Mr. Speaker, I am going to be splitting my time today with my hon. colleague from Saskatoon—Humboldt, with whom I have the honour of sitting on the natural resources committee.
It is great to stand in the House and talk about this bill today. This bill, the pipeline safety act, is a really important bill for every Canadian who cares about the environment, and I think that is all of us. In fact, the pipeline safety act is really the embodiment of the kinds of things that I talk about with the people I represent in Calgary Centre all the time, which are the environment and energy.
Our government is firmly committed to making sure that as our energy industry is developed, so too are we caring for the environment at every single stage. This bill is really one of the poster children in our platform of how we care for our environment at the same time as we put things in place to continue to develop and enjoy the benefits of our energy industry in Canada.
All Canadians can be proud of and confident in this bill. What we have heard from the NDP today is a little hypocritical. They say that Canadians do not have confidence in our pipelines when we know they have a 99.999% safety record. We have gold standard legislation, like we are putting forward today. All Canadians need to be aware that we have among the best or the best systems in the world for regulating the environment, and this bill is a very key part of that.
At every turn, our government has demonstrated that it has a steadfast commitment to ensuring that Canada's national network of pipelines is world class, that our pipelines are the safest that they can possibly be, and that we maintain a very strong commitment, as I have said, to the environment at the same time as we seek to grow our industry. The pipelines can contribute safely to our economic growth and energy independence. The pipeline safety act that we are bringing forward would do all of these things. It is part of the comprehensive, responsible resource development plan that we have.
People in my riding of Calgary Centre know very well that we have a lot to celebrate when it comes to our natural wealth. We have the third largest proven oil reserves in the world, we are the fifth largest producer of natural gas, and we want to get those products to market. These resources will remain trapped in the ground if we cannot develop what are the safest, most reliable ways to transport them to their markets at home and abroad.
The pipeline safety act would give us a kind of gold standard. It sets out very clear parameters that help to ensure the safe operation of pipelines so that they can be some of Canada's national energy infrastructure projects for the 21st century, some of our most important. The importance of this legislation really cannot be overstated.
Bill C-46 is another way our government is strengthening our environmental protection while continuing to protect jobs, so important now, and opportunities for Canadians in all regions of the country. Last year, we did a study on the across-Canada benefits of the oil and gas industry and we heard from people in every single province about how this industry was creating economic well-being for all of them, from coast to coast to coast.
Equally important is that this legislation mirrors what we have done with marine, rail and offshore safety. It is based on some key pillars and one of them, in particular, I think British Columbians should be especially aware of. They had asked for world leading practices around spill prevention and response as one of the five conditions in British Columbia, and this bill would answer that. Number one of the pillars is incident prevention, number two is preparedness and response, and number three is a system for liability and compensation. Therefore, the entire umbrella is covered by this very important bill. We believe it is a really important and responsible approach to pipeline safety.
This bill would modernize our regulatory review of major resource projects by eliminating duplication and providing investors with the kind of predictable beginning-to-end timelines that they need. That is in our responsible resource development plan.
We have improved environmental protection and bolstered aboriginal engagement. Bill C-46 also clearly defines the roles and responsibilities of the key players in our energy industry, the National Energy Board and different levels of government so that pipeline operators are clear, everyone is clear.
Finally, the legislation reflects a responsible approach to consensus building. I agree, that is an important component here. It incorporates amendments from our all-party House Standing Committee on Natural Resources. We have heard from some of the members recently. I am privileged to sit on that committee.
Let us talk about the amendments, because there was a reference to amendments not being included. Nothing could be further from the truth. We actually made amendments and accepted amendments from the other side of the House. There were two important changes that were included in the bill for third reading. We agreed with those and have included them.
The first amendment is clause 48.12 (1). It adds aboriginal governing bodies to the groups that could recover costs and expenses in responding to a pipeline release. This is so that in the unusual event where there might be a pipeline release, our aboriginal governing bodies could feel free to move in and take action and know that they would be compensated.
The second amendment is a little further down in the bill. It is clause 48.17 (1). It would require the National Energy Board, subject to Treasury Board approval, to recover funds from industry that happened to be advanced by the government.
These are really solid recommendations that enhance what was already a very strong piece of legislation and a world-class regime for pipeline safety.
I want to talk a little more about committee testimony, because we heard some really interesting and strong support for the legislation in committee. We heard one expert witness describe the legislation as “...much needed and quite frankly, long overdue”. Who was it who said that? It was Ian Miron from Ecojustice Canada.
Another witness praised the legislation for its language on environmental damages. That was Martin Olszynski, from the University of Calgary. He said that the language on environmental damages is “simple and comprehensive”. That is great to know. In most instances we felt comfortable that the existing language had hit the mark, but in two places we agreed as a committee that these amendments were warranted. As we can see, there is co-operation in Ottawa.
The result is we now have an even better bill that would significantly improve pipeline safety. I want all Canadians to be confident and proud of that. That is what committee reviews provide. They provide this kind of oversight where we have expert witnesses we call in to come and provide testimony to legislation. We kind of put the legislation to the test. We poke holes in it. We have an opportunity to ask questions. We make sure it is airtight. If there are any issues, then we fix them. We do that on every single bill.
I also personally welcomed the opportunity to discuss a lot of the issues with some key leaders in the pipeline industry. One was Jim Donihee, acting chief officer for the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association. Another was Robert Blakely, the Canadian operating officer with Canada's Building Trades Union. They are passionate, well-informed people who actually do support pipelines and want to make sure we have a world-class safety regime that can give Canadians confidence in their operations.
I pressed both witnesses on the nuts and bolts of the bill. Their responses were both impressive and reassuring. When asked about the quality of the work and the care that was taken by the men and women who are working on these kinds of projects, Mr. Blakely said, “The truth is, we live here”. They want the best possible pipeline because this is their home. I live here too. All Canadians live here, and I think we all share that same goal.
Mr. Donihee echoed that kind of commitment on behalf of the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association. He said:
... the member companies, which I have the privilege of representing, share in the desire to ensure that we operate the safest possible pipeline transmission system that will benefit our nation.
They all live here too.
When asked about the additional responsibilities that would be placed on the pipeline industry in the legislation, he said their goal is a zero spill safety record. That is incredibly laudable. He said the industry does not just take what the government regulations are. It seeks to even better them. That is why we have world-class safety regulations here. However, we also have an industry that is firmly committed to meeting and exceeding those world-class standards. That is very worth remembering.
The bill would embody the polluter pay principle in law. It holds companies absolutely liable for any incidents, regardless of who is at fault, or regardless of negligence. It would ensure that companies have the financial resources to respond to incidents. It would give the National Energy Board the authority and resources to clean up spills and recover costs if the board has to step in on what would be exceptional circumstances.
In conclusion, this kind of inclusive approach, which also gives first nations a place here as very strong partners, is the kind of approach that residents in my riding of Calgary Centre want to see, and I think all Canadians want to see. It is these kinds of things that make Canada so great. With the right policies, the right investments and the right decisions, we can shape our nation's destiny.