Mr. Speaker, we are in the process of debating Bill C-46.
Our party will support the bill at second reading, because we want to go further. We feel this is a good step forward, but we must continue because we dream of a country that, like Sweden, Denmark and Finland, is capable of living with clean energies, which serve people well and reduce the harmful effects of pollution.
We are saying that this bill is a step forward, but a lot of proposals and amendments will be necessary in order to make it a really good bill. Bill C-46 leaves a great deal of leeway for politically motivated decisions and secret agreements between pipeline operators and the National Energy Board.
I am a member of the Standing Joint Committee on the Scrutiny of Regulations, and we can see that sometimes many things are left up to the ministers, who will end up making regulations. In some cases, they do not necessarily keep to the intent of the law. I would therefore prefer to have a bill that is clearly drafted and leaves no grey areas. Unfortunately, this is not the case with this bill. It is a little bit too general for my taste.
This bill does not necessarily include absolute liability for gas companies and other non-oil pipeline operators or for small-scale oil pipeline companies. This will also be established through future regulations or by cabinet. However, cabinet is the executive branch. Cabinet is not the legislative branch. Here again, partisan politics will be at play. It is a very sensitive area.
For us, as members of the NDP, it is important to begin by making it mandatory for companies to be liable for what they do to the environment. We are well aware that they are transporting raw materials by the means they have available to them, that is, pipelines, trains and so forth. There is always a risk. However, safety is fundamental and Canadians must be reassured. We feel that Canada must take measures to ensure that natural resources, these resources that are so dangerous, are developed and transported safely, because we must protect our constituents. Communities must be consulted and engaged in a meaningful way.
We always keep in mind what happened in Lac-Mégantic. Last weekend, we learned that there was another accident involving the transportation of oil and that a fire was caused. Fortunately, this time, no one was killed. However, it is frightening. We talk a lot about security in our country, but this is also a security issue.
If oil companies really want to get Canadians’ support, they must consider public opinion and provide information. They cannot do this by sitting back and discussing issues solely with the groups that want to make money. Canadians must be truly informed and their views must be considered in the decision-making process. Since information has not been flowing very smoothly and some has been hidden, people have begun to stand up against the pipelines. For instance, there is an article in Le Devoir that describes the municipal revolt against the energy east project. It states that, “At least 75 cities have voiced concerns about the TransCanada pipeline”. That is 75 cities in Quebec alone.
Guillaume Tremblay, mayor of Mascouche, said, “We do not want this project in our city”. In his view, there are a number of elements that point in favour of simply rejecting the pipeline that the oil company wants to build in the municipality, which is located north of Montreal.
He said that he is really concerned about protecting the artesian wells that many residents have, as well as safeguarding natural habitats. It has been said that if the oil companies cause damage, they will pay for it. However, that is not enough. It is not enough to simply repair the damage that has been done. We must consider producing sustainable energies that will eliminate people's fears. The mayors are already against the project; not all of them, but most.
Other citizens’ groups are concerned, not just the ones that are involved in the decision-making. Another article was published in Le Devoir on Tuesday, March 3, entitled “early childhood centre concerned about Enbridge project”. In this case, the centre is concerned about the reversal of the flow in line 9B, which passes through its backyard. Think about the parents that send their children to this centre. If a spill happens there, the children will be paying for it.
The director of the Gamin Gamine day care centre in Terrebonne is very concerned about the reversal of the flow in the pipeline, which will soon be sending 300,000 barrels of oil toward Montreal every day, because the pipeline passes through the centre's backyard.
People are asking us what is going to happen, and we politicians are obliged to give them real answers. We have to take this seriously. Schools are also concerned. These people fear for the safety of their children. This is a serious matter.
The Montreal metropolitan community believes that there are still unanswered questions. People do not feel as though they have been consulted and they are of the opinion that many of the answers they have received are not clear, primarily those concerning emergency plans. There is nothing about this in the bill.
Enbridge states, however, that meetings with the first responders in the municipalities concerned should be held in the next few weeks. It is as though the company is saying that it had planned to look into this later and that people should just trust it. Canadians should not be taken for puppets who can be manipulated into just about anything because they need gas for their cars. It goes beyond that.
Hydro-Québec has also sounded the alarm. It wants its concerns about the possible route of TransCanada's energy east pipeline to be heard at the National Energy Board public hearings to be held later this year. There are concerns about the proven phenomenon of corrosion.
In its letter, the crown corporation pointed out that the preliminary route proposed by the Alberta company runs along its high-voltage power lines for about 700 kilometres. Hydro-Québec is concerned that the project will limit the operation and growth of its network. However, electricity is a clean energy.
Hydro-Québec is concerned about what a pipeline leak would do to its own infrastructure. It mentions the risk of the presence of power lines, which could lead to corrosion problems for the pipeline. We really need a more in-depth study.
TransCanada acknowledges that it had similar problems with its Keystone pipeline in western Canada, after it went into service in 2010. However, the company's spokesperson, Tim Duboyce, says that the company has developed a technique called cathodic protection, which protects steel structures. That is a step forward.
Environmental groups such as Greenpeace are concerned about all these issues: “Hydro-Québec is very clear: there are risks.”
As legislators, we cannot simply settle for supporting the polluter pays principle. We need to be more ambitious than that. Radio-Canada published an article on this topic. It said:
Pipeline operators are required to report any oil spills to the Transportation Safety Board of Canada.
The most recent report states that the number of accidents has decreased, but if you look at the number of accidents in relation to the volume of oil transported per pipeline, it is clear that the number of accidents has been consistently increasing for 10 years.
I invite everyone to take a little trip with me as we take a look at European countries. Since the oil crisis in the early 1970s, Sweden has invested massively in research on alternative energy sources, and it is working. Sweden is a huge consumer of energy per capita—about 16,000 kilowatts per person per year—but its carbon emissions are comparatively smaller. The country primarily uses wind energy and hydroelectric energy.
We need to continue to dream and go further. This bill is a step in the right direction, but it is not the last step. We need to take this very seriously. We are talking about our health and the health of our children and our planet.