The House resumed from June 17 consideration of the motion that Bill 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, be read the third time and passed.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bruce Stanton):
When the House last took up this question, the hon. member for Winnipeg North had 14 minutes remaining in his time for comments on the question.
Resuming debate, the hon. member for Winnipeg North.
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux (Winnipeg North, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, I am not usually at a loss for words. I understand that I have 14 minutes left to speak. I am just not too sure about the bill you actually called. I have some notes on my desk, so could you just refer me to the specific bill?
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bruce Stanton):
The bill that was announced under orders of the day is Bill C-3, safeguarding Canada's seas and skies act. We are at third reading, resuming debate.
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux:
Mr. Speaker, one of the issues is that, when we adjourn debates, quite often what ends up happening is that we are in a situation where we will have the start of second reading on a particular bill only to find out that we might not actually have the continuation of that debate for weeks or months.
This is one of the problems in terms of the whole issue. I have talked about this in the past. I will just talk a little about the process. We do need to have more co-operation amongst parties inside the chamber. That would allow for a more even flow of the legislative agenda.
Then if we had a priority bill, it would be brought back within a few days, as opposed to having to wait for months. I think that is what has happened with this particular bill. The bill was brought in, and I do not have the actual date in front of me but if I were to speculate, my best guesstimate would be that it was likely several months ago when it was before the House. Then we find ourselves in the situation we are in today.
In my opening comments, if I were to give a little reflection, members would find that the principle of a bill is something in which it is always good to get more of the details. One of the advantages of the bill going to committee is the fact that we will do just that, going through the bill, listening to different stakeholders and the input they might have to provide. On any piece of legislation that would be very advantageous.
If I could provide a bit more specific information, what we are seeing in this bill is a piecemeal approach, or what we might even describe as an incoherent approach to the transportation safety policy in Canada.
When I hear about transportation safety in Canada, there is an endless number of examples and thoughts that come to mind. All I have to do is just talk about train transportation and the huge need and desire that Canadians have to deal with transportation safety, in particular with our railways.
Small things are trickling out in dribs and drabs from the government, without any comprehensive approach to transportation safety in the country to deal with many important issues. Even though I made reference to train transportation, it is important that we recognize, as this bill does, marine transportation and passenger safety, which goes beyond that.
We can look at how much Canada as a country has become urbanized. It has many train hubs, and with respect to Winnipeg, it is the CN yards out in the Symington area or the Transcona area or in my own back yard with the CP Rail expansion that has been taking place.
More and more, the quantity of goods actually being transported from coast to coast to coast using the rail lines—and the product that is in those trains and tankers—is going through major suburban and inner-city areas, all over our country.
It should be no surprise that Canadians are growing more and more concerned about the content of our trains as they go through municipalities. More specifically, what is the government actually doing to protect our communities? We are just hearing dribs and drabs.
We have a government that seems to want to react as opposed to being proactive in dealing with issues related to safety. I believe the government has a lacklustre attitude in terms of trying to provide strong and improved regulations, which would go a long way in making our communities safer.
There is an opportunity here to come up with a more coherent and comprehensive approach. To that extent, I would ask the government, particularly the minister responsible, to what degree they have consulted with the many different stakeholders.
Of course, we have the standard stakeholders within certain industries, whether it be the marine community or rail transportation. However, we should be taking into consideration the provinces, which have regulations within their provincial jurisdictions. We should be seeing what municipalities have to say. We will find throughout Canada that there are many progressive stakeholders who, if afforded the opportunity to provide direct input into the development of legislation, would be more than happy to do so. This is something I would suggest the government has not been very successful at. It is one of the reasons I believe there are so many deficiencies in the legislation.
It is critically important that when legislation passes the floor of the House of Commons and goes to committee that the government be open to listening to what is presented in committee and open to amendments. I know that has not been a highlight of the current government in terms of receiving amendments, particularly from opposition parties. Often we find that amendments brought forward by opposition parties would add strength and value to laws and regulations. I believe that is what Canadians want to see.
I believe that once we get this bill to committee, we will find ideas that will lead to potential amendments. Hopefully the government will listen and support where it can, even though the Conservatives' track record is not good. However, I am an optimistic person.
As I have suggested, we can do a lot better than this in terms of transparency, which Canadians are asking for and deserve. Even though the bill is mostly about technical amendments, the Liberal Party will be supporting the bill going to committee.
We have had some horrific accidents over the last number of years. I would suggest there are things government should have been doing to deal with some of the regulations that need to be changed.
I think of my backyard, where we have the CP tracks going through the heart of Winnipeg's north end. Common commodities such as wheat and oil and many other products are shipped.
We have seen serious devastation in communities where rail line accidents have occurred.
Bill C-3 is a bill that is mostly about technical amendments, and that is why, in principle, we will support it going through. It would have been a lot better if the government had taken a more holistic approach to improving safety on our rail lines, in our air spaces, and in our oceans.
The government of the day can choose the status quo and not come up with bold initiatives that would have an impact, but there is going to be a cost. What we have witnessed over the last number of years is a higher sense of public safety and protecting our communities, because every so often, when we hear about a rail line accident, there is a great deal of media attention.
I would suggest that we do not have to wait for accidents to occur. There is a way we can deal with it in a more proactive fashion.
Once the bill does go through the House at second reading and gets to committee, I look forward to the government having an open mind and allowing for some amendments to the legislation.
Mr. Yvon Godin (Acadie—Bathurst, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Winnipeg North was quite mixed up at the beginning of his speech. He did not know which bill it was or what he should talk about. I think he is still mixed up, because we are debating third reading. It is not going to committee. That is over. We are at third reading, and the bill is not going to committee. I just wanted to help him a little bit.
At the same time, would he agree with me that the Liberals were in government for a long time, before the Conservatives, after the Conservatives, and before the Conservatives again? They were in government for many years. This is a problem that has existed for a long time, where government lets companies themselves be responsible for the security of people, then when an accident happens, it is too late.
The government has a responsibility to put the security mechanisms in place to ensure that people do not get hurt. That happened during the Liberal government, too. We should not be talking about this bill in 2014. It should have been there a long time ago. It is not the first incident that has happened in this country.
Would he agree with me that the Liberals failed to do that when they were in power?
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux:
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments with regard to it now being at third reading versus second reading. It is very important that we pay attention as government bills are being called. Believe it or not, I do make some mistakes, and my apologies to members of the House if I might have given the impression that it was second reading. It is, in fact, third reading.
Having said that, I still believe that it is important to look at our current situation. There are many needs with regard to improving the system. When the Liberals were in government, did we have a perfect system? Likely not, but some significant improvements were made at that time. I suspect that in time, hopefully, the current government will be replaced, and we will once again have a more progressive government that will be able to look at the bigger picture in safety
Although I was hoping there would have been some amendments, I do not think there would have been, and that would tell me that there were lost opportunities. I am sure I will hear in questions whether there were amendments passed.
Mr. Rodger Cuzner (Cape Breton—Canso, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, this particular bill is mainly technical in scope, but the committee heard from a wide array of witnesses.
When we talk about rail safety, everybody is very much aware of some of the horrific accidents that took place, Lac-Mégantic being at the forefront of most people's recollections. We know that the Auditor General did an extensive study of all the events surrounding that accident.
I know that if we stand in the House during question period and ask the minister for particulars, the minister will stand and go on about how much money the government has spent specifically on rail safety. I would like to ask my colleague whether the minister is on solid ground when she says that. I guess that is the essence of my question.
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux:
Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Transport will say, for example, that the government has spent about $100 million on safety since 2009, but what is important is that we put that in perspective. It sounds like a big number, except that it spent $600 million on advertising over the same years, which is unbelievable. It spent $550 million on outsourced legal fees. Therefore, we need to put things in the proper context.
Mr. Philip Toone (Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I would like to help my colleagues from the Liberal Party to situate themselves a bit better. We are in third reading, but we are also in third reading of Bill C-3, which does not have much to do with railroads.
I will give the member the title, just so it is a little clearer in everybody's minds. It is 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. Rail safety is an interesting point, and it is important that we debate it in the House, but perhaps we should be a little more on point as to what is being debated in the House at the moment.
Perhaps the Liberal Party is confused, because when we sent this bill to committee after second reading, it did not present any amendments. Maybe it just missed this bill entirely. I do not know. However, we are in third reading of a bill that has to do with marine safety, and that is what I would like to ask a question about.
Seeing as the Liberals did not produce any amendments during the committee stage, I will assume they are in agreement that a company should only be liable for $230,000 in case of an oil spill.
I remember last summer that Conservative ministers suggested it should be as much as a billion dollars. That number has been substantially reduced. I assume that, because they have not produced any amendments, the Liberals are in agreement with the significant reduction in the liability for which a corporation would be responsible.
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux:
Mr. Speaker, when we talk about safety, there is an element of rail safety within the legislation. It is an important issue for many Canadians.
If the member wants to downplay railway safety, that is fine. He can choose to do that. We recognize that within our transportation industry, we need to take safety into consideration, not only marine but also railway and sky. I would be a bit disappointed if he does not recognize the value that we have put forward.
Regarding liability insurance, I have heard all sorts of extremes. I have heard members of his caucus talk about having $38 billion to cover potential liabilities for offshore oil. Imagine if that NDP policy had been put in place. What impact would that have had on the development of oil out in the Atlantic Ocean?
The whole issue of insurance liability is very serious and it should not be taken lightly, because it does have a lot to do with our environment, our economy, jobs and so forth. The member tries to poke a bit of fun here and there, but at the end of the day, this is a serious issue and the legislation could have been improved. Even though I was not at that committee, the NDP did not get one amendment passed either.
Mr. Jamie Nicholls (Vaudreuil—Soulanges, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, if the member does want to talk about railway safety, let us talk about the Liberals' approval of remote control technology for trains in 2003, and how that led to one-man crews on the railway.
Would the member agree with the U.S. Federal Railroad Administration and say that one-man crews, when toxic materials are being transported, are actually a dangerous practice? Will he apologize for the approval of the former Liberal government for approving such dangerous measures on the railroads?
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux:
Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Charlottetown brings up a good point, which is that the member is maybe stretching a bit here. I suspect the reason he might be stretching is because he is a little nervous. That is just a hypothesis on my part. I do not know for sure.
However, I would suggest, as I did about 15 minutes ago, that even when the Liberal Party was in government, it might not have been a perfect system, but there were efforts from previous Liberal administrations to take a more holistic approach at delivering a safer environment for all rail, air and marine transportation. The Liberal Party has taken this very seriously in the past and will continue to do so into the future.
Mr. Philip Toone (Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to give my speech and my opinion on the bill before us. For the benefit of those present today, I will repeat that this is the third reading of Bill 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.
This bill will amend a great many laws on marine safety, mainly with respect to the transportation of dangerous and toxic products, especially petroleum products.
A number of witnesses told us what they thought about the proposed amendments. The NDP proposed amendments to the bill that the government did not accept. That is very unfortunate because the current bill is a step in the right direction, but a far cry from what it should be.
To add context I would like to quote Canada's Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development. He has repeatedly given us benchmarks so that we have an accurate picture of the state of marine safety with respect to the transport of hydrocarbon products. This is what he had to say in 2010:
|| The Canadian Coast Guard, the lead federal agency for responding to ship-source oil spills, has not conducted an assessment of its ship-source oil spill response capacity since 2000. While concerns have been raised regarding the state of the Coast Guard’s oil spill response equipment, given the lack of recent capacity analyses and the lack of up-to-date knowledge on risks, the Coast Guard does not know if its ship-source oil spill response capacity is appropriate to address those risks.
|| In the meantime, Canada lacks a formal framework for responding to chemical spills, including clear roles and responsibilities.
I would like to remind members that he said that in 2010. It seems that the message was not heard. In 2012, the commissioner again pointed out the following in his annual report:
|| The potential impacts of an offshore oil spill in Atlantic Canada, such as seen in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, could be widespread and devastating to the environment, industry, and the livelihoods of many Canadians. As a result, it is essential that the offshore petroleum boards manage the risks and impacts associated with the oil and gas activities they regulate.
As I said, that was in 2012. The message still had not gotten through, so the commissioner brought up the problems yet again in his 2013 report, which stated:
|| The federal government has an important leadership role to play in protecting species and spaces and implementing a sustainable development agenda. Leadership means first identifying where the federal government can add the most value, finding the most cost-effective way to do so, investing what it takes to add that value, and finally, following through on commitments. Fulfilling current promises is critical, because commitments are only the first steps toward the research, protection, and recovery needed. Building on progress and successes such as the Habitat Stewardship Program and the North American Waterfowl Management Plan, for example, is also vital.
In 2013, the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development once again reported that we did not have the equipment and were not ready to respond to spills at sea.
I would like to close with a quote from Danielle Giroux, spokesperson for the St-Lawrence Coalition, who expressed her opinion on the commissioner's comments. These quotations are from the David Suzuki Foundation website.
Danielle Giroux said:
|| As the governments of Quebec and Newfoundland prepare to open the Gulf of St. Lawrence to oil exploration, this report confirms that we are in no way prepared to respond to any incident related to this extractive activity. We do not have the technical resources to prevent or clean up the mess, nor do we have the financial guarantees to cope with it. This report is a cold shower for the coastal communities that depend on the health of the Gulf for their own well-being.
This bill is about financial liability in case of an oil spill. Compensating people if their industry is destroyed by an oil spill is all well and good, but what about rebuilding the industry if it is damaged by an oil spill? Remember the Exxon Valdez? Oil from that spill is still washing up on shore. The Irving Whale sank in the Gulf of St. Lawrence 30 years ago, and people in the Magdalen Islands, in my riding, are still picking up chunks of oil that wash up on the sand every year. A spill never really goes away; the fallout lasts for years.
We have to think about the long term when we talk about compensation. The fishing industry in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, in the Atlantic, off the west coast and potentially in the Arctic is a sustainable activity that can go on indefinitely. If an oil spill damages this industry, we need to make sure that it can continue to exist, rather than thinking about financial compensation. We need to think about what can be done to limit the impact of a spill.
Rather than talking about what type of insurance policy is needed to financially compensate people for a year's income, I would like the government to talk about what it is going to do to ensure that the tourism, fishing and seabed mining industries remain sustainable.
I would like to give some statistics that show the value of the industries we are talking about. In the Magdalen Islands, fishing and the related industries, particularly the processing industry, represent $100 million per year. In the Gaspé, lobster fishing alone represents $15 million per year. In 2010, in the Gaspé, the landing value of fishing was $85 million. Landings in the lower St. Lawrence, the Gaspé and the Magdalen Islands account for two-thirds of all landings in Quebec. Tourism generates $280 million a year in my region.
In the bill before us, we are talking about an insurance policy that would provide $230 million in compensation. That is not even equivalent to the revenue generated in one year by the tourism industry. I would like to remind hon. members that if the beaches in the Gaspé and the Magdalen Islands are polluted with oil, there will not be very many tourists. One year of compensation in the amount of $230 million will not restore the industry in my region. The region will be decimated. This bill does not meet the needs of my constituents; that is clear. If it does not meet their needs, it obviously does not meet the needs of constituents in neighbouring ridings either.
When it comes to cleaning up oil spills, the bill indicates that companies will be responsible for cleaning up up to 10,000 tonnes of oil. In eastern Canada, there is currently talk of a project in Belledune that could involve the marine transport of four times that amount of oil. There is also talk of a potential project in Cacouna, not far from Rivière-du-Loup, involving the marine transport of almost 10 times that amount of oil. Today, the marine transport of oil in the Gulf of St. Lawrence is equivalent to approximately 82 million tonnes per year. The bill stipulates that the company would be responsible for cleaning up only 10,000 tonnes. That is not enough. It is not nearly enough.
Today, an oil tanker carries at least four times the quantity proposed in this bill in the event of a spill. A standard Suezmax or Panamax oil tanker may contain at least four times more than what this bill is proposing. If one of these ships is involved in a spill, the company would be responsible for just one-quarter of it. Who will be responsible for the rest? Canadians.
Once again, Canadians are being asked to assume the risk socially, while the benefits are being privatized. Companies will get off the hook and make huge profits. Everyone knows the oil industry is very profitable. Canada's oil exports have tripled in the past five years, and they are expected to triple again in the next three.
Huge quantities of oil will pass very close to our coastal communities, which depend on fishing, forestry and tourism, all traditional and sustainable industries. As for the oil industry, we are not equipped for a spill, period.
The Gulf of St. Lawrence is one of Canada's main oil transportation routes, and it freezes in the winter. It ices over. What will happen if a spill occurs on the ice? We are not equipped to clean up a spill like that. Let us take things one step at a time.
It is all well and good to want to make companies liable for up to $230 million, but it is nowhere near enough. It is better than what we have now, where companies are liable for $35 million. At least that will go up to $230 million. A year ago, the Conservatives were talking about $1 billion, but they decided it was too much.
I would remind the House that some countries put no limit on a company's liability. Norway, for example, has no limit. Companies responsible for a spill are responsible for the cost of cleanup, period.
By the way, Norway's oil economy is not suffering. Growth is good and the industry is doing well. The country has money and is protecting the environment at the same time. Both are possible. I do not know why we in Canada cannot understand that companies need to be accountable. If the polluter is not liable, someone else will be, and that will be us, the taxpayers. I think taxpayers have paid enough already.
The government keeps saying that taxpayers are paying too much. Frankly, if the government is trying to tell Canadian taxpayers that they should be subsidizing oil companies, Canadians will be left scratching their heads and wondering why they should have to compensate them.
Those companies have plenty of money, since that industry is extremely profitable. I think they can start assuming liability for any pollution they might cause.
A boat will not necessarily cause a spill, as we know. Some boats go up and down the east or west coast on a daily basis. They go by all the time. I just have to look around me when I am at home. I see boats passing by carrying oil. We can all see them. Fortunately, there has never been a spill.
Elsewhere around the world, however, there have been about 10,000 spills over the past 40 years. We know that this can happen and we know the risks. Every industry faces some sort of risk. It is crucial that we have a bill that considers this risk. We do not have one here. Companies are just starting to assume some liability, but not nearly enough.
In committee, I would have liked to see the Conservatives remember what they themselves had promised. They promised liability to the tune of $1 billion. That definitely would have been better. Unfortunately, this is nowhere near that.
Where I come from, there are several potential oil deposits in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, but the most important is the Old Harry site, located between the Magdalen Islands and Newfoundland. It is so much on the border that we are not even sure exactly where it is.
If development begins at that site, there are fears that we are not properly equipped to clean up a spill. There are doubts about whether the company that has the permit today would have the financial ability to pay compensation in the event of a major spill. This bill would not provide enough for a proper cleanup following a catastrophe like the one in the Gulf of Mexico. It definitely needs to go further. Is it enough for today? Unfortunately, I have to support the bill, because it is a first step, but it does not provide nearly enough to respond to the real needs of our coastal communities.
Coastal communities will assume the risk so that the oil companies can benefit. That is not fair. We live in a society that should be fair and balanced. The Conservatives' bill appears to be an attempt to relieve the big companies of their liability and make society take on the risk. I do not understand. On the one hand they are socialists and on the other they are capitalists. Unfortunately they have got things the wrong way around.
They should have started by asking themselves what could be done to protect our coastal communities, so that they can grow and the wealth can be shared across Canada. That is not what we see in the bill, which only has to do with compensation in the case of a spill. The bill tacitly states that there will be a spill and attempts to safeguard against the financial impact a spill would have. However, no matter how much money you throw at a disaster, the real challenge is surviving it.
In Canada, there is a $400-million fund in case of a spill, but there have been no contributions to it since 1976. I have to wonder whether the government is serious about holding companies accountable for their own actions. It does not seem to be. The bill is quite simply not enough, but once again, it is a step forward. Without this bill, liability is $35 million. That is nowhere near enough. Liability of $230 million is a little more reassuring, but coastal communities are worth more than that.
The tourism and fishing industries deserve the House's attention. Unfortunately, the comments from members of the Conservative Party seem to ignore the fact that there are human beings and sustainable industries in the regions.
On the west coast, which I have not spoken much about, there is tremendous interest in this bill. For example, Burrard Inlet in Vancouver is the second most dangerous navigation point in that region. A ship navigating through the inlet at its own risk is thus putting the coastal community of greater Vancouver and the west coast at risk.
We definitely want all regions of Canada to be able to benefit from the oil industry. That is why the risk must be shared among all concerned. Companies should take on their fair share. I do not think that this bill does enough. I hope that the government will come up with some new proposals to improve the situation.
I doubt that that will happen before the election in 2015. That is why I believe that the NDP is the only party that can stand up for coastal communities. I look forward to when we form the government.
Ms. Elizabeth May (Saanich—Gulf Islands, GP):
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine for his speech.
There are problems in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Conservative bills establish none of the protections that should be in place for this system, which is extremely important for the fisheries and whale ecosystems.
I think that the member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine has some expertise in this area. I would like to know if his party is also in favour of a moratorium on oil exploration and development.
Mr. Philip Toone:
Mr. Speaker, many of the people who come to my constituency office ask the same kinds of questions.
We tell them that we cannot ignore the fact that this is a natural resource region. It has always been dependent on those resources for its economic growth and the economic well-being of the families that live there. We must not develop the region without taking the necessary precautions.
We are not properly equipped in that regard. The Commissioner of Environment and Sustainable Development was clear about that. We do not have the equipment needed to deal with a spill. In the event of a spill in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, there are industries, particularly the fishing and tourism industries, that would be very significantly affected.
We need to start by asking the following question. Can development be done safely? If the answer is yes, we need to determine the steps that need to be taken. If the answer is no, we need to take the necessary measures.
Ms. Rosane Doré Lefebvre (Alfred-Pellan, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine for his speech.
I was looking at the content of Bill C-3, especially in terms of the companies' liability. A shipowner's liability in the event of an oil spill is limited to approximately $230 million. That is a very small amount should an oil spill occur on our coasts. I am particularly concerned about this aspect of the bill.
Enbridge's Line 9 goes through the eastern part of Laval, in my riding. It crosses the two rivers, the rivière des Prairies and the rivière des Mille-Îles, as well as farmland. The residents are very concerned and worried about potential spills and environmental problems that come with transporting materials such as oil across our lands or near our waterways.
As my colleague mentioned, he is very close to the fishers and those who live on the coast, be it on the Magdalen Islands or the Gaspé Peninsula. What are the local people telling him? How do the people of Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine feel about these requirements?
Mr. Philip Toone:
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her comments and question. Her remarks are very interesting.
We are quite in tune with the concerns of the people in Laval. We know that in the event of a spill, we do not have the capability to clean up the mess properly. We suspect that oil companies do not have the best interests of the general public in mind. We suspect that governments are in a big hurry to move forward without taking the necessary precautions.
We are certainly not against development. My constituents' comments suggest that they are not against development, but they want it to be sustainable and in compliance with the rules. There is no rush. The oil will not disappear. We know that we can get rich and that everyone can benefit. However, we do not want to assume the risk alone. We definitely want both the wealth and the risk to be shared.
In the Gaspé and the Magdalen Islands, we are very welcoming and friendly. We like people and want to help them. If we can help them with natural resources, be they forest or oil products, we will continue to do so. We have been doing it for 200 years.
However, the risk must be shared fairly. Today, we are a long way from that.
Mrs. Sadia Groguhé (Saint-Lambert, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, first of all I would like to congratulate my colleague on his excellent speech. It shows that he really knows the file well and that he does good work for his constituents.
My colleague clearly showed the limitations of this bill. As he said many times, the bill does not address the risk, in light of the reality.
I would like my colleague to quickly give us one or two examples of proposals that could have been included in this bill so that we could have avoided studying a limited bill.
Mr. Philip Toone:
Mr. Speaker, I would like to again thank my colleague for her comments. I know that the work she does in her riding is second to none. She is the best MP that riding has had in a long time.
I would like to go back to the beginning of my speech. The Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development quite rightly pointed out that it is not enough to make companies assume financial liability. By the way, that liability should be much higher than what is proposed in this bill. We also need equipment. An oil spill is not traded on the stock market. It is not a monetary transaction. It is a catastrophe on land and at sea that will have an impact on our natural resources and the lives of the people who live in the area.
We absolutely must have the ability to clean up a spill. This is not about whether there will be a spill, but when there will be one. We know it is going to happen. There is no such thing as zero risk. Therefore, we have to know what an acceptable risk is in this situation. Today, the risk is much too high. We hope that it will diminish with time. Nevertheless, we know that the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board asked the Minister of the Environment to conduct an impact study on oil and gas development in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and that the request was denied. We do not trust this government, which should have the interests of the people at heart.
Mr. Jean Rousseau (Compton—Stanstead, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I want to commend my colleague on his excellent speech. He focused on something that is very important to us, the NDP, and that is the tourism industry and inshore fishers.
When we talk about spills, the marine industry and oil transportation, it makes me think of something called “accountability”. This Conservative government has had a lot to say about that. If we think about accountability with regard to Bill C-3, we would hope that this bill provides adequate protection for the marine and oil transportation sectors.
We are talking about significant amounts of money. Just think of the British Petroleum incident in the Gulf of Mexico a few years ago, or the Exxon Valdez. Twenty-five years later, the fishing industry and tourism are still more or less wiped out. There is no compensation directly associated with these sectors.
What does my colleague think about these vital industries, especially with regard to his region?
Mr. Philip Toone:
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.
This government does not seem to care about the well-being of our sustainable industries. For the fishing industry, we saw this government indirectly propose the elimination of the fleet separation policy. Just think of all the large foreign factory vessels and freezer vessels that come exploit the sea. They vacuum up a region's entire resource. This causes a lot of damage. We have seen the consequences of this type of management. There has been a full moratorium on cod fishing in the Gulf of St. Lawrence since the early 1990s. Have things improved since? Unfortunately not.
The government does not seem concerned about how to grow the sustainable industries in Canada. It seems more concerned about how to export oil. That is fine. Clearly, this has major spinoffs for the Canadian economy, but it is not the only industry. I would hate to see jobs created if they destroyed or jeopardized other jobs.
We need a balanced approach so that everyone wins. To that end, we need to take the necessary steps. Again, the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development gave us direction. I hope that hon. members will read the commissioner's reports and try to incorporate them into their bills as much as possible.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bruce Stanton):
Before we resume debate, it is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Fisheries and Oceans; the hon. member for York South—Weston, Rail Transportation; the hon. member for Drummond, The Environment.
Mr. Yvon Godin (Acadie—Bathurst, NDP):
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 supertanker 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.
Ms. Hélène LeBlanc (LaSalle—Émard, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Acadie—Bathurst for his speech. He truly understands the importance of the fishing industry to the Atlantic provinces, and he fights hard for the industry and for all of his constituents.
Over the years, this government has scaled back its inspectors' oversight in terms of regulations. It has done away with independent oversight in favour of letting companies self-regulate.
This may be a small step forward, but does my colleague see this bill as another example of the Conservatives' marked tendency to favour industry self-policing rather than objective, independent oversight to protect the Canadian public?
Mr. Yvon Godin:
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question because it is an important one. Self-regulation does not work.
Some people might not like what I am about to say, but with all due respect, big oil companies and big money-making corporations self-regulate only insofar as it puts cash in the bank. They have no problem with that. This government is on board. This is a dangerous game to be playing, though.
This is about oil companies and the possibility of a spill that could devastate the entire Chaleur Bay fishery—an example from my home turf—and the Gulf of St. Lawrence fishery too. If there is a spill, taxpayers will be expected to foot the bill because the government does not want to create regulations that require companies to pay compensation for that. I find that completely unacceptable.
If a company does not bear much responsibility should a spill occur, and if an incident would not cost the company much money, it has no reason to self-regulate.
What we have are practices that let these boats go full tilt. They sail at 50 knots. They go as fast as they can to maximize production and make money. If there is a spill, however, taxpayers are on the hook for that. All the companies do is declare bankruptcy; some have done so in the past. There is no guarantee. The only guarantee is the one provided by Canadian taxpayers, even though the government is responsible for protecting Canadian taxpayers, not just big oil companies.
Mr. Mike Sullivan (York South—Weston, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to and I am in agreement with the member for Acadie—Bathurst. Our leader is knowledgeable and experienced in the whole environmental field.
Is this not just a reduction in the polluter pays principle, that polluters who can limit their liability through a bill like this can get away with a subsidy from our government because they do not have to carry the kind of insurance necessary to actually insure against the worst-case disasters?
Look what happened in Quebec with MMA. MMA did not have enough insurance to cover the kind of disaster it wrought on the Province of Quebec and the people of Lac-Mégantic, and the Province of Quebec, the federal government, and the people of Canada are picking up the tab.
Essentially what our party believes in is that if there is a disaster, the people who cause the disaster, the polluters, should pay.
That is what this bill fails to do. It fails to force the companies that are doing what they are doing on our coasts, in our airspace and on our rails to protect Canadians. What happens is they are getting subsidized. I think that is wrong. Does the member think that is wrong?
Mr. Yvon Godin:
Mr. Speaker, it goes further than that. It is one thing for the government and taxpayers to pick up the tab, but it is another thing for people to lose their lives. Nobody can get their lives back.
For example, when the government cut the regulations, we saw what happened in Lac-Mégantic. Not long after that, look what happened in Plaster Rock. Just outside that community, a wheel broke off the train and it went off the rails. A guy who used to work in Montreal said that if there had been a team checking every wheel, the broken wheel would have been found. That wheel did not break off in Edmundston and then the train went off the rails in Plaster Rock. That wheel was damaged already. If the government had not taken away the inspectors' jobs and they had been there to supervise what was happening, that never would have happened. It is lucky that no lives were lost in Plaster Rock.
It is terrible that lives were lost in Lac-Mégantic. It is about more than money. It is dangerous that the government is not putting mechanisms in place not just to protect the fish, but to protect the people, the human beings, of this country. That is where the responsibility lies. This bill does not go far enough. New Democrats are asking the government to protect Canadians and the other industries.
Ms. Christine Moore (Abitibi—Témiscamingue, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise here to deliver my first speech since the summer break, following a busy summer that was full of ups and downs. I am on my feet, ready to respond to the government and hold it to account.
Bill C-3 has to do with marine safety and aviation safety. Once again, there is a discrepancy between the bill's objective and what it actually does. We already debated Bill C-3 in another form before prorogation. At the time, it was Bill C-57, which was referred to committee. The NDP proposed some amendments, which were all rejected. The NDP also asked the government to expand the scope of the bill, which the government also refused to do.
This attitude is really unfortunate. When we are dealing with topics as broad as aviation safety and marine safety, they are often very complex and require the testimony of expert witnesses. Logically, then, if we are opening up such a debate, we need to try to go over the entire subject and take the opportunity to discuss all the appropriate aspects of marine and aviation safety in order to avoid having to constantly come back to such a technical subject. Basically, it is a little like spring cleaning at home—we have to look inside every nook and cranny. We cannot simply choose the parts that interest us. This is the logical way to go about it, but unfortunately, the government refuses to apply this logic. It does not agree that as long as we are discussing such complex issues, we should explore them fully and completely.
As I said, one thing we wanted was to expand the scope of the bill, in order to discuss in particular the closure of the marine rescue centres and the negative impact of some legislation on environmental protections, specifically for coastal environments. All of these subjects were directly related to the bill's objective. Unfortunately, the Conservatives refused to do so.
Bill C-3 also proposes to amend the Marine Liability Act. It also seeks to implement the International Convention on Liability and Compensation for Damage in Connection with the Carriage of Hazardous and Noxious Substances by Sea, 2010. Canada has been a signatory to this very important convention since 2010, and only today are we seeing a bill seeking to implement it. The convention defines the liability of vessel owners for costs incurred when oil or other similar materials are spilled.
It is very important to highlight and clarify the liability of companies and vessel owners when such a spill occurs and when damage is caused. If oil or other noxious and hazardous substances are spilled, Canadian taxpayers should not have to cover the cleanup and damage costs.
The limited liability of private businesses is a recurring problem from one bill to the next. We saw this in Bill C-22. The real costs and inflation over time are not being considered, and there may be a considerable burden on Canadians. As New Democrats, we believe in the polluter pays principle, unlike the Liberals and Conservatives, who constantly fob off the true environmental, social and economic costs onto current and future Canadian taxpayers.
As the deputy critic for natural resources and energy, I believe it is extremely important to understand that proper natural resource development requires a constant and appropriate legal framework.
When development in certain industries is not subject to a legal framework, investors tend to flee. Also, let us not forget that, to be developed, this natural resource must be transported. However, if the transportation framework is flawed, the industry can become unstable.
Therefore, we must protect our natural resource development as well as the economic potential of that development. To attract investment, this activity must have an adequate legal framework. People will want to invest in Canada if they know that safety measures are in place to reduce incidents, particularly during transportation.
Canada signed the International Convention on Liability and Compensation for Damage in Connection with the Carriage of Hazardous and Noxious Substances by Sea, 2010. Yes, it is a 2010 convention.
In the fall of 2012, quite recently, two large transport vessels ran aground on the west coast because of the marine traffic. Today, we are under the impression that, with this bill, the Conservative government is trying to apologize for its inaction over the last few years.
The government may have wanted to show goodwill when it signed the international convention in 2010, but years have passed. There have been disasters since then and oil spills on the west coast. We are only now debating this bill at third reading. It took a long time.
Throughout the various stages of the bill, many members have pointed out the government's failings when it comes to safety. Shutting down marine safety programs and cutting budgets is certainly no way to promote safety. The Conservative cuts are being felt even in our air force.
Recently, the Canadian air force had to resort to stealing parts from search and rescue aircraft kept in museums to keep its planes going. We will not even mention the Liberals' recycled submarines. Obviously, things are not any better on that side.
Part II of the bill amends the Aeronautics Act to give the Airworthiness Investigative Authority powers to investigate aviation accidents or incidents involving civilians and aircraft or aeronautical installations operated by or on behalf of the Department of National Defence, the Canadian Forces or a visiting force.
In other words, instead of letting the Transportation Safety Board of Canada investigate when a military aircraft is involved, the investigation could be done by an authority under the Department of National Defence, which is therefore not required to release its report, as is the case for the Transportation Safety Board of Canada.
A witness from the armed forces told us that some reports and secrets are not made public for security reasons. However, when we hear that the armed forces consider a secret the number of soldiers taking drugs for erectile dysfunction, we realize that we might not agree on what should be secret in the armed forces.
Many flights pass through my region of Abitibi-Témiscamingue, including military planes that fly over the northern part. The consequences of one accident could help us avoid other accidents with civilian aircraft, but unfortunately, since this information is sent to National Defence and the report is not made public, other avoidable accidents can occur. I find it unfortunate that the government's decision is to favour this new way of doing things.
Ms. Francine Raynault (Joliette, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech.
There have been 10,000 accidental oil spills since 1970. That is not nothing. We cannot say there have been 1,000, which would still be too many.
I would like to know what my colleague thinks of the famous double-hull tankers, which do not seem to be protecting our oceans, our seas or nature in general.
Ms. Christine Moore:
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Joliette for her question.
Double-hull tankers are not indestructible. Accidents and spills can happen with these boats as well. They are not the miracle solution. In any event, since 1993, in accordance with a convention, Canada is obliged to use double-hull boats and there are still spills.
As far as marine safety is concerned, it is not just the design of the boat that affects the number of spills. Marine safety laws and their enforcement play a role too. When governments, like the Conservative government, are lax with marine safety, then Canada's oil industry is affected and pays the price. If we want sustainable development of our resources, then we must have appropriate safety measures in place in order for Canadians to trust an industry.
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux (Winnipeg North, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the member could provide some comment with regard to the issue of liability insurance on the first aspect of the legislation, which deals with aviation industry participants. There is a great deal of concern that it was necessary for the government to get directly involved. This stems back from 9/11, where acts of war and so forth may see a plane go down. It deals with that in part.
I wonder if there is a position that the NDP is taking on that particular issue.
Ms. Christine Moore:
Mr. Speaker, I will draw an analogy with the current Ebola crisis.
A number of airlines have cancelled flights that fly over the affected area, which has adverse consequences for the people there. Humanitarian workers are having a hard time getting there.
In a conflict situation, if airlines stop flying to certain regions for insurance purposes, humanitarian aid might be compromised, as it may no longer be able to get there. It might take considerably longer for aid to get there when humanitarian workers have to land in countries that are much further away and travel the rest of the route by land.
Providing compensation to the airlines might help keep certain flights to risk areas so that the people can continue to benefit from the humanitarian help they need. Nonetheless, even if the government committed to getting involved in the insurance aspect of things, there is no guarantee that the airlines will maintain their flights. We will have to see if this really has an impact and whether the airlines will agree to maintain these flights as a result of the government's commitment.
Ms. Francine Raynault (Joliette, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I will have the honour of sharing my time with my colleague from British Columbia Southern Interior.
As we know, the government recently authorized an increase in oil shipping on the St. Lawrence River, including the building of special port facilities in Sorel.
Even though Joliette is not right on the river, which is in the riding of my colleague from Berthier—Maskinongé, everyone in Lanaudière has a special place in their hearts for the river there.
In fact, many of my constituents spend time there every weekend cycling, fishing, boating or simply hiking the many kilometres of trails.
At the mouth of Lake Saint-Pierre, between Sorel and Berthierville, the Berthier Islands form an archipelago of 103 islands with magnificent mangroves and flood plains that provide a habitat for many rare animal species, such as silver fox and salamanders. In the spring, one can admire the splendour of the area while driving on highway 40.
History is also very much present in the region, which was the site of diplomatic meetings held by Champlain with the aboriginal people, and the mouth of the Richelieu River nearby saw a lot of action during the Iroquois wars.
In addition, writer Germaine Guèvrement found inspiration in the archipelago, which became the backdrop for Le Survenant, a novel she wrote in 1945.
In that sense, the announced increase in tanker traffic got me thinking, and I am saddened that the government did not see fit to include in Bill C-3 the NDP's proposed clauses regarding tanker traffic.
I wanted to make that point before talking a little more about the actual bill. I really wish we had taken the opportunity to better protect an area that is so important to my region.
The Berthier Islands are an area that I know well, that I frequent and that are part of the identity of the Lanaudière region. I am convinced that, across Canada, people who live close to potentially polluting projects have similar fears.
That is why I am glad Bill C-3 implements the International Convention on Liability and Compensation for Damage in Connection with the Carriage of Hazardous and Noxious Substances by Sea, 2010.
If the Conservatives truly supported marine and aviation safety as they claim to, they would have accepted our suggestion to widen the scope of the bill.
We in the NDP do not believe that Canadian taxpayers should have to pay the difference when the cleanup cost in the wake of a spill of hazardous and noxious substances is higher than $500 million.
The NDP is committed to ensuring that oil spills never occur. The Conservative record is the exact opposite: they closed the British Columbia oil spill response centre, shut down the Kitsilano Coast Guard Station and gutted environmental emergency response programs.
As I said earlier, this bill does include some positive aspects, which is why I am not opposed to it. One of those aspects is the required pilotage and increased surveillance, which will reduce the risk of accidents.
However, that is not enough. The drastic cuts to oil transportation safety in last year's budget speak volumes.
The Conservatives say that these cuts are simply trimming the fat, but if they trim too much, the animal will end up dead. This is not liposuction, this is a flesh-eating disease.
The scaling back of the Coast Guard's rescue capacity and facilities has affected the entire country.
In Quebec, public pressure and the work of the NDP saved the Quebec City marine rescue sub-centre, which responds to 1,500 calls a day. That is not insignificant, 1,500 calls a day. This announced closure endangered the lives of francophone sailors and demonstrates the Conservatives' complete disregard for marine safety, science and public health.
The NDP requested that the scope of Bill C-3 be broadened to reverse the cutbacks to our national Coast Guard response capacity.
In addition, this bill grants the military the investigatory powers that were traditionally reserved for the Transportation Safety Board. In the event of an aviation accident involving the military, the Minister of National Defence is the only one who will be notified of the outcome of the investigation. It will not be made public.
We have long known that the Conservatives are afraid of transparency. During the last election campaign, they refused to answer more than five questions a day, in order to direct the journalists' work. The government they formed is not much different. They have extended the notion of cabinet secrecy to nearly everything and now they want to hide the results of investigations involving the military. That is unacceptable. It is like something out of an episode of The X-Files.
In general, Bill C-3 seems to focus on the administrative side instead of seriously addressing the risk that marine activities involving oil or hazardous materials pose to the environment.
A number of environmental NGOs have highlighted the inadequacy of Canada's safety measures with respect to oil tanker traffic. Why did the government not seize this opportunity with Bill C-3? It could have done much more. In addition to meaningfully enhancing safety with respect to accountability, the government could have made sure that Canadians do not end up with a hefty bill when a spill happens. That is the least it could have done.
We saw what happened in Lac-Mégantic. Deregulation and the government's complicit negligence made it possible for a foreign company to destroy everything for financial gain. It goes without saying that companies will always look to maximize their profits, since that is why they exist.
A responsible government's role is to set parameters, for example, by ensuring that a crisis can be avoided, and that if one does happen we can seek compensation. Was MMA able to compensate the people of Lac-Mégantic? Not at all. The company's obscure insurer, registered abroad, was not in a position to pay.
This situation could happen again, and, quite frankly, Bill C-3 would have been nice, so I could tour around the Berthier Islands without worrying about ending up in a wasteland.
That said, I will vote in favour of this bill, since I think it is a step in the right direction. However, it is a self-serving step that was meant to placate opposition to the projects supported by this government, such as the northern gateway project. It is, nevertheless, a step forward.
I wanted to take this opportunity to talk about the risks we are facing and that we will continue to face as long as we do not adopt an approach that is environmentally responsible.
Ms. Hélène LeBlanc (LaSalle—Émard, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Joliette for the tour of her region. She told us about the beautiful vistas in the riding that borders Lake Saint-Pierre and the St. Lawrence River. My riding also borders the St. Lawrence River and this natural waterway is of unquestionable economic importance for all of Quebec and Canada, not just because of the St. Lawrence Seaway, but also because it is a tourist attraction for all Canadians.
My colleague did a good job of explaining the importance of intelligent regulation and having inspectors on land and water to protect the Canadian public. I would like her to elaborate on that and reaffirm the importance of intelligent regulation.
Ms. Francine Raynault:
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.
It is true that if she ever has the opportunity to visit the Berthier Islands in the spring, or at any time of the year, she will see that it is truly magnificent. There is such a natural diversity of animals, flowers, trees and many other things. It is truly beautiful and it absolutely must be protected by laws that are tougher than the ones we have now. We also need inspectors on land and water across Canada. It is important to have them because we would know the extent of spills and which vessels spill oil while heading to Quebec City, Montreal or elsewhere along the St. Lawrence. This river is a navigable waterway that has always crossed Quebec.
I agree with my colleague. We absolutely must have tougher laws to ensure that those who spoil nature pay the cost of cleaning up. These are not penniless companies. In principle, they are there to make money. Thus, if they do not maintain their vessels so that they protect the population and nature, I believe that they must pay for the damage.
Mr. Jean Rousseau (Compton—Stanstead, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I would like my colleague's opinion on something.
She said that for all kinds of reasons, it is important to protect Canada's natural environment, its ecosystem, and other such things.
I would like to once more bring up the oil spills that have happened in the past, including the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska and the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which caused a great deal of collateral damage. The costs are not in the hundreds of millions, but the billions of dollars. There is an economic cost as well, at the local level, including to tourism and fishing.
Why, then, is it important to protect these areas and ensure that under the bill, some liability lies with the carriers and the oil companies?
Ms. Francine Raynault:
I thank my colleague for the question, Mr. Speaker.
Environmental protection should indeed be the responsibility of oil carriers. I am a native of Quebec, and the St. Lawrence River is my environment, as it is for thousands of others. It is also the environment of tanker operators and all of those people. If they pollute, perhaps we should make them understand that they should take the necessary precautions to prevent their ships from sinking.
I believe that the only way to protect the environment is through strict regulation. Our lives as human beings depend on it, but the lives of the fauna in the river, the Atlantic and the Pacific also hang in the balance.
As people, as human beings and as MPs, we cannot tolerate any tanker pollution.
Mr. Alex Atamanenko (British Columbia Southern Interior, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, as MPs we are often asked to say a few words on a bill that perhaps we are not really familiar with, because it may not be our domain. As usual, I looked at the talking points, which we all get, to try to find out what is relevant. I tried to pick out things that I think I can explain in 10 minutes, things that are relevant. Obviously they have been repeated over and over again, but they are part of the message because we feel they are important.
The first thing that stands out when I look at these notes is that I have learned that we have proposed reasonable amendments to prevent Canadian taxpayers from being on the hook for cleanup costs and damages following a spill of hazardous and noxious substances as well as to ensure transparency regarding investigative reports on aviation accidents or incidents involving civilians in the military.
Then I noticed that none of these amendments have been accepted.
I recall being on the agriculture committee a few months ago when we were debating the food safety act. I think that between our party and the Liberals, we had proposed 20-some amendments, not to throw the bill away but to improve it. In other words, we agreed with the bill and we were just saying that we had some interesting information that would strengthen it. Lo and behold, all of these amendments were rejected. I am learning here that this is the same thing that has happened to the bill before us.
Obviously the bill has some good points and we will nevertheless support it. However, I have talked to colleagues in this House, with the hon. member for Malpeque as well as with colleagues in my party, and when previous parties were in power, there seemed to have been more of an openness in accepting amendments, whether the government happened to be Liberal or Conservative. This kind of open, collaborative attitude somehow seems to have been thrown aside by the current government. It is my hope that any future government we have will restore this kind of collaborative spirit.
Those are some initial comments I have after looking through my notes.
The NDP believes that Canadian taxpayers should never have to pay for the cleanup and damages following a spill of noxious and hazardous substances. However, as I just mentioned, the Conservatives refused reasonable amendments that could have prevented Canadian taxpayers from being on the hook for damages over $500 million. We are also committed to preventing all oil spills on our coasts. Unfortunately, it is more and more difficult to believe that the Conservatives take Canadians' concerns seriously when we look at their record. They closed the spill centre in British Columbia and the Coast Guard station in Kitsilano, and they gutted the environmental emergency response program.
Obviously, this bill contains some positive measures. That is why I said that we would support it.
Also, the scaling back of Coast Guard rescue capacity and facilities has been felt not only in British Columbia. The Conservative government is threatening to close facilities across Canada, including those in eastern Canada.
This government's plan to close the marine search and rescue centre in Quebec City endangers the lives of French-speaking mariners.
This is yet another example of this government's systematic contempt for marine safety, science and public health.
We have seen, for example, that in the fall of 2012 two major shipping vessels ran aground on the west coast with current levels of traffic. We are expecting, with this increase in traffic, especially with supertankers, that this is going to be even more dangerous. I submit that this is a time to have more stringent environmental controls.
The bill has many different parts. Part 4 would amend the Marine Liability Act. A ship owner's liability is limited to approximately $230 million. It talks about damages in excess of the ship owner's liability to be paid by an international fund up to a maximum of $500 million. Unfortunately, this is for oil spills only. In our proposed amendments we wanted toxic substances to be included; however, this was not the case. We suggested that there be an availability for the ship-source oil pollution fund to be increased so that the money from this fund could go to pay for this pollution, rather than taxpayers. Apparently that fund has not been augmented for many years.
Some of the things we would have liked to have as part of the bill are the reversal of the Coast Guard closures and scaling back of services that we have seen, and the cancelling of cuts to the maritime communication traffic services centre and closure of B.C.'s regional offices for emergency spills. We could go on and on. These negative aspects have been mentioned throughout the debate today.
I want to mention that we need to not only strengthen our ability to react to spills but ensure that the spills do not happen. One way of ensuring that spills would not happen is to ensure we have a complete ban on tanker traffic, for example, on the west coast. When I was in northern British Columbia, I learned that if there is an oil spill and we recuperate 30% of that oil spill, that is considered excellent. If we recuperate 7% of raw bitumen, which the proposed Enbridge pipeline would bring through, that is considered excellent.
It is a no-brainer. As we look to strengthening laws to protect our environment, one of the fundamental things we should be doing is ensuring that there is no tanker traffic in those areas where there is a danger of spill. Of course with the Enbridge pipeline, the consequences of going through that strait with the waves, people have told us would be devastating, if there were ever a spill in northern British Columbia, as on all coasts.
I will close with a quotation from Mr. John O'Connor, president of the Canadian Maritime Law Association, who said:
||...we believe the ship-source oil pollution fund should be involved in [hazardous and noxious substances] at large and not be limited just to oil.... [The ship-source oil pollution fund] is an additional layer of protection. It's not unlimited liability, but it's an additional amount of funding that is available should there be a mishap.
|| We believe that [the ship-source oil pollution fund] should become Canada's additional protection, not only when oil is involved, but when any HNS cargo is involved.
Hon. Wayne Easter (Malpeque, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, I had the opportunity for quite a few years to work with the member for British Columbia Southern Interior in committee. He is a good member. When he says something, he states it sincerely.
My colleague opened his remarks by talking about the committee. I have sat on a number of committees, and amendments are not considered by the government side. They never have been in this Parliament, and we can look at committee after committee. When we get into recommendations at committee now, they are not even straightforward recommendations. Somebody on the government side always adds the words “continue to” or whatever.
The member put his finger on the fact that, in this Parliament, committees are seriously broken. Public safety committee has not even met this week, when people are returning radicalized from fighting in foreign countries. I have a motion to go to committee, and I cannot even get it before the committee because committees are not meeting. We all love to talk about the Senate, but I see its committees are meeting this week and they are doing decent work.
I recall one time when I chaired the fisheries committee and we had 32 motions, 11 of them from government members and the rest from opposition. All of them were debated in public. All but one carried. All of them were critical of government. That is what the place is supposed to do. It is supposed to hold the government accountable.
I am not really on topic, but the most serious aspect that the member mentioned is not some of the conditions of the bill, but it is the fact that all of us together as Parliament cannot work properly at committees because the government will not allow it. The Conservatives are the majority and they are responsible for good amendments from the NDP or backbench members not being accepted.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bruce Stanton):
I would probably say that the member for Malpeque's question perhaps was not on point. I do recognize, though, that the member for British Columbia Southern Interior did make some comments in that regard, so it is certainly in order.
The hon. member for British Columbia Southern Interior.
Mr. Alex Atamanenko:
Mr. Speaker, the member's question may not have been on point, but it is pertinent to what has been going on here.
I have sat with that member on agriculture committee before. We used to have minority Parliaments. We used to have give and take, debates, amendments, acceptance, rejection. That does not seem to be the case now.
As I said earlier, I hope that at some point in time with a future government we will have a spirit of co-operation. It did not always exist in the past, but it has existed, as my colleague mentioned. I hope we will get back to that spirit of collaboration so that when we have legislation we can say it is our legislation, that we helped to construct it, and this is what we are doing.
Ms. Hélène LeBlanc (LaSalle—Émard, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech and his wise comments. I thank him also for continuing to share his experience with his colleagues in the official opposition caucus.
I would like to hear him say a few more words about the situation on the west coast. The province of British Columbia is a jewel in Canada's crown because of its landscape and other assets. Would my colleague tell us about marine traffic along the west coast and the dangers it poses?
Mr. Alex Atamanenko:
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.
First, I must say that I have visited that region. My colleagues and I went there two years ago at the invitation of our friend and colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley, who wanted us to see exactly what was happening and what it was all about. We were able to talk to many members of the first nations and other people. The vast majority of the residents do not want any pipelines or any marine traffic along the coast, near their homes. The fishing and tourism industries are at risk.
This is not a mere supposition: one of these days, oil will indeed be spilled if tankers are allowed to travel along the coast.
Mr. Jamie Nicholls (Vaudreuil—Soulanges, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I would like to start today, in discussing this bill, by telling where this legislation has actually come from.
It was about 44 years ago that the Canada Shipping Act was amended, and after those 44 years of successive Liberal and Conservative governments, Canadians are still being inadequately protected and the job has not yet been done to protect them. I will go into the catalyst for the changes to the Canada Shipping Act and how we arrived here today.
In 1970, there was a Liberian tanker called the Arrow that ran aground in Chedabucto Bay, Nova Scotia. It was in February 1970, and there were 82,000 barrels of bunker C oil that spilled into Chedabucto Bay. That is about 2.5 million gallons. At the time it was imperial and now we are in metric, but what I read was the imperial measurements. There were 300 kilometres of pristine coastline affected, and that was out of 600 kilometres of coastline.
When that spill happened, the effect was that taxpayers footed the bill. There was not anything there to protect the taxpayers. There was not a polluter pays principle, so the citizens of Nova Scotia paid the bill. The Liberal government of the time, Pierre Trudeau's government, only managed to clean 48 kilometres of the shoreline out of the 300 kilometres that were affected. This was the catalyst for changes to the Canada Shipping Act.
At the time, an idea floated around of establishing unlimited liability when spills happened. The NDP at the time presented that to the Liberal government of the time. The minister came back and said that the oil and shipping lobby could not accept those regulations, that it would make their ships uninsurable. In those respects, the Liberals said they were not going to implement unlimited liability, but in its place they would establish a fund, and that fund would be paid by oil companies and shipping companies. That is how we came up with the ship-sourced oil pollution fund that started to collect levies in 1972.
I want to point out, for members in the House, that from 1972 to 1974 there was a Liberal minority government that was propped up by someone called David Lewis, the leader of the NDP, so it was the Lewis–Trudeau years from 1972 to 1974. During the period of 1972 to 1976, levies were collected. However, when the Liberals got back into majority territory, they stopped looking at whether levies were being contributed to the fund. Now we are in 2014, and since 1976 no funds have been put into the SSOPF by oil companies or by shipping companies.
People who were around at that time will remember that David Lewis urged Canadians to kick out corporate welfare bums, yet here we are in 2014 and the corporate welfare bums are still at the top of the wave, getting their favours done by Conservative and Liberal administrations repeatedly.
We were asking for unlimited liability at the time, and we were willing to look at this fund and we were probably content with it. However, if they do not put money into the fund, it does not work and the taxpayer still foots the bill. Here we are in 2014, and we still do not have a polluter pays model because of successive Liberal and Conservative governments not being willing to do it.
The second thing we were asking for at the time was a contingency plan. As I said, out of those 300 kilometres that were affected in Chedabucto Bay, only 48 kilometres were cleaned up. In 2001, I read a report that said the oil was still there. They could still detect the oil in Chedabucto Bay. The author of that report said:
|| The Arrow spill completely altered the lives of the people around the affected areas; the beaches could not be used for pleasure for fear of contamination. This means the children could not swim because of the high concentration of oil, and repeated proposals were submitted to government to build a community swimming pool, but they were all rejected. Understandably, the residents of the affected areas demanded answers, and more importantly compensation for the tragedy that had ruined their pristine environment. The environment was deeply affected and it also rippled through the area's economy causing financial consequences; some absorbed by the fisherman, government agencies or local businessmen.
Here we are in 2014. The catalyst for this was in 1970. The NDP is still here asking for the same things that it was asking for in 1970, because the job has not been done.
In 2015, with an NDP government, we will do the job. The job will be done, and finally Canadians will be adequately protected.
Ms. Hélène LeBlanc (LaSalle—Émard, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague. I also appreciate the history lesson to remind us how things were done several decades ago. That was not so long ago. He also explained how there used to be mechanisms in place that were like what we would now call a polluter pays system and how that system could be implemented at little cost to taxpayers.
I would like the member to clarify what he just told us and explain why this is even more important in 2014, given the increase in transportation of all kinds of goods. We have to have a mechanism to ensure fair compensation in case of a spill. I would also like him to tell us why we absolutely have to have protective measures in place to prevent this kind of accident.
Mr. Jamie Nicholls:
Mr. Speaker, as I said, when the fund was set up in 1972, the NDP was for it. The idea was for companies to contribute to the fund so that Canadians would not have to cover the cost of a spill. A little later, in 1976, contributions to the fund ceased. Neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives continued to contribute to the fund to protect Canadians from spills.
In recent years, the Conservative government has made significant cuts to the Coast Guard in many places in British Columbia. There is no longer the same level of protection that existed from 1972 to 1974.
It is clear that, without government will to protect Canadians, we cannot move ahead with protective measures. We really need a progressive government that will make protecting Canadians a priority over protecting friends in the oil industry or the shipping industry. We really need a government that will implement the polluter pays principle. That is something the government could do to really protect Canadians.
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux (Winnipeg North, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, I am wondering if the member could provide a response with regard to the whole issue of the aviation industry. The first part of the legislation deals with liability insurance for the aviation industry in the belief that there are situations in which a plane might go down because of a terrorist attack or something of that nature. The idea is that the government needs to do something to protect the industry.
What are the member's thoughts with regard to that aspect of the legislation?
Mr. Jamie Nicholls:
Mr. Speaker, when I was deputy critic of transport, a group of inspection agents visited my office and told me how the SMS systems that had been implemented by the Liberals and Conservatives were not properly protecting Canadians against air disasters. The deregulation of successive Liberal and Conservative governments has hurt aviation safety. The bill is a step in a good direction, but it must go much further.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bruce Stanton):
Is the House ready for the question?
Some hon. members: Question.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bruce Stanton): The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
(Motion agreed to, bill read the third time and passed)
Mr. Royal Galipeau:
Mr. Speaker, in view of the agreeable nature of the House, I wonder if you might want to seek unanimous consent to see the clock at 5:38 p.m.?
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bruce Stanton):
Is that agreed?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC):
Mr. Speaker of the Senate, Mr. Speaker of the House, hon. senators and members, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
It is our great pleasure to welcome to Canada, to welcome to our Parliament today, the President of the Ukraine and his wife, Petro and Maryna Poroshenko.
Thank you, Mr. President, for briefly leaving your country to participate in this joint sitting of our Parliament. We know that this is a crucial time for you and for Ukraine, and we greatly appreciate your presence here.
Mr. President, you will recall that in June I was in your parliament to witness you take the oath of office to “protect the sovereignty and independence of Ukraine”. I went to Kiev representing not only the Government of Canada, not only the 1.2 million Canadians of Ukrainian descent. I went to Kiev representing all Canadians from all regions, all walks of life, and all parties represented in this Parliament to demonstrate our unwavering support for your nation's democratic future and for the independence of the Ukrainian people.
Mr. President, little time has passed since June, but in those four months, your country and our world have changed.
Mr. Putin's soldiers and their proxies have expanded their penetration into Ukrainian territory. More members of Ukraine's armed forces have been obliged to make the ultimate sacrifice. The world has witnessed the attack on flight MH17, a deplorable crime that took the lives of so many innocent people, including one Canadian.
Mr. President, what I told you in June has not changed.
Regardless of the challenges the future may hold, no matter what those who threaten the freedom of Ukraine do, Ukraine will never be alone because Ukraine can count on Canada.
This commitment is almost as old as our country. It began in the late 19th century with the arrival in our west of tens of thousands of Ukrainian settlers, fleeing tyranny and poverty there to help build a free and prosperous society here but never surrendering the dream that their homeland would one day also share that freedom and prosperity.
It was expressed in the 1960s by Prime Minister Diefenbaker in his demand that Khrushchev grant open elections to “freedom-loving Ukrainians”.
This friendship was evident once again at the end of the Cold War when Prime Minister Mulroney made Canada the first western country to recognize the newly independent Ukraine.
It was forcefully displayed again in this Parliament in 2008 when, led by our colleague James Bezan, we declared the Holodomor what it was: an act of genocide against the Ukrainian people.
Canadians have now served proudly as observers for seven successive Ukrainian elections and just last week I announced that when the Ukrainian people once again go to the polls exercising their hard-won democratic rights on October 26, Canadians will again be there in force.
We are working with our allies to help Ukraine in other ways.
We have, in large measure, terminated our engagement with Mr. Putin's regime, suspending his Russia from the G7 and working to isolate it diplomatically.
We have enacted tough sanctions on business interests tied to Russia's illegal occupation of Ukrainian territory. Just yesterday, Minister Baird announced additional measures.
We have delivered protective equipment and medical and logistical equipment to help the brave Ukrainian soldiers defend their country and their families.
We are providing significant financial assistance. Canada is also giving humanitarian aid to help Ukrainians affected by the conflict, including additional funds announced today.
We have also deployed the Canadian Armed Forces, as part of the reassurance mission, to our NATO allies in Eastern Europe, and we have been unequivocal, Mr. President, in our support for the peace plan that you have been pursuing for the Ukrainian people.
At the same time, let us be clear. Canada recognizes the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, all of Ukraine. Whether it takes five months or 50 years to liberate it, we will never, ever recognize the illegal Russian occupation of any Ukrainian territory.
You yourself said that there can be no compromise. Canada will stand firm and will continue to condemn Mr. Putin's lack of respect for the law. Together with our allies, we will continue to stand up to Russian aggression.
Mr. President, in your inaugural address last June, you said, and I quote, “Nobody will turn Ukrainians into the slaves of criminals...or the servants of a colonial power. The world”, you said, “supports us”.
Mr. President, the free and democratic countries of the world support you.
We cannot let Mr. Putin's dark and dangerous actions stand, for they have global security implications, and because, as I have said before, for Canadians, with our deep connections to the Ukrainian people, this is not to us just a matter of international law or political principle; this is a matter of kinship, this is a matter of family, this is personal, and we will stand by you.
Mr. President, generations of Ukrainian patriots did not fight for freedom in vain.
The Ukrainian people have the right, like all free countries, to seek their own future, to seek a European future of hope, and to never return to the darkness of a Soviet past.
The Ukrainian people rightfully want what we in the west enjoy: freedom, democracy, justice and prosperity.
Mr. President, freedom, democracy, justice, prosperity—these are not mere words. They are the very foundation of our country, and they are the values that Canada champions around the world, not out of selfish ambition but because Canadians have always desired these things for all peoples.
When we help other peoples preserve their freedom, we are also protecting our own.
Let me close, Mr. President, by commending you for showing leadership and courage and careful judgment in the face of ruthless and relentless intimidation and for tirelessly pursuing peace, independence, and security for your people. Know that whatever lies ahead, Canada and Ukraine will continue to move forward together, confident that our shared dreams and aspirations are right, just, and good.
I told you you would feel at home here.
Mesdames et messieurs, ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming a true friend of Canada, le président de l'Ukraine, the President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko.
H.E. Petro Poroshenko (President of Ukraine):
It is very hard to give a speech in such an atmosphere, believe me. I have never felt anything like this.
Mr. Prime Minister, Speaker Kinsella, Speaker Scheer, hon. members of the Senate and the House of Commons, hon. members of the diplomatic community, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, dorohi druzi. It is a deeply felt honour to address this distinguished legislative body.
I must thank you, Mr. Prime Minister, for inviting me to come to Canada, and Speaker Kinsella and Speaker Scheer, for giving me such an outstanding opportunity to address the Canadian Parliament. I see this as a tribute to my country and the Ukrainian people and an expression of the unique, distinctive partnership that both of our nations enjoy.
It is a great honour for me to address the Parliament of Canada.
Let me also, just once, use the third official language of Canada: Ukrainian.
[The President spoke in Ukrainian, interpreted as follows:]
Thank you for this great honour, dear friends, dear compatriots, and dear Ukrainian community.
To be frank with you, I feel very much at home with you here today in a country that is very close to Ukraine, not in distance but through our hearts and through common ideas.
Indeed, Canada has become home for so many Ukrainian descendants of early Ukrainian settlers who came here more than a century ago. In 1892, a century before Canada was the first to recognize Ukraine's independence, the first Ukrainian immigrants, Ivan Pylypiw and Vasyl Eleniak, arrived. They launched further Ukrainian immigration to the Pacific coast and across the woods and prairies of Canada.
The Ukrainian community has easily integrated into Canadian society. It built railways and towns, schools and churches, heroically fought against the Nazis during World War II, and contributed to the Canadian economy and culture. Later, the sons and daughters of farmers became prominent members of Canadian society: businessmen, artists, scientists, athletes, and politicians. One of them, Ramon Hnatyshyn, became a governor general of Canada. We always remember his name.
The list is long and impressive: the premiers of Saskatchewan and Manitoba, Roy Romanow and Gary Filmon; Senators Raynell Andreychuk and David Tkachuk; James Bezan; William Kurelek; hockey superstars, Terry Sawchuk and Wayne Gretzky; and also a female astronaut, Dr. Roberta Bondar.
We have high praise for the great Ukrainian Canadian sculptor Leo Mol, who crafted one of the best Taras Shevchenko monuments in the world, in Washington, D.C. We always remember that. If I continue with the list, we will run out of time in this session, believe me.
Today, the Ukrainian Canadian community has over a million people. It is strong, and now it has been demonstrated that it is consolidated. It has preserved the language of its homeland and its faith and traditions. Ukraine has always felt proud of Ukrainian Canadians and grateful for their lasting support.
[The President spoke in Ukrainian, interpreted as follows:]
On behalf of the Ukrainian people, I would like to thank you, dear brothers and sisters, for your help to Ukraine.
However, it is not only history that bonds us; it is also shared values that make Canada and Ukraine integral parts of a global family of democracies.
Today Ukraine pays a very high price for defending what we believe in: democracy and the freedom to choose our own future. For more than two decades we proudly stated that Ukraine gained its independence without shedding a single drop of blood. Now that is no longer true. Now we are engaged in a true battle for our independence. Now we are paying the real price.
Today Ukraine is bleeding for its independence and territorial integrity. The Governor General of Canada, Ramon Hnatyshyn, in his speech at the Ukrainian Parliament in 1992, just one year after Ukrainian independence, stated that we must not forget the suffering that we are witnessing. That day he spoke to brave Ukrainian and Canadian soldiers who kept the peace across the world in zones of conflict and unrest. These words remain true now as never before.
Today thousands of brave Ukrainian men and women are sacrificing their lives for the right to live the way they choose, on their land, under the blue and gold colours of the Ukrainian flag, colours that are so dear to many Canadian Ukrainians. In these dark days, we feel your strong support. Thank you very much for that.
It is in our time of need that we see our friends, and there is no other way to put it: Canada is a friend indeed.
As a commander-in-chief, as a Ukrainian, and as a father of a soldier, I thank Canada for each life that is being saved today in the Ukrainian Donbass by the helmets and bulletproof vests you gave us.
Once again I thank you, Mr. Prime Minister, and your government and opposition. I thank the Canadian parliamentarians and senators, all Canadians, and fellow Ukrainians for standing tall and making your voices heard; for helping financially with technical assistance and non-lethal military aid; and for supporting us in international fora such as the UN, NATO, and the G7. This is very valuable for us.
I would like to use this great opportunity to thank all Canadian parliamentarians for their continued support of Ukraine and especially for the emergency debate in the House of Commons during the critical period of the Maidan revolution of human dignity. We heard your voice, and this voice was very important for us. Our great achievement and our victory happened because of your support.
Thank you very much indeed for the work of the House of Commons foreign affairs committee on Ukraine and for the election observation mission, which helped to ensure that the will of the Ukrainian people was respected. You sent 500 observers, the biggest mission ever to come to a presidential election to confirm that it was true, free, and fair. It helped us to establish a new authority in Ukraine. Thank you.
We are waiting for your October 26 mission on the parliamentary election because we are determined to demonstrate that this election will also be free and fair.
Thank you for the many visits by parliamentarians and ministers, and for your visit, Mr. Prime Minister, at the inaugural ceremony. In the same way that Canada recognized our independence, you recognized the results of the presidential election. That was crucially important for us. In difficult times, you are always with us.
Also, I want to thank the Minister of Foreign Affairs, John Baird, for his support of Ukraine, especially during the Maidan.
I have a long list of thanks, believe me. With all my heart, thank you very much. We really feel the strong support of Canadians, not only in difficult times but also I am sure when we have peace and we stop the war through the integrated and coordinated efforts of all the nations of the world. Canada can help us to keep the world united and Canada can help us to demonstrate to the whole world its strong solidarity with Ukraine. Thank you very much, Canada.
Without this support provided by the Government of Canada, by all parliamentarians, and by the Ukrainian Canadian community under the leadership of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, it would be much harder for Ukraine to face the challenges of today. No other leaders or nations, I mean no one, with the possible exception of Poland, was so straightforward and earnest in sending a signal across the world to the Russians and the rest of the world that fighting a nation that is trying to chart its own path is just conceptually wrong, as is arming rebels with advanced anti-aircraft missiles, providing them with operators, intelligence, and in-flight data.
Those who were equipped, trained and financed by Russia executed a terror attack by shooting down flight MH17, killing 298 innocent lives from the Netherlands, Malaysia, Australia, and many other nations, including Canadian citizen Andrei Anghel. I think that the war in eastern Ukraine is a war against terror, our common war. I have no doubt of that.
With your support and with the support of the global community, we will win this struggle and fulfill the dreams of many Ukrainians in our homeland and across the world. Ukraine will be strong and independent and, very important, a European nation.
Yesterday was one of the most important days in the history of Ukraine. The Verkhovna Rada ratified the European Union-Ukraine Association Agreement. Do you know what my feeling was yesterday when I was standing in front of the Ukrainian parliament presenting this association agreement, coordinated and synchronized with the European parliament? It was the last farewell from Ukraine to the Soviet Union. That was a Rubicon that Ukraine crossed and we never ever will turn back to our awful past.
I strongly believe that our values, our freedom, our democracy, our European future, including a membership perspective, are possible and reachable for the Ukrainian nation. Why? Because the Ukrainian nation has passed one of its most important tests during the last five months and maybe paid one of the highest prices for being European. That is why we are demanding reform, defending democracy, defending freedom, seeking a membership perspective in the European Union.
Implementation of the agreement will not only harmonize Ukraine's trade and customs rules with European Union standards but will help my country draw closer to democratic norms and a market-oriented economy.
At the Wales NATO summit, I declared my country's desire to move closer to NATO and to gain the status of a major non-NATO ally. I really count on your support on this.
All allies have strongly condemned Russia's aggression in Ukraine, the illegal annexation of Crimea, and stand ready to support territorial integrity and sovereignty in Ukraine within the internationally recognized borders, as the Canadian government, the Canadian Prime Minister, and the Canadian people are strongly doing.
I am thankful to Canada. Your country was one of the strongest supporters of Ukraine at the summit and committed to provide more than $1 million to the NATO trust fund. It will help Ukraine build its command, control, communications, and computer capabilities.
Dear friends, let us look beyond the crisis and war. Let us think of how to enhance the special partnership between Ukraine and Canada. This is why I am here. I am convinced that we need to pay more attention to bilateral co-operation in such spheres as energy, trade, investment, information, air space, and many other technologies.
In co-operation with Canada, we hope to accomplish the ambitious project of consolidating Ukraine's informational space. By launching the telecommunications satellite built by a Canadian company, we will finally be able to provide all of our regions with reliable and trustworthy information and export telecommunications services. There should be more projects like this.
I hope that both negotiating teams have translated our firm signal, the Prime Minister's and mine, and the next time we see each other we will have a Ukraine-Canada free trade agreement to sign.
Having said that, I cannot help but mention one particular program that played a significant role in enhancing our people-to-people contact. I am talking about the Canada-Ukraine parliamentary program. During the years of independence, CUPP has hosted over a thousand students from Ukraine who were able to work as interns right here in the Canadian Parliament, helping us build Ukrainian democracy. Welcome back, dear colleagues.
I also want to thank the Canadian Parliament and the Ukrainian diaspora for helping us breed a new generation of democratic and free Ukrainian leaders.
Mr. Prime Minister, I remember you mentioned that Canada is probably the most Ukrainian nation outside of Ukraine itself. You know what? This is absolutely true. Let me reciprocate. There are great European nations that stood as the source of the foundation of modern Canada. Canada has friends all over the globe, and the closest one is next to it. However, I doubt that you will find another nation that would say so sincerely what I say to you: Ukraine is probably the most Canadian nation after Canada itself.
I felt exactly this feeling today during my meetings with many Canadians. Thank you for all of that.
Let me refer to the words of Winston Churchill, who truly loved your country and visited it seven times from 1900 to 1954. We recall him as a brave leader who confronted the Nazi aggression with courage. In the summer of 1929, he wrote this from Canada to his wife:
|| Darling I am greatly attracted to this country.… I am profoundly touched; & I intend to devote my strength to interpreting Canada to our people....
I have the same feeling, believe me. Unfortunately, I will not write these words to my wife since she sits here with me today. I will simply tell her these words.
Please let me quote Churchill once again. He said:
|| I love coming to Canada....God bless your Country.
Thank you very much indeed. Merci. Slava Ukraini.
Hon. Andrew Scheer (Speaker of the House of Commons, CPC):
President Poroshenko, Prime Minister, Mr. Speaker of the Senate, fellow parliamentarians, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
[The Speaker of the House of Commons spoke in Ukrainian.]
Mr. President, on behalf of all members, and indeed all of us assembled here in the House of Commons, I would like to welcome you and thank you for addressing us here today.
It is a rare and special occurrence when heads of state or foreign dignitaries address a joint session of our Parliament, and even rarer still to have a joint address during world events such as we are witnessing today. Your inspirational words are given even greater historical significance when we consider the current situation facing Ukraine.
As has already been mentioned, the links between our two great countries are well known, and they run deep. Ukrainians have made their mark in many areas across Canada. From vibrant communities in our large cities to enclaves across the Prairies, their contribution to Canada's social fabric has been profound.
The links that exist between the citizens of our two countries certainly help to draw us closer together. What has cemented the bonds of friendship however, particularly since 1991, has been our common, principled stances towards democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.
For those of us who were fortunate enough to be sitting as members of Parliament when His Excellency President Viktor Yushchenko addressed the chamber in May of 2008, we will recall that he observed that in the previous 90 years, Ukraine had declared its independence six times. He said that he did not want the range of historic tragedies to be repeated in today's history of Ukraine. What President Yushchenko then described, in what may have been more abstract or theoretical terms, has become all too real today.
Canadian parliamentarians have followed closely as recent events have unfolded in your country and have been inspired by the courage and perseverance that has been repeatedly demonstrated by Ukrainians in recent months. This Parliament has expressed its resolute support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity and for the Ukrainian people and their determination to realize a free, democratic, peaceful, and prosperous future.
While there are no doubt many challenges and uncertainties for your country and its people, one thing that is certain, however, is that this Parliament, and Canadians across the country, are watching closely and stand united in support of Ukraine.
Thank you. Merci. Slava Ukraini.