Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Calgary Centre.
It is a great opportunity to speak to this very important piece of legislation that would update the liability limits for nuclear and offshore oil and gas sectors. As part of our government's responsible resource development plan, we are enshrining the polluter pays principle into law, and certainly this makes for a very important piece of legislation.
I would like to focus on the fact that the proposed act would play a very central role in advancing our government's northern strategy. I will be limiting most of my remarks to that aspect of the bill, although it would also affect the Atlantic offshore region of our country. When much of the attention has been focused on the impact of the legislation on the Atlantic offshore, it would be equally valuable to northern residents, industry, and taxpayers, as it would extend the same provisions and protections to the Arctic offshore.
We know that Canada's north has tremendous resource potential. Approximately 38% of Canada's remaining marketable resources of natural gas are located in Canada's Arctic, as well as 35% of the remaining light crude oil at over 11 billion barrels of oil. These figures do not include unconventional resources, such as shale oil and gas.
Canada's Arctic petroleum, found primarily offshore in the Beaufort Sea, accounts for one-third of the country's unconventional oil and natural gas reserves.
The responsible management of Canada's immense petroleum and mineral resources in the region supports our northern strategy goals: more predictable, timely environmental reviews; reduced regulatory burden and duplication; improved environmental protection, which is always important; and meaningful aboriginal consultation making provision for that. No one likes duplication just for duplication's sake and this would harmonize a lot of the regulatory burdens and ensure that they are far easier to follow.
More specifically, Bill C-22 would provide the clarity and certainty industry needs to ensure its developmental plans protect the environment while promoting economic development in Canada's north. The energy safety and security act would also help ensure that any future development occurs in a way that respects aboriginal communities and safeguards the environment for the benefit of future generations. All Canadians can be assured that our government is committed to the safety of Canadians and the protection of the environment.
Once passed, the new legislation would enshrine in law the polluter pays principle that I referred to earlier. This would fulfill our commitment in the Speech from the Throne. It would mean that oil and gas companies operating in both the Atlantic and Arctic offshore would be subject to one of the strictest liability regimes in the world.
Under the proposed act, before any offshore drilling or production activity could take place, the proponent must provide evidence that it can cover the financial costs and damages that may result from a spill. Absolute liability for the environmental costs and third-party losses in the unlikely event of a spill in the Arctic would increase from the $40 million that is there today to $1 billion. Of course, the regulators may require higher amounts if they deem it necessary.
A proponent found at fault for a spill would continue to be completely responsible for cleanup and compensation costs.
However, we are saying $1 billion for strict and absolute liability. Whether they are responsible or at fault or not, the liability would be there. Of course, anyone found at fault for a spill would continue to be completely responsible for cleanup and compensation costs, as I mentioned.
This would standardize northern and southern oil and gas regimes across the country.
In addition, Bill C-22 would demand that industry provide regulators with direct and unfettered access to $100 million in funds per project or a pooled fund of $250 million. This would give regulators immediate access to money in the unlikely case they need to take direct action to respond to a spill or compensate affected parties.
There would be an immediate short-term provision, there would be a longer-term provision, and there would be a significant increase in the amount of liability under strict liability and an unlimited amount otherwise.
The energy safety and security act would also establish the right of governments to seek environmental damages. This means that they would have the power to pursue operators for any damages to species, coastlines, or other public resources. These measures would build on a sound system overseen by strong regulators to ensure world-class standards for Canadian offshore and nuclear industries. They would further strengthen safety and security to prevent incidents and they would ensure swift response in the unlikely event that a spill takes place. Prevention and response and then, in the unlikely event, damages would ensue.
It would also build on recent legislative initiatives to complete our government's action plan to improve northern regulatory regimes by ensuring a predictable, timely regulatory system across the north that supports economic growth in the north while ensuring environmental stewardship. A prime example of such an effort is the Northwest Territories Devolution Act, which received royal assent on March 27, 2013. It gives northerners more control over their own land and resources and will help ensure Northwest Territories residents benefit from the responsible development of the region's great resource potential.
Apart from having strong regulators, Canada has a responsible industry with a solid record of safety and security. With the assurance of these strict new requirements, northern communities can proceed with resource development projects with confidence. We need only consider the benefits the energy industry has already produced for northerners to appreciate its potential to generate even greater impacts for Arctic communities when these energy resources are responsibly developed. Responsible development is key in all areas, but particularly in the north.
In earlier phases of exploration, more than 1,500 wells were drilled, which led to abundant discoveries. Some discoveries were developed for production to support local energy consumption in the north. Imperial Oil's Norman Wells installation, for instance, has contributed to the town's energy supply and economic development. For several decades now, it has also sustained the surrounding communities in terms of jobs, businesses, and infrastructure. It has generated a large revenue stream to government with a percentage of revenue contributing to resource revenue sharing with aboriginal groups in the Mackenzie Valley under the provisions of their land claims.
We know that the Beaufort Sea has incredible potential to produce even better results in the future. There have been more than 60 discoveries to date. In addition, several companies hold exploration licences with cumulative work commitments of over $1.8 billion. Oil and gas companies are planning work and have filed extensive drilling proposals with the National Energy Board. The proposed drilling is a first for Arctic deep waters, and the first after the release of the National Energy Board's 2011 report on offshore drilling in the Canadian Arctic. That report confirmed that the National Energy Board's regulatory regime can address matters related to the safety of northerners, workers, and the environment.
Environmental stewardship is and always will be a key consideration in resource management. Achieving this objective requires accurate environmental and other scientific, social, and economic data to support good decision-making. Oil and gas exploration development creates unique opportunities to advance Canada's knowledge of the north. As part of the northern strategy, we are looking for innovative programs to advance responsible development and increase our knowledge of the north. One example is the Beaufort regional environmental assessment initiative, or BREA for short. Our government is providing $21.8 million over four years to ensure that governments, Inuvialuit, regulators, and industry are prepared for renewed oil and gas activity in the Beaufort Sea. Northerners play a prominent role in BREA and the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation is part of the national executive committee, while the Inuvialuit Game Council and representatives of the hunter and trapper committees are members of various committees and working groups.
The north's resource potential is a key asset for Canada, though still largely unexplored and untapped. Oil and gas exploration development essentially offers an opportunity for economic and social development through investments, jobs, and training and infrastructure, as well as revenues from resource development.
Given this world-class potential throughout the Arctic, it is imperative that exploration continue responsibly and that northerners actively participate and benefit from that development. Bill C-22 is designed to do just that, as it complements and advances the northern strategy, which promotes the same goals.