Mr. Speaker, as indicated at second reading we on this side of the House see some merit in this bill. At the same time we see that it has some very serious shortcomings.
I am indebted to my colleague for Ottawa South for the opportunity to investigate this matter in greater depth with him and to express the following reservations on behalf of both of us in our party.
We see improvements in the form of the training of personnel, the reform of navigation practices, surveillance, pilotage practices and in particular in relation to the procedures to be adopted when it comes to the escort of tankers through dangerous passages.
What is missing from this bill is a very important measure that would have gone a long way toward improving the safety and the preventative aspect of tanker travel in future. I am referring in particular to the missing proposal by the Brander-Smith review panel of a $2 per tonne levy that would be used for the construction of double hulls.
This measure would have meant a minimal increase in the already very low price of gasoline at the retail level. It would have been in the range, I am told, of less than .03 cents but it would have allowed the formation of a fund of significance in the years ahead for the construction of tankers equipped with a double hull.
I am told from knowledgeable sources that the increase in the construction of a double hulled vessel would cost only 17 per cent more than the present practice of constructing single hulled vessels.
If we consider for a moment how strong the impact is of a spillage of oil on the environment and on the income of the fishermen and the industry affected, we can realize that a $2 per tonne levy is more than justified. It is a very desirable initiative that one would consider a main feature of this bill and unfortunately it is not contained therein.
Such a fund with a $2 per tonne levy would over 10 years permit reaching a fund of some $800 million. That fund I am told would be a good start toward the renewal of fleets in the future so that they would be equipped with the desired double hull.
In addition to that I am told it would be desirable to make allocations outside the scope of this bill of some $150 million so as to improve the equipment available at present to the Coast Guard. Another $150 million would be required for improving research and development in
related fields and another $100 million for the development of an electronic chart that would also enhance the degree of safety in the waters used by oil tankers.
Under the proposed $2 per tonne fund I am told that the shipowners would receive 20 per cent of the cost to build such a double hulled vessel. Recalling my earlier reference to a 17 per cent higher cost for the construction of double hulled tankers we can see that here we have actually a veiy reasonable arrangement and a very good incentive, if you like, for builders of double hulled vessels to include this additional safety feature.
In investigating this matter and also casting back memories to the hearings of the excellent commission headed by Mr. Brander-Smith, it is important to put on record certain findings. This is namely the desirability of maintaining the inspection of the fleets of non-Canadian owned tankers.
In addition to that it wanted to ensure that all tankers be inspected not just the first time when they enter Canadian waters, as it is the practice right now, but also to continue that practice and not to let it drop to 25 per cent of the fleet as is the practice right now.
In light of these observations we consider this bill only an initial step on the road toward a satisfactory policy of prevention and cure. In the next Parliament we would like to see measures introduced that would strengthen and address specifically every possible preventative initiative.
There is one that we cannot underline enough, although in the process it becomes repetitive, the significance, desirability and urgency of introducing this $2 per tonne levy which this bill does not have but future bills should.
Part of human nature is the tendency to rush to a problem when disaster happens and then gradually lose sight of it and then become somewhat disrespectful in this respect. This is the case of the safety of tankers. The prevention of oil spills is a classic example.
We should not forget the spills that have occurred as a result of the accident of the Exxon Valdez as well as those in the Atlantic and in European waters and the like over the last 30 to 40 years.
June 7, 1993
We have reached such excellent technological levels in aviation that there is no excuse for us not to aim at equally safe and high standards in the field of maritime travel. It is incumbent upon us to do that.
It is obvious that if we proclaim ourselves in support of sustainable development practices that a measure that would introduce double hulls for oil tankers would be an elementary step that really cries for attention. It has already for some time.
I urge the minister in her intervention today to give us an indication as to the intention of the government to pursue the matter of double hulls and the creation of this special fund that would be made possible by the $2 per tonne levy.
In other words, it would be most desirable if the minister could give an indication of how she and her department intend to practice the preaching of sustainable development when it comes to the very practical and daily challenge posed by the oil tankers that travel through Canadian and international waters.
We are very supportive of the excellent final report dated September 1990 by the Public Review Panel on Tanker Safety and Marine Spills Response Capability. It was an excellent effort. We congratulate the government for having launched it but we do not want to go overboard in doing so. It is not feasible from an opposition bench. However we certainly see merits in having done so.
It would have been better perhaps if this bill had seen the light of day sooner. Nevertheless, as I said on other occasions and again at second reading we see this as only half a loaf. It is a measure in the bill that is definitely necessary but it is incomplete, particularly for the reasons I gave in relation to the $2 per tonne levy.
In conclusion I would ask the minister to comment on the important missing aspects of this bill and I thank you for your attention.
Subtopic: CANADA SHIPPING ACT