Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to speak today on the government's new pipeline safety act. I will be splitting my time with the new member for Whitby—Oshawa.
During this debate, all members have reminded us of the great importance of Canada's energy infrastructure. We heard how Canada's pipeline network functions as a vital energy highway, delivering oil and natural gas to our homes, our businesses and industry, and supplying energy to all forms of transportation. While the New Democrats would prefer to deny this fact, it is clear that we all benefit daily from the energy that Canada's pipelines carry. We rarely think about this key infrastructure because, quite frankly, there is rarely a problem with it because it is so safe.
Canada has a vast network of federally regulated pipelines—in fact, over 73,000 kilometres. Those are just the federally regulated pipelines across this great country. In addition, 70 pipelines deliver oil and natural gas across the Canada–U.S. border every day safely and reliably.
In 2013, Canada and the United States' energy trade was the largest in the world, at some $140 billion that year. That is far more than total trade between any other two nations on earth. Today, historic volumes of Canadian energy are being supplied to the United States. In fact, Canada and the United States have dramatically reduced their oil imports from offshore. I think most of us in the House would agree that that is a good thing. At the same time, oil imports from each other are at record highs, contributing to greater North American energy security and economic growth in both countries.
As large as Canada's pipeline network is, the United States' pipeline system is even larger. According to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Transportation, there are over 2.6 million miles of pipelines in America moving oil and natural gas throughout the United States. The American pipeline network is more than 50 times the length of the United States interstate highway system, which really makes the point that it is a tremendously huge system and a very safe one as well. Again, since pipelines have proven to be the most efficient, safest, reliable, and energy-efficient way to transport oil and gas, we rarely think about these energy highways and the fact that they link most communities throughout North America.
When it comes to pipeline safety, Canada's record is outstanding. Our pipelines are among the safest in the world. Between 2008 and 2013, 99.999% of the oil and products shipped by federally regulated pipelines arrived safely. Canadians can and should be proud of that record. Instead, I hear criticism and doubt from the members, particularly the NDP across the aisle. We have seen the conversion on the road to Damascus, as it were, of the Liberal members opposite. I am happy to see that they have got on board, after seeing that it is something they absolutely have to support.
Moving that same amount of oil by road or rail would require 15,000 tanker trucks or 4,200 rail cars every day, and would consume more energy and cause higher greenhouse gas emissions. The choice to move these products by pipeline is clearly the right one. There is no doubt about that, and I honestly do not think anyone in the House would deny that truth.
When it comes to safety, Canadians demand and deserve the very best. We want our communities to be safe, and we want the environment to be protected. That is why the pipeline safety act is so important. In short, we understand that public safety and environmental protection are necessary conditions for energy development. The pipeline safety act is one more way in which we could continue to build public confidence in our 73,000 kilometres of pipelines.
Bill C-46 would build upon Canada's already impressive pipeline safety record by focusing upon three key areas: prevention, preparedness and response, liability and compensation.
Bill C-46 would include preventive measures that would clarify the rules and responsibilities of pipeline owners to prevent pipeline incidents, increase safety for Canadians, and provide better environmental protection.
The bill would require companies operating major oil pipelines to have $1 billion in financial resources at their disposal, with sufficient resources always on hand to ensure an immediate and effective response.
We would enshrine the polluter pays principle in law so that polluters, not Canadian taxpayers, would be held financially responsible for the costs of damages that any incident might cause.
We would introduce absolute or no-fault liability so pipeline operators would be held responsible, even when fault or negligence has not been proven. That is an important point that I think has been somewhat missed, even though we have had quite a bit of debate on the legislation.
For companies operating major oil pipelines, the amount for absolute liability would be set at $1 billion.
Of course, our first priority is to prevent spills from happening in the first place. That is why we are proposing amendments to the National Energy Board Act that would build upon other recent improvements our government has implemented. These include increasing the number of inspections and audits conducted each year and giving the National Energy Board the authority to levy monetary penalties.
As well, we would ask the NEB to provide guidance on the use of the best available technologies in pipeline projects. This would include materials, construction methods, and emergency response techniques. As a result, the National Energy Board, one of the most respected energy oversight bodies in the world, would be involved in all stages, including new construction of pipelines.
We are proud of Canada's safety record with pipelines, but we have no intention of resting upon our laurels. There is no room for complacency when it comes to the safety of Canadians or the safety of our environment. Bill C-46 would reflect our government's commitment to doing even better, in spite of the fact that the record of pipeline companies is already impeccable.
We also understand the importance of consulting with Canadians, including with aboriginal peoples who are often living closest to where our natural resources are found. That is why, beyond this new legislation, our government is also taking an inclusive approach to safety and resource development. We are deeply committed to working directly with aboriginal peoples throughout Canada, in all aspects of pipeline safety operations, including planning, monitoring, incident response, and related employment and business opportunities.
The Government of Canada has a constitutional duty to consult with aboriginal communities whose aboriginal and treaty rights may be adversely affected by a proposed project, and we are doing that. We believe that aboriginal peoples must be partners in everything we do, from ensuring the safety of our pipeline system, to protecting our marine environment from incidents, to sharing in the benefits of developing our resources. That is why our government is determined to forge ahead with a strong and lasting partnership with aboriginal peoples in the responsible development of our resources and our pipeline safety system.
We have seen the NDP continuously vote down all of our increased pipeline safety measures, and Canadians know they simply cannot rely upon the NDP to prioritize their safety or the environment. Canadians can trust our government. With Bill C-46, we would be making Canada's world-class pipeline safety system even safer.
I urge all hon. members, from both sides of the House, to support the truly effective proposals put forth by this legislation. I look forward to hearing the rest of the debate on the bill.