Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join the debate with my colleagues on Bill C-3.
When we look at what it is trying to accomplish, it is, in a sense, part of a reporting mechanism, but it is also part of a risk-mitigating exercise as well. I think all of us would accept the fact that, inherently, in life there is risk. Getting out of bed in the morning is a risk. People are then exposed to the vagaries of life. They can step on the road and get run over by a bus. I hope that does not happen, but people learn certain things and mitigate the risks in life. They could also stay in bed, never get up, and die of starvation and lack of water. That would be a risk people would take if they decided to stay there. Clearly, we learn lessons over our lifetimes. We look back to those life lessons and ask how we can mitigate the risks that may be in front of us, so we can manage all of those things.
Business owners and many of my friends in the Conservative Party and other parties who have businesses mitigate risk. They figure out how to manage the risk. They find ways to ensure that whatever the risks are, if they cannot manage them, they limit the ability of risks to affect their businesses. When we talk about handling noxious and hazardous substances, there is a risk. The risk can be great because the eventuality of an incident has great repercussions to populations, environments, perhaps marine aquacultures, animals. It is an abundance of risk. The issue is what to do in mitigating it.
One thing the government has outlined before is that ships have to be double-hulled. No one can suggest that is brand new, because it is not. Ships have been double-hulled for a long time. It is a recommendation that was made many years ago. In fact, it was thought of decades ago, but double-hulled ships were not built because it was an expensive proposition.
My family grew up in the shipbuilding business. That is what my father, his grandfather, and his grandfather before him did. They all built ships, and at those times they were considered great big ships. They do not look like great big ships any more. Those ships literally look like tugs compared to the ships that are built today, but at that time they were seen as giants of the marine industry. They were built to withstand certain things. One of the things I learned from my father in all the years that he built them is that ships are at the mercy of the sea and the mercy of the captain. When they are at the mercy of the sea, it is guaranteed there will be an incident, because the sea is unrelenting. The sea shows no mercy. Therefore, when an incident occurs, it is a matter of how to avoid risk and mitigate it when it actually happens.
In the case of the captain, there are times when captains make decisions that are ill-founded and ships run aground, they capsize, or they run into other ships. We have seen over time that captains have been charged with crimes on the sea because of their inability to be the masters of their vessels in an appropriate and manageable way.
This bill, unfortunately, says it may potentially happen, so a few things should be done here and there and it should be tweaked it a bit here or there. We are no longer talking about vessels that my father built in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, when, if there was a spill, it was manageable. They knew what the substance was, the hazardous and noxious substances were smaller cargoes in those days around the world than they are today and, ultimately, it was a small incident that had to be dealt with.
Now the scope and size of incidents are huge. Today's ships are now simply called very large ships because they do not have another name for them. They are football fields in length. They are phenomenally huge. When they carry bulk cargo, it can be noxious substances or oil. Most of them are oil carriers. If there is a major incident due to a rupture, there may be a leak. I am not talking 1,000 litres or 10,000 litres, but millions. That is the scope of the issue that we now have to deal with.
Unfortunately, the measures in Bill C-3, as much as they step toward the right direction, do not take into consideration the scope and magnitude of the spills before us today because they are of such huge proportions. If we have a catastrophic spill like we saw in the gulf, which came out of a well that lost its backflow preventer, the effects are equally transparent. Essentially, the top of the well head blew off allowing it to spew oil for weeks. Although the magnitude of that was seen across thousands of miles, the damage that was done to the ocean floor and elsewhere in the ecosystem is unknown because it has not yet been mapped out. We looked at the shoreline in Louisiana and up the gulf coast into Florida, down into Mexico, and a number of other different places, but we need to determine what the damage was to the marine aquaculture. It could take decades to make that determination.
We have one of the largest coastlines, if not the largest coastline, of any nation in the world: British Columbia. It is fair to talk about that since the northern gateway is on everyone's mind today, including the government's. The government should help out by sharing that with us now. It would unburden its mind of that decision and make it feel better. Like the saying in the evangelical movement “repent and thou shalt see the way and the light and the truth”, it should simply tell us what that is now.
My friend from Churchill talked about the fact that we have this huge internal waterway called Hudson's Bay. A lot of folks forget about this huge piece that goes right into the Arctic Ocean. Although we see it on a map, quite often we lose sight of that. I want to thank my friend from Churchill for giving us the opportunity to remember that. Oddly enough, many if not all of us live on or near a coast. For those of us who live in central Canada, it is strange to think about that. I live on the coast but I have two coasts to go to, the coasts of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. The folks from Toronto and my good friend from Parkdale—High Park have the north shore of Lake Ontario. She lives on a coast. Many of us across this country live very close to bodies of water, as do our good friends in the Conservative Party. A body of water is often one or two blocks away from their home.
The impact of any of these kinds of catastrophic spills is not just substances that come up the St. Lawrence River and head into places like Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, and Lake Superior because we heard our member from Churchill talk about how that would get out through Hudson's Bay. We have bodies of water throughout this entire country in front of us that have that potential.
It is interesting to look at the two furthest coasts. I will leave out the north for now, but if we look at the east and west coasts and we talk to sailors about traversing the north Atlantic and heading into Newfoundland, depending on the time of year it can be one of the most dangerous waters one could ever enter into. I have been on our far east coast as well as the west coast and have not had the opportunity to go to the Arctic yet. When we look at the north Atlantic we see the types of dangers that are inherent in it. Seafarers know all too well the inherent dangers of going to sea.
As a kid, I grew up on an island and it was natural for us to be at the sea. When one grows up in Scotland, which is an island, the coast is everywhere. There is no other land, just coast, and nearly all of us at some point in time take to the sea somehow. Whether we fish or are involved in other industries, we always seem to be at sea. In their hearts seafarers know the dangers of going to sea. It is one of the most dangerous occupations in the world.
I raise that because they know the inherent danger. They know that the likelihood of an incident just simply gets greater the longer they are at sea. Very few seafarers, very few sailors, ever run out an entire career not having an incident while on ship. It is just an inherent danger of actually being on a ship. Regardless how good the master is or how well the ship is built, it just happens. Some of it happens through negligence, sometimes, of the master of the ship and sometimes it is just simply the weather. We have heard of ships that just simply sunk, and people will ask how they could possibly have sunk because it would have been impossible for them to sink. When they get out in a gale or on the wrong sea, they can sink. Regardless how new these vessels are, how large they are, how sophisticated they are, with radar, sonar, and all kinds of navigational tools, when the sea is angry, the sea will conquer. The problem for us is that we face the consequences of what is left of that catastrophic mess.
Now, of course, with this, we are talking about who pays for that because, ultimately, this comes back to the risk. If people want to be in the business of moving noxious substances and oil and hazardous materials, they know the risk when they decide to go into that business.
How is it that these operators, the movers of this type of material, have figured out a way to download the risk to us? That is what they have done. Now they have decided to move them in huge bulk cargo carriers that are literally beyond most of our imaginations, unless one has actually been at port and seen one. How big are these things? They are gigantic. If they have a spill, it will more than likely be beyond the capability of the amount of these funds that they have to put up as a liability, and these companies that are moving this material have figured that out. They have now figured out how to download the risk to the Canadian public.
Other businesses do not get to do that. They do not get to download their risk to the general public and say that maybe it will cost $1 billion or $4 billion and they will pay the first couple hundred million dollars, maybe up to $500 million, then other folks can carry the rest.
It is patently wrong. Never mind it being unfair; it is just patently wrong. No other business gets to do that. No other business gets to simply say to the Canadian taxpayer, “You carry the risk while I carry on making money”.
These businesses are why we say they should actually be held accountable for the costs. Yes, some will say we will put them out of business. That is the risk they took when they understood that this was a business where they could make lots of money. However, the risk is that, if they have a potential catastrophic spill and they have to pay for the cleanup, it might wipe them out. That is the risk that, in our view, they should accept, because there is a huge generator of wealth on the other side because there is a lot of money to be made in this type of business.
The other side of the coin is that they do it as well as they should. If they are unfortunate and the sea catches up to them and they have a catastrophic event and spill and sully the pristine coastlines of my great friends from British Columbia, the damage will be irreparable probably for the rest of the lifetimes of all of us who are in this House which, in some case, would be many decades. For me, it would obviously be a little less, as I am a little older. However, there are many folks in this House who are much younger than I who have many more decades to live. It will be like the Exxon Valdez, which is still not cleaned up, from what I have heard from my friends in British Columbia, in the sense it is still there decades later.
Now we are talking about new product that would come through the northern gateway, about which I still have not heard from my friends across the way what they are going to do there—somehow I do not think it is coming. Perhaps, of course, the Speaker knows and might share it with us when he stands.
Clearly, this type of product, this type of oil, which is now mixed with some other things, is a different piece from anything. With respect to the type of oil spilling into the Kalmazoo River, in Michigan, the American environmental agencies found a spill that they had no expertise to deal with because it sunk to the bottom of the river.
Oil normally floats, and gasoline floats and evaporates, not that either one is a good thing to have in the water. However, heavy oil sinks. That creates a new problem of how to deal with an oil that sinks to the bottom, be it the ocean or, as in this case, a river. The cost of that is probably not determinable as yet, and yet we have set a limit on folks.
I think it was my colleague from Victoria who said earlier that, while it is great to have fines, if there is no one to go collect them, then we actually would not get anything. If only traffic tickets were like that. If they actually wrote us a ticket for speeding but no one actually came to collect it, we would all just keep speeding. Getting a traffic ticket for speeding usually makes one cautious. We know we will have to pay it because, if we do not, our drivers licence will not be renewed; there is no denying it. Therefore, there is a cause and effect. I was driving too fast and got caught. The punishment was handed out in the way of a ticket. I know I will have to pay it, because someone will come and collect it. Unfortunately, in this regulation there will be a ticket writer, but no one is going to collect. People could just stick them up on the wall and say, “Yeah, that's number 48 and two more will make 50” and not pay them. What would it matter if they were not actually being enforced?
We end up in a situation where we have a regulation that is not being enforced, so why do we bother? We look at some of these regulations and we think they are not what we would do, in the sense that we would make them tougher, but they are there, so perhaps the government will hear us and will find a way to regulate them and enforce them so they actually get done.
One of the things I find quite incredible is that the bill talks about regulations: how we need to do this and that, laying down the groundwork of looking as if we are really going to be safe and secure, so that when the government this afternoon says yes to northern gateway—as I am sure it will—it will say it put all the safety regulations in place. There is Bill C-3 and some other things the government has done, like double hull tankers and other things it is talking about, inspections and all those good things. However, the government's budgets have literally closed coast guard centres right across the country on both shores. The Kitsilano centre is a prime example. I understand from my friends in B.C. it is the busiest security port of anywhere in the country. However, the government closed it because it did not think it was very important.
The government is actually saying that it is going to increase the number of ships up and down the Juan de Fuca, upside, inside, and in between Vancouver Island and the mainland, but we do not actually need any extra coast guard. It reminds me of someone saying that the stop light does not work, but there are only two cars so we do not actually need a traffic cop to control the traffic, and then saying that we will let 2,000 through there and we still do not need a traffic cop. Well, we do. If we are going to actually increase the amount of tanker flow in those troubled waters—I say troubled waters with respect to the fact that they are dangerous and hazardous—we need to put traffic cops there. The coast guard are not just a traffic cops; they actually save lives. They actually respond.
We see the same thing on the east coast with the closures there. I have heard my colleagues from Quebec talk about the closing of a Coast Guard office in Quebec that actually provides French language service. If I am not correct someone will correct me during questions. There are a lot of maritimers at sea. We need that type of essential service.
Just imagine a maritimer at sea making a distress call and he actually cannot talk to the person and let him know where he is, because of a language barrier, because he speaks French and does not understand English. He is stuck out in the North Atlantic somewhere, bobbing around, waiting for his ship to flip over and end up in the North Atlantic Ocean, where he will last about 18 minutes, simply because we did not provide a language service.
How do we answer to that person's family? How do we tell that person's family that we are really sorry we did not provide service in the right language?
It is time for the Conservatives to re-evaluate their cuts. Those places are essential for maritimers, they are essential for our coast, they are essential for our environment, and they are essential for Canadians.