Mr. Speaker, first of all I want to thank my colleague from Nanaimo—Cowichan for bringing Bill C-638 before the House of Commons. Coming from the west coast, she fully understands what an issue this is, and coming from the east coast and living on an island with a lot of ports and wharfs around, I fully understand the problem that the bill is trying to address.
Abandoned and derelict vessels are a serious concern for community harbour authorities and shorelines and also property owners. They can create obstacles for mariners and impact on the environment and commercial and recreational activities. Their removal requires financial and technical resources, and often it is not possible to identify the vessel's owner to seek compensation.
This results in the financial burden falling on the property owners, community organizations, or municipal or provincial governments. This issue is particularly difficult because it crosses so many areas of jurisdiction. Many different agencies and governments are responsible for dealing with these hazardous boats, which creates misunderstanding, uncertainty, and frustration.
Therefore, it is important to clarify which agency will deal with the wrecks and derelict vessels and to ensure all possible measures are taken to identify and locate the owners of the wrecks. The Minister of Transport can become involved in instances where a vessel is the cause of an obstruction to navigation.
The Canadian Coast Guard responds to incidents where pollution can be a threat and can recover the cost of its expenses to deal with pollution from the ship source oil pollution fund. But once the pollution and the sources are dealt with, it does not have the authority to deal with the abandoned and derelict vessel itself.
If an abandoned or derelict vessel is not a major environmental concern and is not posing an obstacle to navigation, there is usually no action taken by government, and these vessels can remain hazardous and an eyesore for communities and harbour authorities—and a great expense for harbour authorities, I might add.
This issue has become a growing concern over the last few years and will continue to be a major issue as commercial and recreational fleets age and numbers grow. Currently there are 2.6 million pleasure craft licensed in Canada. A few years ago, I was pleased to be part of a study by the fisheries committee into the country's small craft harbours.
The report, entitled “Small Craft Harbours: An Essential Infrastructure Managed by and for Fishing Communities”, included a section on derelict vessels and recommended that Fisheries and Oceans Canada consider legislative changes to facilitate the removal of abandoned and derelict vessels from its harbours. The government supported this recommendation, but unfortunately no action has been taken, as of yet, and that is too bad.
We know that approximately $1 billion has gone unspent at DFO since the government came to power. We know that the government has cut the budget for small craft harbours from $200 million down to now under $100 million. Conservatives are promising more money now right before the election, but the harbour authorities I talk to say, even with the new money, the problem in this country with our harbours and wharfs will not be properly addressed.
During the fisheries committee study, we heard the harbour authority representatives say that they do not have the proper authority and budget to deal with derelict vessels. We heard that there is no long-term plan for dealing with derelict vessels and there is a need for legislative changes to facilitate the removal of the abandoned and derelict vessels.
As Ben Mabberley of the National Harbour Authority Advisory Committee put it:
The truth is that one sinking of a derelict vessel at your harbour can bankrupt the harbour authority. It's that simple. We need to find a solution for it. This is going to be an issue right across the country.
As he indicated, it is becoming much more of an issue on the east coast.
More must be done to assist with the problems associated with these derelict vessels. The federal government must show leadership and work in collaboration with provincial and municipal governments, harbour authorities, and community organizations to deal with this. This is simply not going to happen under the present government.
Bill C-638, while perhaps not providing all the answers, is a step in the right direction. This bill seeks to amend the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, with respect to wrecks by designating the Canadian Coast Guard as the receiver of wrecks, by requiring the receiver of wrecks to take responsible steps to determine and locate the owners of the wrecks, and by providing the power to the Minister of Transport and the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to enact regulations that must be followed by receivers of wrecks to remove, dispose, or destroy the wrecks.
Bill C-638 would also require the Minister of Transport to file a report every five years before each house of Parliament regarding the operations of part 7 of the act. Currently, the receiver of wrecks is an officer of Transport Canada who acts as a custodian of the wreck in the absence of the rightful owner. The receiver has a responsibility to attempt to locate the owner within 90 days.
If after this period no owner is located, the receiver may dispose of the wreck to the salvor or sell it through public sale. The cost of removing a vessel or wreck can be significant and can include environmental and technical assessments, investigative work to determine the owner, salvage contracting for the removal, bringing equipment to the site, preparation for removal, removing the vessel and associated waste, managing final disposal and, finally, the legal fees associated with this.
Stakeholders, while in favour of this bill, have also stressed to me that funding is the key issue to deal with this problem. As has been indicated here, Washington State has set up a fund, and over the last number of years it seems to have made some progress on this issue while here in Canada the government has made absolutely no progress.
In 2009, the fisheries committee submitted a report to the government on small craft harbours, which included a recommendation and a lot of testimony on dealing with abandoned and derelict vessels. In 2012, Transport Canada put out a study on abandoned and derelict vessels in Canada. It is now 2015 and the government has still not taken any real action or shown leadership. It is time for the government to step up, work together with municipal and provincial governments, harbour authorities, and all stakeholders to deal with this issue.
These derelict or abandoned vessels are an environmental problem, a navigational problem and, of course, they are a bigger problem on the west coast. We also have to realize that there are 2.6 million pleasure crafts registered in this country and I can only see this issue becoming a much bigger one. I hope that the Government of Canada will support Bill C-638, take some appropriate action for the environment, safety, and navigation around the ports and not leave it to the port authorities, which do not have the financial capacity to handle these issues.
I am very pleased to indicate that the Liberals will be supporting this bill and we very much hope that the government will take up its responsibility and put the money where it should be.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the intervention from my neighbour on Vancouver Island from the riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan.
The member mentioned the citizens' assembly back in 2004. It was actually promised by the previous Liberal government to create a citizens' assembly to look at electoral reform. That assembly, with two people from each of the 79 electoral districts, came up with a formula and they chose an MMPR formula that they then presented in the referendum. It was rejected by the people of British Columbia. It was rejected here in Ontario and it was rejected in P.E.I.
I would like to go back to British Columbia briefly. I was there in a restaurant while 100 people were in a room next door having a presentation on this, and when they came out afterward, I was having lunch with a friend, a business colleague. When I asked them what it was all about, they said it was about the new electoral referendum question. I asked them if they understood it now. They had been in there an hour. She said she had this booklet. That is the problem. If they cannot explain it to a voter in an hour, it is too complicated, and frankly, it has been rejected all over the place.
Does the member not recognize that the NDP is trying to push through something that Canadians in our province have already rejected?
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-638, An Act to amend the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 (wreck).
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Victoria for seconding this bill.
In many coastal communities, derelict and abandoned vessels have a negative impact on their harbours, and some pose a threat to the local environment.
While major environmental dangers from derelict and abandoned vessels are dealt with swiftly by the Canadian Coast Guard, many are simply left to rot away and leach chemicals into the surrounding environment.
If an abandoned and derelict vessel is not a major environmental concern and is not posing an obstacle to navigation, there is usually no action taken.
The Minister of Transport can become involved in the following situations.
Transport Canada can currently take the lead in instances where a vessel is the cause of an obstruction to navigation. However, vessels in the intertidal zone are rarely an obstruction to navigation.
Transport Canada has also been supportive of salvage claims made to the receiver of wrecks when questionable vessels appear ashore or in waters adjacent to communities. However, salvage claims are rarely made against derelict vessels.
Finally, Transport Canada can take the lead in making an assessment as to whether a vessel may pose a threat of pollution. However, an abandoned or derelict vessel that is deemed non-polluting is not dealt with.
Both I, in Nanaimo—Cowichan, and the member for Victoria, often hear complaints about derelict vessels that are not dealt with. Hence, I have introduced this bill, an act to amend the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 (wreck).
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)
Mr. Speaker, I have two sets of petitions signed by hundreds of people from Nanaimo—Cowichan who call upon Parliament to refrain from making any changes to the Seeds Act or the Plant Breeders' Rights Act through Bill C-18, an act to amend certain Acts relating to agriculture and agri-food, that would restrict farmers' rights or add to farmers' costs. Further, they call upon Parliament to enshrine in legislation the inalienable right of farmers and other Canadians to save, reuse, select, exchange, and sell seeds.
Before resuming debate, I should advise the House that there have been more than five hours of debate on this motion during this first round. Consequently, the speeches will now be 10 minutes and the period for questions and comments will be 5 minutes.
Resuming debate, the hon. member for Nanaimo—Cowichan.
Mr. Speaker, as my colleague said, certainly we are very supportive on this side of the House of the creation of a national park. This particular park is one that we do support.
The difficulties we have with what the Conservatives have put in place is that, again, they are not looking at their responsibilities with respect to how to best protect the wildlife. They seem to be leaning toward allowing more and more development in the area. That is of concern to many, including the Dehcho.
I listened to my colleague with respect to ecological integrity and the concern she raised with respect to staffing at the park. My colleague from Nanaimo—Cowichan also spoke about the decrease in conservation and spending under the government's watch.
I would ask my colleague to elaborate because I know she had a lot to add with respect to the cuts to the parks, which has even been impacting the process for the protection of heritage lighthouses.
Could the member speak to the cutbacks to Parks Canada?
Mr. Speaker, I am going to take this back to a local issue just for one moment. I live in Nanaimo—Cowichan, and I actually live in the Cowichan watershed. This summer we had a crisis in the Cowichan watershed. Our river was so low that not only was the health of our returning salmon going to be impacted but our local industry, a large pulp mill, was literally days from shutting down because it also draws water from the Cowichan River.
The reason I raise that in this context that it is an example of ending up with unintended consequences if we do not do a good job of looking at the whole watershed and looking at all the impacts on the watershed, whether they are mining, resource development, farming, or other industrial uses.
In the context of the South Nahanni, it is very important to look at the intact watershed and make decisions based on the health and well-being of that watershed.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin my remarks by thanking my hon. colleague for his very powerful speech. To me, and I think to all of us, it is a reminder of why we are here. We bring our personal experience and the issues that we care about. It is not just a debating club or about procedure; it is about these incredibly important issues in our society that have been buried and washed over. That is why today New Democrats are united, as the official opposition, to make sure that this debate in the House is heard and that the commitment we have made will happen. Within 100 days of becoming government, we will hold a public inquiry.
It took more than 20 years for the Oppal inquiry in British Columbia to happen. When I was a city councillor in Vancouver, in 1987, and women began to go missing in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, we were told not to worry, that there would be a case-by-case criminal investigation. It was very similar to what we heard from the Minister of Status of Women yesterday.
Those disappearances were never followed up on, and it was the families and friends of the missing women, many of whom were aboriginal and sex workers, who finally got together and said there was something horrific going on. It was not about individual cases, but about our justice system, predators, and the failure of our justice system to see the missing women as citizens and vulnerable people.
For years, these disappearances were not dealt with, and it took more than 20 years until finally there was a public inquiry in Vancouver. It was not a perfect public inquiry, but it was important because it shed light and opened the door to examining some of the systemic issues that my colleague talked about.
We need to take the experience in British Columbia and understand that it is happening right across the country. It is not isolated to the Highway of Tears, in northern B.C., or to Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. It is happening in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ontario, and in Atlantic Canada.
I listened to the Minister of Status of Women yesterday talk about her action plan, and I looked at that action plan, $2.5 million over five years, to create projects and raise awareness. Awareness is important, and we have to show the leadership here to create that awareness. However, we need to have a public inquiry to ensure we are not just looking at individual cases but at what happened and why society as a whole failed these women What is it that went wrong, and why? Only a public inquiry can do that.
I remember meeting with the Liberal minister of justice, in 1999, a couple of years after I had been elected, and explaining what had happened in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. I was shocked. Although he was sympathetic, he was not aware of what was going on. I realized then that there was a tremendous amount of work that had to be done. The story was focused in Vancouver. At that point, the story of what was happening had not yet fully come to light.
Mr. Speaker, that is how long it takes. An inquiry is important because the stories of the families need to be heard. We are talking about individual women who are missing and have been murdered. We are talking about the impact on families and communities.
What I find troubling about the government's response was said so well by Audrey Huntley, the co-founder of No More Silence. She said, in reaction to the government's announcement, “It feels to me like it’s really laying the blame on the aboriginal community and completely ignoring stranger violence”. She went on to say:
We need to engage Canadian society in why aboriginal women aren’t valued. That’s really what it comes down to. They’re not valued when it comes to the police investigating their cases, they’re not valued by that child welfare system and they’re not valued by their foster families, so really it’s a very deep systemic problem.
That is what Audrey Huntley had to say.
She is not the only one to understand the depth and the horror of what is taking place and that only a public inquiry can examine some of the systemic issues, whether it is the way that policing investigations are done, contributing factors of violence and poverty and racism, and the legacy of colonialism and residential schools, as has been so well articulated by my colleague today.
We were glad that a motion was passed a couple of years ago in the House to set up a special committee, but even that committee became a disappointment. Yet again, the government refused to act on the need for a national inquiry. I want to thank my colleagues, the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan, who was on that committee, and the member for Churchill, who has had this file and has done so much work on calling for a national inquiry. These are contributions that we make as individual members to keep this issue alive.
We are here today to say that we will not let this issue be swept under the carpet. We will ensure that those voices are heard. I do not believe it will take 20 years, like it did for the Oppal commission. I believe we will have a historic opportunity in about a year to change the government and to put in place a government that is progressive, an NDP government that actually listens to what people are saying and will make commitments to follow through on the suffering and historic injustices of aboriginal people in this country.
A public inquiry is a very key component of that, but it is not the only component. There are many things that need to be done: addressing poverty; ensuring clean water, education, and housing. These are all issues that our leader, the member for Outremont, has raised and articulated in this House. He has met with the aboriginal leadership and communities. This is a very deep commitment that we bring, not only to this debate, but to the work that we do from now and into the election.
I am glad we are having this debate today. It is a Friday afternoon, and I know members would probably like to be home today. We would all like to be home. However, this is our place. We are here for a reason. We are here in solidarity with the organizations that have called for the national inquiry. We are here in solidarity. We are here to ensure that those voices are heard. I am glad we are having this debate, and we will make that commitment to follow through.
I know the Conservatives do not like it. They want to have us contained to the little action plan that trots out just a few million dollars over five years. It is a pathetic response to a huge issue in this country. Let it be said that the Conservatives should listen to what those families are saying. They should understand that a public inquiry, which we have the power to bring about in a timely way—not that it is the be-all and the end-all; it is really just the beginning—is a powerful instrument to shed light on this issue and to bring justice for the missing and murdered women.
Mr. Speaker, earlier my colleague from Nanaimo—Cowichan spoke about a lady in Lebanon who has basically taken it upon herself to be trained to remove, to disarm, and to get rid of these cluster munitions. It is unbelievable how one person can actually make a difference. As my colleague said, this lady used to be a teacher.
When we are looking at the fact that half of the victims are children and we see a government that says it prides itself on looking after victims, it is quite disconcerting and problematic for us to see a government turn a blind eye as to what is really happening to these children, and the positive impact that such a small change in the bill could actually have.
So many other countries and some agencies have spoken against what the government has put in its bill and refuses to remove. Some of these agencies actually support people in times of difficulty, like the Canadian Red Cross. Could my colleague elaborate on that?
Mr. Speaker, it is not my practice to give kudos to Liberals. I have to say to the member for Winnipeg North that that was probably one of the better speeches I have heard him give in the House. I will not give it a rating number.
I will say that the member has identified a couple of interesting things, particularly the delay and the length of time it took for this work that was started, in fairness, by the Liberals in their day. That is all he is going to get.
I want to ask the member a question. The member for Nanaimo—Cowichan was talking about how article 21 on the interoperability is almost contradicting what was laid out in clause 1. That leaves Canada open to significant worldwide criticism.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and speak on Bill C-22, an act respecting Canada's offshore oil and gas operations, enacting the Nuclear Liability and Compensation Act, repealing the Nuclear Liability Act and making consequential amendments to other acts.
New Democrats have indicated that they will support the bill at second reading, but they have grave concerns about the bill and are hoping to make amendments at committee.
I am going to focus on the oil and gas aspect of the proposed act.
Bill C-22 would update Canada's offshore liability regime for oil and gas exploration and operations to prevent incidents and ensure a swift response in the event of a spill. It would maintain unlimited operator liability for fault or negligence, increase the absolute liability no-fault from $40 million in the Arctic and $30 million in the Atlantic to $1 billion for offshore oil and gas projects in both Arctic and Atlantic waters. It references the polluter pay principle.
I am so interested in this issue because I live in Nanaimo—Cowichan, which is on Vancouver Island and is a coastline community. There are certainly efforts in British Columbia to look at offshore oil and gas exploration. However, one of the things that it is important to remind people of is the cost when there is a spill.
The offshore BP Gulf oil spill of 2010 is expected to cost as much as $42 billion for total cleanup, criminal penalties, and civil claims against it. The firm is reported to have already spent $25 billion on cleanup and compensation. In addition, it faces hundreds of new lawsuits launched this spring along with penalties under the Clean Water Act that could reach $17 billion. Members can see how $1 billion for a spill of that magnitude simply would not cut it.
In British Columbia, there are a number of people and organizations that have raised concerns around the current regime in Canada. I want to reference a submission from the Union of B.C. Municipalities, UBCM, on June 21, 2013, which raises a number of issues.
First, they say that:
...BC local governments are very concerned with the increase in ocean traffic along the West Coast of BC and particularly from ships carrying dangerous and/or toxic products; and do not believe that the current environmental measures are adequate to clean up damages caused by these types of large scale spills or disasters.
It goes on in its presentation to say:
A key area of consensus was that a stringent environmental and fiscal regulatory system was necessary, and must be implemented, prior to offshore oil and gas development.
The report also contained a number of recommendations regarding oil spills, including:
Establish a substantial remediation fund from industry to be used in the event of an oil spill. (In light of the high costs for clean up of oil spills, the fund will have to be very robust.)
Invest in the necessary infrastructure to minimize risk of an oil spill and damage to surrounding areas in the event of an oil spill by:
Establishing deep sea salvage tugs along the central and north coast to assist vessels in distress.
Implementing a vessel tracking system for the British Columbia coast.
It goes on to talk about the oil spill response recovery and says that:
Development of an Incident Command System (ICS) and an oil spill organization that would be a repository for all equipment and contact information in the case of an oil spill.
Enhancement of current marine spill response capability on the British Columbia coast....
The report goes on to the polluter pay principle, saying:
BC local governments support the polluter pay principle, which makes polluters responsible for paying for damages caused by a spill.... The resolution also requests that a polluter pay fund or emergency fund be substantial, and that it be used to clean up, and compensate for any and all damages, including capital devaluation, social, cultural, and ecological damage, caused by an accident involving said goods and cargo; fund research into improving clean-up methods to deal with the eventuality of such spills....
In British Columbia right now we have a relatively pristine coast, and we are very concerned about preserving it, not only the environmental aspect, but the social and cultural aspect as well.
Much of B.C. has a healthy tourism industry, and it would be a disaster if that tourism industry, fisheries, and aquaculture were damaged. Therefore, it is very important that whatever we do first of all ensures that the safety methods are put in place. However, if there is an unfortunate spill, there must be a way to compensate and to clean up.
I want to turn to a paper that was put out called “Protecting Taxpayers and the Environment Through the Reform of Canada's Offshore Liability Regime”. It is a paper by William Amos and Ian Miron. The abstract at the beginning of the paper states:
This article assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the various legislative components that combine to form the overarching “patchwork” civil liability regime for oil and gas activities in the Canadian offshore. It concludes that the existing liability regime fails to adequately implement the polluter-pays principle and provides a wholly inadequate measure of protection to Canadians and the Crown against offshore-related environmental liabilities. At the same time, the existing regime fails to promote an appropriate industry safety culture, creating a moral hazard that increases the risk of a worst-case scenario oil pollution incident.
That is an important piece. We know that when industry understands what its responsibilities and the regulations are, it will meet them, but we have to be clear what those are.
The paper does a very detailed analysis and, unfortunately, I do not have time to go through the whole paper, but they do have some recommendations. Amos and Miron state:
Canada's current offshore liability regime suffers from a number of weaknesses that actually increase the risks of a worst-case scenario oil pollution incident by failing to promote an appropriate industry safety culture, while exposing Canadian taxpayers to potentially massive liabilities in the event of a serious spill. These weaknesses include: inappropriately low maximum absolute liability limits; uncertain availability of environmental damages, and no mechanism for assessing the costs of long-term ecological system damage; an absence of express recognition of the polluter-pays principle; lack of a dedicated, industry-capitalized fund or mutual insurance pool to ensure remediation and compensation even when the operator is unwilling or unable to finance these efforts; lack of clarity regarding the breadth of operator liability for oil spill response costs; a restriction on the imposition of joint and several liability under the residual strict liability regime; lack of clarity regarding the overlap between the COGOA and the AWPPA liability regime...
They go on to make a couple of other points. They identify the weaknesses and make a couple of recommendations as follows:
In order to effectively reduce the risks borne by taxpayers in the event of an offshore oil pollution incident to an appropriate level, liability reforms must: 1) a. Remove the limit on operators' maximum absolute liability; b. In the alternative, significantly increase maximum absolute liability limits and create an exception to the cap where operators contravene federal law; 2) Increase financial responsibility requirements to screen out fiscally unqualified operators, although not necessarily to the level of the absolute liability cap.
It is a very thorough analysis of the weaknesses of the current legislated process and it makes some very strong recommendations for where it should go. The legislation before us fails to meet some of those criteria.
The paper also touches on the polluter pays principle, and I want to mention that because that is a very important theme that seems to run throughout a number of organizations that have offered a critique around the bill. It states:
Explicit recognition of the polluter-pays principle, particularly when coupled with substantial increases to or the outright elimination of statutory maximum absolute liability limits, sends a clear signal to industry that it will be held liable for the costs of pollution. Without this signal, industry may have more incentive for risky behaviour, knowing that the taxpayer will ultimately subsidize the consequences of such behaviour. The certainty provided by an explicit statutory recognition of the polluter-pays principle removes this incentive and instead promotes industry behaviour that seeks to “protect ecosystems in the course of ... economic activities.”
I want to quickly refer to the fall 2010 report of the Commissioner of the Environmental and Sustainable Development. In that report it was clearly demonstrated that on the west coast, the Coast Guard did not have an adequate plan in place to deal with oil spills if such an accident should happen. Therefore, not only do we not have adequate protections in place from an industry perspective with regard to liability limit, but we also do not have a mechanism on the ground to deal with it in the event that there is such an accident.
I again want to remind people about the importance of protecting our environment. It is about fisheries, tourism, recreation and all those elements that are such an important part of our very precious and fragile coastlines.
I encourage all members in the House to look at meaningful amendments to the legislation.
The electoral district of Nanaimo--Cowichan (British Columbia) has a population of 125,149 with 96,034 registered voters and 279 polling divisions.
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