moved that Bill C-48, An Act respecting the regulation of vessels that transport crude oil or persistent oil to or from ports or marine installations located along British Columbia's north coast, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, the 400 kilometre stretch of coastal temperate rainforest running along British Columbia's northern coast is one of nature's truly spectacular sites. It is beloved by all Canadians and global visitors who share their determination to preserve and protect this land from potential oil spills. I am here today to speak to the proposed legislation designed to do just that. It is my pleasure to outline the rationale for, and benefits of, Bill C-48, the oil tanker moratorium act. In addition, the proposed act fulfills our government's pledge to formalize an oil tanker moratorium on British Columbia's north coast.
Canada has a robust marine safety regime and a strong track record of marine safety. An oil tanker moratorium has been proposed and discussed by the Canadian public and in the House of Commons, by all parties, for years. I am proud that this government is delivering on important environmental protections for the coastline around Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait, and Queen Charlotte Sound.
The proposed oil tanker moratorium act would take concrete action to address these risks. This legislation covers all ports and marine installations located in northern British Columbia. The moratorium area would extend from our border with the United States in the north, down to the point on British Columbia's mainland adjacent to the northern tip of Vancouver Island. The area also includes Haida Gwaii. In keeping with our government's commitment, we would protect the Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait, and Queen Charlotte Sound from a major oil spill.
At the core of the legislation are prohibitions on oil tankers carrying large volumes of crude oil or persistent oil. Oil tankers with more than 12,500 metric tonnes of crude oil or persistent oil on board as cargo would not be permitted to stop at ports or marine installations within this area. Oil tankers carrying more than 12,500 metric tonnes of crude or persistent oil as cargo would also be prohibited from loading or unloading any crude or persistent oil at a port or marine installation within this area.
In addition, the bill would prohibit what the maritime industry calls ship-to-ship transfers in an attempt to circumvent the moratorium. By this I mean that smaller vessels would not be permitted to load up with crude oil or persistent oil and transport it to or from a large oil tanker.
That said, these changes would not affect community and industry resupply. We have listened to the concerns of local communities. Many rely on some of these oils for heating and local industries. We also recognize that many communities are inaccessible by road or rail and can only receive these oils by ship, including the communities on Haida Gwaii.
I want to be clear. To accommodate community and industry resupply, this legislation would not prohibit shipments of crude oil or persistent oil below 12,500 metric tonnes. This threshold would allow existing resupply shipments to north coast communities and industries to continue.
These comprehensive measures are the result of extensive consultations on the moratorium. We listened closely to Canadians and came to the conclusion that a precautionary approach to the products included in the moratorium is crucial. Accordingly, we have included both crude oils and persistent oils.
To provide clarity, crude oil is defined in the legislation. It is based on the definition used in an important international maritime convention, namely the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships. This definition will be familiar to individuals working in the shipping industry.
Persistent oils are those oils that are heavier and stickier. When these oils are spilled, they tend to break up and dissipate more slowly, fouling birds, wildlife, and shorelines. These oils include partially upgraded bitumen, synthetic crude oil, and marine diesel oil, among others.
I think you can understand our decision to include them. These persistent oils were identified using an internationally recognized test for persistence that is based on boiling-point range and are listed in a schedule to the act.
As members know, the Government of Canada takes environmental protection and public safety very seriously. This proposed legislation, which complements our larger strategy to promote marine safety and coastal protection under the oceans protection plan, confirms it.
The oceans protection plan would create a world-leading marine safety system, which would do more to prevent damaging incidents and be better able to respond quickly and efficiently in the unlikely event of a crisis. As part of this plan, we are investing in new preventative and response measures to better protect our waters and coasts. This includes oil spill cleanup, and science and technology.
With the breakneck pace of technological evolution, there may well be advances in oil spill science and technology in the future. Understanding this, amendments to the schedule on persistent oils could be undertaken under Bill C-48. Any such changes would follow a review that would consider the fate and behaviour of oil products in water and the state of cleanup technology.
Environmental safety and science will always be the main considerations in revising the product list. Any amendment to the schedule to add or remove a product would be made by the Governor in Council.
To reinforce just how seriously we take these matters, the oil tanker moratorium act also includes reporting requirements and stiff penalties in the event of contraventions. Oil tankers capable of carrying more than 12,500 metric tons of oil will be required to report pre-arrival information on the cargo they are carrying, or picking up, from a port or marine installation located within the moratorium area.
This information must be submitted 24 hours before calling at our ports or marine installations. This requirement will ensure we know the types and quantities of oil travelling in our waters.
I want to reassure shippers that the reporting burden will be kept to a minimum by aligning requirements with existing reporting processes. The only additional requirement will be for oil tankers capable of carrying more than 12,500 metric tons of oil to report the specific type of oil being carried and the amount of this product that will be loaded or unloaded at a marine installation in northern British Columbia.
Make no mistake. If there is any concern, the government will have strong directive and inspection powers. Oil tankers can be directed to provide more information. They also can be directed not to come into a port or marine installation in northern British Columbia if it is believed they do not comply with this reporting requirement. Transport Canada has trained, professional marine inspectors already working on the north coast of British Columbia who enforce our existing marine legislation. These inspectors will carry out new enforcement activities under the proposed oil tanker moratorium act.
The powers these inspectors will have under this act are similar to the authorities they have under existing marine legislation, such as the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, and environmental protection legislation, such as the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999. If necessary, these inspectors will have the authority to board an oil tanker and take samples or conduct tests on the oil to verify compliance with the act. If a marine inspector has reasonable grounds to believe the legislation has been violated, the inspector can have the oil tanker detained while an investigation is launched.
Safety is our top priority. Lest anyone doubt that, consider just how seriously we will treat violations. There are strong penalties if an oil tanker is found to have committed an offence under this act. We are supporting this moratorium with an enforcement regime that could result in fines of up to $5 million for offenders.
These strong measures are what Canadians want and expect.
The measures of the oil tanker moratorium act that I have described today were very much informed by the voices of Canadians. Beginning in January 2016, I undertook a series of engagement sessions with Canadians from coast to coast to coast. I did this to listen to their concerns and views on how to improve marine safety in Canada and how to formalize an oil tanker moratorium, two of my priorities as the Minister of Transport.
I met with indigenous groups all along the north coast of British Columbia, as well as inland indigenous groups. I also met with environmental non-governmental organizations, the marine and resource industries, and communities from across Canada. Participants welcomed us into their communities to discuss a broad range of marine transportation issues. Many more citizens across Canada logged on to our website to leave comments on the oil tanker moratorium.
They had a lot to say. Individuals and communities want to be more engaged in our marine safety system. They want more information on the products being moved in our waters. I also heard how coastal indigenous groups are often first on the scene in responding to marine emergencies and that if they had better equipment and training, they could reduce the potential impact of marine emergencies or pollution incidents, such as an oil spill.
People also offered their ideas on the moratorium boundaries, the oil products to be prohibited, and the types of vessels that should be covered by the moratorium. I met with colleagues from provincial and municipal governments as well to hear their views on improving marine safety and formalizing a tanker moratorium. We discussed ways to strengthen our partnership to benefit the economy and the environment, because we share a common goal to keep our economy strong and to protect the environment and we understand that marine safety is a precondition to sustainable economic development. We all recognize that it is vital to deliver our products to global markets to improve the economic prospects for middle-class Canadians and to receive goods from all four corners of the world that Canadian consumers depend on. We also realize that it is equally crucial that those products be shipped in an environmentally responsible way. Canadians have been clear that they expect no less, and I could not agree more.
This act is part of our larger plan to protect our coasts—to ensure they remain clean and safe, vibrant and diverse, accessible and sustainable—while growing our economy.
Our government has introduced a suite of measures to protect Canada's coasts and waterways. The moratorium complements existing measures, such as the voluntary tanker exclusion zone on the west coast of Canada.
The exclusion zone is a voluntary agreement between Canada and the United States that has been in place since the 1980s. Oil tankers full of crude oil that are transiting between Alaska and Washington or California must transit west of the zone boundary. The zone boundary extends up to 70 nautical miles offshore and then narrows to about 25 nautical miles around the Juan de Fuca Strait as oil tankers enter U.S. waters.
Laden oil tankers stay west of this boundary to protect the environment and coastline should one of these oil tankers become disabled. Transiting west of the tanker exclusion zone allows emergency response services to assist a disabled oil tanker before it can get close to shore.
This has been a successful measure that, every year, keeps approximately 300 laden crude oil tankers at a safe distance from Canadian shores. While the tanker exclusion zone is voluntary, our monitoring indicates that it is being fully observed by all American tankers.
In addition, as I noted earlier, this past fall our government announced that it would be investing in a $1.5-billion comprehensive national oceans protection plan. This plan has four priority areas.
First, the government of Canada will create a world-leading marine safety system that improves responsible shipping and protects Canada’s waters. World-leading means the system will meet or exceed the best practices in the world. This area focuses on both prevention and response measures.
Second, our government is focusing on the preservation and restoration of marine ecosystems and habitats. This is being done using new tools and research, as well as measures to address abandoned and derelict vessels and wrecks.
The third priority is building and strengthening partnerships with indigenous and coastal communities. The government is helping to build local capacity so that indigenous groups play a meaningful role in emergency response and waterway management.
Finally, this government will ensure that Canada’s marine safety system is built on a stronger evidence base supported by science and local knowledge.
Canadians are blessed with some of the most spectacular coastlines in the world, places of raw beauty and ecological diversity. Our new oceans protection plan would safeguard our coastlines and marine environment so that iconic places like British Columbia's northern coastline remain proud elements of our national identity that can be enjoyed today and for generations to come. Once passed by Parliament, our oil tanker moratorium act would provide important environmental protection for British Columbia's north coast, something many Canadians have sought for years.
I am proud to lead this initiative, and I want to extend my thanks to my colleagues who have contributed to it: the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, the Minister of Natural Resources, and the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs. I am sure that they join me in calling for a constructive debate on this critical piece of legislation by all members of the House.