December 2, 2010

CPC

Barry Devolin

Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Barry Devolin)

(Motion agreed to)

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of the House
Permalink
NDP

Libby Davies

New Democratic Party

Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I apologize to the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan for interrupting her questions and comments.

Since we have just had that motion, I would also like to propose a motion. There have been consultations among the parties and I believe if you seek it you would find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That, at the conclusion of today's debate on the opposition motion in the name of the Member from Skeena--Bulkley Valley, all questions necessary to dispose of the motion be deemed put and a recorded division deemed requested and deferred to Tuesday, December 7, 2010, at the expiry of the time provided for government orders.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of the House
Permalink
CPC

Barry Devolin

Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Barry Devolin)

Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House to move the motion?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of the House
Permalink
?

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of the House
Permalink
CPC

Barry Devolin

Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Barry Devolin)

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of the House
Permalink
?

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of the House
Permalink
CPC

Barry Devolin

Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Barry Devolin)

(Motion agreed to)

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of the House
Permalink

The House resumed consideration of the motion.


LIB

Keith Martin

Liberal

Hon. Keith Martin (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, my colleague and I both live on beautiful Vancouver Island, so this is a very important issue for us.

I would like to ask my colleague a question and it revolves around twinning. If the pipeline cannot go in an east-west direction, perhaps there is an opportunity for discussions to take place with the private sector to see if the pipeline could be transferred to a north-south direction through Vancouver. I know it is extremely important that we lessen our dependence on fossil fuels. I would like to know if she thinks that would be an option.

The Cancun conference is taking place right now. The government has tragically taken a series of stands with respect to the environment, whether it was COP 10 in Japan or now in Cancun. The government is really not providing Canadians with any kind of demonstrable, doable and effective plan to deal with climate change.

What are the two things my colleague would suggest that the government do right now with respect to global warming?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion--West Coast Oil Tanker Traffic
Permalink
NDP

Jean Crowder

New Democratic Party

Ms. Jean Crowder

Mr. Speaker, I am going to reverse the order of the member's questions.

With respect to the two things the government could do, it could immediately look at implementing Bill C-311, the climate change accountability act, and implement the environmental bill of rights put forward by the member for Edmonton—Strathcona. Those would be two good steps in demonstrating Canada's position on climate change.

With regard to the twinning of the pipeline, I will come back to the first nations' perspective. I know we are talking about twinning here, but any additional construction is going to have an impact on territories. Before any consideration of expansion of even existing projects is considered, first nations must be at the table, must be appropriately consulted, must be included in any implementation of any decision. That is the appropriate step to take on that particular project.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion--West Coast Oil Tanker Traffic
Permalink
NDP

Peter Julian

New Democratic Party

Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the member if this is part of a pattern of blatant disregard for British Columbians by the Conservative government?

We certainly lived through the first strike that the Conservatives forced on B.C., the softwood lumber sellout, which cost us thousands upon thousands of jobs. The HST was imposed as well on British Columbians. Now the Conservatives seem intent on imposing monster tankers going up and down the coast with the incredible risk that it poses to the B.C. economy and to our environment and our quality of life.

Is this the third strike of the Conservatives' blatant disregard for British Columbians, for B.C. interests and for British Columbians' quality of life?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion--West Coast Oil Tanker Traffic
Permalink
NDP

Jean Crowder

New Democratic Party

Ms. Jean Crowder

Mr. Speaker, that is a very good question. I remember a couple of throne speeches ago when the Minister of Finance actually said that this budget was good for Canadians from the east coast to the Rockies. Those of us on the other side of the Rockies said, “Wait a minute; we are part of Canada. At least the last time we checked, we were still part of Canada”.

I think the interests of people in British Columbia have sadly been left out by the Conservative government. As the member for Burnaby—New Westminster rightly pointed out, the HST has had devastating effects on, for example, the restaurant industry. That industry has taken a huge hit over the last couple of months.

When we look at things such as oil tanker traffic and the impact that the Exxon Valdez had in Alaska and we see what is happening in the Gulf, why will the government not listen to British Columbians? The majority of British Columbians say they do not want these giant oil tankers in these waters. They do not want to have to deal with the aftermath of a potential oil spill. The industry itself has often said that it cannot guarantee that there will not be an oil spill.

Why would we do it? We have often talked about the precautionary principle. Why would we not use the precautionary principle when we are talking about these oil tankers?

The impact is unimaginable. People who have not visited this part of the country have no idea of the geography and the weather patterns. It would be a catastrophe if we had an oil spill in the middle of winter when we could have 90-foot waves.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion--West Coast Oil Tanker Traffic
Permalink
CPC

Brian Jean

Conservative

Mr. Brian Jean (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak about this topic, which is very important to Canadians. I will be sharing my time with the member for Abbotsford.

I was actually born in British Columbia and I spent a lot of time on the water. I do have a full understanding of what this entails. I have to say, listening to the NDP, one would think Chicken Little was running around and the sky was going to fall.

The reality is that oil tankers have been trading safely and regularly off British Columbia's coasts for many years. In fact, for more time than I have been alive they have been trading safely. I do not believe there has been one oil tanker incident at sea in that period of time.

Measures actually exist to prevent this kind of thing and to ensure the safe transportation of petroleum products, not only to prevent possible ship-source spills but also to ensure preparedness and an appropriate response in the unlikely event of a spill. So there is actually a dual way of dealing with it if it does happen.

As I said, there has not been one incident at sea since before I was born. The likelihood is very remote indeed. We have had additional things happen, double-hull tankers and things such as that. Of course, we have our pilots who make sure that our ships get to where they are supposed to go, and safely in places where it might pose a danger.

Transport Canada's marine mandate is related to navigation. Navigation is very important. Shipping and protection of the environment from ship pollution are also included, and that includes response and enforcement. As I mentioned, we have a lot of different ways to make sure that this does not happen, not only to avoid it but to take care of it if it does indeed happen.

Transport Canada's goal as the lead federal department responsible for Canada's national ship-source oil spill preparedness and response regime is to ensure a national response capability is in place and to be ready to respond in the event of an incident wherever it is in our nation.

That is where we are today. Notwithstanding what the New Democrats claim, we all know that they would like to shut all our borders and shut down Canada. That is not the position of this government. It is about jobs and creating jobs for Canadians. At the same time, it is about making sure that future generations, our grandchildren and great-grandchildren, have a safe and great environment in which to live. That is what this government is going to do and actually is doing.

Operators of oil-handling facilities in fact must maintain a minimum level of preparedness and have oil pollution prevention and emergency plans in place.

The government has a strong regulatory regime that encourages and demands that people who handle this type of fuel are ready to take action if necessary and that they avoid it in all possible cases through better equipment and through investments by them.

As I mentioned, Transport Canada is also mandated to regulate the ship-source oil spills regime. Offshore oil and gas exploration and environmental response for such activities fall under the mandates of some other departments, particularly Natural Resources Canada and the Atlantic and Newfoundland offshore petroleum boards.

The national ship-source oil spill preparedness and response regime was established in 1995, following increased public attention on high-profile oil spills in North American waters. The regime is built on a partnership between government and industry, with the respective responsibilities of each party set out in the Canada Shipping Act.

The key underlying principle of the regime is that polluters pay, that polluters are responsible, as they should be. Canadian taxpayers should not be on the hook for the negligence of a polluter.

In this particular case, this is the situation with this government and our strong response in relation to industry. Industry is accountable for both areas: the prevention of oil spills and the actions necessary to prevent them, as well as the response to its own ship-source oil spill, subject to government oversight and regulations.

So even though we require industry to pay for this, to be prepared and to clean it up, the government has a strong regulatory regime to make sure they actually do that and are held to account.

Private sector funds deliver the operational elements of the regime, which ensure that industry has the capability to respond to individual ship-source oil spills of up to 10,000 tonnes in Canadian waters south of 60° north latitude. A network of four Transport Canada-certified response organizations provides this coverage.

Response organizations are required to ensure that there is response capability in place should a ship-source oil spill occur.

Mr. Speaker, notwithstanding the NDP's attempt to drag me away from my speech to talk about the great things the government is doing and what the NDP is trying to stop us from doing, I am going to continue on with my speech, but I appreciate the clatter across the way, though.

Under Canadian legislation, the Canadian Coast Guard is the lead agency responsible for ensuring the appropriate response to spills in Canadian waters. In this respect, the Canadian Coast Guard maintains a national response capability to supplement that of the private sector response organizations and to provide coverage where there is no clearly identified polluter or response organization responsible for that area.

Where most of these incidents could occur, which they have not in decades, at least in the water, we have organizations we can look to in the private sector. However, when we are not certain as to which organization is responsible for the clean up in a certain area, the Coast Guard is in place to provide coverage where there is no clearly identified polluter.

Canadians want the government to be responsible if no private organization is held to account in that area, for whatever reason, either it is something that happens without our knowledge or the knowledge of the Coast Guards or it just suddenly appears. That does happen. Where that is the case, the Coast Guard will come in and take care of the situation, such as in the case of ship source mystery spills or spills in the Arctic, which is north of 60° latitude.

Environment Canada is responsible for providing environmental, scientific and technical advice to the Canadian Coast Guard. Therefore, the government relies on it for its expertise, as does the Coast Guard, for a certified response organization to effectively respond to a marine oil spill.

In the case of oil handling facilities located south of the north of 60° latitude, Transport Canada requires that each facility have on-site plans, equipment, personnel, training and exercise programs that enable them to deploy an immediate response in the event of a ship source oil spill. Also, it has an agreement in place with a certified response organizations, so we would have an immediate response. Therefore, if there were to be any damage, it would not be of any substance.

Transport Canada manages the national aerial surveillance program, which is the primary tool for detecting any illegal discharges at sea and for environmental monitoring.

I had an opportunity to see a facility like this in eastern Canada. I was impressed with the detail and its ability to track oil pollution and ships in all of our waters. I think most Canadians would be impressed with the initiatives this government has taken.

Therefore, polluters should be aware that we can see what they are doing and where they are. We can see oil coming from a ship.

We have a strong regulatory regime in place in relation to the ability to see what goes on in our waters. There are currently six regional advisory councils on marine oil spill preparedness and response across Canada. These councils serve as advisory bodies to the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities and make recommendations on oil spill preparedness for ship source and oil handling facilities spills in accordance with the Canada Shipping Act.

The membership of these advisory councils includes a cross-representation of individuals, groups and companies whose interests could be positively or negatively affected in the event of a ship source or oil handling facilities spill. That is because this government takes very seriously the issue of pollution and protecting our environment.

These interests might include fishing, aquaculture, aboriginal and environmental interests, port authorities, businesses and tourism associations and shipping interests. This varied and balanced representation allows the advisory council to offer valuable and pertinent information to Transport Canada. Clearly on all the bills and initiatives the Conservative government has put forward, we have consulted widely with stakeholders to ensure we strike the right balance, and this is no different.

We also have the ship source oil pollution fund, which is available to pay compensation for spills of all types of oils from ships of all classes. The House may not be aware of this, but we almost tripled the financial consequences of spills. In 2009 the Marine Liability Act was amended by the Conservative government to further protect Canadians from those financial consequences, up to $1.3 billion. That is because the government cares about the environment. We will ensure that we continue to trade and do a good job for Canadians on the environment, in the industry and in the economy. We will continue to create jobs.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion--West Coast Oil Tanker Traffic
Permalink
NDP

Nathan Cullen

New Democratic Party

Mr. Nathan Cullen (Skeena—Bulkley Valley, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, it is curious that the government could not find anybody from British Columbia to talk about this other than the member from the source of this oil in the tar sands. It is fascinating.

He mentioned in his speech that Canadians could rest assured because the Coast Guard was well-equipped to handle any major oil spills from supertankers of the B.C coast, which is what we are talking about today. There have been two major spills from ships in the last five years on that very coast.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion--West Coast Oil Tanker Traffic
Permalink
CPC

Ed Fast

Conservative

Mr. Ed Fast

Not in B.C.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion--West Coast Oil Tanker Traffic
Permalink
NDP

Nathan Cullen

New Democratic Party

Mr. Nathan Cullen

I will remind my friend from British Columbia that this is absolutely possible in B.C.

This is what an audit from the Coast Guard said about its capacity to respond to a spill:

The Canadian Coast Guard lacks the training, equipment and management systems to fulfill its duties to respond to offshore pollution...such as oil spills.

This is from an internal audit of the Coast Guard. This is not some outside group saying that the Coast Guard is not well prepared.

How can my friend say Canadians can rest assured that the safety mechanisms are in place and that the Coast Guard will do it? The Coast Guard has audited itself and has found it is not able to do it.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion--West Coast Oil Tanker Traffic
Permalink
CPC

Brian Jean

Conservative

Mr. Brian Jean

Mr. Speaker, the member should have stuck around for my first parliamentary speech. I was born in British Columbia, in the beautiful area of Westbank. I am a third generation British Columbian. It is a great place to be from, just like it is great to be from Fort McMurray. I invite all my friends from the NDP to come and see what takes place in Fort McMurray.

I am a registered trapper. I spend a lot of time in the outdoors. On the weekends and in the summers, most of my life in northern Alberta was spent outdoors. Nobody can give me lessons on what the Conservative government needs to do to protect the environment.

In fact, I had the opportunity to attend law school in Australia, where I had a very good education on environmental law, halfway through a Master's in law. I will take no lessons from the NDP. All it wants to do is close the borders. It does not want anybody to have a job in our country. It wants us to go back and move into caves and that will not happen.

We will protect the environment and the jobs of Canadians and we will do it without the help of the NDP.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion--West Coast Oil Tanker Traffic
Permalink
LIB

Keith Martin

Liberal

Hon. Keith Martin (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, my colleague, the parliamentary secretary, mentions the government is trying to protect the environment from climate change. That is not the case whatsoever.

At COP 10 in Nagoya, the Government of Canada was preventing the biodiversity convention from moving forward. It blocked the ABS convention and in blocking that, it blocked the ability of biospheres to generate funds to be reinvested in the environment. This is devastating for our ability to deal with the march to extinction that thousands upon thousands of species face today.

Could he tell the House and the Canadian public what the government will do to reduce climate change? Will it support a carbon tax or not? How will we get our greenhouse gas emissions down? What has it brought to the table in Cancun, which is taking place right now?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion--West Coast Oil Tanker Traffic
Permalink
CPC

Brian Jean

Conservative

Mr. Brian Jean

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's question, but I wish it would have come from somebody else so I could answer it substantively. I clearly have problems answering a question from the member. He was a member of the Liberal government for a good number of years. Under that government, greenhouse gases went sky high. Under this government, greenhouse gases are not only under control, they have gone down.

When he was a member of the Liberal government, it had an opportunity to do something. It had an opportunity to help the environment. It had an opportunity to combat climate change.

I will miss the member because he is quite rational on most things. I understand why he is quitting politics. He is ashamed of the record of the Liberal Party and he knows it will be unable to recover from that record.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion--West Coast Oil Tanker Traffic
Permalink
CPC

Ed Fast

Conservative

Mr. Ed Fast (Abbotsford, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, as a proud British Columbian, having lived there all my life, I want to put the lie to some of the scaremongering that we hear from the NDP benches.

Due to the recent oil spill on the U.S. Gulf Coast, it is understandable that attention has been focused on oil tanker traffic on our Pacific coast and the potential threats to our environment which such traffic represents.

It is appropriate to re-examine whether Canada has the right regulations, enforcement and response mechanisms in place to handle an oil spill on the west coast. I believe that all members in the House will conclude that Canada's ability to respond to such events remains robust and sound.

Perhaps the most relevant indicator in understanding oil tanker safety issues is to look at past history. That history clearly shows that oil tankers have been travelling safely along the British Columbia coast for many years. That is not to say there is a zero risk of an accident. Nothing in life is without some risk. The key is to balance risk against the reward, to find out what are the benefits and then to manage those risks.

Allow me to explain what our government is doing to avoid those risks and to ensure that those risks are handled effectively when an event occurs.

There is currently a tanker exclusion zone in place, which protects the most vulnerable parts of our west coast. That is something the NDP never mentions. This exclusion zone applies to all loaded trans-Alaska pipeline tankers travelling southbound between Alaska and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. As a result of this agreement, U.S. tanker ships stay between 25 and 75 miles off the B.C. coast.

Southbound laden tankers are required to report to the Canadian vessel traffic system and immediately if they develop any defect of deficiency which impairs the progress of that vessel. It is important to note that the establishment of the tanker exclusion zone was never intended or designed to absolutely prohibit all tanker traffic or tankers calling in Canadian ports.

Over 1,000 tankers each year comply with and respect the tanker exclusion zone. There have been no reports of non-compliance. Additionally, at least once a year, Transport Canada inspects each and every tanker that arrives in a B.C. port. It has the authority to detain a ship if it is deemed a risk. When ships do pollute our waters, the Government of Canada takes a zero tolerance policy. Canada has a strict liability approach to these kinds of pollution offences.

Transport Canada investigates all reported incidents of ship-sourced marine pollution. Whenever there is sufficient evidence, the department follows up with enforcement action. Such action can include prosecution of the marine polluters, as well as the levying of administrative monetary penalties.

Just to be clear, although there is a federal moratorium in place on the west coast that applies to oil and natural gas exploration and related development, that moratorium does not apply to the storage or movement of tankers, and it should not. With respect to tanker traffic, our government has no plans to remove or change the 1988 exclusion zone on tankers travelling between Alaska and Washington State. We have made that clear time after time. We believe this exclusion represents sound environmental policy and protects the most vulnerable areas of our coast.

I will review for a moment Canada's historical response to tragedies, such as the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska and perhaps the Nestucca spill in Washington state.

In June 1989, Canada's federal government appointed the public review panel on tanker safety and marine spills response capability, also known as the Brander-Smith panel. That panel's work resulted in the creation of the Canadian marine oil spill preparedness and response regime. Building on that success, considerable planning work was undertaken by the Canadian Coast Guard and Environment Canada, in consultation with the private sector, to encourage the development of a private sector funded response strategy. Shortly thereafter, the Shipping Act was amended to implement improvements to Canada's oil spill response capability.

To further safeguard our coastal waters, Transport Canada and the coast guard enforce a policy that tankers of over 40,000 dead-weight tonnes are not permitted to use the inside passage but will instead be directed to the outside route for north-south transit. Furthermore, Port Metro Vancouver requires all loaded tankers entering Burrard Inlet and Indian Arm to be escorted by tugs as they navigate toward the oil terminals. They also require mandatory pilotage zones where tankers are required to take onboard a marine pilot with local knowledge before entering a harbour or busy waterway, such as the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Certain vessels operating in Canadian waters are monitored and guided by the Canadian Coast Guard's Marine Communications and Traffic Services centres. The Government of Canada has also taken steps to increase surveillance and tracking of marine traffic, including the implementation of mandatory automatic identification systems.

Let us put all of this into perspective. The demand for oil is growing around the world, especially from countries such as China. Oil refining activity takes place on B.C.'s coast for both domestic and international consumption. The movement of oil occurs primarily through the ports of Vancouver, Prince Rupert and Kitimat. In the last five years, over 1,300 tankers have arrived in Port Metro Vancouver and 187 have arrived in the ports of Kitimat and Prince Rupert.

Interestingly enough, since 2003, there have been about 475,000 vessel movements per year on the west coast, yet tankers accounted for only 0.3 of 1% of this traffic in the 2008-09 fiscal year. Tankers have been involved in only five shipping incidents on the west coast since 2003, not one of which resulted in pollution to our coast. Indeed, the only significant oil spill on the west coast did not come from a tanker at all, but from the B.C. ferry, Queen of the North, when it sank in 2006.

In conclusion, Transport Canada remains confident that the Canada Shipping Act and its regulations, and their regional policies and procedures, have demonstrated their effectiveness on the west coast. Despite an extensive coastline, B.C. has enjoyed an enviable safety and environmental record.

The long and short of it is that the world's demand for oil and gas continues to grow. Canada happens to be one of the world's energy superpowers and the world is beating a path to our doorstep in order to acquire our resources. Much of our future prosperity depends on Canada's ability to grow its markets and to safely and efficiently get those resources to its customers. What has made Canada's west coast and Pacific gateway even more important to our national prosperity is the dramatic growth of economic opportunities in places such as China and India. Tankers are an indispensable way of getting our resources out to those markets.

The question remains: Can tankers safety use our west coast shipping lanes? History and experience show that, in Canada at least, the answer is yes. The answer is yes provided that we continue to focus on a number of key priorities. It is that balance I spoke about earlier in my speech.

Those priorities are, first of all, exclusion zones for the most vulnerable areas of our coast; second, a robust monitoring and enforcement scheme; third, tough laws and regulations relating to tanker traffic along our coast; and finally, a high degree of co-operation and collaboration among the various stakeholders in maintaining a high level of emergency preparedness.

I believe those priorities are being met and that it is possible to secure the future prosperity of our country by ensuring the safe passage of tanker traffic through Canadian waters.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion--West Coast Oil Tanker Traffic
Permalink

December 2, 2010