moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.
Madam Speaker, hon. members, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak before this House today during third reading of Bill C-6, an act to amend the Canada Oil and Gas Operations Act, the Canada Petroleum Resources Act, and the National Energy Board Act.
The main purpose of Bill C-6 is to give the National Energy Board the authority to regulate frontier oil and gas activity. It will not however affect offshore Newfoundland and Nova Scotia where petroleum management is shared under federal-provincial accords. Bill C-6 will ensure that the frontier regulatory process is more transparent as decisions will be taken by an experienced independent organization.
Essentially the National Energy Board's main responsibilities will be: protection of worker safety; maximizing resource conservation by ensuring good oil field practices; and protection of the environment.
I am very sensitive to concerns regarding protection of the fragile environment of the north and other frontier areas. Consistent with efforts to better integrate environmental considerations in policy decisions, a review of the proposed legislative changes was conducted co-operatively by Natural Resources Canada and the National Energy Board. It concluded there
would be no adverse environmental impacts as a result of the proposed amendments.
The government is also committed to real and meaningful consultations with all key stakeholders and views this as a critical feature of the legislative process. Wide-ranging consultations with interested parties have been held at all stages of the development of this proposed legislation. These included both provincial and territorial governments, native groups, industry, and environmental organizations.
Let me turn to some of the issues that were raised during second reading and committee consideration of Bill C-6.
Concern was expressed by some members of this House regarding the impact Bill C-6 may have on provincial jurisdiction over frontier resources.
This bill will have no impact on jurisdiction over offshore regions of Quebec and other frontier areas. It merely transfers to the National Energy Board regulatory powers which already belong to the federal government, and it does not affect any offshore frontier areas.
Further, there is nothing in the bill which would prejudice the outcome of any discussions with the territorial governments on the delegation of onshore responsibilities, or impact on discussions with other coastal provinces regarding future shared management arrangements.
Some members also felt that in the exceptional circumstances of a future appeal the National Energy Board would somehow not be expert or independent enough to give industry a fair hearing. NEB decisions are not currently subject to outside review except by the courts and then only on questions of law or jurisdiction.
The oil and gas committee appeal process is being abolished under this legislation because the integrity of the NEB process, and therefore its independence and effectiveness, depends heavily on maintaining this principle.
The proposed amendments reflect our view that in the few instances this appeal function may be exercised it will be competently and objectively performed by the NEB.
The National Energy Board already has diverse regulatory responsibilities. These include the licensing of the export of oil, gas and electricity; the issuance of certificates for international pipelines; and the setting of just and reasonable tolls. The National Energy Board is well placed to take on the authority to regulate frontier oil and gas as proposed in the amendments.
I am fully confident that for all its responsibilities the board will continue its mandate to regulate in the Canadian public interest fairly and effectively, taking into consideration the views of all interested parties.
In conclusion, what the government of Canada wants to do with this bill is to give clear and specific operating rules to the industry.
Without these amendments the NEB will not be able to operate effectively and industry will continue to be faced with a time consuming approval process.
The National Energy Board was given additional staff and responsibilities for frontier oil and gas in 1991. Bill C-6 would finally give the board the legal authority to do its job.
Subtopic: Canada Oil And Gas Operations Act