Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue.
I will begin by congratulating the hon. member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, neighbouring my riding of Acadie—Bathurst. These ridings share Chaleur Bay, which is recognized by UNESCO as one of the 10 most beautiful bays in the world.
I also thank him for his work on major issues, which we are also facing, since we share Chaleur Bay. For those who do not know, this bay has lobster. People like lobster. There are also all sorts of beautiful fish, as well as crab, and we want to protect them. We have a responsibility to protect them because they are fishers' livelihood. People also like to eat them.
I rise today to talk about C-3, An Act to enact the Aviation Industry Indemnity Act, to amend the Aeronautics Act, the Canada Marine Act, the Marine Liability Act and the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.
Even though we support this bill at third reading, we are extremely disappointed that the Conservatives rejected our proposals to broaden the scope of this bill. We proposed amendments, unlike the Liberals. They wanted to propose some at second reading, but they missed the boat, to use a Maritimes reference.
Our approach shows that we are ready to make tangible and comprehensive changes to protect our coasts, whereas the Conservatives are not. I would like to expand on the Conservatives' lack of credibility when it comes to marine and air safety issues.
If the true purpose of Bill C-3 is to promote greater tanker traffic safety, why did the government not seize the opportunity to cancel the cuts in the latest budgets and the shutdown of marine safety programs?
The Conservative government wants to protect our coasts with this bill, but let us look at its record: the closure of the B.C. spill response centre, the closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard station and the gutting of environmental emergency response programs.
It does not make any sense for the Conservative government to cut programs at marine communications and traffic service centres and environmental emergency response centres, because we know that tanker traffic tripled between 2005 and 2010 and is expected to triple again by 2016. Pipeline expansion projects are also expected to increase crude oil shipments from 300,000 to 700,000 barrels a day.
When faced with these facts, it is difficult to believe that Canadians' concerns are really being taken seriously.
I would like to remind hon. members that the scaling back of Coast Guard rescue capacity and facilities has affected more than just British Columbia. The Conservative government has threatened to cut facilities across Canada, including those in the eastern part of the country. Most notable is its irresponsible decision to close the Newfoundland and Labrador marine rescue centre.
The Conservatives also planned to close the marine search and rescue centre in Quebec City, which, like the Newfoundland and Labrador centre, often conducts rescue and emergency relief operations. In fact, it responds to nearly 1,500 distress calls a year.
As a result of public protest and the hard work of my NDP colleagues, the Conservatives were forced to reconsider their decision to close the marine search and rescue centre in Quebec City, and it is still open today.
I would like to commend my colleagues and the people of Quebec, who stood up to show how important this centre is.
If the Conservatives really want to protect Canada's oceans with this bill, why not broaden its scope?
The measures that the NDP wants to see in a bill to safeguard Canada’s seas include reversing Coast Guard closures and the scaling back of services, including the closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard station.
We also want the Conservatives to cancel the cuts to the marine communication and traffic service centres, including the marine traffic control communications terminals in Vancouver and St. John's, Newfoundland. We have before us a bill that seeks to protect our oceans and tankers, but the government is closing the most important organizations for monitoring them.
We are also calling on the government to cancel the closure of British Columbia's oil spill response centre. It is unbelievable that the government would put forward this bill in the House of Commons and at the same time seek to close the oil spill response centre in British Columbia. Earlier, I was saying that crude oil shipments would increase from 300,000 to 700,000 barrels a day. Marine traffic is growing and the Conservatives are cutting the organizations that might be able to prevent catastrophes.
We are calling on the government to cancel cuts to the Centre for Offshore Oil, Gas and Energy Research. The Conservatives even want to make cuts to a research centre. We are also calling on them to cancel cuts to key environmental emergency programs, including oil spill response in Newfoundland and Labrador and British Columbia.
It is scary. It is scary to see where the government is going with this. Canadians should be scared to see what is happening on the energy and oil fronts. It is not new, and each year we see an increase in the use of our rivers and oceans, both the Pacific and the Atlantic. The government is shutting down everything that has been put in place to protect and monitor these bodies of water.
We are calling on the government to reinforce the capacity of petroleum boards—which is currently nil—to handle oil spills, as recommended by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development. The Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board needs to build in-house expertise to manage a major spill, including an independent safety regulator.
We want the Canadian Coast Guard to work collaboratively with its U.S. counterparts and conduct a parallel study to examine the risks additional super tanker traffic would cause in Canadian waters.
If the Conservatives really wanted to take marine safety seriously, they could have—and should have—expanded this bill. We know that the Conservatives are making these modest changes in an attempt to calm British Columbians' well-founded fears about new oil pipeline projects and the inevitable increase in oil tanker traffic that would result from new pipeline construction.
The people of British Columbia are right to be worried about potential spills resulting from the increase in tanker traffic. Oil spills have proven inevitable with oil tanker traffic. The International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation has recorded nearly 10,000 accidental oil spills globally since 1970.
That should tell the government to be careful. Given all the cuts it has made in various areas, it is, as I said earlier, very scary.
The government needs to shoulder its responsibilities. This bill does not go far enough. We will support it because, while it is not much, it is better than nothing. However, it should go further.
Mr. Speaker, as was mentioned earlier, the minimum wage rates range from $10 to $11 per hour, with $10 being the minimum wage for New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Northwest Territories, and $11 an hour in both Nunavut and Ontario. This is the provincial jurisdiction.
One of the benefits of saying yes to the motion would be that we could illustrate that a $15 per hour minimum wage would be a noble thing to get to. However, let us also keep in mind that when it comes to small businesses, they have to be consulted. This is why the tripartite model in this situation would be a worthy exercise.
I do not know if that was addressed by the members in the party moving the motion. I hope they would agree with this tripartite way of dealing with something like this, including small business owners. It would be a responsible thing for them to do rather than just saying that we need to up the wage and whatever the business owners feel about, that is just too bad, it has to be paid.
I would hope this proposal would come with a great deal of respect. I may be blindfully optimistic, but I like to think that I support the motion for all the right reasons.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my colleagues on this side of the House from the New Democratic Party bringing this forward for debate, because so far I am finding some very good themes put forward. I am certainly finding some good ways of addressing poverty. This is one of the elements that does that.
When we consider that minimum wage is an issue, primarily of provincial jurisdictions, there are two things that play here. I just want to talk about some of the elements of poverty reduction, income inequalities and what we can do to reduce that income inequality gap.
Some of the illustrations that have been put forward today talk about a wage that helps grow the middle class in such a way that it is good for the economy, social services and communities. It provides for local infrastructure, not just roads and bridges but recreation infrastructure as well, which is essential for any community, small or large. As my hon. colleague from Trinity—Spadina pointed out, there is a staggering number of poor children in his riding.
When we address federal minimum wage, we look at a small part of the population, but the narrative is one that is sound, which is to provide people who do good work in our country a livable wage, so they can provide for their families. Let us also tie in other elements to this. Let us look at better benefits. Let us look at social programs, such as child care. Let us look at other programs that we debate about and work toward in this place.
I will not zero in on the fact that there is a minuscule number of people affected here. For these people, it means the world. Let us expand this further as a step toward a better social progressive policy from which the country could benefit. We go back to the 60s and talk about the formation of the Canada pension plan and old age security. All these debates took place as a small step toward what we have right now. This is how we do it. We look at how we can illustrate the people affected by a minimum wage. We have people who require a minimum wage to live.
Nowadays prices are astronomical in many sectors of our economy. Let me just take one of those. That is energy. Right now in my riding, the average age is above 50. A lot of the families are above 50 or 60, and in some case above 70s. They own their own two-storey homes. For one couple, both 70 years old, it costs $1,400 per month to heat their home. That is an absolutely staggering figure. The fact that they have already paid the mortgage on that home allows them live in that house. Otherwise, it would not be affordable at all. Once food prices go up, then there will be real trouble.
Let us go from what they are going through to a younger couple in the same situation, with higher heat costs and higher prices for food. They need that base degree of social sincerity that we can only create here in policy that would allow them to make a good living. What we have is a situation where a minimum wage is one of those policies, in addition to other social measures like medicare and child care.
However, let us be careful, because one of the things we have been saying here is that we would love to have the minimum wage doubled in certain cases. In Newfoundland and Labrador it is $10 per hour. Twenty dollars an hour would be great, but here is the problem with that. I know people who run small businesses in Newfoundland and Labrador. I met a man just a while ago. I went to his convenience store and I asked him how he felt about the new minimum wage rules. He said that if the minimum wage were to go up any more he would not be able to hire a second person. He would pretty much have to work 16 hours a day. Therefore, let us look at both sides of this situation very closely and be very careful, because a small business person who pays that wage also has to make a living to contribute to that community.
Let us look at this particular policy and how we can grow the middle class and allow all of society to benefit from this. Many years ago we transferred this to the provinces. I understand what the other side is saying. Even though they are opposing this measure, they are only talking about provincial jurisdiction.
If we look at this particular wage, a study states that only 416 people earn the minimum wage of the province in which they work, so that is who would be affected by this. As I said earlier, that is a minuscule number of people, but the measure is one step toward what we feel is a greater society. We can improve our services and then we can get to other things such as child care, which I mentioned earlier.
The minimum wage rates across the provinces range, but the range is not really that great. It goes from $10 an hour in New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador and Northwest Territories to a high of $11 per hour in Nunavut and Ontario, $10.72 in the Yukon and $10.70 in Manitoba. So that gives us the idea. We have a $1 variance, so across the country our provincial minimum wage structure is pretty much even across the board.
We have to strike the balance between what is acceptable to small business and what is an affordable wage. If I would come down on one side or the other, yes, I want an affordable wage. That was why the fight back in Newfoundland and Labrador, on the provincial side, was a long fight, but we went from just over $8 per hour up to about $10, which really people thought was a huge, significant increase at the time, but it really was not because there are a couple of things at play.
Let us factor in the costs of medicines. Let us factor in the costs of medical care that has to be paid for. If one person in a couple becomes sick with cancer, that person has to travel—at least where I come from, in a rural area—long distances to receive the treatment they need. That costs money. A lot of that is not covered under our current medicare regime. Therefore, the cost of living goes up that much. The $10 per hour that people were pleased to receive when it happened now becomes less significant. The vast majority of people receiving that minimum wage do not receive the right amount of benefits to subsidize the medical care that they so need. That is the other aspect of this.
I hope we will support this today as a step toward developing better progressive policies that we can present to the people. I am not using this as some 2015 election ploy. I am talking about the fact that we can come up with private members' bills, motions in the House and opposition day motions like we have today, and we can use this to present to the people and say as a Parliament of all parties that we have so much further to go when it comes to progressive policies. We can talk about the past all we want, but that is not really the right bridge to build upon in order to get better wages, in order to get better benefits for the most vulnerable in our society.
I appreciate the fact that some people oppose this and some people support it, but let us come up with decent arguments as to why or why not. When we look at some of the studies that have been done, we see that some of the prices out there now for some of the basic goods of individuals are really something. If we look at the size of a family in rural areas, we see that on this chart the before-tax 2011 level of a one-person family is $16,038 per year. As my hon. colleague from Trinity—Spadina pointed out, this minimum wage gives around $30,000 a year. Let us assume for a moment that they do not get the benefits of someone who is making twice that. Let us talk about a decent package of benefits for not just an individual but also a spouse or partner and children.
This is essentially the topic that is not addressed here, but it is something that we have to keep in play when it comes to this and when it comes to pensions, because I believe a higher wage is the first step toward a progressive policy for the impoverished. It is something that is woven within the fabric of everything we talk about that is to enable people. To me this is not an economic issue; it is an issue of basic living in this country for those who are most vulnerable, especially the people my colleague from Trinity—Spadina spoke about and those in my rural riding as well. I thank him for that.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to address the motion put forward by the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie to reinstate the federal minimum wage and increase it to $15 per hour over five years.
Changing the way minimum wages are established for federally regulated employees in Canada is simply unnecessary, which is why I cannot support the motion today. First, allow me to explain how minimum wages are set.
Currently, employees in federally regulated enterprises are entitled to the general minimum wage of the province or territory in which they are employed. This has been the case since 1996 when minimum wages were pegged to match the general minimum wage rate of the province or territory in which the federally regulated worker is usually employed. Although some may have forgotten this, this measure significantly improved protection for federally regulated employees. Prior to 1996, these employees were entitled to the lowest minimum wage rate in Canada, a measly $4 an hour compared to an average of about $6 an hour in provinces and territories at the time.
Workers in federally regulated companies are employed in industries such as banking, transportation, telecommunications, shipping, postal services, and uranium mining. Generally speaking, these are not low-wage workers. Most of the jobs in these industries already pay well above the minimum wage.
In 2008 the federal jurisdiction workplace survey found that only 416 employees, or 0.05% of all employees in the federal jurisdiction, were earning just the legal minimum wage, which was on average less than $8.50 per hour at the time. Only about 1% earned less than $10 an hour.
Since then minimum wages have increased in all provinces and territories. Four provinces, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador have announced that they will increase their minimum wage on October 1, 2014. Not only that, but Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan and Yukon index their minimum wage annually to adjust for increases to the cost of living. Ontario has also announced that it will establish an indexing mechanism.
Why is the federal minimum wage pegged to the provincial and territorial minimum wages? The provinces and territories are in the best position to assess and respond to the requirements of their local labour markets. As I am sure members of the House are aware, the cost of living varies by province, territory and region. That is a key consideration when establishing minimum wages. We believe that provincial and territorial governments can better assess local needs.
In the last four years all provinces and territories have increased their minimum wage. To give members an idea, currently the lowest general minimum wage rate provided in four jurisdictions is set at $10 an hour. At the high end of the scale are Ontario and Nunavut where most employees must be paid at least $11 an hour. The other jurisdictions fall in between.
Our government wants all Canadians to prosper, not just those in the federal jurisdiction, and the best way to do that is through a strong economy. That is why the Minister of Finance recently announced a reduction in EI premiums that will leave more money in the pockets of small businesses and enable them to strengthen their businesses and the economy. The minister also confirmed that in 2017, EI premiums will go down from the current $1.88 per $100 of earnings to $1.47 per $100 of earnings. This will deduct less money from employees' pay cheques, leaving more money in their pockets.
In the federal jurisdiction we are working to ensure that workplaces are fair, safe and productive. With that goal in mind we have taken steps to improve labour standard protections for employees. There is also the wage earner protection program. This program protects the wages, vacation pay, severance pay and termination pay owed to workers whose employers go bankrupt or into receivership—
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for his question.
I respect the NDP's right to take the stance that it has. If I understand correctly, they believe that absolute liability should be unlimited, even if there is no proof that there was any negligence. In my opinion, that would put an end to the oil industry in Newfoundland and Labrador and in Nova Scotia.
I respect their right to that opinion, but I do not agree with them. I believe that when we have the opportunity to improve the situation, by increasing the limit from $30 million to $1 billion, we should approve it. That is my opinion, but I respect their alternative position.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure and an honour to be here today, in the House of Commons, to speak to Bill C-22.
The Conservative government has failed, on numerous occasions, to follow through on prior attempts to update nuclear liability legislation and update the safety and security regime for Canada's offshore. I am pleased to see that this legislation has finally come to third reading. Past attempts were started and then the government would either call an election or prorogue the House and not bring the bill forward. We have seen that with various government bills, whether it be on the Criminal Code or a variety of matters. The government introduces a bill with great fanfare and then we do not see it for months. It disappears, and the government does not present it again in the House. It is nice to see that finally we are getting somewhere in terms of this legislation moving forward because it does deal with an important issue in terms of nuclear liability and the liability for spills offshore.
I want to thank the witnesses who appeared before the natural resources committee to talk about this legislation. We would have liked to have heard a lot more from them, had we not been cut off a number of times, and had we not had a limited time of three days to consider the bill. I appreciate that they were willing to share their expertise, provide insightful comments, and give us their sage advice. We should all be thankful when experts appear before our committees.
Unfortunately, as is the case with much of the work conducted in committees of the House, the government restricted the scope of the study of this legislation. We all know that the government has the majority on almost all committees and can determine not only what the committee will study but the terms and scope of the study. It was very much restricted in this case. In fact, government members showed a distinct lack of interest in what we should have been doing, which was to make every effort to ensure that we ended up with the strongest possible legislation on this issue. If we think about the role of members of Parliament and our responsibility to hold the government to account and ensure that legislation is as good as possible, in my opinion, that did not allow us to do the job we ought to have been able to do, which is what committees are for.
If a member is a government backbencher or a member of the opposition and not a minister or a parliamentary secretary, then that member has the responsibility for holding the government to account. When governments have been going for a while, I have seen some members on the backbenches start to realize that. However, it would seem that we have fewer than ever with the Conservative government and we need to see more of that kind of attitude. There is a lack of interest in legislation that is focused on more than just the economic side of the equation, as in this case when we are dealing with the economy and the environment. We must do better than that in future.
The development of our natural resources and the strength of our economy depends on having good policies that people can have confidence in, so we can get community support for the kind of things that are happening or might happen in natural resources. If the government is seen as simply a cheerleader, as not being a responsible regulator, then we are going to have a hard time convincing Canadians that we are going to do a good job of regulating the natural resource sector. That is the fundamental problem that the government has at the moment.
The Liberal Party supports the development of our energy potential in Canada. We recognize the positive contribution that resource development has on our economic growth and job creation, especially for the middle class.
We also understand, and this is essential, that resource development must be done in an environmentally responsible and sustainable manner. It must be done through consensus building, which is something that is entirely lacking these days. The need is there to ensure that if an accident does happen, the proper regimes are in place to deal with an accident. Obviously a key part of that process is by making sure that legislation, like this legislation dealing with liability limits, is in place and that it protects our interests. With regard to Bill C-22, everyone in the House understands that there is a need to raise the absolute liability limit in terms of the offshore oil and gas sector and the nuclear sector.
Let us be very clear. Let us understand what this means. If we have a case where there is an accident, either at a nuclear site or in the offshore oil and gas sector, and negligence is proven by the operator, liability is then unlimited. The operator would have to pay for the entirety of the damages, whatever they might be.
What we are talking about is a case where negligence is not proven and the liability is absolute. This means that regardless of whether someone proves that the operator was negligent, it still has to pay, because the operator was undertaking this risky activity. That is what this is about.
That is the reason we have supported this legislation. It is going in the right direction. In the nuclear sector, it would increase the liability cap from $75 million to $1 billion, bringing Canada in line with the promises it made when it signed the international Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage. In the offshore oil and gas sector, the absolute liability for companies operating in the Atlantic offshore would increase from $30 million to $1 billion, and in the Arctic, from $40 million to $1 billion.
With regard to the Arctic, as I was saying earlier when I asked the minister a question, there are still many unanswered questions. Is $1 billion adequate in the Arctic, where the environmental conditions make spill response efforts very challenging? There we are dealing with a situation where we are a long way from ports. It is a remote and isolated area, with difficult conditions.
We heard today that the minister has approved exploration licences, two of them in deepwaters in the Beaufort Sea. We heard at the natural resources committee a couple of years ago, at the time of the BP Deepwater Horizon well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, that the technology did not exist to clean up a spill in the high Arctic in deepwater under ice.
It seems to me that this is a very irresponsible decision by the government when that kind of cleanup capacity is not there. Yet, we did not have a chance at the committee to get into this because the scope of our study was so restricted. That is most unfortunate.
Why did we not also take the opportunity to look at our ability to respond generally, and to review our ability to respond to other events and accidents in shallow water in the Arctic, or any kind of spill there? We did not get to that.
As my esteemed colleague from Ottawa South said in debate on Bill C-22, the committee should examine the question of response capacity and incident prevention in the Arctic. That should have been examined by the committee. I hope that the member is recovering well from a broken ankle that he unfortunately suffered not too long ago, and I look forward to his quick return.
Instead of being concerned that the science does not always exist to confirm how long ecological damage will last, the government has rushed through those Beaufort Sea exploration licences that I mentioned. That is perhaps why the government decided that the scope should be so narrow for our committee study.
The member for Ottawa South also correctly pointed out that while looking at the issue of nuclear liability, the committee should have addressed the question of what has been happening around the nuclear sector in the past eight years. I suspect that government members may have been told to avoid any discussion of how we are no longer a world leader in the production of nuclear power capacity, as we have been in the past. They may have been told to avoid discussion of how the government ran down the value of the AECL and sold it off at bargain basement prices, and how it compromised Canada's future with regard to nuclear energy. This is not to mention the production of medical isotopes, which has been so important, and where Canada has been one of the world leaders.
Part of the discussion at the committee around suitable liability limits should have been focused on how we see the role of nuclear power as part of the energy mix going forward. The committee, for example, could have looked at how nuclear might fit in with renewable power options in the future, and other energy sources, like geothermal or tidal.
Wind is another area that is very interesting these days. My province of Nova Scotia has tremendous wind resources. I suppose some might say MPs have good wind resources as well, but that is another kind of wind resource. I am not sure if my colleague appreciated that remark, but he seemed to agree.
I recently had the pleasure of meeting with Dr. Lukas Swan, a professor of engineering at Dalhousie University. He runs the renewable power storage lab where they are working with various kinds of batteries. However, the important thing is not so much the different kinds of batteries, as the examination of the different kinds of conditions that happen with wind turbines. Sometimes there will be different speeds and fluctuations, with all kinds of variables. They are trying to find out what works best in managing the batteries so that we can have more capacity.
At the same time, there is a new study going on in Liverpool, Nova Scotia, involving a company called LightSail. It started because of the research of a young woman from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. She is a graduate of MIT and has developed new technology to store energy, in air basically, underground cabins that compress air. Previously there were problems with that, and she has created a new technology where a very fine mist can be sprayed so that heat is not created. Heat had apparently been a problem in this technology until now. There is a major trial project going on in Liverpool, Nova Scotia, thanks to the brilliant research of this young person, who is 26 years old and from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. That is a marvellous example of renewable energy that is happening right here.
In fact, if we in Canada can get this right, if we can actually find a way to be successful with much better storage of electricity, we will overcome the problem of wind, which unlike the wind of some MPs of course, does not blow all the time. Wind does not blow all the time. Therefore variability is a problem when we want to have power. People want to turn on the television, a microwave, oven, or do the laundry, and not just when the wind is blowing. Getting this right so that we can even out the power supply with storage could make an enormous difference. In a place like Nova Scotia, it could remove the need for what we have now, which is power created by coal and natural gas, although more and more wind is playing an important role. We think tidal power is making very good progress, and we hope it will play a big role in the future.
It is unfortunate that the scope of the committee work was restricted. We did not get an opportunity to examine these important questions in a broader context. We could have perhaps ended up with a much stronger bill. It reminds me of a study that we did last year at committee on the cross-Canada benefits of the oil and gas sector. There is no question that there are benefits to that sector across this country. I am from Nova Scotia. We have natural gas off our shore, which is important. We have exploration by BP and Shell for oil, and that could have a positive impact on our economy. There are benefits across the country.
As I said before, it is the Conservatives who have majority at committee, so they have the ability to determine what a committee will study and what its scope will be. In having a study that looks only at the benefits, where we cannot ask questions about the cost, problems, challenges, or the downsides of an industry, we end up with a report that has no credibility with the public. It does not advance what we are attempting to do in creating a report that is credible, to tell of the impact across the country, both good and bad. Let us have a balanced approach and look at both of these things because there are benefits and there are costs that we need to examine. We need to make it more sustainable. We need to improve the performance of the industries. We have some that are good, but there is always room for improvement on the environment.
We all recognize that Bill C-22 is an important piece of legislation, particularly given some of the disasters we have seen recently around the globe. There was the devastating meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, which is estimated by the Japanese National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology to cost at least $31 billion; I heard a much larger figure earlier. The damages from the BP Deepwater Horizon spill, in the Gulf of Mexico, are estimated at $42 billion.
While this updated legislation is long overdue, we do need to ensure the level of liability is appropriate in relation to the level of potential damage of either a nuclear incident or an offshore spill. It is also relevant to consider how frequently these things occur. We have to examine those things. If we do not consider both of those, we have the view of the NDP, which is that we would not have the kind of exploration we have had off Newfoundland and Labrador and not have the economic benefit we have had.
We have to have a good regime that protects our environment, but let us have one that makes sense. Let us consider all of these things.
We of course need to make sure that Canadian taxpayers are not at risk and that the polluter pays principle is maintained. That is why it is important that if a company is negligent, it pays the whole shot, obviously. Let us keep that in mind.
The real question before us today is this: do we think the limit of liability for the nuclear sector should be at $75 million, or should it be $1 billion? For the offshore, should it be $30 million in the Atlantic and $40 million in the Arctic, or $1 billion? Which is it going to be?
In my view, the answer is fairly obvious. This bill is by no means perfect; it could have been much improved; it should have had much more study in committee; however, the answer is this bill should be supported.
With regard to the operations of Marine Atlantic Incorporated and the operation of vessels between the ports of Port aux Basques and Argentia, Newfoundland and Labrador and North Sydney, Nova Scotia: for the time period of fiscal years 2009-2010 through to 2013-2014, (a) how may trips were cancelled in each of these years including the (i) date, (ii) time of scheduled crossing, (iii) scheduled port of departure and arrival, (iv) reason for cancellation; (b) for each crossing during this period of time, what was the volume of traffic onboard compared to the capacity of the vessel for commercial and non-commercial traffic; and (c) what were all the various advertised rates for each of these years?
Mr. Speaker, the potential impact of seismic testing on fish, invertebrates, marine mammals, and sea turtles has been an area of study for many years. Researchers within Fisheries and Oceans Canada, as well as others within Canada and internationally, have conducted numerous studies, ranging from laboratory-scale experiments looking at effects on the physiology, behaviour, and survivorship of individual animals up to large-scale field studies looking at changes in fish stocks and fish catches before, during, and after seismic surveys. This includes research reports, summaries of broad syntheses, environmental impact statements, and the Canadian Statement of Practice, which guides the applications of seismic surveys. Most of these studies are applicable to all locations. In addition, there have been some reports produced on the specific areas mentioned:
With regard to (a), in the Gulf of St. Lawrence there have been reports produced on potential impacts of seismic testing as part of DFO’s review of proposed development projects.
With regard to (b), in the waters off Newfoundland and Labrador there have been reports produced as part of the review of developments proposals, and also some reports on research conducted on lobster, crabs, and fish in local waters.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Winnipeg North in his debut speech since noon today.
I do not think the irony will be lost on anyone that this bill would enable the government to craft a set of regulations about regulating regulations. With regard to the statute proposed in Bill C-21, everyone should be very clear there would be no statutory effect. The bill is about a policy. It affects a policy; it creates no statutory effect. I say that because subclause 8(1) of the bill clearly states:
No action or other proceeding may be brought against Her Majesty in right of Canada for anything done or omitted to be done, or for anything purported to be done or omitted to be done, under this Act.
It goes on to say in subclause 8(2):
No regulation is invalid by reason only of a failure to comply with this Act.
There is absolutely no enforcement mechanism. There are no teeth whatsoever behind this bill. What we are doing on the floor of the House of Commons on the very first day of the fall session is debating the creation of a policy, not a statute.
With that as the backdrop, let us talk about what this policy would do.
Its purpose is to reduce the administrative burden on businesses. We know that most regulations on the conduct of normal business will affect businesses, so this is a policy that would affect the regular practice of business. However, it goes beyond that. It would impact things that may not necessarily be front and centre or top of mind with us as parliamentarians.
It would affect the management of fisheries and the environment. It is not just the industry department, the finance department, or the Canada Revenue Agency that this measure would impact. We have to be very clear that it would impact the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and how it regulates the inspection and regulation of food products. It would affect Health Canada with pharmaceutical products and other health products. It would affect the Department of Fisheries and Oceans as to how it manages our coastal and inland fisheries. It would affect a whole range of different departments. It would affect the Department of Natural Resources in the regulation of the mining sector.
With that said, this is a policy that is meant to reduce the number of regulations affecting all departments within the Government of Canada. It is not just the Canada Revenue Agency, the industry department, and a few of what would traditionally be viewed as the more business-oriented departments, because there is no department of the Government of Canada that does not impact the conduct of Canadian business across the board.
In responding to one of my questions, the hon. minister pointed out that 2,300 regulations have already been taken off the books since 2007. Most Canadians and certainly all parliamentarians should know that the catalogue of regulations in Canada is in the tens of thousands. Tomes and tomes of regulations exist.
The idea is to take down one regulation for every regulation that is brought in. It is basically about motivation, about trying to motivate government to do something about red tape.
Here is an equally effective strategy, and perhaps a better one: why not just cull the existing regulations? Here is where this bill falls a bit short. The committee that studies the bill really needs to dig into this aspect. The Government of Canada already has many volumes of regulations on the books, so the presumption of any reasonable and fair-minded Canadian would be that it is going to be tough on the government to bring in a new regulation because it will really have to scratch heads, think hard, and figure out what regulation it is going to eliminate.
We have many tomes of existing regulation that is redundant without being culled. The government could simply pick one and remove it. That would meet the policy requirements that it proposes to enact with this supposed legislation, with this statutory instrument.
That is the key here, so is this really more about a communications exercise? Is it somewhat of a smoke-and-mirrors game for the government to try to look like it is doing something when it really is not doing a whole lot?
Is there merit behind this concept? There is, absolutely. The government is proving that with its own former regulatory red tape commission. The commission took seven years to come up with all of this. It was seven years of bureaucracy, seven years of spending, seven years of studying, and this is what it came up with.
Yes, there is a lot of fat out there. There is a lot of fat in this government. There is a lot of fat that the Conservatives just did not bother to tackle. They have come up with this statutory policy that has no effect whatsoever in law, since there is no liability or consequence to the government for not following its own legislation. It is a bill that regulates regulation.
Here we are debating a policy on the floor of the House of Commons on the very first day that we are back for the fall session, and we have already come to the conclusion that it really does not do a whole lot.
What I also find kind of funny is that I did not want to see this bill in the budget implementation act because budget implementation acts should simply be about budgets, but when we consider all the stuff that went into the Conservative government's implementation act that had nothing to do with the well-being of businesses or the economy, an argument might be made that perhaps this particular legislation might have been able to be folded into the budget implementation act. I would not agree with it, because I think budget implementation acts should be strictly about budgets.
However, that said, this bill was read on the floor of the House of Commons on January 29 of this year. We have not heard a word about it since, and we have actually passed the budget. After seven years of spending on the red tape commission and adding to the bureaucracy, if one is trying to get a signal or cue as to whether or not this is more about a communications exercise to show that this legislation to regulate regulations is a good thing, one need not look any further than that. That is what this is all about today.
What would be the most effective answer in dealing with red tape and government regulations? It would be to go through them one by one and cull any one that does not really have meaning or value. That would be the best and cheapest option, and administratively it would be the simplest and most efficient one. Quite frankly, the government could do it if it wanted to, but now there is this elaborate exercise attached to all of it to posture and create reports and add to the bureaucracy.
Our caucus is looking forward to getting this bill into committee to study some of these issues.
Coming from Newfoundland and Labrador, I will end with something that is very important to me. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans manages our coastal resources and all of our oceans almost exclusively through the use of regulation. If the government is suggesting that for every regulation it brings in it must reduce regulations by one, will government experts and outside experts be allowed into the committee room to analyze whether there might be unforeseen consequences that would actually reduce the ability of the government to do what is in the best interest of Canadians and our resources and our economy and whether this smoke-and-mirrors public relations exercise might actually cause a lot of harm?
The electoral district of Labrador (Newfoundland and Labrador) has a population of 26,364 with 20,175 registered voters and 66 polling divisions.
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