Canada's Pacific north coast, which is a magnificent area that includes the Great Bear Rainforest, many species of wildlife, and runs of salmon. It is a magnificent area that is important to preserve and protect.

Coming from Halifax West as I do, I appreciate the strong desire that people have in British Columbia to protect coasts and coastal communities. I understand the concerns that many have with respect to the potential of supertankers, which are the very large crude carriers, or what are now called “VLCCs”. They carry far more oil than the Exxon Valdez carried when it went aground and leaked so much oil back in 1989. I think it is about eight times as much. People have very great concerns about tankers that huge travelling through such sensitive areas.

As I have said, I come from a coastal community, and we see the snow starting to melt in Nova Scotia. We have had an awful lot of snow this year. As my colleague says, I can dare to dream, but I am looking forward to the summer and kayaking along the coast of Newfoundland if I can get a little time away from the long campaign that we expect to start once the House rises.

I guess there is no surprise when we look at the situation and the position of the current government. First of all, it is difficult to understand why the Conservatives would not support the bill before us, but on the other hand, it should not be a surprise to anyone who has seen how the Conservative government has systematically dismantled so many critical environmental protections during what can only be described as a decade of devastation.

The proposed legislation closely resembles previous bills that have been brought forward to the House a number of times, the contents of which will be familiar to members. Of course, amendments to the Canada Shipping Act are the main focus of the bill before us. While much of this was in earlier legislation, there is one notable difference in Bill C-628, which is the addition of provisions to amend the National Energy Board Act to require the NEB to take into account certain factors before making a recommendation to the minister with regard to the issuance of a pipeline certificate. For example, one element of the bill asks the NEB to ensure that consultations on pipeline projects occur and to report on those consultations in its consideration of a project.

These consultations are more important than ever these days. I think we see today that even when the National Energy Board approves a project, it does not necessarily mean it is going ahead, because there is that question of social licence. One has to have a considerable amount of community support before moving forward with a natural resource project of any size. I think that is why it is so important that we develop greater confidence in the public in terms of the regulatory processes we have in this country as they relate to the approval of those projects and to environmental assessment.

Therefore, when the government has gutted the programs and the assessments in the way it has, it is a great concern. I look forward to discussing this aspect of Bill C-628. Hopefully when it goes to committee, as I hope it will, this aspect will get great discussion there as well.

However, the fact is that the government has undermined public trust around pipeline projects. In fact, I hope we hear more today from Conservative British Columbians, who will really share their views on this topic. I wonder if they will reflect on the fact that eight out of ten British Columbians are in favour of the kind of measures that are being proposed here and are opposed to ships carrying crude oil travelling through the waters we are talking about. That will be interesting.

Maybe they will explain why the government felt the need to change the National Energy Board process to further limit consultation about pipelines or to shorten the National Energy Board regulatory reviews to a maximum time limit of 15 months. The question is how this makes sense—that is, to limit the consultation of Canadians—when they are more engaged than ever before on these issues. Is it not a time to give them more opportunity to have a say?

We are not talking about foreign radicals, as was said by the Minister of Finance, who was or the Minister of Natural Resources at the time. That it is what members opposite want people to believe. In fact, National Energy Board officials testified recently before the natural resources committee, of which I am member, and said that the Canadian energy industry is in the midst of a “perfect storm”.

The NEB noted, in fact, that in March 2010, when the board released its Keystone XL decision, it was to relatively little fanfare, and there were only 29 intervenors in the process. We can contrast that with the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, which has 400 interveners and more than 1,300 commentators. Then there is the energy east application and the hearings related to that, where there are close to 2,300 application participants. We can see a great deal of public engagement these days, yet the government wants to cut that short.

When more and more Canadians are engaging in the debate about pipelines and pipeline safety, the Conservatives think they should have fewer and fewer opportunities to express their opinions. They are out of sync with Canadians on this, and certainly with British Columbians, as we can see from all the surveys that tell us about concerns British Columbians have on these topics. I think they are out of line.

In my province right now, the roads are in rough shape after the winter we have had. There are lots of potholes, and I am sure that more than one person over the course of this spring is going to have to pay for a wheel alignment to keep his or her vehicle going straight. Canadians are going to want a realignment of the Government of Canada as well, so that it is aligned with their priorities, views, and values, which the government clearly is not.

It makes no sense to cut this process short. That is a big part of the reason that there is so much mistrust of the government these days, and why there is so much mistrust of the processes that I have been talking about. Of course, the Conservatives have fed that mistrust by gutting elements of the Fisheries Act and the Navigable Waters Protection Act in their several omnibus bills, particularly Bill C-38.

As my party's critic for natural resources, I am keenly aware of how important, and at times how highly controversial, the issue of pipelines has become for Canadians. Given the sustained interest on the subject of Bill C-628, the fact that we have had this issue come to us in various forms over the years, including in bills introduced by my colleague from Vancouver Quadra, and coupled with the Conservative government's rollbacks on environment protection in recent years, it is clear that additional study of the concepts raised in Bill C-628 is very much needed and warranted.

Many of my B.C. colleagues, including the sponsor of this legislation, have already spoken about how the bill would impact the west coast and how important it is to residents of northwestern British Columbia. Coming from Atlantic Canada, representing Halifax West, I can assure my friends on all sides that the folks on the east coast share the pride in maritime traditions and have a connection with the ocean similar to that of people in British Columbia.

Nova Scotia, for example, has 20 companies involved in our ocean research in areas like fisheries, aquaculture, offshore oil and gas, maritime security, and shipbuilding. There are many areas in which Atlantic Canadians are connected to our oceans, as British Columbians are. It is important to support this bill and send it to committee for further study.

Canada Shipping ActPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.


Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure today to speak in support of a very important bill, important not only for British British Columbians but for all Canadians from coast to coast to coast. At this stage, I want to acknowledge the work done by my colleague, the member of Parliament for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, not only for the B.C. coastline but for the communities that reside in the north. He is an example to us of how to do effective advocacy outreach, and then to try to push for those improvements in the House.

This should not be a partisan issue because this is all about protecting our coastline. Today, I am making a heart-felt appeal to my B.C. colleagues across the way to search deep in their hearts, do the right thing and support the bill. British Columbians, whether they live in Kelowna, in the Kootenays, in Kitimat or Surrey, all care very deeply about our beautiful coastline. However, we also care about the future of our industries in British Columbia. We care about the kind of country and environment we want to leave for our children.

If my colleagues across the way feel they cannot support this, I hope they will rise to their feet and use all their persuasive powers to have some of us change our mind because they feel they are right. Let them defend the position they have taken in not supporting the bill. I will wait for that.

This is a common sense bill. It is a bill that came from the people and has been brought here by the member of Parliament. It shows respect for communities, first nations and environment. It talks about having a truly different type of conversation. Instead of us and them, instead of saying that they can get the heck out of our country, instead of saying “it's our way or the highway”, the bill proposes a pathway to meaningful dialogue that is respectful of all points of view, one that actually listens to the experts and the communities. It is a way to ensure that when we look at our energy development, we do it right, we do it in a way that will benefit our children for generations to come.

It is no surprise to many members who have been in the House for a long time that the issue of protection for the coastline has been around for over a decade. The bill would do bring closure to this. The law would provide permanent protection to B.C.'s north coast, permanent protection against oil tankers.

I do not know, Mr. Speaker, if you have ever had the privilege of visiting the beautiful coastline of British Columbia. In my previous job, I had the privilege to visit every community, even the ones where they had a one-room school. Travelling through British Columbia, visiting our coastline and our northern communities, we begin to see the close ties between are our land and the environment. However, we also see something else. I am not what I call a “gorilla kayaker”; I am a gentle kayaker but I am married to a gorilla kayaker. The Douglas Channel is narrow and inviting. Those waters are not suitable for supertankers.

When we look at our beautiful coastline in British Columbia, and I am sure people on the east coast feel exactly the same, we want to ensure our it is protected. We are carrying on the proud tradition the NDP has had for the past number of years, dating back to 1972 when a previous member of Parliament for Skeena, Frank Howard, brought forward such a motion to ban tanker traffic. It is time to turn it in to law. We have talked long enough.

Some people will say that we oppose the Northern gateway pipeline because we do not want to see damage done to our rivers, lakes and coastline. People say that the NDP does not believe in resource development or growing jobs, but we are 100% committed to growing decent-paying jobs in Canada.

This is a novelty for some, but we support responsible management of our non-renewable resources, a transition to renewable resources of energy and increasing energy efficiency, and a process that respects communities and the environment. That is the kind of resource development the New Democratic members can support, do support and will continue to fight for.

We are not the only ones who have said that. The bill has also been endorsed by the Council of the Haida Nation, the Wet'suwet'en First Nation, and the city of Terrace.

I want to take us back to Kitimat. We are going to see so many tankers filled with diluted bitumen going through the Douglas Channel along B.C.'s northern coastline to Asia or California, through some of our most biologically diverse environment, 120 species of sea birds and 27 species of marine mammals, such as orca, grey and humpback whales, as well as commercially important wild salmon, halibut and other fisheries.

The economic costs of a spill would be absolutely ginormous. The seafood sector in B.C. generates close to $1.7 billion each year, while the wilderness tourism in B.C. generates more than $1.55 billion in annual revenues. We are not talking over a lifetime; we are talking about one year.

We are talking over $3.2 billion of revenue from the fishing and tourism industries. These sectors do not work in isolation. They provide decent-paying jobs, permanent sources of income for around 45,000 Canadians. If there is a spill, we put guaranteed revenue into jeopardy. Not only that, but we know the cost of an oil spill and of a cleanup. We also see the long-term impact on other industries.

We often hear people saying that spills are not really going to happen. Enbridge is doing its own research, and this is from its own data. Dr. Gerald Graham determined that the likelihood of a major oil spill was 14%. That is not negligible; that is a huge probability. That is 1.5 out of 100 tankers. Do we want to take that kind of a chance? Think about the number of tankers that will go through the channel each and every year.

The Alberta Federation of Labour has estimated 26,000 decent-paying jobs would be created and would help to boost the middle class if the amount Enbridge intended to export raw was upgraded and refined in Canada.

Over the next 50-year span, we are looking at 11,000 tankers going down the Douglas Channel. I appeal to my B.C. colleagues to please persuade their other colleagues to vote for the bill.

Canada Shipping ActPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.


Ron Cannan Conservative Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, as the member of Parliament for Kelowna—Lake Country in beautiful British Columbia, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-628 and share how and why our government is committed to protecting the safety of Canadians and the safety of the environment. It is not either/or, but a balanced approach. We have taken significant action to strengthen the safety and security of Canada's energy transportation system, whether it be rail, pipeline or tanker safety.

Bill C-628 proposes to ban oil tankers off the coast of British Columbia. It is founded on perceived shortcomings of Canada's energy system that are simply not accurate.

Over the next few minutes, I would like to share with Canadians the broad range of concrete measures already in place and the new actions we are taking to build on Canada's strong world-class safety system. That is because members on this side of the House understand they are essential to achieving our goal of energy market diversification, which is itself crucial to ensuring ongoing job creation, economic growth and prosperity for Canadians.

I would like to explain why I believe it is so important that we diversify our energy markets.

In 2012, Canada produced over 3.38 million barrels of crude oil and almost 3.9 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day. All of that activity supported roughly 190,000 direct jobs and an additional 70,000 indirect jobs. Then there are revenues to federal, provincial and territorial governments from the oil and gas industry, which averaged approximately $25 billion annually over the past five years. That money paid for everything from roads and bridges to schools, hospitals in communities from coast to coast to coast. These multi-billion numbers are not surprising given the oil and gas sector accounted for 7.5% of GDP in 2013, and $83 billion of capital expenditures. Industry also represented $117 billion in exports in 2013.

To say the energy sector plays a major role in our high standard of living is an understatement. I believe it fuels the high quality of life of Canadians.

However, it is not something we can take for granted. The reality is that the global energy landscape is undergoing a seismic shift, creating both new opportunities and new challenges for Canada. On the plus side, there is an enormous and growing appetite for our energy supply. Demand for Canadian oil is strongest in the rapidly growing markets of the Asia-Pacific region.

The International Energy Agency predicts that, by 2035, the world will need a third more energy than is being consumed today. Most of this increase is due to the need for energy in emerging economies. Canada can capably meet that need as Canadian oil and gas production through innovation and new technology is expected to grow dramatically over the same period.

If we want to maintain our high standard of living and ensure governments have the resource sector royalties to fund a wide array of social programs, we must diversify our energy markets to have the funds to proceed in this manner.

While it appears the NDP by bringing forward this bill does not appreciate how crucial this issue is to the lives and livelihoods of Canadians, I can assure members that other government leaders across Canada do.

At the 2014 Energy and Mines Ministers' Conference, federal, provincial and territorial ministers recognized that the continued advancement of energy infrastructure was fundamental to gaining access to new markets and generating economic growth. Ministers also reaffirmed the need to coordinate our efforts to reinforce the diversification of Canada's natural resources by ensuring the safe transport of resources by pipeline, marine and rail.

We understand and fully agree that public safety and environmental protection are necessary conditions for energy development to proceed.

As I said earlier, it is a balanced approach; it is not either/or. That is precisely what responsible resource development is all about. It sends a clear signal that our government is determined to protect public safety and the health of the environment, based on sound science and world-class standards.

Between 2000 and 2011, federally regulated pipelines boasted a safety record of over 99.999% We are proud of the action we have taken to ensure Canada has a world-class regulatory framework and a means for the safest form of transportation of our energy products.

Our Government has introduced stringent new safety standards to prevent oil spills from happening and new navigational supports for tanker ships to better protect our coastal waters.

We have nine acts of Parliament governing marine safety, and that is before we factor in the tough new regulatory oversight and enforcement capabilities provided under Bill C-3, the Safeguarding Canada's Seas and Skies Act.

Thanks to tough legislation and technological innovations, there have been no spills from double-hulled tankers in Canadian waters. Nor have there ever been spills from tankers escorted by tugs with a local pilot aboard.

Especially important, we are ensuring that polluters, not taxpayers, will be responsible for costs in the unlikely event of a spill. We have brought in polluter pays legislation for both offshore and onshore, with billion dollar conditions for spill response and cleanup.

These measures underline that when it comes to transporting our natural resources, whether by pipeline, rail, or tanker, our government will never compromise on safety.

Our government has also given the independent National Energy Board the necessary resources to increase annual inspections of pipelines by 50%. The board has doubled the number of annual comprehensive safety audits to identify pipeline issues before incidents occur. Equally important, the National Energy Board now has the authority to impose substantial financial penalties on companies that do not comply with safety and environmental regulations. It can levy fines of up to $100,000 a day for as long as the infractions are not addressed.

It is disappointing that the member who put forward the bill we are debating today and who purports to be in favour of improving safety voted against each and every one of the measures I just mentioned.

Canada's outstanding safety record should assure Canadians that our energy resources can be developed safely and can in turn create good jobs and economic growth here at home. Our government's approach to promoting responsible resource development is the right one.

I believe that Canadians simply cannot trust the New Democrats to protect our economy or our environment. They oppose every form of resource development. They vote against our legislation to increase pipeline safety measures. Then they propose this bill that would hurt the Canadian economy. Bill C-628 risks undoing all the good being achieved under our plan for responsible resource development and would come at a great cost to Canadians. For that reason, we cannot support this bill.

In closing, having spent the first 27 years of my life in Alberta, I understand the oil and gas economy and how important it is not only to Alberta but to all of Canada. Given my last 25-plus years calling beautiful British Columbia home, I understand the value of the energy industry and also tourism, the environment, safety, and the economy. They are all brought together. It is not either/or, as I have alluded to before.

As a father of three daughters and three grandsons, I want a future for our Canadian economy, for our community of Kelowna Lake Country, for British Columbia, and for all Canadians. I believe that if this bill is passed, it would take us backward and would not help create those jobs we want in the future.

This is Easter week, a week of hurt and a week of hope. My hope is that we will work together to manage our resources responsibly. We are called to be good stewards. We have abundant resources across Canada. However, this type of legislation would not help our industry and would not help to create jobs. We want to have a balanced approach. I believe that by working together, we can create jobs and grow the economy to achieve long-term prosperity and a good quality of life for all North Americans

Canada Shipping ActPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.


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

Mr. Speaker, I stand in support of Bill C-628, an act to amend the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 and the National Energy Board Act. My party, the New Democratic Party of Canada, has stood with first nations and communities across British Columbia in their opposition to the Enbridge northern gateway since day one. This bill would enshrine a crude oil tanker ban on British Columbia's north coast in law. It would set it in stone.

I have never been to B.C.'s north coast. In fact, I have only been to British Columbia once, to the city of Vancouver, two or three years ago. As members know, I represent St. John's South—Mount Pearl in Newfoundland and Labrador. As a representative of Canada's most easterly province, I am on my feet here today speaking about a bill impacting Canada's most westerly province, because we have a lot in common.

I hear about how beautiful, unique, and pristine British Columbia is, but I certainly could not conceive of B.C. being any more beautiful, unique, or pristine than Newfoundland and Labrador. There are similarities, but there are differences as well. I know those differences well.

British Columbia has had a moratorium on oil and gas drilling off its coast since 1959. That is 56 years. Oil and gas companies have been drilling off Newfoundland and Labrador for a dog's age. It has been for decades. There is a moratorium off B.C. and just the opposite off Newfoundland and Labrador, where oil companies have been filling their boots for years. While there is no offshore oil and gas industry off B.C., we have had one on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland since the 1990s. In fact, the first offshore oil project, Hibernia, and the construction of the project's gravity-based structure in the 1990s, saved Newfoundland and Labrador's economy.

At the same time as the Hibernia project was getting off the ground, our northern cod stocks were in complete collapse. The northern cod moratorium in 1992 was the biggest layoff in Canadian history to that point. It may well still be the biggest layoff in our history. More than 30,000 people were thrown out of work immediately, and those were direct jobs.

Newfoundland and Labrador has done well through its oil industry. It has done very well. It has been a “have” province since November 2008, contributing more to the country than it gets back. Between 1949, when Canada joined our province, and 2008 it was a “have not” province. That hurt not just our economy but our psyche, too.

There are people who say that the oil industry has hurt Newfoundland and Labrador in certain ways and that there is too much emphasis on the non-renewable oil and gas industry and not enough attention to our greatest renewable industry, the fishery. Economic diversification also has not happened. The Newfoundland and Labrador government is facing a $916-million deficit this year alone, because oil revenues are down so severely and there is nothing to pick up the slack. The Government of Canada has also turned away from the fishery, with constant cuts to fisheries science and research budgets, in general, and a broken management system. There are some lessons B.C. can learn from Newfoundland and Labrador.

This bill would stop the Enbridge northern gateway pipeline in its tracks. Enbridge proposes that supertankers the length of the Empire State Building thread their way through the needle that is the sensitive and difficult waters of the Douglas Channel and B.C.'s north coast. Over the project's 50-year lifespan, we are talking about 11,000 tanker trips. What are the odds of a devastating accident or catastrophe? Most British Columbians and first nations do not want to take that chance. That message has been heard loud and clear across Canada.

Back to Newfoundland, there is constant oil tanker traffic in and out of Placentia Bay. Placentia Bay is seen as the area in Canada with possibly the highest risk of having an oil spill.

It was only recently that the Atlantic Pilotage Authority wanted to move the pilot station, where pilots board tankers to help guide them through the tricky waters. The pilotage authority wanted to move the boarding station deeper into Placentia Bay, but it backed off when opposition rang out, including opposition right here in the House. It backed off because it made no sense, because it increased the risk.

As it stands, Transport Canada's oil spill response equipment for Placentia Bay is located hundreds of kilometres away in a warehouse in the city of Mount Pearl, next to the city of St. John's. How does that make any sense?

One of the first papers I read in preparing to speak on the bill was a report carried out for B.C.'s first nations. The report was entitled, “Assessing offshore oil and gas development on British Columbia's coast”. The report said, “The risk of oil spills is declining with new management practices and technology”. That is fair enough. I suppose it is. However, here is the interesting part: “However, oil spills are a relatively common occurrence in oil and gas development. Newfoundland has recorded 138 small oil spills from 1997 to 2002”.

In the 13 years since that report, since those numbers were gathered, we can bet that there have been dozens, hundreds even, more spills, mostly small spills, but still spills.

Returning to British Columbia, there are two concerns with the Enbridge northern gateway project: the impact on the environment and the impact on the economy. The project would move 525,000 barrels of diluted bitumen per day from Alberta to B.C. The 1,177 kilometre pipeline would cross the Rocky Mountains, which I hear are almost as beautiful and as rugged as Newfoundland and Labrador's mountain ranges. The pipeline would cross the Rocky Mountains and hundreds of rivers and streams. From Kitimat, the bitumen would be loaded onto supertankers and shipped down the Douglas Channel and along B.C.'s north coast to Asia or California, wherever the markets are.

B.C.'s north coast is known for great biological diversity and extreme weather. It sounds like home. The north coast is home to 120 species of birds and 27 species of marine mammals, including orcas and gray and humpback whales, not to mention salmon, halibut, and other fish species. Again, it sounds like home and almost as nice. An oil spill would be devastating. Supertankers do not stop on a dime. Supertankers have a minimum stopping distance of three kilometres.

The economic cost of a spill would be equally as devastating. B.C.'s seafood sector generates close to $1.7 billion a year. Wilderness tourism is worth another $1.55 billion. Combined, that is well over $3 billion a year. We could imagine the dent an oil spill would put in those numbers.

However, there is another economic impact, not just for British Columbia but for all of Canada. The Alberta Federation of Labour estimates that 26,000 jobs could be created in Alberta if those 525,000 barrels of diluted bitumen were upgraded and refined right here in Canada. Why would we ship out unrefined bitumen? Why would we throw away 26,000 jobs? How does that make sense? How is that smart?

Newfoundland and Labrador has not benefited just from our own oil and gas industry. Alberta's oil sands have pumped hundreds of millions of dollars, dare I say billions, into our economy through hundreds and thousands of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who migrate west every day, every week, every year. I speak with them on the planes. I see them in the airports. They go to places like Fort McMurray, Newfoundland and Labrador's second biggest city, as the joke goes. Why would Canada support a pipeline that threatens so much of our environment and exports jobs to other countries?

There are three coasts in Canada. Each is equally important, although it does not always feel that way. In B.C., as in Newfoundland and Labrador, we live and die by the sea. If we jeopardize our oceans, our coasts, our culture, and our heritage, our economy will be lost.

Canada Shipping ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to have a right of reply to first express my thanks to my colleagues from across the country and in the House. From the east coast and to the north, I thank my colleagues from British Columbia, New Democrats, Liberals and Green Party alike, as well as the independents who have shown their support.

I represent northwestern British Columbia in the House of Commons. We are a culture and an economy based on our environment. As we say up north, the people do not make the land, the land makes the people, which is increasingly true.

This bill that I have presented in Parliament was in fact borne out of a crisis, out of a threat from an oil company seeking to build an 1,100-kilometre twin pipeline carrying unrefined raw bitumen from northern Alberta to the Port of Kitimat and then on to China through supertankers three football fields long. In my duty as the member of Parliament representing this place, I realized that I had to oppose this project, because the risks so far outweighed the benefits for the people I represent, and I would argue for the people of British Columbia and Canada.

However, from this crisis is an opportunity, and we have taken this opportunity to find common cause, not just in northwestern British Columbia, but across beautiful B.C. and in fact across this country. First nations and non-native people, community to community, have stood shoulder to shoulder in expressing our commonly held values to protect our homes. They have expressed that most Canadian sense of determination, that when a government tries to force something upon us, we stand resolute with one another in opposition to that government.

Also through this bill, I sought to propose solutions to the crisis that is upon us, to make consultation with Canadians meaningful and respectful, so that if the opinion of Canadians in their communities and their homes is asked, then the Government of Canada should listen.

This bill, perhaps for the first time in Canadian law, also seeks to actually have an opinion about natural resources in this country as to whether we export them raw, as is planned by Enbridge's northern gateway and Kinder Morgan, Keystone, or if we add value to the endowment that we have inherited. However, if we ask these questions of proponents, the Conservatives say we are antagonistic, but I say that is not right.

I have held dozens of town halls across British Columbia, from the east to the west, from Vancouver Island to the interior, to the north, to the cities. Tens of thousands of British Columbians have been engaged, signing petitions, writing postcards and coming to town halls.

I was in the interior of B.C. this weekend and took the red eye back this morning. A woman came up to me at one of our town halls and thanked me for providing a little bit of hope, because she felt quite desperate with the current Conservative government and its approach to her province and home and native land. However, I realized that through the course of this, it has been myself that has taken the most inspiration from the British Columbians I have engaged with.

Despite a cynical and oppositional government that seeks to strip our environmental laws, ignore first nations' rights and title, ignore the reality of climate change, ignore the idea that we should be adding value to our natural wealth, despite all that, British Columbians, Canadians, have continued to show up. Even with the increasing threat from a government that says if one dares have an opinion that is contrary to its own, one will be called a foreign-funded radical by one's own government, one will be called an enemy of the state by one's own government, people have chosen hope over that fear time and time again. It does not make one an enemy of Canada to express an opinion; that makes one truly Canadian.

Coastal first nations; B.C. municipalities; the B.C. government; the Fraser community's labour, tourism and businesses have all stood together in opposing this project; two-thirds of British Columbians consistently. Therefore, I say to my Conservative colleagues from British Columbia that they clearly have a choice in a vote in 48 hours to decide who it is that they work for. Do they work for the current Prime Minister and his oil lobby friends, or do they work for the people who sent them to this place from British Columbia?

Those members must decide that within the next two days, because this bill is an opportunity to stand with British Columbia and defend our coast, or stand with the Prime Minister, who has truly lost his way and believes that it is a radical thing to stand up for one's community, that it makes one an enemy of Canada rather than a Canadian citizen.

Canada Shipping ActPrivate Members' Business



The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Canada Shipping ActPrivate Members' Business


Some hon. members



Canada Shipping ActPrivate Members' Business



The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Canada Shipping ActPrivate Members' Business


Some hon. members


Canada Shipping ActPrivate Members' Business



The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

All those opposed will please say nay.

Canada Shipping ActPrivate Members' Business


Some hon. members


Canada Shipping ActPrivate Members' Business



The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the division stands deferred until Wednesday, April 1, immediately before the time providing for private members' business.

Safe and Accountable Rail ActGovernment Orders

March 30th, 2015 / noon

Halton Ontario


Lisa Raitt ConservativeMinister of Transport

moved that Bill C-52, an act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, today I rise in my place to begin the second reading of Bill C-52, the safe and accountable rail act.

Since arriving at Transport Canada, I have made safety my absolute top priority.

As minister, I have borne witness to events that have led us to examine the safety regime and the manner in which railways and shippers are held accountable when things go wrong. Things can and do go wrong.

The most notable event without question was the explosion of railway cars in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, on July 6, 2013, and the 47 people who died that day, a day that will be inscribed in the memory of all members of this House. It has galvanized our determination to find better ways to protect Canadians and our communities, and better ways to safely move the goods on which the Canadian economy depends.

We are committed to achieving that, and we have taken decisive measures to do so.

Very soon after the tragedy, we introduced measures to address safety issues. We established two-person minimum crews for locomotives pulling dangerous goods, and we slowed the speed of all of those trains. We adjusted the specifications of tank cars, and immediately took the least crash-resistant cars off the rails. We strengthened regulations and we increased inspections. We also took steps to address longer-term issues. We have been working with municipalities, first responders, railways and shippers to strengthen emergency response across this country.

In August, the Transportation Safety Board issued its final investigation report on the Lac-Mégantic tragedy, and again we responded. Last October, I introduced further measures, including an emergency directive on how trains are to be braked, the accurate classification of dangerous goods and steps to improve training of all rail employees.

We also introduced measures to make safety management systems more effective in ways that I will discuss in more detail, but I want to emphasize this: this government has implemented every single one of the recommendations of the Transportation Safety Board in response to Lac-Mégantic. We have learned the lessons inherent in past tragedies, and our commitment to safety is absolute.

The bill before us introduces further steps to strengthen the safety regime of Canada's railways and ensure the accountability of railways in the case of accidents. It moves on three different fronts. The first is prevention. Amendments would strengthen the regulatory regime to reduce the likelihood of rail accidents. The second is communication for effective response. The bill would allow for requirements related to information sharing between railways and municipalities to improve the response in case of emergencies. The third is accountability. The bill would take steps to ensure railways have enough insurance to pay for damages. It would also make crude oil shippers accountable for what they put on the rails by ensuring they pay into a supplementary fund that would be available when an accident involves crude.

The bill before us would amend two pieces of legislation: the Railway Safety Act and the Canada Transportation Act. Taken together, these amendments represent a significant step in improving the overall safety in Canada's railways, especially in the transportation of dangerous goods. These amendments respond to the recommendations of the Transportation Safety Board in response to Lac-Mégantic, and the 2013 fall report of the Auditor General. We welcomed all their input.

Let me begin with prevention and the features of the bill that would help prevent rail accidents. The Railway Safety Act sets out a regulatory framework to address the safety, the security and the environmental impact of rail. Under the act, federally regulated railways are responsible for the safety of their rail line infrastructure, of their railway equipment and of their operations.

Transport Canada monitors the railway's compliance with the act and with the department's rules, regulations and engineering standards.

Transport Canada also conducts audits and inspections to ensure that the overall safety of railway operations is maintained. Canadians can be assured that Transport Canada does not and will not hesitate to take appropriate action to address safety concerns. The bill before us today would provide new authorities to the safety inspectors and to the Minister of Transport to do just that.

Under this bill, a new provision would give the Minister of Transport the authority to order a railway to take a corrective action, to stop any action, to follow any procedure or to suspend operation. In other words, the minister would be able to intervene directly should there be a concern for safety.

A Transport Canada railway safety inspector would be given broader authority to issue notices and orders to any person or entity, including railway companies, road authorities and municipalities, relating to safe railway operations. By increasing the authorities for the minister and railway safety inspectors, we would increase Transport Canada's ability to administer the Railway Safety Act and the regulations, the rules and the engineering standards made under the act. These are all powerful tools and they would increase the regulation of oversight of railway companies that Transport Canada regulates and would ensure that railways operate according to the standards established in the act.

However, I would like to emphasize that some of the most important steps that railways make to improve safety and safety culture are not the results of the provisions of the Railway Safety Act but are contained within their own safety management systems or SMS. I want to be clear on this point. A safety management system is not deregulation and it is not self-regulation; it is an internationally recognized, science-based process that has been used in rail transportation since 2001. SMS do not replace rules or regulations or inspections. They provide a systemic approach to safety that incorporates specific regulations and proactive measures to identify hazards and to mitigate risks.

Transport Canada has created regulatory requirements around safety management systems and the bill before us would strengthen the department's oversight. Under the amendments, I believe that if a railway company were implementing its safety management system in a way that could compromise railway safety, I could take that company to corrective action by placing an order. With this additional oversight, railways would have further incentive to ensure that they manage the risks associated with operating a railway.

I would like to draw the attention of the House to the elements of this bill that would help quicken emergency response through closer communication and co-operation between railways and municipalities through which they pass. Under this bill, Transport Canada would have new authority to regulate the sharing of information, of documents and of records from one party to another other than the department, for example, from a railway company to a municipality.

Canada's history is one of towns and cities that sprang up along the rail lines in this country. We have to ensure that the people who live in these areas are safe. The collaboration between railways and communities on such matters would no longer be at the discretion of the railways. It would form part of a mandatory regulatory framework. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities has been an outspoken champion for better communication and more transparency between railways and municipalities on safety-related issues, and we thank its members for their input and advice.

In addition to prevention and effective communication for improved response, the third pillar of the bill involves accountability. By this, I mean the need to ensure those responsible for operating the railway system and those who put high-risk goods into the system would have the financial resources they need to compensate victims and to clean up communities if things go wrong. This is not just an issue that results from major tragedies such as what happened in Lac-Mégantic, although I will return to that in a moment.

More frequently, municipalities are called to respond to incidents of lesser impact, such as putting out fires that may have been caused as a result of a railway operation. Under the current regime, these costs are often borne by the provinces and municipalities and ultimately their taxpayers. However, under the bill before us, if a province or municipality believes that a fire was started as a result of railway operations, it can apply to the Canadian Transportation Agency for reimbursement. The amendment would give the agency authority to determine if indeed the fire was caused by railway operations, and would be able to determine the costs incurred in putting out the fire and require the railway to reimburse the province or municipality for those costs.

This amendment and the others I have spoken to today are changes to the Railway Safety Act that promote a safe and secure, efficient and environmentally responsible transportation system in Canada. The amendments would give Transport Canada more authority and oversight in rail operations, bring in a new era of communication between railways and municipalities in an effort to improve emergency preparedness, and help make the railways accountable for the costs incurred from fighting fires that result from their operations.

However, another important issue of accountability became all too apparent in the aftermath of the Lac-Mégantic tragedy. The cost of the disaster in terms of the lives lost was incalculable. They are beyond words. However, there were calculable loss costs as well, and the costs of putting out the fire and clearing the debris, cleaning up the effects on the environment, and, of course, the costs of rebuilding a community and compensating, truly shattered lives. No one wants to anticipate such a disaster, but any responsible company must prepare for such eventualities by carrying sufficient insurance to cover the costs.

Under the Canada Transportation Act, federally regulated railways must carry insurance, but the Lac-Mégantic tragedy has proven that the measures now in place are simply not sufficient. Therefore, the bill before us identifies specific levels of insurance that must be carried, depending upon the type and volume of dangerous goods that the railway transports. These insurance requirements would come into force 12 months after the bill's royal assent, giving the insurance market the necessary time to adjust, and railways enough time to obtain the necessary insurance, which is usually purchased on an annual policy.

Class 1 railways carry significant quantities of dangerous goods, and they will be required to hold $1 billion in insurance. The House will be reassured to know that both CN and CP customarily carry more insurance than that. At the other end of the spectrum, railways carrying little or no dangerous goods would be required to hold $25 million in insurance. For short-line railways carrying higher amounts of dangerous goods, there would be an initial requirement to hold either $50 million or $125 million in insurance. One year later, those levels would increase to $100 million and $250 million respectively. This phase-in period would allow short-line railways time to adjust to the new requirements. The agency would be able to make inquiries to determine whether railways are maintaining the correct amount of insurance, and must revoke or suspend the certificate of fitness of any railway that fails to comply.

The agency can also enforce insurance requirements through administrative monetary penalties of up to $100,000, and there is more. Unfortunately, there is always the possibility and potential for a tragedy to exceed the ability of a railway's third-party insurance to cover the damages, so crude oil shippers must also share in the responsibility that comes with the transport of their dangerous goods. For those reasons, the bill would also create a supplemental fund that would be financed by levies on crude oil shippers, in the amount of $1.65 for every tonne of crude that is shipped. If the damages caused by a catastrophic crude oil accident were more than a railway company's insurance could cover, the fund would be there to cover the cost, not the taxpayers.

This is consistent with the polluter pays principle and is similar to the approach taken in marine transportation; the costs associated with an incident are shared by industry.

Crude oil shippers are included in the amendments before us today, but Transport Canada is looking at the possibility of expanding the regime to cover industries that ship other dangerous goods. In this way, we promote a shared accountability between rail carriers and the shippers of dangerous goods to ensure that victims and taxpayers are fully protected from bearing the costs of rail accidents.

Our goal is to ensure that communities, citizens, and taxpayers are protected in the event of an incident. The polluter will pay to clean up and provide compensation. We support a competitive rail sector and the resource economy that brings jobs to Canadians, but when it comes to safety in the transportation system, communities and citizens will always come first.

The measures in this bill come in addition to the steps the government has already taken to improve the rail safety regime. I would point out that there is a private member's bill that has been tabled to amend the Railway Safety Act, and I would like to commend the work of our colleague, the hon. member for Winnipeg South Centre. Her private member's bill, Bill C-627, is also designed to provide greater protection to persons and property from railway operations.

The government supports this bill, and I wish to assure the House that we have coordinated the amendments in the bill before us to ensure that both bills will be harmonized when they reach royal assent. This is the customary way to give effect to two bills and will result in both bills having equal and consistent impact on the Railway Safety Act.

Railway operators and Transport Canada have taken many measures to improve rail safety, and this has reduced accident rates over the past several years. However, the amount of dangerous goods and other commodities moving by rail is increasing, and it will continue to grow. We need proper oversight to reduce accidents. We need better communication between railways and municipalities to provide more effective response, and we need a stronger liability and compensation regime in the event of an accident.

The bill addresses each of these areas. It introduces substantial changes to the regimes for both rail safety, and liability and compensation. In the last Speech from the Throne, this government committed to drawing upon the lessons of the tragedy at Lac-Mégantic to make shippers and rail companies accountable for rail safety.

With this bill, we are fulfilling that commitment.

Our system of transportation safety is strong, but it can be improved. By strengthening the safety, liability, and compensation regimes, we will improve public confidence in the rail industry. Above all, we will underscore that the safety and the security of Canadians remain the top priority of Transport Canada.

We have put in place many rail safety initiatives, through directives, orders, and regulations within the existing legislation framework.

This bill will enable us to take further measures.

I hope hon. members share my sense of urgency that we get this done, and that they join me in supporting this extremely important bill.

Safe and Accountable Rail ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Hoang Mai NDP Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the bill is a step in the right direction.

After Lac-Mégantic, we saw the impact of a company not having sufficient liability insurance. We have also seen the impact of not having a fund to help families and municipalities when they have to deal with the cleanup.

I would like to hear from the minister. When the minister tabled the bill, we heard talk about $250 million regarding the disaster relief fund. I would like to know whether or not that is a cap. Has the government decided to put a cap on that fund? If it is a cap, why is it capped at $250 million?

Safe and Accountable Rail ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Lisa Raitt Conservative Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his support in our bringing forward this legislation.

There has been a notional amount to which the fund has been pegged in order to share capitalization. Much like in the ship-source oil pollution fund, we have set a limit in terms of the levies coming in to make sure there is a certain amount of money available.

That being said, if there ever is a case where that fund is exhausted, on top of the insurance, there is power within this act for the government to assess another levy in order to bring that fund back up to the amount it needs to be in order to ensure that taxpayers are not ultimately on the hook for the costs and that it truly is the polluter pays principle.

There is a limit on the capitalization of the fund, but beyond that there is the ability for us to go back and extract that. It would be the consolidated revenue fund that would take over if need be, but we have the ability to get that money back from the railway and from the shippers.

Safe and Accountable Rail ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Adam Vaughan Liberal Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, one of the issues that concerns a number of the residents in the riding that I represent, and in fact all of the downtown residents, is the level crossings. In a dense urban area where many of these trains travel, including the train from Lac-Mégantic which came through the downtown, level crossings are still the defining characteristic of rail crossings in Toronto and across the country. There are thousands of them.

My understanding is that there is a budget of only $10 million a year to transition the level crossings into rail underpasses or overpasses. Is the government considering increasing the funds available to cities and municipalities to make the rail lines safer as it brings in stronger safety regulations?

Safe and Accountable Rail ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Lisa Raitt Conservative Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would implore the members of the House to make their municipalities aware of the grade crossing separation fund that is available. Unfortunately, it was not fully subscribed to last year.

Ironically, one would think that it should be available and people would take it up. The money is there in order to make sure we have participation by both rail and the municipality, and the federal government has its piece through this fund. I encourage people to make the application.

Safe and Accountable Rail ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I know the hon. minister has put great effort into improving rail safety, and I commend the steps that have been taken. I am not convinced that we have done enough yet. However, we know we are moving a lot of goods by rail, and it is focusing on the dangers of those goods.

I want to ask the minister about the definition of crude oil in the bill. It lumps together different kinds of products that have widely different risks. We know that the Lac-Mégantic disaster involved Bakken shale from North Dakota, which was highly volatile. At the other end of the spectrum, we have conventional crude oil which is not nearly as volatile.

I am wondering how we could better differentiate and if operationally there are ways to do that. Certainly when shipping diluent to northern Alberta, to stir it into bitumen, diluent itself is a hazardous material, even though shipping bitumen as a solid would not be. These are the kinds of distinctions that are ignored in the current definition.

Safe and Accountable Rail ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Lisa Raitt Conservative Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would refer the hon. member to proposed section 87 of the Canada Transportation Act, under clause 4 of Bill C-52, where we give the definition of crude oil. I can assure the member that there was a lot of discussion with respect to that with Transport Canada officials. Where we landed is where we list it here, which is in compliance with the United Nations designation and classifications.

We will always make sure we are getting the appropriate capture with respect to crude oil to ensure it is part of the shippers' fund. We cast the net quite widely in this case, but if there are any specific concerns that the member may have with respect to that, I will ask her to bring it up for Transport Canada officials, through me, and we will be able to get you the appropriate answer.

My understanding is that we threw the net widely in order to capture the entire definition in accordance with the United Nations regulations.

Safe and Accountable Rail ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

I would remind all hon. members to direct their comments to the Chair rather than directly to their colleagues.

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Timmins—James Bay.

Safe and Accountable Rail ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the minister's speech very carefully. As the minister well knows, in my region we have had three derailments recently: one in Hornepayne and two in Gogama. The last one in Gogama was particularly concerning because of the tankers that spilled into the Mattagami River near the fish spawning grounds. A lot of work has gone into making sure that we have a healthy fish population, not just for first nation people but for all tourists and outfitters who live along the Mattagami River.

Given the ecological damage that has been done to the Mattagami River, I would like to ask the minister if she can update the House on the remediation plans in place and what she thinks it is going to take in the long term to restore the fishery habitats that have been damaged on the Mattagami River.