Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform you that I will share my time with my colleague from Halifax.
I have the honour to rise in the House to speak to the motion I put forward today. We are all very concerned—I say “we” because Cacouna is in the riding I have the honour to represent—because this problematic Cacouna oil terminal initiative is taking place in our community. I am doubly concerned about the issue because I am on the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, where we tried to act in response to the Conservative government's behaviour. I will talk about that later.
I will quickly read the motion before us because I will organize my next five or six minutes around the main points of the motion.
That, in the opinion of the House, the proposed Port of Gros-Cacouna oil terminal, which will be used for the sole purpose of exporting unprocessed Canadian oil, will have a negative impact on the Canadian economy through the loss of well-paid jobs, will constitute an unacceptable environmental threat to the St. Lawrence ecosystem, including the beluga whale population, and therefore, is not consistent with the principle of sustainable development, and must be rejected.
The first thing that is mentioned in the motion is the notion of an “oil terminal”. What exactly does the oil terminal planned for Cacouna consist of?
The oil terminal is a facility that will have the ability to dock two Suezmax tankers at the same time and load them with oil. That will not happen right in the port. There are plans to build a jetty about 500, 700 or 800 metres out into the river. A sort of second dock will be built there, almost in the middle of the river, where these huge oil tankers with the capacity to carry over 700,00 barrels in transshipments will be able to dock.
The pipeline itself will be able to carry 1.1 million barrels. TransCanada therefore wants to build a port that can hold 75% of the pipeline's capacity, and that oil would be used exclusively for export.
That is why the motion indicates that this project could have a negative impact on the Canadian economy. The more oil sands crude that is not processed in the country, the more our economic activity is focused on the good of a single industry. That puts pressure on the Canadian dollar. Pressure on the Canadian dollar is bad for the manufacturing industry, particularly in Ontario and Quebec. Approximately 400,000 well-paid jobs have been lost in the manufacturing industry in less than six or seven years. The unemployment rate is still relatively decent, but many of those who lost their jobs found precarious part-time jobs and no longer have access to good jobs in the manufacturing industry. Building a pipeline only to export 75% of its contents from a single transit point, a single terminal, is not in keeping with the principles of sustainable development.
Another aspect of the motion deals with the threat to the ecosystem. One issue is the beluga whales. I will come back to that later when I talk about the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans and everything that happened, particularly at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. However, what members need to know is that there are also four other types of endangered marine mammals that regularly visit that zone. This project therefore poses a rather serious threat.
Another very important aspect is that the Baie de l'Isle-Verte National Wildlife Area is just a few kilometres east of the project. Reliable experts, even the most pragmatic, who are not predicting that we will have one major tanker accident and oil spill every other week, say that eventually there will be at least a few minor spills during transshipments
The thing is, if there are even minor spills at low tide during the transshipments, as every study confirms, the Isle-Verte marsh, which is the last of the great saltwater marshes of the southern St. Lawrence, would be completely swamped by diesel, oil or whatever else might be lost during the oil transfer in a matter of two or three hours. That leaves less than three hours to respond.
This is a serious problem. What is more, we cannot bury our heads in the sand. There is no technique for responding in the event of a spill, minor or otherwise, on a frozen surface. The river is covered in six inches to two feet of ice during several months of the year. The oil will freeze in the ice. There is no technique for cleaning up the ice on the St. Lawrence. It is huge.
When the ice breaks up and melts, these large chunks of oil will stick to everything in the river all the way to the Magdalen Islands. There is no response technique to handle a spill on the ice. However, there is ice on our river. If we add on the wind and the current it becomes impossible to manage the slightest spill. Hon. members will agree that these are serious threats to our ecosystem.
Last of all, the motion states that the project is not consistent with the principle of sustainable development. It is estimated that the Port of Cacouna will create about 20 unskilled jobs. The proponent was asked about this during a number of interviews and was unable to say otherwise.
However, the activities at this port would endanger several species of marine mammals. The presence of these marine mammals attracts tourists. Many Europeans and others come to observe them. The direct spinoffs for eastern Quebec amount to over $160 million a year. Thus, we have to consider 20 or so unskilled jobs created for an activity that will threaten direct spinoffs of $160 million in the medium and long term.
When discussing sustainable development, we should not be confronted with such scenarios. On the contrary, we are supposed to ensure that we create value-added jobs with minimal risk to the environment. We should be putting sustainable development first. In the case of the Port of Cacouna, the more we delve into the issue, the more difficult it is to conclude that this project will result in sustainable development.
I would like to talk about the Fisheries and Oceans Canada fiasco. I am a member of the committee, and starting last May, I could see that there was a certain tendency. We made a relatively simple request to meet the department's experts so they could explain to us how they were going to assess the preliminary work. However, we were never able to obtain a shred of evidence from a science branch expert. I told myself that something unacceptable was happening.
The Superior Court demonstrated that the provincial government's biologist repeatedly requested the opinions of experts in the science branch. Unfortunately, the Conservative administration prevented the real marine mammal experts from expressing their opinions on drilling. Instead, the government produced a sort of mathematical calculation in two days that only looks at the distance required to avoid killing the belugas.
The calculation on the habitat and how to ensure the survival of the species at risk was not included in what was sent. The document was not even signed by a marine mammal expert. Mr. Kemp has no specific knowledge in this area. It is absolutely absurd. A Superior Court judge upheld an injunction. Could there be any stronger demonstration?
Locally, this government's series of administrative boondoggles on the issue now stands at seven or eight. About a year ago, Transport Canada pressed to have the port transferred to TransCanada Pipelines right away and without consulting the major stakeholders. That has not happened yet, because many people back home questioned that action. Why did they want to do it all wrong and in 30 days? I thought it was another administrative boondoggle in the making. However, I do not blame the proponent as much as this government's administration, which is completely partisan and obsessed with the oil sector.
I previously talked about the refusals in committee. The muzzling of scientists is now demonstrated by the decision of the Quebec Superior Court. They decided to eliminate a proposed marine protected area, which had been 15 years in the making. What bad judgment. Coincidentally, this proposed protected area included Cacouna.
The list of administrative boondoggles shows that by its very nature, the project cannot achieve sustainable development objectives. In addition, when the Conservatives are in charge, the situation takes on alarming proportions. We cannot let them do this.