Bernard BIGRAS

BIGRAS, Bernard

Personal Data

Bloc Québécois
Rosemont--La Petite-Patrie (Quebec)
Birth Date
June 4, 1969
economist, political adviser

Parliamentary Career

June 2, 1997 - October 22, 2000
  Rosemont (Quebec)
  • Bloc Québécois Caucus Chair (June 17, 1998 - January 1, 2000)
November 27, 2000 - May 23, 2004
  Rosemont--Petite-Patrie (Quebec)
June 28, 2004 - November 29, 2005
  Rosemont--La Petite-Patrie (Quebec)
January 23, 2006 - September 7, 2008
  Rosemont--La Petite-Patrie (Quebec)
October 14, 2008 - March 26, 2011
  Rosemont--La Petite-Patrie (Quebec)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 4 of 282)

December 3, 2010

Mr. Bernard Bigras

With respect to the diesel spill that occurred on September 28, 2010, from Suncor’s refinery facilities at the Port of Montreal, namely quays 109 and 110: (a) have inspections of the infrastructure at the source of the leak been carried out since June 2008; (b) for each inspection carried out after June 2008, (i) what was the department, corporation or agency responsible for the inspection, (ii) at what date was the inspection done, (iii) what was the name of the person responsible for the inspection, (iv) what were the characteristics of the infrastructure inspected, (v) what was the state of the infrastructure inspected, (vi) what was the type of test performed, (vii) what was the result of the tests performed; and (c) what is the age of the infrastructure at the source of the leak?

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Questions on the Order Paper
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December 2, 2010

Mr. Bernard Bigras (Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, I thank my Bloc Québécois colleague and my NDP colleague for their warm welcome.

I am pleased to speak today on this opposition day to discuss an NDP motion. I want to take a few seconds to read the motion before us:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should immediately propose legislation to ban bulk oil tanker traffic in the Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound as a way to protect the West Coast's unique and diverse ocean ecosystem, to preserve the marine resources which sustain the community and regional economies of British Columbia, and to honour the extensive First Nations rights and title in the area.

First of all, I would like to say that we will support this opposition motion for several reasons. First, we cannot have economic development without considering the people who live in or near marine areas. The first nations were quick to oppose oil tanker traffic. These communities, which are the primary residents and inhabitants in the area, feel that this type of transport and oil tanker traffic could have a considerable impact on them. Furthermore, nearly 80% of the population of British Columbia is against oil tanker traffic in this coastal area. The people of British Columbia and all first nations clearly want us to take action to avoid increasing oil tanker traffic.

Why are we here debating this motion today? First, because Enbridge, a large multinational oil company, plans on building two pipelines to transport oil from the oil sands in Alberta from a terminal to a port complex in British Columbia. Two pipelines approximately 1,170 kilometres in length will link the oil terminal in Alberta to the port terminal in Kitimat, British Columbia.

This will mean that once Alberta has produced oil from the oil sands and it has been transported through the pipeline to the port in British Columbia, it will then be exported. On average, tanker traffic will increase by approximately 225 ships a year. So, 225 ships will be transporting crude oil that is destined, most likely, for Asian markets.

Essentially, it is a question of economics, but we need to look beyond that. We need to recognize that the Pacific coast and this marine area are fragile. In nearby marine areas, the government has created national marine reserves to protect these areas of high biodiversity.

Today we are having a hard time understanding the government's attitude. It seems to be talking out of both sides of its mouth in terms of a moratorium on tanker traffic. Why are we having trouble understanding?

It is because the environment minister told us a couple of months ago that this zone is fragile and rich in biodiversity and that it must be protected. Today, the Conservative government is refusing to take a clear position, while the environment minister is announcing that protected world reserves are a huge step forward in the protection of biodiversity and incredible resources.

On the other hand, our government wants to ensure that oil from the oil sands finds an export market, from north to south and east to west. It is not true that we will accept putting oil interests first. The people want this ban and it is necessary in order to protect our ecosystems. Over the last number of years, particularly in the port of Vancouver in British Columbia, there has been an increase in tanker traffic. I looked at some numbers. Between 2008 and 2009 alone, there was a 48% increase in the number of oil tankers. That represents a 77% increase in the volume of crude oil transported. In that period, tanker traffic increased by 48% and the volume of oil transported increased by 77%. There has already been an increase in traffic, but the public wants a ban on it.

We need to think about this, because there is a rich biodiversity in the zones that border on the zones mentioned in the motion. For instance, there is the Straight of Georgia, the stretch of sea between Vancouver Island and mainland British Columbia, which is home to 200 species of fish, five species of wild salmon and 500 species of marine plants. This rich biodiversity must be protected because that is what communities want.

Basically, we know that this zone, including the Burrard Inlet among others, is one of the main gateways for transporting the oil and, as I said, the rich biodiversity there must be protected. It needs to be protected because shipping traffic has increased 48%, and this is raising some concerns among the local population and local and municipal authorities.

A few months ago, in response to the increase in tanker traffic I mentioned earlier, the mayor of North Vancouver, Darrell Mussatto, said:

We hope we never have to deal with anything like what is happening in the Gulf of Mexico.

It seems that economic pressure on ports and ecosystems is growing. This has to slow down. When it comes to shale gas development in Quebec, our artists have said, “Wait a minute.” Indeed, we can only go so far so fast. Seeing as how there has been a 48% increase in traffic and two more pipelines are going to be built, which will bring an average of 225 oil tankers a year to these fragile zones, the precautionary principle must prevail. This precautionary principle should help us ensure that all necessary guarantees will be given to the public. We are saying this for environmental as well as economic reasons. The people of Îles-de-la-Madeleine are facing the same reality as the people of British Columbia regarding oil tanker traffic and oil and gas development.

Mr. Speaker, I toured maritime Quebec this fall. What did the people in the Gaspé and the Magdalen Islands have to say? An industry that causes so much pollution should not be favoured over our fishery and local economy.

Quebec's coastal areas are built upon exactly the same foundation as British Columbia's. And what is that foundation? The fishing and tourism industries. I have some figures here. On the Pacific coast, 13,000 jobs are related to commercial fishing, which generates $1.7 billion in revenue. Ten thousand jobs are related to the cruise ship industry and recreational tourism. Since the local economy is essentially based on these two industries, why would we want to run the risk of moving backward?

History speaks of the catastrophic effects of oil spills. I am thinking of the considerable costs associated with the Exxon Valdez disaster, which totalled between $3 billion and $9 billion.

Why would we risk jeopardizing local communities? This would merely be an attempt to satisfy the insatiable needs of an industry that contributes to the increase in greenhouse gas emissions. And how many long-term jobs would this project create? According to Enbridge, the company that wants to build these two pipelines, 200 long-term positions would be created. And yet there are already 13,000 jobs in the fishing industry and 10,000 jobs in the tourism industry. Are we going to risk sacrificing 23,000 existing jobs for 200 long-term positions in a polluting industry? The answer is clear; the answer is no.

Who will ultimately pay in the event of an oil spill? In theory, and Enbridge will agree, Enbridge will take full responsibility. In practice, in the event of an oil spill, Enbridge's responsibility is limited to land. In the event of an oil spill, shipping companies are responsible. There is indeed a compensation fund, but it limits redress to $140 million. If the disaster is on a larger scale—like the Exxon Valdez catastrophe, which caused between $3.5 billion and $9 billion in damage—the Canadian government, therefore all Canadians, will be on the hook. What is Enbridge's responsibility in that case? It has no responsibility, but the cost is passed on to the public.

Most importantly, we need to ensure that this ecosystem is protected. It needs to be protected because of the unique conditions in this region mentioned in the motion. We know that in the event of an oil spill, it will be impossible to clean up the entire affected site. Cleanup is limited to roughly 15% of the area; the rest of the oil is left behind.

Another important aspect is the climate conditions in the area mentioned in the motion. This area is quite unique. It experiences high winds and that needs to be taken into consideration. We know that with winds of over 45 km/h it becomes impossible to clean up sites. That is precisely the average wind speed calculated over the past few years in the area mentioned in the motion.

We have to take these factors into consideration. We must also take into consideration that in the winter in this area, we cannot guarantee cleanup in the event of an oil spill.

This is also the case in the Arctic. In the event of a spill, we cannot guarantee that cleanup operations will take place during the winter. This is another factor to be taken into consideration when making decisions. We also have to consider the strength of the winds, winter conditions, the fragility of the ecosystems and the threat to some economic sectors, such as fishing and tourism. And why, exactly?

The production of oil sands oil transported by this pipeline will increase greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, 6.5 megatonnes of GHG emissions will be produced by the construction of this pipeline. That is equivalent to 1.6 million cars on our roads.

This puts local economies and biodiversity at risk, contributes to increased greenhouse gas emissions, makes the rich even richer, and economically consolidates an energy position we do not want. In the end, our taxes and accelerated write-offs will help pay for the associated construction and infrastructure.

Canada does not have a green tax system. On the contrary, the oil industry receives subsidies through more than 50 programs even though the government told the OECD and the G20 summit that it would eliminate this assistance. But no, through tax incentives we will help fund the development and construction of the pipeline infrastructure.

In closing, we must remember that local populations want to preserve the biodiversity of their environment and strengthen their economy. We must respect the wishes of the population and the first nations if we want to continue to hand down to future generations resources they can continue to use, with a view to sustainable development. For these reasons we will support the motion before us.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
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December 2, 2010

Mr. Bernard Bigras

Madam Speaker, as parliamentarians, we have the opportunity to speak with European parliamentarians on a regular basis. For example, during a recent meeting of the Canada-Europe Parliamentary Association , we learned that Europeans are very concerned about how energy is produced in Canada. We are suffering on the international stage because of that.

But even worse is the fact that members of this government act like real lobbyists for oil companies on the international scene and try to convince foreign countries that the path Canada is currently on is the right one. It is incredible.

I agree with the hon. member. Businesses want a more sustainable future. Businesses no longer believe that environmental protection is a burden, quite the opposite. Environmental protection stimulates innovation and development. If Canada cannot understand that, the entire Canadian economy is inevitably at risk of being at the bottom of the pile. That may not be the case for a short-term outlook, but it is definitely the case for a medium- or long-term outlook.

Canada's outlook and economic development plans focus solely on the short-term, while other countries have decided to invest in the high-value-added renewable energy sector, for example, which will create many jobs. China is one example; it will become a champion of renewable energy. In the meantime, we are stuck in the stone age in terms of economic development because we continue to invest tax dollars in outmoded energy sources. In the short term, Canada may be proud to say that it is creating jobs, but future generations will pay for the government's inaction and its lack of confidence in the job-creating renewable energy sector.

That is a problem for Canada's international reputation and it will become a problem for Canada's economic development in a few years if we do not reverse the trend and, for one thing, make taxation greener.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
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December 2, 2010

Mr. Bernard Bigras

Madam Speaker, the member answered part of the question himself. The economic phenomenon he described is indeed Dutch disease. Basically, investing a lot of money in certain resources creates pressure, boosting the value of the dollar artificially, which is bad for companies and industries in the export sector, particularly those in the manufacturing sector. That applies to Quebec, and also to Ontario. That answers the first question.

The second part of my colleague's question had to do with global warming. When I saw the numbers, I just about fell out of my seat: 6.5 megatonnes of GHGs. To most ordinary people, the proposal before us might not mean much, but to put things in perspective, it is the same as 1.6 million cars.

Do people realize that, on the one hand, the government is in Cancun talking about how it wants to help fight climate change, while on the other hand, it is going to refuse to implement measures to achieve greenhouse gas reduction targets? Not only will this be a bad thing for the manufacturing industry economically, but it will also contribute to rising greenhouse gas emissions. That is the opposite of sustainable development.

The government needs to understand that sooner or later, it will have to implement what I call “strategic environmental assessments”. The government's plans, policies and programs have to undergo environmental assessment. For this kind of project to go forward, it should include a strategic environmental assessment. This is not just about assessing the consequences for a small, specific area. This is about determining how such a project complies with Canada's international commitments to fight climate change.

The government cannot tell the international community one thing, then come back to Canada to implement policies and programs and authorize projects that will negate all efforts to fight climate change.

Clearly, that approach is bad for both the economy and the environment.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
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December 1, 2010

Mr. Bernard Bigras (Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, the Canadian government once again stood out at the United Nations climate change conference in Cancun by sweeping first, second and third place fossil awards. More than 400 international organizations vote on the awards, which go to the countries that have done the most to block or undermine climate negotiations.

Why is the government getting in the way of international efforts to fight climate change instead of helping develop a binding plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   The Environment
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