The House resumed from May 13 consideration of the motion that Bill C-7, An Act to amend the Marine Liability Act and the Federal Courts Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the third time and passed.
Mr. Andrew Kania (Brampton West, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Newton—North Delta.
I have the honour to speak today to Bill C-7, An Act to amend the Marine Liability Act. I will restrict my comments to the maritime lien that is proposed in clause 139.
I am not a member of the transport committee but I have attended four different meetings. I was a substitute at the first meeting and I noted a serious problem in the legislation, so I came back for three other meetings to see if we could fix it. I proposed amendments specifically with respect to this maritime lien and those amendments were discussed on May 7. I am disappointed to say that the government voted against them so I am here today to explain the situation and ask the Conservatives to reconsider them. However, at a minimum, Canadians need to know that they voted against these proposed amendments and why they did.
Specifically, clause 139, the maritime lien, which is what we call a right, states:
|| A person, carrying on business in Canada, has a maritime lien against a foreign vessel for claims that arise
|| (a) in respect of goods, materials or services wherever supplied to a foreign vessel for its operation or maintenance, including, without restricting the generality of the foregoing, stevedoring and lighterage; and
||(b) out of a contract relating to the repair or equipping of a foreign vessel.
It is a lot of language but, in short, it means that if a foreign vessel comes into Canada and a person supplies services to it, the person has a right to get paid and attempt to exercise that right against the actual ship.
The next question is whether this right actually does anything for the person. The problem is that it does not because, in most circumstances, that right would be meaningless. Although the person would have the right to get payment, how would the person actually do it because, generally speaking, people will have extreme difficulty trying to get the money?
We need to look at this on a very practical basis. If people are owed $200, $500, $2,000 or whatever it may be, how will they get their money? Although this proposed maritime lien would give people the right to try to get the money, what do they need to do? With the way the current system is written, which has a gap in terms of the remedy, people must sue. Therefore, if there is a foreign vessel in a port that owes people money and it is about to leave, there is nothing people can do about it. If it is from a foreign country, people will need to hire a lawyer and try to sue somewhere even if a judge will accept jurisdiction in a foreign country. This is not a practical right because there is no way to exercise this.
Even if the ship were to remain in Canada, people would need to hire a lawyer, which means money. Whatever the bill may be, whether it is $400, $500, $800 or more, people need to hire a lawyer in order to sue, pay a filing fee and then try to get an order to stop the ship or sell the ship in order to get their money. People would then need to prepare motion material, which means a notice of motion, an affidavit or two and a documentation order, that is assuming they could even find a lawyer who can get it into court. Even if they do find a lawyer who can get into court, they then have to wait. It could be a number of hours and the lawyers charge by the hour. Assuming they could even find a lawyer and even find a judge, they may end up spending a few thousand dollars trying to enforce a debt of a few hundred dollars that is owed. People will not do it.
Once again, I am not on this committee but I kept coming back because I thought this would be better for Canadians. Sections 128 and 129 already have a provision for a designated officer to direct a ship to stop and to issue a detention order if it looks like something untoward has occurred. What that would really mean is that some problems would be solved. First, a ship escaping or leaving Canada would be stopped. Once it is here it would not be able to go anywhere, which means we are preserving that right and that lien.
Second, if a detention order were issued, part of it would say that the foreign vessel must pay a certain amount of money before it could be released. It just keeps the status quo. It keeps it there. The owner can pay the money and go or go in front of a judge, which puts the onus on the foreign vessel owner to actually do something. At least Canadians would be protected.
With the amendments that I proposed, which I am disappointed to say that the Conservatives voted against, ships would be kept in Canada and they would either have to pay or go before a judge. That would skip the first layer of having to actually hire a lawyer and spend all that money.
The Canadian Bar Association had a representative who said that he was opposed to these amendments. I understand that because I am the former secretary of the Ontario Bar Association representing approximately 17,000 lawyers. The job of the Ontario Bar Association and the Canadian Bar Association is to represent lawyers. I am particularly disappointed with the parliamentary secretary, the member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca, who is also a lawyer. He said that he knows how a court works, and I believe him, but he was supporting lawyers. In essence, he said, “You can hire a lawyer, you can pay a lawyer and you can get into court and we'll leave things the way they are”. That means that people who cannot afford a lawyer or people who have very small claims will not have any fair redress. I am very disappointed with that because our job is not to represent a particular constituency group, but Canadians in general. Although I am lawyer, I am here to represent the people of Brampton West and Canadians. I am very disappointed with the government for this.
I would like to read some specific quotes by the parliamentary secretary when he was at the committee on Thursday, May 7. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure gave examples and said, “You've got a large, expensive ship...with a small bill, whatever it may be, owed to Canadians, and I just don't see that as being appropriate”.
In essence, he was siding with the foreign vessels and with the lawyers over Canadian citizens who may be owed money but, for some unfair reason, the foreign vessel has refused to pay them. I do not see that as appropriate for a member of Parliament.
A second quote by the parliamentary secretary reads, “I believe lawyers can be called on a phone--I know I was available most nights until midnight--and can do a lien and find a judge in time to do it, even after hours”.
What he is saying is that we will not be changing the system, we will not be making it better for Canadians and constituents. We will keep it with lawyers. We will keep this as an expensive system even though the amounts in question are so small that either people will not bother and, therefore, will be treated unfairly, or they will not be able to afford to exercise their right. I find that quite disappointing.
The legal counsel for the Department of Transport acknowledges that this change would be something that would be added to the legislation. He says that it would be an element to the way in which a maritime lien is enforced and a positive step to help Canadians and our fellow constituents.
Despite that comment, the parliamentary secretary and the government, for whatever reason, just voted against all of this to defeat what I think would be a very positive change for Canadians.
Although this may seem complicated, it is not. It is as simple as this. There is a new right, a maritime lien under clause 139. There would be no way to practically use this unless there is a substantive change. It just would not happen on an everyday practical basis.
I proposed a substantive amendment that would create a remedy so Canadians could enforce and use this maritime lien. It would help Canadians, who we should be focusing on, and innocent service providers, not advocacy groups, such as the owners of foreign vessels or lawyers. There is nothing wrong with lawyers making a decent living but we can cut out the first step for the benefit of Canadians and still require a court as a second step. This would save money and protect the rights of Canadians.
Mr. Sukh Dhaliwal (Newton—North Delta, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak in favour of Bill C-7, which represents some badly needed updates to the Marine Liability Act. These updates are essential in an age when Canada's waterways are becoming some of the most hotly contested in the world.
Whether it concerns land, sea or air, the world has undergone a revolution over the past 20 years with regard to making polluters pay. Responsibility never seems to be properly demonstrated to organizations or individuals until the perpetrators are hit in their pocketbooks.
Bill C-7 would bring Canada into line with several international conventions that have come into effect in recent years.
In British Columbia the threat of accidents occurring as a result of oil tanker traffic is always of great concern.
In terms of oil spills, the Exxon Valdez disaster will remain in our minds forever. It spilled 41 million litres of oil, one-sixth of the oil it carried, and polluted 2,000 kilometres of coastline. Hundreds of thousands of birds, fish and animals died right away, including somewhere between 250,000 and 500,000 seabirds, thousands of sea otters, hundreds of harbour seals and bald eagles, a couple of dozen killer whales, and a dozen or more river otters.
Over the past two years there has been furious discussion in my home province about the validity of the federal government's statement dating back to the early 1970s in regard to a moratorium on oil tanker traffic along the B.C. coast. While I am not going to delve into that particular debate in my speech today, I am going to try to point out that we as a country must be better prepared to mitigate any future incidents should they occur. With this in mind, I am pleased that the first convention this bill would ratify is the Protocol of 2003 to the International Convention on the Establishment of an International Fund for Compensation for Oil Pollution Damage, 1992.
More specifically, this change to the act would provide an additional tier of compensation for damages resulting from the spill of persistent oil, mainly crude oil, from tankers from about $405 million to $1.5 billion per incident. In citing this provision, let me attempt to properly convey the sensitive nature of British Columbia's fragile and pristine coastal areas.
According to Statistics Canada, the total cargo handled at Canadian ports and marinas in 2006 was 466.3 million tonnes. The domestic tonnage handled in 2006 represented 136.2 tonnes. What must also be noted is that these figures do not include vessels that are used for recreation, tourism, or purposes other than cargo transport.
This leads me into the next provision of the bill that is extremely important for British Columbia, namely, the exemption of liability for the marine adventure tourism industry.
Before I talk about this industry and its growth potential, I want to point out one simple fact. All marine adventure tourism operators are required to have a minimum of $1 million in liability insurance, and a certificate of insurance must be delivered prior to a license being issued. This requirement alone is reason enough for operators to be exempted from part 4 of the act. Combine this with the fact that waivers are a standard practice for water-based adventure tourism activities that are inherently fraught with danger, and there are enough guarantees in place to ensure safety associated with that industry.
Operators cannot always be at risk of frivolous claims, particularly with activities where one of the main attractions is the risk involved. The fact is that the west coast of British Columbia provides an unparalleled setting for ecotourism, adventure travel, nature tourism or sustainable tourism. These are currently the fastest growing segments of the tourism industry on the west coast. They present risks, but they also create jobs in British Columbia. By current projections, the estimates for anticipated labour demand in the area of adventure tourism and recreation will be 13,100 workers by 2015. This is nothing to scoff at.
This bill is an indication that Ottawa understands the unique nature and characteristics of operators within marine adventure tourism. This is a substantive bill. Although I have only had time to touch upon a couple of main issues, I would like to make a couple of salient points to conclude.
Bill C-7 represents the culmination of many years of important work that parliamentarians on all sides of the House have engaged in. It is very specific in its amendments to the Marine Liability Act and therefore is very limited in the kind of attention it might garner. However, these are the kinds of amendments that can make industries more globally competitive and more important, protect Canadians from dangers that often only become apparent when it is too late.
This is an important bill. It has been a privilege to stand today to articulate my support for it.
Hon. Keith Martin (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, it is a real pleasure to speak on this issue. My friend and colleague who just spoke very clearly mentioned some of the challenges we have, and as British Columbians, these challenges are in our neighbourhoods. They are next to our homes and affect the livelihood of the people who live and work in our communities.
Our nation, though, is very blessed. We have 5.87 million square kilometres of marine areas, one of the largest marine areas in the entire world. This is our legacy. This is what we have been given, and we are the stewards and responsible for managing this not only for our country but indeed for the world.
As we know, ecosystems are connected. They go beyond borders. The complex ecosystems and environmental systems in our country are connected to a global ecosystem. We have, as the saying goes, only one world, so it is up to us to be able to do the right things for them.
The challenges affecting our oceans are significant: global warming, pollution and the biocumulation of toxins. In fact, in British Columbia, whales such as orcas, and indeed, on the east coast, if a beluga whale were to wash up in the St. Lawrence River, that beluga whale would be considered to be toxic material, because the biocumulation of toxic materials in high-level marine mammals is a deep concern.
We also think, with respect to why the orca population on the west coast may have flatlined and is declining, it is because the accumulation of these biotoxins is actually having a negative impact on the ability of these large and beautiful mammals to reproduce.
We have the issue of oil spills, as I mentioned before, and ships, people, fractured storm drainage systems, which is happening in Victoria now, and logging practices. In my area, we have seen logging that has gone right down to the level of the rivers. What that is doing, in violating existing laws, is actually destroying the ability of these rivers to produce the salmon that so many British Columbians live on. As a result of that, the lack of enforcement is allowing the destruction of the very salmon beds that are integral to our ability to have a fisheries industry that is sustainable and growing.
On the issue of overfishing, 90% of the commercial fish species in the world are either at their limit or being overfished, which means they are in decline—for example, tuna and marlin. We saw what happened with the northern cod on the east coast of Canada. The fish species that the world consumes right now are being fished at such a level and at such a rate, in such an irresponsible way, that they cannot survive.
What will the impact be on our ability to eat fish? It is going to severely compromise it, not only for Canadians, but around the world in developing countries where the consumption of fish is one of the most inexpensive and most accessible, historically, sources of protein. Without the protein, people's lives are going to be affected from a health perspective.
Different fishing practices that exist now, I would say personally, should be banned. Why do we allow dragging? Why do we allow fishermen to drag the bottom of areas, which destroys the ability of fish to reproduce? The act of dragging is actually reducing and damaging the very places these fish reproduce. The goal we must have, in my view, is to create a network of marine protected areas.
In British Columbia, we have some marine protected areas, but the level of marine protected areas we have now is inadequate. These must be based on ecosystem management systems and sustainable fisheries practices. If we are able to do this, we will indeed be able to have the marine protected areas that are required.
As the basis of this, the marine protected areas must be founded on the sound principle of the combination--
Mr. Speaker, on a point order, is this a conversation that is going to go on during my speech?
Hon. Keith Martin:
Mr. Speaker, thank you for doing that. I appreciate that.
Alanna Mitchell, who we hosted as part of the international conservation caucus a few weeks ago, is a former Globe and Mail reporter. She has published a book called Sea Sick.
In this book, she eloquently and articulately speaks about the damage taking place within our oceans, not only the oceans in other parts of the world but also the oceans that abut our country.
I recommend that people take a look at this book, because in it she describes the impact of the different pressures I mentioned before. One thing I would like to reiterate, and she says it very clearly, is that if the sea life disappears, the life on land will disappear, too.
This point is a fundamental principle that we must adhere to and that we must remember, because if we do not do something to deal with the destruction of sea life right now, then what we are going to see is that it will negatively affect life on land, and there is no going back.
How this is happening through global warming is as follows.
As the temperature is rising, as we are increasing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, what we are seeing is a meltdown. In the Arctic, where my colleague from the Yukon lives and has spoken very eloquently about this, the melting of the polar ice cap is actually also causing a melting of the permafrost.
The permafrost contains methane. Methane is a greenhouse gas that is 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. With this release of this methane, the methane is going up into the atmosphere and exacerbating global warming.
That is acidifying the oceans. The pH is going down. This is negatively affecting the life in the oceans, particularly the small creatures that form the basis of the food chain.
What we are seeing when that happens is a downstream domino effect on the rest of the food chain, affecting larger and larger species. So the commercial fish species that we consume and the fish that others consume are in decline.
One example I want to bring up, and I hope that the Minister of the Environment at some time would like to pay attention to this, is that there are very small fish up in the Arctic that are absolutely essential for the ecosystems in the Arctic.
These small fish are about to be harvested in an unregulated fashion by Norway. Norway is going to go up into our Arctic regions and harvest these fish, which are the basis of the food chain in the Arctic.
I would implore the Minister of the Environment to go and deal with Norway and develop a regime to make sure that we are not going to have an unregulated fishery in the Arctic that is going to have a cataclysmic effect on the Canadians who live in the Arctic. This is a very serious problem.
The other issue I want to bring up that the government could pursue is the state of the marine protected areas we have on the west coast and the need for other marine protected areas.
Right now with the collapsing fish stocks that we are seeing and the dead zones that are occurring, it is more important than ever for us to have these marine protected areas that are forming a contiguous area. As to some of the principles in applying for this, I know the IUCN and CPAWS have done a good job of identifying specific areas that need to be protected.
I would ask the minister to really listen to the WWF, CPAWS and the IUCN, and to take a look at those areas that they have identified as being critically important. They are important because they are crucial areas for different species of marine life in the sea. The removal and the absence of those areas is going to have a cataclysmic effect on the fish species there.
Right now, we have 59 conservation areas, covering some 3,020 square kilometres, that have been established throughout the region. This is a small fraction. In fact, only 1% of the areas that exist on the west coast are actually protected. There are other areas that have to be protected, and they have been identified.
I would just ask again that the government really listen to the NGO organizations that have identified these areas. If we do not do this now, those areas are going to be destroyed and the expansion of dead zones are going to continue in the ocean, which is going to negatively affect the communities that live in the coastal regions and are dependent on those areas.
One particularly unique species that we have on the west coast is glass sponges. They have survived 9,000 years, but right now, more than half of these glass sponges have been destroyed. They are, in effect, living dinosaurs. These areas should be protected because they are critically important in many ways for the larger submarine habitats that exist in the cold waters off the coast of British Columbia. If we fail to do this, these sponges will never come back.
The whale species, which are a signature species on the west coast, are in decline. This is a global problem. British Columbians are very attached to the orca killer whales. As I said, we have seen the numbers flatline and decline in some of the subspecies of orcas on the west coast of British Columbia. As a result we can see that these species can actually disappear.
Of course, the other issue is seabirds. Seabirds are a sentinel species. On the west coast of Canada, we have had a decline of these species, in part because of dumping into the ocean.
I want to get into the issue of dumping pollution into our oceans. In Victoria, we have a very particular issue having to do with sewage treatment. There is a demand on the part of the federal government to force Victoria to have a secondary plus level of sewage treatment. Unfortunately, this proposal, which is now estimated to cost $2 billion, is going to be the largest boondoggle in Canadian history. I will explain why it is not necessary and what should be done to address the environmental concerns that Victorians have.
I spoken with members of the Ministry of the Environment and they think we are simply dumping raw sewage into the ocean or into Victoria Harbour. That is absolutely not the truth. The fact of the matter is, though it is going into toilets and sinks, it is actually sieved so that nothing larger than four millimetres actually gets out the other end. In fact, the area around the outfalls in Victoria is not damaged. The area immediately around it has some effects, but more than 100 to 200 metres outside, there is no effect. In fact, those areas have some of the best fishing around, and fisherman will agree with that.
What comes out of the outfalls in Victoria is 99.9% water. Many of the bad things, such as the heavy metals, lead, mercury and pharmaceuticals that are of concern, are controlled by source control. They are not really dumped down. Even if they are dumped down, a secondary plus treatment system will not deal with this problem.
The major source of marine pollution taking place right now in Victoria is coming from the fractured storm drainage system. The detritus that Victorians see on the side of the ocean at times, particularly after a storm, is not a result of the outfall. The root cause of that is a fractured storm drainage system that is more than 80 years old, in many cases. That stuff is leaking into the environment. That is bad. It needs to be fixed, but it is not part of the mandate of what the federal government has asked Victoria to do.
In other words, the federal government is chasing a $2 billion boondoggle that is not going to affect the environmental needs of my community. This will be an irresponsible use of the taxpayers' money. If the minister wants to affect positively the environmental needs of my community of Victoria, wants to improve the marine life and decrease pollution in our oceans, he needs to do the following.
First, do not pursue this $2 billion sewage treatment boondoggle proposal. Second, put the funds into the repair of the storm drainage system. Third, have a better source control system. We already have a good one, but it can be improved somewhat. If we do that, the marine environments around Victoria will be addressed.
He can also pursue the enforcement rules that are necessary to ensure that dumping of garbage into the oceans is not going to continue. Much of the garbage that we see floating around does not come from an outfall. It actually comes from ships dumping raw garbage into the oceans. It comes from people dumping garbage into the oceans right where they live. That is the cause of the problem.
I would try to save the taxpayer $2 million, but the government is marching down a road it will regret. The proposal I am giving can be found on www.rstv.ca. It is backed by more than 10 environmental ocean scientists at the University of Victoria and more than six chief public health medical officers in Victoria. We are all on the same side, a side that is different from the government.
The government should look at the United States, where certain communities actually received an exemption. They have the same type of unique ecosystem as we do with the deep ocean currents and the cold water. They were able to take the essentially organic matter coming out of the outfall and use it for what it should be, which is food for marine life in our oceans.
On another matter, the issue of fishing, I would ask the Minister of the Environment to work with his counterpart, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. There is a deep rot within the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. There is an inability of the department to deal with the pressing environmental challenges we have and an inability to allow a sustainable fishery on the west coast.
There is a lack of inclusion of stakeholders and a lack of dealing with the fundamental issues of enabling us to have funding for the salmon hatcheries. If we did not have those salmon hatcheries, essentially we would not have a commercial fishery.
We ought to have a system where the government works with the provinces to enforce the laws we have to stop forestry practices from destroying fish beds that are essential for the reproduction of fish.
There is a need for enforcement officers in the area and also an investment in science to do the monitoring that is required. Without this, we cannot have an effective commercial fishery.
There is an urgent issue regarding fish farming in the oceans. Open fish farms are placed right in the area where the smolts leave the rivers and go into the ocean. These smolts go by the open fish farms and pick up sea lice, which affects their ability to survive in the open ocean. A simple solution is to move those fish hatcheries out of those areas. The second thing that can be done is to only allow closed fish hatchery systems so the organic matter and other products that grow the fish quickly will not get into the larger ecosystem.
The absence of this is a serious problem to British Columbians, and ultimately it will affect our ability to have access to the fish we consume. The failure to do this on the east coast has cost hundreds of thousands of jobs with the collapse of the northern cod fishery. We do not want that to happen in British Columbia. Already there has been a significant contraction of those involved in the fishing industry, and part of it is because of the decline in fish stocks and the excessive pressure that has occurred.
We debated the seal hunt in the House, but we did not deal with the Europeans. European and Asian commercial fishing fleets are raping the world's oceans. They are destroying the world's oceans by creating dead zones. An international effort must be made, and Canada must take the lead on it, to put pressure on the European Union to halt the irresponsible, destructive commercial fishing practices that are destroying the earth's oceans.
The minister needs to study the work by Dr. Sylvia Earle, formerly of Woods Hole, Massachusetts and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California. She has eloquently, clearly and scientifically spoken about and detailed the destruction of our oceans.
The oceans are our birthright. They are our responsibility to give to future generations. We can have a sustainable fishery. We can have an ocean system that will be there forever, but it is up to us to implement the solutions required to ensure that happens.
Hon. Larry Bagnell (Yukon, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, I have a number of items I would like to comment on peripheral to the bill. It gives us a chance to address issues that our constituents have and some are exactly in the legislative wording of the bill. I will concentrate most of the time on issues related to my riding in Yukon and to my role as critic for northern affairs, so issues covering the whole of the Arctic.
I want to emphasize on a more global scale the point the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca made on the book Sea Sick. If we were to add the prevention of pollution in the bill, it would just accelerate the problem that is in that book, a very critical problem in the world, one that is affected by increased carbon dioxide in the seas thereby damaging sea life. This bill goes to prevent, in a number of ways, issues related to oil spills.
Basically, the book makes the point that global warming is bad. However, in addition, the oxygen that we all breathe comes from phytoplankton in the seas and a small degree in pH change could eliminate that. Essentially, the oxygen on earth and the carbon dioxide would dissolve into the oceans.
As the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca said, there is even much more potent global warming from methane. It is not only coming out of the permafrost as it melts but in huge chunks of frozen methane on the sea bottoms in most parts of the world, including off his riding on the west coast of B.C., off the coast of Japan and of course, in the Arctic. This is a huge concern and Parliament had to bring this to the attention of Canadians this impending crisis, caused by carbon dioxide dissolving in the oceans, to life on earth.
I also want to reiterate the point he made about bilge cleaning and oil spills, that we do not need a wreck of a ship to cause tremendous damage, particularly in the very sensitive eco-environment in the Arctic. It is more sensitive, harder to replenish than the oceans in the rest of the world because of the cold temperatures, et cetera. As ships go up there they either dump waste, which I will talk about later, or they clean bilges or they get other species into the waters. There can be a devastating introduction of new species and extinction of the existing species that have been so essential to life in those areas for thousands of years.
The bill is good in regard to increasing protection for the seas of the world, the lifeblood of many societies, especially in the Arctic, but we have to continue to work in this area on all these other considerations we are going to talk about. I will be talking about proposed future amendments related to that type of protection.
I want to talk about a technicality in the bill and I would like to compliment the Department of Transport. When the bill first came up in a previous government, there was a serious problem in that it applied the rules related to large ocean-going cruise ships, to small canoes, rafting, outdoor adventure and recreation type businesses. Of course, those businesses, for whatever reason, did not get their message across in the first iteration of the bill, but they certainly did afterward because this could put many of them out of business. The rules just did not fit. They did not make any sense. It could make it prohibitively expensive.
There is an inherent risk that people accept in adventure tourism. There is a need to staff people with qualifications. For some companies that only do one or two trips a year, some of the provisions did not make any sense. Insurance provisions could have made it totally uneconomic to even have an operation.
I certainly compliment the Department of Transport for dealing with the wilderness tourism industry and the Tourism Industry Association of Canada and coming up with amendments to this bill that would not totally wipe out the adventure tourism industry that primarily involves canoes, kayaks and rafts. That is a tremendous improvement to this bill.
I want to talk for a minute about oil spills. This bill contains a great provision in that it amends the Marine Liability Act to implement the International Convention on the Establishment of an International Fund for Compensation for Oil Pollution Damage. Liberal members from B.C. talked about how dramatic oil spill damage can be. Of course, this added liability is very important and it is a good section of the bill.
I want to talk for a minute about what is not addressed yet in Canada over and above this and that is oil spills in the Arctic. In the Arctic there is at present no technology to deal with oil spills. The Beaufort project studies in the 1970s were funded by the federal government and industry also contributed. They did a lot of research in this area. There are some extensive volumes of information on this. However, the bottom line is they did not come up with a solution. Within a few days of an oil spill occurring under ice, the damage is irreparable. There is no way of collecting it. There certainly needs to be research in this area.
The government is very enthusiastic about the fact that perhaps a third of the world's remaining natural gas reserves and a quarter of oil reserves, something of that magnitude, are in the northern oceans. Yet, a government agency could not issue a permit right now. I know that the government thinks that should be developed, but it could not even issue a permit right now because it has no answer to the environmental damage that would occur due to an oil spill.
Statistics make it very clear, I think American statistics, that with the number of projects and developments that take place in the seas, such an oil spill is very likely or at least has a significant probability of occurring. Obviously, we need that protection. As I said earlier, any type of chemical or species damage in the very sensitive Arctic environments could cause long-lasting irreparable damage to the oceans, the life in the oceans and, of course, to the indigenous people who have used the ocean life for thousands of years.
We need to get on with it very quickly. There should be encouragement from all parties to do the research and invest more in research, likely in collaboration with oil companies, on mechanisms for cleaning up the inevitable hydrocarbon spills in the oceans of the Arctic.
The record so far on increasing specific research projects in the north is not good. In the last budget, for instance, the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences has been cancelled. The three main granting councils in Canada have lost money and researchers, and I believe a letter from 2,000 scientists in the country decried that. The Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences funds things like Eureka, the closest post to the North Pole.
If we are interested in sovereignty, obviously we want scientists in the north. Why would we be cutting and closing our most northern establishment in Canada? It is a backward step related to sovereignty, but more importantly it is a backward step related to Arctic science. It is great that we are increasing facilities in the north, but it is not great if they are going to be empty facilities without any scientists there. I want to really enforce that particular point.
I also want to pick up on an excellent point made by the member for Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe on enforcement. There have been a number of bills to increase enforcement provisions. This is just another one in the order. We must increase our enforcement ability. That is generally accepted and I am sure this bill will pass in Parliament. However, the problem identified over and over again is that the will of the government to provide the enforcement and the resources to actually enforce these things is lacking. A good example is on the inspections related to listeriosis. The government set up a system where there would be fewer inspections on the floor, moving the inspectors off the floor of the meat plants.
Another example was a proposed bill that I think has been hoisted because it was kind of inconceivable, but it was a bill to reduce inspections of grain. This would not only jeopardize human life but would jeopardize Canada's reputation around the world by reducing the inward inspections of Canadian grain.
A third example was in Bill C-3. We just recently extended Canada's ability to enforce the Arctic waters. I think it was unanimously passed. That was great. We extended Pierre Trudeau's bill from 100 miles to 200 miles because of the Law of the Sea change. So it was an administrative change.
Therefore, we increased the area where Canada could apply enforcement by a huge amount, the size of Saskatchewan, yet there was not one penny more allowed for enforcement to cover that area. I think our critic, the member for Eglinton—Lawrence, made that point very eloquently in debate. It is like saying the Toronto police force added another city the size of Toronto to be enforced, but no police officers are added. What is the use of having a law with no enforcement capabilities?
When questioned on that, it was suggested that we have one propeller plane for the Pacific Ocean, one propeller plane for the Arctic Ocean, and one propeller plane for the Atlantic Ocean. I know one of the northern scientist experts, a professor, was kind of laughing at that. I really do not think that is sufficient monitoring enforcement.
Another answer was that we have increased the environmental inspectors, but remember that we are extending the area of enforcement from 100 miles to 200 miles, so we start at 100 miles out to sea and go out 200 miles out to sea in the Arctic. We asked where the inspectors were being placed and the answer was Yellowknife. If we look at a map of Canada, we can see how many hundreds and hundreds of miles Yellowknife is from the ocean, and then we would have to go 100 miles out before the bill even came into effect.
We have a bill here that increases enforcement. I would just encourage the government to make sure that we are all in favour of the items in here and that it supports the spirit of bill in making sure that it can be enforced.
I want to talk about some amendments that I propose for the future. The reason I have not brought them forward yet is that these are amendments related to this type of bill and a number of other bills.
The problem is that there are a number of items related to shipping, shipping pollution, dumping, oil spills, and the structure of boats that are capable of going through the Arctic spread through a whole bunch of acts. It is very hard to figure out the appropriate place for the amendments that I am going to talk about.
I am putting them on the table now, just to forewarn people. I am hoping that the experts in the federal bureaucracy may have an interdepartmental committee to sit down and decide whether these things that are scattered through a number of bills, probably more than half a dozen bills, should actually be in one bill, how the deficiencies should be dealt with, or whether they should be in more than one bill. Therefore, I am putting on the record some ideas for amendments. These could be looked at in the future if the experts in the various departments and the stakeholders think they are necessary.
Organizations like the Canadian Bar Association, the National Maritime Law Section, the Canadian Maritime Law Association, Wilderness Tourism Association of the Yukon, International Ship-Owners Alliance of Canada, Canadian Shipowners Association, Tourism Industry Association of Canada had input in the bill. If they think these types of amendments are important and are needed, they can provide feedback to me and government officials. Environmental associations can also so the same thing.
As an example of one problem, under the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act, ships can dump grey water into the Arctic Ocean. I have spoken twice on the sensitivity of that ocean to detrimental substances. In fact, a couple of summers ago the government specifically mentioned that the navy, on individual occasions, would apply for permits to dump grey water.
These are the types of things at which we need to look. Are they necessary or can they be avoided in order to help protect that environment, especially with today's increasingly effective technology to protect the environment by building containments within ships.
The first amendment is for ships travelling Canadian Arctic waters. They would have to adhere to a zero tolerance policy with regard to the dumping of waste in these waters. Personally I think that is feasible. I have had no feedback saying it is not because of the modern technology available to us. It may cost cruise lines and military vessels, but it should be investigated.
The second amendment is the dumping of waste in Arctic waters would be subject to a first offence penalty. This amendment relates to the fact that there were some limited enforcement mechanisms in some bills. Dumping of waste in Arctic waters would be subject to a first offence financial penalty regime, depending on the nature of the waste dumped, extent of the quality of the waste dumped and the estimated damage on the pristine Arctic water ecosystem, plus cleanup costs.
The third amendment is repeat offences would result in more severe financial penalties, including the clean up of environmental damage cost and/or incarceration.
The fourth amendment is it would be incumbent upon shippers entering Canadian waters to provide proof of insurance liability to offset pollution mishap, cleanups or dumping violations. We heard earlier about the tremendous cost of the Exxon Valdez spill, which was far more than what was specifically provided for. The member for Newton—North Delta made that point, but what if that had been under ice? It would have been substantially worse.
The next amendment is ocean going tankers would need to carry a minimum $1 billion per load liability policy. Smaller barges and vessels carrying cargo that could result in toxic or oil spills would need to carry a minimum of $250 million liability policy.
The next amendment is other freighter vessels and container ships would need to carry a minimum of $500 million per load liability.
The second last amendment is cruise lines would need to carry a $350 million liability policy.
The last amendment is all vessels travelling in Canadian waters would be subject to Canadian Coast Guard, Canadian armed forces and Canadian Environmental Service boarding and inspection for potential environmental spills, dumping or violation of shipping standards in Arctic waters.
I put that out for the government officials and stakeholders to provide feedback and to start discussion on improving our protection of the pristine and very vulnerable Arctic ecosystems.