Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to join the debate on Bill C-46. I would like to thank my hon. colleague, who spoke just before me, for being so generous in splitting her time with me today.
I am obviously pleased to be here because this speaks directly to our government's priorities: energy, security, economic growth and environmental protection. The pipeline safety act would deliver all three. It recognizes the importance of pipelines to transport the energy we need and use every single day in this vast country. Whether it is to fuel our cars, power our businesses or factories, or heat our homes, like the homes in Yukon, my home riding, pipelines play an essential role in moving our necessary energy around this country. It supports a significant role the oil and gas sectors play in our national economy.
We have heard the numbers many times in the House, but they are worth repeating. The energy sector, led by our abundant oil and gas resources, directly contributed almost 10% of Canada's economy in 2013. It also generated an average of $25 billion a year in federal and provincial revenues between 2008 and 2012. When we think about those numbers and the programs and services that the federal and provincial governments are able to deliver to their respective jurisdictions, be they social support, education, health, environmental initiatives or economic priorities, those numbers contribute greatly to allow each provincial and federal government to deliver for the priorities of Canadians.
Finally, the pipeline safety act reflects the importance we have placed on making pipelines safer. Under our government, energy security and economic growth will never come at the expense of environmental safety. That is why our comprehensive plan for responsible resource development makes clear that no resource development will be permitted unless projects are deemed to be safe, safe for Canadians and safe for the environment. Indeed, our government has proven that time and time again.
The pipeline safety act is a key component of this plan for responsibly developing our natural resources. As we know, Bill C-46 is based on three key pillars: incident prevention, preparedness and response, and liability and compensation.
There is widespread agreement that this legislation hits the mark on all three pieces. Indeed, a cross-section of witnesses offered expert testimony on the bill to the Standing Committee on Natural Resources, of which I am a member. There was general consensus that the legislation is needed and, indeed, a positive step.
After taking a closer look at some of the key provisions in the legislation, I hope Canadians will have a better understanding of how Bill C-46 would contribute to achieving all three priorities. We will continue to create and protect jobs and opportunities for Canadians from coast to coast to coast by encouraging our country's energy independence.
We will do so while maintaining and strengthening one of the most stringent and effective pipeline safety regimes in the world. In fact, each and every day Canadians drive, sleep and work over top of hundreds of thousands of kilometres of pipelines in our country.
As we heard in other debates and interventions from members in the House, Canada's pipeline safety record is tremendous, a 99.99% safety record. That is something we can certainly boast about. It is something that Canadians should have a great deal of pride in and it certainly warrants the measure of Canada having a world-class safety regime. What does that mean in respect of how other countries operate in the world, in terms of their safety and our legislative competence with this? Let me touch on a couple of those pieces.
The spill rate in Canada in comparison to other countries was 57% lower than in Europe and 60% lower than in the United States over an 11-year period. That is a pretty exceptional record. While the United States and the United Kingdom have similar legislation in place, the $1 billion minimum financial capacity, an absolute limited liability, is unique to this Canadian legislation.
Canada will also be unique in having a cost recovered financial backstop model that provides complete coverage for cleanup and damages.
I think everyone in the House would agree that prevention of any kind of accident or any kind of spill is the most important piece of our environmental protection regime. If something were to occur, with the $1 billion limited liability backstop and with penalties under the act, Canadians could be assured that breaches of any provision in this legislation would be taken seriously and that taxpayers would not be on the hook for the cleanup.
Exactly what kind of penalties would pipeline companies be subject to if they were to break the law? If we exceeded our ambition and our goals of prevention being the first and most important step and an accident were to occur, pipeline operators would be subject to the same laws that govern all industry activities in Canada, which means they would be liable without limit for incidents when they are at fault or negligent.
Second, under the National Energy Board, companies are subject to fines and imprisonment depending on the severity of the offence. Third, responsible resource development gave the NEB additional powers to implement administrative monetary penalties which enable the NEB to fine companies for contraventions of any regulations and orders. This is a new tool that would ensure smaller offences are punished.
The measures proposed today would enhance and further clarify all of these provisions. What are companies going to do to update any of the old pipelines? I know this question was posed to the previous speaker, but there are three principles that need to be recalled when this is taken under consideration.
We want to define our world-class safety systems. Prevention, of course, is integral to that piece of the plan. The legislation requires the use of best available technologies as well as the integration of aboriginal communities and businesses in pipeline safety, pipeline monitoring and operations.
All federally regulated pipelines would be impacted by these proposed measures regardless of whether they are operating, planned or under construction. Old, new or proposed plans would be subject to this new pipeline regime.
We have some questions that will mostly come around on what we are wanting to do to ensure why we are not requiring companies to create a pooled fund in advance of a spill. We are concerned about the worst case scenario. There is that old adage, hope for the best, prepare for the worst.
With our safety record in place of 99.99%, we still do have to be realistic in terms of what we can expect to see and reflect back on some past incidents to guide us in that direction. At the same time we must ensure that while we are balancing out the necessary protection for the environment and the communities in which these pipelines operate, we are realistic about allowing these companies to move ahead with moving Canada's much needed energy around this country.
From that point we can assure Canadians that any backstop, if it is assessed, will be fully recovered from industry to ensure that the taxpayers are protected. That is a fundamental piece. While Canadians expect, want and demand the strictest and safest pipeline regime, they also want to know that if there are any accidents, they as taxpayers are not responsible for cleaning it up.
We hold that firm and we have in many other pieces of legislation that we put forward. This is no exception. The polluter pay principle stands. The polluter pay principle is something Canadians want. The polluter pay principle is something Canadians expect and the polluter pay principle is something that this government is going to deliver as we move forward with our responsible resource development regime.