House of Commons Hansard #196 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was environment.

Topics

Canadian Wheat BoardRequest for Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 52(1), I request leave to make a motion for the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a matter that I believe to be of great urgency, of national importance and timely relevance, namely the announced intention of the government to transfer at no upfront cost all of the assets and majority stake in the former Canadian Wheat Board to a partnership between the American agrifood giant Bunge Limited and the wealth management fund of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

It is disturbing and confusing to my constituents that in making its decision the government inexplicably dismissed a cash offer of $380 million to purchase the Wheat Board and its assets, which came directly from western Canadian grain farmers themselves. Bunge Limited and Saudi Arabia are paying nothing for the Wheat Board and its assets except for a promise to invest in their own company at some later date.

This wholesale giveaway of the Canadian Wheat Board's considerable assets was announced during a break week when the House of Commons was not sitting. Therefore, members of Parliament have not had the opportunity for the examination, the scrutiny, the oversight and the due diligence of this preposterous disposal of assets as is our right, our obligation and duty as parliamentarians. In keeping with the criteria for granting an emergency debate, I ask that you take note that this is the first opportunity we have had since the deal was announced to bring it to the attention of the House. I also believe the matter should qualify as an emergency because the impact on this important strategic industry will be permanent and irreversible if this corporate giveaway is allowed to proceed further.

Until it was dismantled by legislation, the Canadian Wheat Board was one of the largest and most successful grain marketing companies in the world. It was a Canadian success story as it was owned and operated by Canadian grain farmers for Canadian grain farmers, with revenues of over $6 billion a year. It not only provided the best possible return for producers, it ensured orderly marketing and reliable deliveries, and protected the premium quality brand and reputation of our Canadian wheat and barley products. It is a bizarre irony that, while this government administration is openly hostile to the concept of state-owned enterprises in Canada, it is allowing the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to be a major partner in the takeover of this great Canadian institution.

This issue is urgent. There has been little disclosure of details of the transfer. Misinformation abounds and many questions cry out for answers. For example, how can the minister say there will be greater competition in grain marketing by this takeover when in fact the merger will result in one less actor in the market? How can the farmers expect a higher price for their product with this new company when the Wheat Board was a non-profit entity and by legislation returned all profits to the producers? In contrast, Bunge Limited paid its CEO $6 million last year and earned $207 million. That money came from somewhere.

It is only fair to all parties that this debate be held today so that Canadians and particularly Canadian prairie farmers may understand the implications and details of this shadowy “sale that is not a sale”, so that they can know what time-sensitive options are open to them both in terms of the sale itself and how that might affect the business decisions they must make right now about spring planting and planning their crops in the future. Taxpayers have a right to know why their government would give away the assets of this great Canadian institution to foreign interests for nothing except a promissory note that the company will invest in itself at some future date. How is that good business by anybody's standard?

For these pressing and urgent reasons, I request that there be an emergency debate in this House to further discuss this matter. Should you require any additional information about this situation that would assist you in reaching a favourable decision on my application for leave, I would be happy to supply it.

Canadian Wheat BoardRequest for Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I thank the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre for raising the issue of the sale of the Canadian Wheat Board. As a member from western Canada, I am very familiar with the Wheat Board as well in my own riding. However, I am not sure that it rises to the level of need for an emergency debate. I do note that today is a supply day and I am sure there will be other opportunities to raise questions about the Wheat Board in days to come. However, I am not sure that it meets the test for an emergency debate as it stands.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Opposition Motion--Coastal Water ProtectionBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Opitz Conservative Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to note that I will be sharing my time today with the hon. member for Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière.

Let me begin by reassuring parliamentarians and Canadians alike that Canada has one of the strongest marine safety regimes in the world. Our government remains committed to continual improvement, and continues to take action to strengthen our marine spill prevention, preparedness, response capabilities, liability and compensation regime.

On April 8, 2015, a marine fuel spill occurred in Vancouver's English Bay. Since learning of the incident, we have confirmed that the spill originated from the MV Marathassa, a bulk carrier on her maiden voyage that was scheduled to pick up grain. At the time the incident occurred, she was anchored along with several other vessels in the area.

When notified of the spill by a concerned boater, the Canadian Coast Guard responded and tasked Transport Canada's national aerial surveillance program, or NASP, aircraft to perform overflights of English Bay. Throughout the response operation, several aerial patrols were made daily. In total, this represents 13 overflights, which were vital to assess and monitor the amount of pollution and the effectiveness of the cleanup efforts. The results of these overflights were shared with all parties involved in the response efforts, and the overflights will continue as needed.

In addition to the situational awareness provided by the flights conducted as part of the national aerial surveillance program, Transport Canada has conducted inspections of the vessels to verify compliance with applicable safety and environmental protection requirements and to ascertain the cause of the spill. Also, Transport Canada is monitoring the actions of the response organization, in this case the Western Canada Marine Response Corporation, to ensure that it is in compliance with the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 and all regulations.

Transport Canada investigates all reported oil spills, and if there is sufficient evidence that there is contravention of our federal laws, the polluter may be prosecuted in court. Furthermore, an administrative monetary penalty could be imposed on the polluter. This is just another measure to protect Canadian taxpayers.

As the cleanup efforts continue, Transport Canada has already begun to shift its focus in its investigation. Marine safety inspectors are continuing their work examining compliance with the requirements under the Canada Shipping Act and the Vessel Pollution and Dangerous Chemicals Regulations.

Under the Canada Shipping Act, an owner of a vessel like the Marathassa must have an arrangement with Transport Canada's certified response organization, as well as under the Vessel Pollution and Dangerous Chemicals Regulations. All vessels are required to report either a discharge or an anticipated discharge of oil. Such a report must be made by the master of the vessel as soon as the discharge occurs or is anticipated, unless the master is involved in saving lives, securing safety or dealing with damage to the vessel or the environment.

As part of its investigation, Transport Canada will review the vessel's compliance with these requirements. The results of the investigation will guide Transport Canada's decisions on the appropriate enforcement action. This can include prosecution as well as seeking administrative monetary penalties.

As well, under Canada's regulatory regime, the Marine Liability Act requires vessels to have insurance to cover pollution damage arising from an oil spill. In Canada, our liability and compensation regime for ship-source oil spills is based on the polluter pay principle. This means that the polluter is responsible for paying the costs of an oil spill. In this particular case, the shipowner's representatives have indicated that they will meet all of their legal liabilities. Losses and damages covered under the regime include reasonable measures to prevent or minimize pollution damage, cleanup costs, property damage, economic losses and environmental restoration actually undertaken. Under the Marine Liability Act, the liability limit for a bulk carrier the size of the Marathassa is $26.5 million to cover eligible losses and damages related to a marine fuel spill.

Although it is unlikely that the costs will exceed that amount in this case, if they do, additional eligible losses and damages may be covered from the Canada ship-source oil pollution fund. Canada's ship-source oil pollution fund was established in 1989, and it is a very important piece of Canada's oil spill preparedness and response regime. The fund covers all oil spills for all classes of ships at any place in Canada or in Canadian waters. As members have heard, Canada has an extensive oil spill preparation and response regime that is in place to ensure that if a spill does occur the response is effective and efficient, and protects the interests of all Canadians and our marine environment.

As we learn from this incident and continue our efforts to modernize our response regime through the implementation of a world-class tanker safety system, we must also acknowledge the work of all those involved who immediately responded to this incident. The incident serves to highlight the importance of our continued efforts to work collaboratively with our partners, and all levels of government and industry, to achieve a world-class tanker safety system.

Throughout this incident, Transport Canada's teams have been actively engaged with our key partners, such as the Canadian Coast Guard, Environment Canada, and provincial and municipal jurisdictions, as well as the private sector response organization, Western Canada Marine Response Corporation.

Transport Canada is continuing to conduct aerial surveillance flights over English Bay, to survey the area to help with the cleanup efforts. Canada remains an international leader in the maritime community as a country that provides a clear and predictable set of rules. These rules not only help to protect the environment and ensure safety, but also protect Canadians through the liability to collect compensation if spills occur.

Canada depends on marine shipping for economic growth, jobs, and prosperity. With the inspection and investigation regime currently in place and the continued improvements being implemented through the world-class tanker safety system, we will continue to ensure that our marine environments remain safe.

Opposition Motion--Coastal Water ProtectionBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have to question my colleague about keeping Canadians safe. We saw what happened at Lac-Mégantic. We see another incident where the response time was not acceptable. Conservatives are trying to tell us that even if the Kitsilano Coast Guard had been there, they would not have been able to respond. However, we hear otherwise from the people who actually worked there.

I was at the North Channel Marine Tourism Council conference this weekend, and they raised concerns about the fact that the coast guards in our area were cut back or closed. I am wondering how the member can stand in the House and say they are doing what is best for Canadians when there is accident after accident. We can talk about the railroad accidents, the train derailments in Gogama, in White River, and Lac-Mégantic, as I mentioned. How can the Conservatives be so clear that they are doing things for Canadians when they are not? They do not have Canadians' safety and security in the environment at heart.

Opposition Motion--Coastal Water ProtectionBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Opitz Conservative Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, obviously I disagree. Canada has the safety of all Canadians at heart.

The task was responded to fairly quickly. It was tasked at 20:06 hours and arrived at 21:25 hours. Remember, it is on the sea and it takes a while to get there. We are not on land and cannot race at speeds that some people might want to consider. We have to remember that this is a marine emergency being responded to, and the entire ship was boomed off by 5:53 in the morning. I think that was responded to quite well.

The other thing we have to remember is that across Canada there are over 80 caches of oil spill equipment that are accessible very quickly, and all of that was brought to bear within that timeframe. All of our services that were engaged in this incident responded very quickly, professionally, and did their jobs to a very high standard.

Opposition Motion--Coastal Water ProtectionBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, tomorrow is budget day, and we have a government that is committed to spending endless millions of dollars in self-congratulatory types of messages about its budget. It is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on single ads during the NHL games. Yet, the government has cut back on some of the vital services that could have gone a long way in addressing the concerns being expressed today and over the last couple of weeks. It is not just the harbours in Vancouver. We have ports in Halifax, Churchill, and other areas where people want and need assurances from government that the money and resources will be there to protect our environment, especially if we look into the future in terms of economic growth. We are an exporting nation.

How does the member justify the advertising dollars being spent, the millions being spent on advertising and the need to adequately—

Opposition Motion--Coastal Water ProtectionBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The hon. member for Etobicoke Centre.

Opposition Motion--Coastal Water ProtectionBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Opitz Conservative Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, this country and this government are committed to the Canadian taxpayer. We are committed to balancing the budget. We are committed to public safety, and we are committed to making sure that we have and continue to have the strongest economy in the world.

We have invested in these safety protocols all across the region. As we can see from the reports of the agencies involved, we were involved and moved very quickly to contain the spill. We have moved and made improvements and investments in the coast guard and other assets related to it. We have made sure that the communications enhancements that were made enable the coast guard and related agencies to communicate quickly and to respond at the quickest possible speed across the area.

We have invested not only in technology, but we have invested in the safety and security of Canadians on land and sea and in the air.

Opposition Motion--Coastal Water ProtectionBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière Québec

Conservative

Jacques Gourde ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister

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.

Opposition Motion--Coastal Water ProtectionBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc NDP LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I cannot believe my ears.

I am fortunate to represent a riding that stretches along the St. Lawrence River. Like all Canadians, we are all connected by our waterways. The spill in British Columbia could just as easily happen on Canada's east coast, because the current government is completely oblivious when it comes to Canadians' safety and especially environmental protections.

My colleague who moved the motion said that the Conservatives decided to shut down the Kitsilano Coast Guard base in secret. It did not consult the provinces or the cities.

What does my government colleague have to say about the fact that co-operative federalism is nowhere to be found in Canada?

Opposition Motion--Coastal Water ProtectionBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question. Our government is ensuring that we are in a better position to respond to such incidents by providing new funding and new tools, and by ensuring that the companies responsible have to pay.

Opposition Motion--Coastal Water ProtectionBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, in looking at the economics and how important it is that we do what we can to protect our environment and looking into the future, Canada being an exporting nation, we can see that there is going to be an increased demand for us to use our ports. That is why it is critically important for the federal government to invest in areas in which we can provide that level of comfort and reality of having a safe environment.

At a time when Canada should be investing in our Coast Guard and other safety measures to protect our environment, why has the government chosen to make cutbacks? It seems to be at odds in terms of our being able to create the important jobs in the area of exports. It is also neglecting the important issue of our environment, something on which Canadians have a high expectation and want leadership coming from Ottawa.

Opposition Motion--Coastal Water ProtectionBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

April 20th, 2015 / 3:50 p.m.

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

However, I remind him that under our government, funding for the Canadian Coast Guard has increased by 27%. Unfortunately, the member and his party, the NDP, voted against increasing these budgets.

Opposition Motion--Coastal Water ProtectionBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc NDP LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, we have heard the current government's announcements. It has become apparent that the government intends to vote on advertising budgets in order to promote the federal budget. It is completely disregarding the priorities of Canadians, who are talking about climate change and protecting our waterways. They want the federal government to be there to protect the Canadian public. The government is not there for Canadians.

Does my colleague think that the Conservatives are going to turn things around in the budget being brought down tomorrow?

Opposition Motion--Coastal Water ProtectionBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I am sure that my colleagues across the way will completely disregard tomorrow's budget presentation by the hon. Minister of Finance.

I would like them to vote in favour of the benefits for all Canadians in the budget. We shall see what they do tomorrow.

Opposition Motion--Coastal Water ProtectionBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my hon. colleague from Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca.

As always, it is an honour to speak in the House on behalf of my constituents in Surrey North, especially today, because this issue is very near and dear to them.

I have often spoken about the need to protect the pristine waters off our coasts to ensure that we have a viable tourism industry, a viable recreation industry and a viable fisheries industry. Many individuals depend on having these waters protected and their jobs protected.

I have pointed out previously that it is sad to see what happened in English Bay, a jewel of Canadian inlets where parks are located. Hundreds of thousands of people live around the area where the bunker leaked fuel in the middle of the bay. We have been pointing out for a number of years the need for protection and the need to ensure that if this ever happened, we would have proper resources to deal with it. Not only that, we have seen an increase in tanker traffic, and marine traffic in general in English Bay, yet we have seen a reduction by the government in the number of safety valves that are available.

What are the facts in regard to this bunker fuel that was leaked in the middle of a bay in downtown Vancouver? Let us start with the closing of the Kitsilano Coast Guard station. The Conservative government closed the Kitsilano Coast Guard station after many attempts by not only the opposition parties, but many British Columbians who were concerned. I raised concerns in the House that the closing of Coast Guard stations would have a detrimental effect on the west coast way of life.

Someone called 911 and reported the spill, but it took 12 hours before authorities notified the City of Vancouver, the very people who were supposed to ensure that the public did not go to the beaches and ensure the safety of the general public. To me, 12 hours to respond is not a world-class response; it is more of a Mickey Mouse operation. It took six hours for authorities to get a boom installed to ensure the oil was contained. That is a lot of time before containing what was spilled there.

The former commander of the Coast Guard base that the government closed was quoted in Vancouver media as saying it would only take six minutes to get the Coast Guard to the spillage area. How much damage can be done in the time from six minutes up to six hours? We have heard in the House where the oil went. It was spotted about 12 kilometres away from the original spill.

In six minutes, the Coast Guard could have been there and we would have had some form of containment. However, because the government closed the Kitsilano Coast Guard station, it took six hours before we could get a ship there. That is not responsible. That is not expected from the Canadian government. I know British Columbians do not expect that from the current government, and New Democrats have been calling on the government to ensure that response time would be much shorter if it were to occur again.

In addition to the closure of the Coast Guard, the government has also closed the Vancouver environmental station. Environmental emergencies went through the station, and the marine mammal containment program. That was closed by the government. Those are some of the facts. If we are going to see an increase in traffic in English Bay and Burrard Inlet, we need to have proper safety valves to ensure that if there were an accident that we take steps to ensure it is contained.

As well, the Auditor General has been clear that Canada is not prepared for even a moderately sized oil spill, yet the Conservatives choose to ignore it. I do not know if they choose to ignore it or they do not believe in it, but I can assure members that people from my constituency, from Vancouver, and all along the coastline of British Columbia expect a much better response than there has been from the current government with its gutting of the protections needed in our marine environment.

One can only imagine what would happen if this were a bigger spill. We cannot even contain bunker fuel, which is about 3,000 litres. Can anyone imagine what would happen if a big tanker were to have an accident? Imagine the devastation it would cause to the environment and the fisheries. The devastation would cost jobs in British Columbia. Port Metro Vancouver supports tens of thousands of jobs, and I cannot imagine having a bigger spill from a bigger tanker going down. It would be devastating, not only for our environment but for the economy, because many people depend on the coastal waters of British Columbia

New Democrats have been calling on the government to establish more safety regulations and safer navigation of the waters off of British Columbia. We should be listening to the experts. The experts are meeting in Ottawa this week: the ITF Canadian maritime coordinating committee and CMWC representatives of all of Canada's maritime unions, which include the SIU of Canada, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, The Canadian Merchant Service Guild, the International Longshoremen's Association, the BC Ferry and Marine Workers' Union, and CUPE Local 375.

The ITF Canadian maritime coordinating committee and CMWC have unanimously adopted supporting the NDP motion, and make special note of the recent oil spill from the Cyprus-registered, Greek-owned Marathassa. It was further noted that under the current maritime provisions of CETA, this vessel would be permitted to operate within Canada's coastal waters, which is presently reserved for Canadian-owned and Canadian-registered vessels adhering to Canadian law.

I hope that members of the Conservative Party, especially the ones from British Columbia, will stand in the House, support British Columbians, and help to pass this motion.

Opposition Motion--Coastal Water ProtectionBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, again I want to reinforce the fact that tomorrow the budget will be presented. We have had Conservative majority government, for consecutive years, cut back on issues that would have had a positive impact in dealing with spills.

If we take a look at the budget, Canadians are going to be inundated with millions of dollars of advertising, promoting the Conservative Party. My question to the member is fairly straightforward. Would he not agree that money would be far better spent by bringing back or possibly increasing resources, getting rid of the cuts that the Conservatives have made in the last couple of years, reinvesting that $7 million-plus of advertising dollars into our Coast Guard, and having other more proactive approaches that deal with issues such as oil spills?

Opposition Motion--Coastal Water ProtectionBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, that shows the priorities of the government. It is going to be spending $7.5 million on advertising the budget it is bringing in tomorrow, taxpayers' money, yet it is failing to fund $750,000 for the Coast Guard at Kitsilano. That shows the priorities and the lack of initiative from the government.

Canadians expect better. I know British Columbians expect better. Be assured, if the government's priorities are not changing, the government will, come October 19.

Opposition Motion--Coastal Water ProtectionBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Philip Toone NDP Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his very interesting speech. The situation on the west coast is rather worrisome and the people on the east coast are also concerned.

The government has repeatedly said there is no cause for concern, since shipping companies will be held responsible for potential spills and will have to pay for damages. However, these oil spills kill wildlife and fish, which has an adverse effect on the tourism industry. Beaches have to close, for example.

Is having an insurance policy the same as having equipment on site and a marine traffic services centre?

Opposition Motion--Coastal Water ProtectionBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine for the hard work he does in the House, and also for his question.

The bottom line is that the official opposition will not be burying its head in the sand. We know the record of the government. We will continue to speak up on behalf of constituents, whether from Surrey North, British Columbia, or coast to coast to coast.

I often talk about polluter pays. I know I do not have enough time to get into it in this segment of questioning, but polluter pays should be the principle we are guided by. If someone pollutes, they should pay for it. Unfortunately, under this government, the polluter does not pay; the taxpayer is left holding the bag. That is not fair to Canadians across the country.

Opposition Motion--Coastal Water ProtectionBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc NDP LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his speech.

It is a question of trust. The polluter pays principle is a good thing. However, it is just as important that the government protect the public because that is its job. It must apply and enforce the regulations pertaining to the polluter pays principle.

What does my colleague have to say about this government in that regard?

Opposition Motion--Coastal Water ProtectionBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, the number one responsibility of any government is to ensure that our citizens are safe and our environment is protected. Unfortunately, what I have seen in the last four years is cut after cut, not only to the Coast Guard and emergency services on the west coast but across the country. That is not how to govern. If a government's number one priority is safety of its citizens and the environment, it should be making investments to ensure it is keeping its citizens safe at all times. Unfortunately, this government has failed to deliver. I hear it from my constituents. I see it in papers across the country.

It is time that the government support this very minimal motion we are bringing forward, that immediate steps are taken to ensure safety on the west coast.

Opposition Motion--Coastal Water ProtectionBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on this debate today. I think that the story of the bunker oil spill from the bulk grain carrier, the MV Marathassa, is now becoming clear, not from what the government is telling us today, but through the work of journalists, sailors, and maritime workers who observed what happened in this case.

Rob O'Dea and Arnt Arntzen, two sailors, spotted the spill at 4:45 p.m., on Wednesday, April 8, in English Bay. In about 15 minutes, they managed to track the spill to the motor vessel Marathassa. During that 15 minutes, the spill had already spread half a kilometre long and 250 metres wide. Seeing no evidence of any cleanup in process, Mr. O'Dea phoned 911 and was assured by the Coast Guard that it already knew about the spill and had dispatched a response team, even though he could not see one onsite. As it turns out, the Coast Guard's initial notice may have only come three minutes before he called.

Unfortunately, the private contractor was not called for another three hours. Although we do use private contractors to deal with spills, in this case the company happened to be owned by Kinder Morgan, which raises some interesting questions about companies who deliver oil to the coast and then pay themselves to clean up their spills. However, that is for another debate. It took another one and a half hours for the company to get on the water, and the spill was not contained for nearly 12 hours.

Let us remember three things about this spill. First, it was a relatively small spill, approximately 2,700 litres of bunker fuel. However, it is not clear how much oil was spilled at this point. That is probably only an estimate. Second, it occurred in a place of high visibility. It occurred in the middle of a busy harbour and recreational sailing area, so fortunately there were people around to see the spill. Third, it occurred in calm seas on a calm day. This means that it is probably the easiest of all oil spills to clean up.

It is clear in this case that we could have responded more quickly if the Conservatives had not closed the Kitsilano Coast Guard station in 2013, and had not put the ship that was capable of dealing with a small spill like this up on blocks, which is where it sits today. Fred Moxey, the former commander of the Kitsilano Coast Guard station, has offered to sign an affidavit saying that what the Conservatives have said about not having the equipment or capacity at the Kitsilano Coast Guard station is untrue. When he was a commander there, it did have the ability to get to a spill like this in six minutes, and could have contained the spill within 30 minutes.

We have some very specific things we could do that would help us to deal with spills like this. We have some very concrete proposals in the motion before us today. However, I have a wish that goes along with those proposals, and that is for the Conservatives to stop talking about our world-class oil spill response.

First of all, “world class" is not a standard by which anyone measures oil spill responses. Oil spill responses are measured by the amount of time it takes one to get to the spill and the amount of equipment one can have onsite. It is not measured by an advertising or promotional phrase like “world class”, which is normally associated with sporting events and luxury cars. It is simply not a standard that anyone uses with respect to oil spills.

Clearly the government is using it because it is trying to sell us the idea that its record of cuts and closures to our marine emergency response system has nothing to do with our ability to respond to oil spills. We have to use this wonderful phrase that makes us all think high thoughts so we do not see the reality of what is happening on the seas, which is that we have a reduced capacity to deal with these problems.

It is not satisfied with having moved the oil spill response centre to Montreal from Vancouver. To think that we are managing oil spills in Vancouver from Montreal boggles the mind. The government has closed the Kitsilano Coast Guard station. It has closed the Ucluelet marine transportation communications centre. Even this spill has not convinced it to back off on closing two more marine communications centres on the west coast, in Vancouver and Comox.

I would like to issue an invitation to Conservatives on the other side to come with me and some of my friends for a crab dinner. Crab is normally caught off of Jericho Beach in Vancouver. Wait a minute. I cannot do that because the crab fishery is closed as a result of this spill. It took the Department of Fisheries and Oceans six days to close the crab fishery and put up signs. The Musqueam nation put up signs and closed its fishery only one day after the spill. Where was the federal government with respect to protecting people who use these recreational fisheries from the potentially toxic effects of this spill?

Opposition Motion--Coastal Water ProtectionBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

An hon. member

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