Mr. Speaker, our country has one of the best marine safety regimes in the world. Marine transportation is the cornerstone of many regional economies in Canada. Goods have been shipped safely in Canadian waters for decades thanks to responsible shipping industry partners and navigators and also because of the effective prevention measures in place.
Our government has made significant investments in the world-class safety system for tanker ships in order to prevent spills, quickly clean up any spills that occur and enforce the polluter pays principle.
Canada continues to be a world leader in the implementation of new navigation technologies by providing navigators with the vital information they need. Progress and innovation, together with real-time analysis of vessel traffic and the extension of automatic identification requirements to a greater number of vessels, will ensure that ships navigate even more efficiently and safely.
As a result of the world-class tanker safety system, there has been even better co-operation between experts in various fields. Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the Canadian Coast Guard, Transport Canada, Environment Canada and Natural Resources Canada are working together on important initiatives that support marine safety and the protection of our marine environment.
In May 2014, our government announced that Canada had adopted an area response planning model, which provides a new, collaborative, transparent and risk-based approach to preparing for and responding to ship-source oil spills.
As a federal agency responsible for providing an appropriate response to ship-source marine pollution incidents, the Canadian Coast Guard will bring its partners together more than ever to develop area response plans and further improve the decision-making process. These partners include many local stakeholders and representatives from aboriginal communities, the industry and other levels of government.
The area response plans will be improved through scientific research on pollutants and how they behave in water. This research will help the Canadian Coast Guard learn more about new products and how they interact with the marine environment. It will also give the coast guard a wider range of response measures to draw upon. This new response planning approach will strengthen the current system, under which private sector response organizations are required to maintain a 10,000-tonne response capacity throughout Canada. The current approach has proven to be extremely effective for many years and has successfully protected the environment.
However, our government is committed to continually improving the safety of Canadians and the environment. That is why our government is taking this opportunity to strengthen and improve the existing measures in order to protect our environment now and for generations to come.
The new area response planning process will be piloted at four test sites: the southern portion of British Columbia, Saint John and the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick, Port Hawkesbury and the Strait of Canso in Nova Scotia, and the St. Lawrence Seaway from Quebec City to Anticosti Island, Quebec.
The Canadian Coast Guard and our federal colleagues recognize that we cannot develop area response plans in isolation. That is why, beginning this year, a series of activities will be planned so that the perspectives of stakeholders and aboriginal groups can be taken into account throughout the process.
To reinforce the response element of our world-class tanker safety system, our government announced $31 million over five years for the Canadian Coast Guard to adopt an incident command system, known as ICS, across the Canadian Coast Guard.
This is a critical initiative that will bring about the implementation of a standardized management approach on the ground for the efficient command, control and coordination of responses to all marine incidents.
The new incident command system will enhance the Canadian Coast Guard's ability to respond to marine pollution incidents together with major partners and response organizations.
The Canadian Coast Guard recently used the incident command system to successfully manage the recovery of pollutants from the wreck of the Brigadier General M.G. Zalinski in the Grenville Channel. The system creates a centralized, controlled approach enabling the Canadian Coast Guard to collaborate with federal and provincial partners, first nations and the private sector to respond quickly and safely.
Over the next few years, the incident command system will be fully implemented, thereby strengthening the existing response regime. Simply put, the Canadian Coast Guard and its partners will be in a better position to deal with pollution incidents and other marine incidents, by relying on an already robust environmental response system.
The incident command system is another example of how our world-class tanker safety system is being enhanced in order to protect Canadians and our environment.
It is important to note, as many of my colleagues know, that under the laws of Canada, the liability and compensation regime for oil spills is based on the polluter pays principle. In other words, the polluter is always responsible for paying for the costs of an oil spill. If a ship causes a spill, Canadian law makes its owner liable for losses and damages.
Our laws also require ships to have an arrangement in place with a marine response organization to respond to any requests for an environmental response that may be needed.
These response organizations play an important role by being an essential part of the environmental response capability in Canadian waters.
In closing, through our robust safety regime and our world-class tanker safety system, our government will continue its important work to protect Canadians and our marine environment.