June 7, 1993 (34th Parliament, 3rd Session)


James Ross Fulton

New Democratic Party

Mr. Fulton:

My friend from Alberta says they are inspected every year. The problem is that the statistics speak for themselves. When single hulled tankers run aground there is a spill in 60 per cent of those cases and

June 7, 1993

in some cases there are very large spills from single hulled tankers.
During committee I proposed a phase-out of those tankers under 5,000 tonnes which will be approaching a century in age by the time they are taken out, the 20 tankers between 5,000 and 15,000 tonnes and the two tankers in excess of 20,000 tonnes.
Regrettably the government voted those amendments down. I used the same schedule as Brander-Smith, a seven-year phase-out so the whole of the Canadian tanker fleet could go to double hulls. I regret to say that the Coast Guard admitted before committee that it never did a single cost profitability study or cost benefit study for any one of the 50 Canadian tankers to see the level of affordability at which they should have gone double hulled, double bottomed, diaphragmed or double walled. There are many techniques to improve safety. The ship owners, in terms of the tanker fleet, want everything from this government. They want no phaseout until 2015 for tankers built in the 1920s which I find absolutely incredible as did Mr. Brander-Smith.
What about response capacity? We always hear the endless call from the government side for the private sector to do everything. In many cases I have no problem with it if it can demonstrate a comparable level of safety and enforcement. But what was found with the Exxon Valdez incident in one of the most searching and probing analyses that there has ever been? The study found a level of incestuous activity never before imagined among the U.S. Coast Guard, the enforcement agencies and the private sector responsible for the transportation of oil.
There was no safety equipment. There was no response plan. There was no one in charge. One of the most critical recommendations made during our hearings was to have oversight committees with serious powers to report to the minister and committees of this House. Fortunately the government did bend and we at least now have some powers for the advisory committees.
With regard to response capacity the government regrettably again voted down amendments that would have gotten rid of what I describe as the shadow. It is now three years since Brander-Smith reported to this Parliament. The government has had plenty of time to
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develop a response scenario. The Coast Guard has $60 million worth of aging oil response capacity in terms of floatable booms, skimmers and so on. It has that equipment. There is a growing level of equipment available to the private sector from on-land response contractors. But as we heard from the Coast Guard, it will take about $100 million for it to step up to the minimal requirements of this legislation which is a 10,000 tonne regional capacity so we will have that on the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence basin, the Pacific and the Atlantic. The Coast Guard will maintain responsibility in the Arctic.
Even the proposals in here for the cascading 25,000 tonne capacity so the regional depots must have a back-up transportation regime to get that extra 15,000 tonnes of capacity into place within a certain number of hours and days of a spill is not what Brander-Smith was driving at. Clearly his 107 recommendations were designed to get the best available bang for the buck at the most reasonable cost to the Canadian consumer and ship owners.
When we look at the tonnage of the vessels that have been exempted by this legislation, and I am sincere about this, the very intelligent approach is making the Coast Guard the lead agency. We have to pick somebody and have targets and timetables. David Brander-Smith said if we have a dream and a timetable then we have a plan.
What do we have with this legislation? We have a dream, there is no doubt about that. The Tories are widely known to be dreamers but what about a timetable or targets? For a least the next two years-and I stand to be challenged by anyone in this House because this is what we heard from the Coast Guard-we will have a shadow where there will be inadequate response capacity for spills within the near shore of Canada. This is three years after the report came to this House following the Exxon Valdez, the Braer accident off the Shetland Islands, the Kurdistan and the Arrow. What about the Irving Whale sitting on the ocean floor in Canada's own maritimes? How can the government just sort of fiddle and fudge its way along? People in this country are prepared to pay. One-tenth of a cent per pound levy? The Tories say: "Oh no, that is too much". Less than a penny a gallon to be passed on so that we can have double hulls and adequate response capability.

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Of the three largest recommendations that were made by the Brander-Smith panel this government ducked every single one. While that was going on, the Minister of Finance pilfered the $200 million that was in the emergency response fund. I think the government has a lot to answer for in that field.
The Coast Guard has done some good things during the intervening years. It should be commended, and not only for what it did for us as members of the committee. It did an excellent job in providing us materials we requested. It has also dramatically increased the checking of vessels coming in and out of Canadian waters. It is important to note that our largest crude movements are not in areas where a lot of Canadians might think. In fact Saint John, New Brunswick is the largest with 11 million tonnes, Halifax at 9 million tonnes, Quebec City at 8 million tonnes, and Come-By-Chance at 8 million tonnes.
In previous years we have had a very low level of analysis of those tankers coming into and going out of Canada. The Coast Guard has stepped that up and it is now checking 38 per cent of vessels coming into our waters. Regrettably the level of compliance with recommended steps to repair defects has not been great. I think it is particularly regrettable that almost a quarter of those vessels that are being boarded by the Canadian Coast Guard are found to be defective. That means we have all kinds of time bombs floating off our coast. This legislation will apply to about 10,000 vessels that are defined as ships in the definition section of this piece of legislation.
A fee will be applied to each of them. We heard from witnesses who came before the committee that the fee will be in the neighbourhood of $300 per vessel. Then of course there will be a tariff. Should a vessel be involved in an accident that involves substantial clean-up costs, there will be a tariff applied as well.
We heard a lot from the industry during this whole process. We regrettably did not hear the amount that I think we should have from those who are concerned, what I would describe more broadly in terms of the public interest, particularly environmental organizations. They simply could not afford to attend a lot of the working sessions as Bill C-121 was being developed.
That is something that this Parliament cannot continue to allow to occur. We are not like other countries where there is substantial public donation to environmental organizations to attend and participate in legislative functions. In the British parliamentary tradition I think we should be much more alert to providing funds to make sure that those who need to be heard are heard, whether they live on the Great Lakes or the St. Lawrence or in Atlantic Canada, in Pacific Canada or in the Arctic.
This legislation has dire future ramifications. As we know now, the existing tanker fleet will remain status quo. The tanker owners want it all. The Minister of Finance took $200 million and ran off with that. We receive no guaranteed provisions until past the turn of the century on double hulling; none. In terms of the response capacity, we have another two year shadow before we are going to have full response capacity up and ready to roll. I think that demonstrates a degree of incompetence and uncaring that is entirely unacceptable.
We heard witnesses last week. As you know, Mr. Speaker, we had a very compressed time schedule. I believe we had second reading debate on May 12. We managed to get all the way through witnesses and the committee process and reporting back to this House in a very short period of time. We did have a witness from the Save Georgia Strait Alliance, a very large alliance representing about 200,000 British Columbians. I suppose the combination of the Nestucca which was a tug-barge accident, and the Exxon Valdez which was a giant crude carrier has brought us on the Pacific coast to be very alert about how terrifying the impacts of a crude oil spill, particularly in the marine environment, can be.
We should take a look for a moment at the advisory council because it is critical. I think it is from the debate in this House that the Coast Guard should take a good chunk of interpretation of what the amendments to section 660 in fact mean. We made some changes in there that I think are very important. If properly utilized by the ministry of transport and by the commissioner of the Coast Guard it will bring long-term benefits not only to the administration of this piece of legislation but to the prevention of oil spills and the greater protection of our environment.
June 7, 1993

Those who are interested will find that the amendments in 660 include that the commissioner shall establish at least one advisory council in respect of each geographic area: the Pacific, the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence basin, the Atlantic and the Arctic. There will be seven members on each of these advisory councils.
I am pleased that several of the principles that I moved as amendments were in fact adopted, such as the capacity for the commissioner to pay those who sit on these so that those who give up their time, whether they are a deck hand on a tug or an environmentalist with particular knowledge of some kind of marine life on the back side of Flores Island or whether they have particular knowledge of the breeding capacity and habits of the beluga whales in the St. Lawrence. There are bits and pieces of information that are held by many disparate and separate groups all over this country that will feed best into an advisory council that has some independent spirits. Thankfully one of our amendments allows for those individuals who are appointed to be there on good behaviour.
They are not just there and can be kicked off at the pleasure of the commissioner or the minister. If they have the will to sit on the council they can be paid. They can stand up on their hind legs and tell the media and the public about the ineptitude or inadequacy or incompetence of someone in the government or someone in the private sector who has a responsibility that they are not carrying out to protect us from oil spills.
It is good that the advisory councils have some powers and some teeth, not the least of which was another amendment that I moved that thankfully has been included. That is that the advisory councils can report not only to the commissioner but they can report to the Standing Committee on Transport or the Standing Committee on Environment or to the Minister of Transport. There is a shall clause and that is that they shall get a response back.
One of the things I think a lot of the advisory councils have regretted when they came to particularly tough issues was they reported to the minister or to the House and then nothing ever happened. At least in this case within 30 days or within 14 sitting days of the House there shall be a report.
I see there are only a couple of minutes until Question Period time, so let me just give a bit of a summation and I will carry on after Question Period.
We have a tendency to respond following crises. Following the 1970 sinking of the Arrow we passed legislation in 1973. Since the Exxon Valdez and the Nestucca we have had almost four years waiting time while the government has prepared Bill C-121. It has obvious inadequacies. Just as I say to the Coast Guard: "You are going to have to be very firm and very vigilant with this private sector concept". I also say to the ship owners, all 10,000 of whom will come under the rubric of this legislation, that: "You had better make sure that the response capability and capacity that your onshore contractor has is in fact state of the art, is in fact the best available technology".
Mr. Brander-Smith discovered that the Coast Guard was totally inadequately prepared when he was appointed in 1990 and it has admitted that it is still totally inadequately prepared now.
As a nation we stand without private sector response that is adequate, without Coast Guard response that is adequate and a piece of legislation where, because the government would not buy into a statutory requirement that I moved to make sure that the 10,000 tonne capacity and the 25,000 tonne capacity were in place by next January, there is an unknown period of time within which we will not have adequate response capacity.
Therefore there are tankers that could be dangerous out there and we have an inadequate capability to deal with them and with others should an accident regrettably occur.
I look forward to continuing following Question Period.

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