March 23, 1979 (30th Parliament, 4th Session)

LIB

Otto Emil Lang (Minister of Transport; Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board)

Liberal

Mr. Lang:

It was a combination of things, Mr. Speaker; but I do not grant for a moment that there was undue delay. It was a very serious decision to take, to allow a vessel which had suffered any kind of mishap to come alongside the Canadian coastline with a cargo of oil on board.
We wanted to be sure on the technical basis that the risk was small. We also wanted to have complete protection from a legal point of view in relation to any possible costs and damage even though it was small. Experts in relation to this kind of contract came together from quite a few different places in the world, experts who had been associated with a similar event in Rotterdam and the like.
The question of negotiation and the extent of liability which we would insist upon were important questions on which I wanted to be satisfied. In the meantime, however, it was not as though the time was being lost. The vessel was put under tow. At first, while there was a question about the adequacy of the stern to survive the seas, it was being moved in an outward direction toward deeper water. When it became apparent that salvage was distinctly possible, and having regard to winds in any case, the direction of the tow was changed: it moved toward the Port Hawkesbury destination. When the critical point was reached where it would have been necessary to turn either out to the sea or in toward the bay, the decision had already been made.
Therefore, while the legal matters did take some time, it was not as though time was lost. I hope the hon. member will agree with us that in making a most serious decision involving an

element of risk it was necessary to be sure as to the size of that risk and be completely protected from the legal and financial points of view.

Topic:   ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
Subtopic:   TRANSPORT
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