Mr. Speaker, as always, it is an honour to rise in the House to speak on behalf of my constituents from Surrey North.
Bill C-46, An Act to amend the National Energy Board Act and the Canada Oil and Gas Operations Act would amend the statutory liability regime for federally regulated pipelines in Canada. The bill includes absolute liability for all National Energy Board regulated pipelines, which means companies would be liable for costs and damages, irrespective of fault, up to $1 billion for major oil pipelines, pipelines that would have the capacity to transport at least 250,000 barrels a day. Companies would continue to have unlimited liability when they were at fault or negligent.
The bill is a much needed and long overdue first step toward a true polluter pays regime for pipelines in Canada. The official opposition, the NDP, has been calling on the government to bring in legislation so we have a true polluter pays system.
I think the Conservatives understand what polluter pays is, however they are reluctant to make it happen in Canada. Canadians understand what polluter pays means. Even my children understand what it means. Unfortunately the Conservatives have chosen not to understand its meaning to protect their friends in the oil companies, friends who are damaging the very environment of Canada.
I think Canadians understand what polluter pays means. As I pointed out, my children understand that if one makes a mess, then one cleans it up. It is not for the next generation to clean up that mess, and I will share a story of my children to demonstrate that.
I have two children, a son, Jaron, who is 8 years old, and daughter, Jessica, who is 18. My son is a typical eight year old. He makes a mess, whether it be with his toys, or paint or a lot of other stuff, as it is the case in every Canadian household. Children make messes at home. However, one afternoon there was a huge mess of toys in the livingroom. My wife asked Jaron to clean up the mess he had made from playing with his friends. He looked at her and then looked at my daughter and said that she would clean it up for him. Jessica looked at him and said, no. He had made the mess and he would have to clean it up. Jaron then went running to his mother and told her that his sister would not clean it up. His mom told him that it was his mess and that he would have to clear it up. He understood that. He knew it was his mess and he needed to clean it up.
This is a very basic concept. Whoever makes the mess must clean it up. Unfortunately if the Conservatives' friends in the oil industry make a mess, or if a pipeline erupts or is damaged, they do not expect the oil companies to clean it up. The Canadian taxpayers have to do that. How fair is that? If most Canadians understand the concept of polluter pays, why can the Conservatives not understand that? I think the Conservatives understand it, but they are trying to protect their friends in the oil industry and are putting the liability on Canadian taxpayers.
The bill before us is the first step with regard to the polluter pays, unfortunately the implementation of many of the proposed changes in Bill C-46 are left to the discretion of the National Energy Board and cabinet, or the details are left to regulations.
Bill C-46 leaves considerable leeway for politically motivated decisions and backroom arrangements between operators and the National Energy Board, a regulator that lacks credibility on the pipeline front. We are therefore left with uncertainty as to whether the bill goes far enough.
I come from British Columbia, and we have seen the opposition to the northern gateway pipeline. We know the mess that the National Energy Board has created where legitimate people were not allowed to testify or make their presentations in front of the NEB. The Conservatives have put in so many roadblocks to have a fair process. If we are going to have pipelines, there has to be a clear process in place to ensure that all of the considerations are taken before a decision is made.
The Conservatives have made a mockery of the process, and they have gutted the very environmental regulations that are supposed to protect not only our environment but also our resource sectors in this country. They have failed to take a leadership role to show that some of these projects are viable and that we take into consideration the environmental regulations and guidelines to ensure we have projects protected. Again, the polluter pay system is something that is not foreign to the Conservatives; they choose to be on the side of the oil companies instead of Canadian taxpayers.
Bill C-46, as a first step, makes some important improvements to Canada's liability regime, but the lack of certainty about the degree to which polluters would be required to pay undermines these improvements and leaves uncertainty as to whether the taxpayer would still be on the hook for cleanup costs when $1 billion in fault or negligence cannot be proven.
The amount of $1 billion is a drop in the bucket when it comes to a major oil spill. We have seen oil spills cost much more than $1 billion. There needs to be more to ensure that Canadian taxpayers are not left holding the bag that Conservatives are passing on from their friends in the oil companies to the taxpayers. That is not fair. Canadians expect parliamentarians to ensure that liability stays with the polluter, not with the taxpayer.
When it comes to profits, the oil companies will gladly make sure that they take those profits, and Conservatives actually help the oil companies. If they lose money, that loss is nationalized on the backs of the taxpayers. People in my constituency clearly would not want that to happen. I have talked to many people in my constituency who want a system where we ensure that liability stays with the polluter and not with taxpayers.
I have a minute left, and I could go on in this subject because it is very much a concern to people in my constituency. Basically, there is no doubt that Canada's natural resources are a tremendous blessing and the energy sector is a driving force of our economy. The NDP vision for leveraging those resources to create wealth and prosperity does not sacrifice social or environmental sustainability.
The vision of the official opposition can be summed up in three key principles: first, sustainability, to make sure that polluters pay for pollution they create instead of leaving costs to the next generation; second, partnerships, to make sure that communities, provinces, and first nations all benefit from resource development, and that we create value-added, middle-class, high-paying jobs in Canada; and third, long-term prosperity, to leverage Canada's natural wealth to invest in modern, clean energy technologies that will keep Canada on the cutting edge of energy development and ensure affordable rates into the future.