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MPs resume discussion on BC oil spill

April 20, 2015

House of Commons Debates, 41st Parl, 2nd Sess, No 196 (20 April 2015) at 12763.



  • Mr. Speaker, I would like to note that I will be sharing my time today with the hon. member for Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière.

    Let me begin by reassuring parliamentarians and Canadians alike that Canada has one of the strongest marine safety regimes in the world. Our government remains committed to continual improvement, and continues to take action to strengthen our marine spill prevention, preparedness, response capabilities, liability and compensation regime.

    On April 8, 2015, a marine fuel spill occurred in Vancouver’s English Bay. Since learning of the incident, we have confirmed that the spill originated from the MV Marathassa, a bulk carrier on her maiden voyage that was scheduled to pick up grain. At the time the incident occurred, she was anchored along with several other vessels in the area.

    When notified of the spill by a concerned boater, the Canadian Coast Guard responded and tasked Transport Canada’s national aerial surveillance program, or NASP, aircraft to perform overflights of English Bay. Throughout the response operation, several aerial patrols were made daily. In total, this represents 13 overflights, which were vital to assess and monitor the amount of pollution and the effectiveness of the cleanup efforts. The results of these overflights were shared with all parties involved in the response efforts, and the overflights will continue as needed.

    In addition to the situational awareness provided by the flights conducted as part of the national aerial surveillance program, Transport Canada has conducted inspections of the vessels to verify compliance with applicable safety and environmental protection requirements and to ascertain the cause of the spill. Also, Transport Canada is monitoring the actions of the response organization, in this case the Western Canada Marine Response Corporation, to ensure that it is in compliance with the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 and all regulations.

    Transport Canada investigates all reported oil spills, and if there is sufficient evidence that there is contravention of our federal laws, the polluter may be prosecuted in court. Furthermore, an administrative monetary penalty could be imposed on the polluter. This is just another measure to protect Canadian taxpayers.

    As the cleanup efforts continue, Transport Canada has already begun to shift its focus in its investigation. Marine safety inspectors are continuing their work examining compliance with the requirements under the Canada Shipping Act and the Vessel Pollution and Dangerous Chemicals Regulations.

    Under the Canada Shipping Act, an owner of a vessel like the Marathassa must have an arrangement with Transport Canada’s certified response organization, as well as under the Vessel Pollution and Dangerous Chemicals Regulations. All vessels are required to report either a discharge or an anticipated discharge of oil. Such a report must be made by the master of the vessel as soon as the discharge occurs or is anticipated, unless the master is involved in saving lives, securing safety or dealing with damage to the vessel or the environment.

    As part of its investigation, Transport Canada will review the vessel’s compliance with these requirements. The results of the investigation will guide Transport Canada’s decisions on the appropriate enforcement action. This can include prosecution as well as seeking administrative monetary penalties.

    As well, under Canada’s regulatory regime, the Marine Liability Act requires vessels to have insurance to cover pollution damage arising from an oil spill. In Canada, our liability and compensation regime for ship-source oil spills is based on the polluter pay principle. This means that the polluter is responsible for paying the costs of an oil spill. In this particular case, the shipowner’s representatives have indicated that they will meet all of their legal liabilities. Losses and damages covered under the regime include reasonable measures to prevent or minimize pollution damage, cleanup costs, property damage, economic losses and environmental restoration actually undertaken. Under the Marine Liability Act, the liability limit for a bulk carrier the size of the Marathassa is $26.5 million to cover eligible losses and damages related to a marine fuel spill.

    Although it is unlikely that the costs will exceed that amount in this case, if they do, additional eligible losses and damages may be covered from the Canada ship-source oil pollution fund. Canada’s ship-source oil pollution fund was established in 1989, and it is a very important piece of Canada’s oil spill preparedness and response regime. The fund covers all oil spills for all classes of ships at any place in Canada or in Canadian waters. As members have heard, Canada has an extensive oil spill preparation and response regime that is in place to ensure that if a spill does occur the response is effective and efficient, and protects the interests of all Canadians and our marine environment.

    As we learn from this incident and continue our efforts to modernize our response regime through the implementation of a world-class tanker safety system, we must also acknowledge the work of all those involved who immediately responded to this incident. The incident serves to highlight the importance of our continued efforts to work collaboratively with our partners, and all levels of government and industry, to achieve a world-class tanker safety system.

    Throughout this incident, Transport Canada’s teams have been actively engaged with our key partners, such as the Canadian Coast Guard, Environment Canada, and provincial and municipal jurisdictions, as well as the private sector response organization, Western Canada Marine Response Corporation.

    Transport Canada is continuing to conduct aerial surveillance flights over English Bay, to survey the area to help with the cleanup efforts. Canada remains an international leader in the maritime community as a country that provides a clear and predictable set of rules. These rules not only help to protect the environment and ensure safety, but also protect Canadians through the liability to collect compensation if spills occur.

    Canada depends on marine shipping for economic growth, jobs, and prosperity. With the inspection and investigation regime currently in place and the continued improvements being implemented through the world-class tanker safety system, we will continue to ensure that our marine environments remain safe.

    Mr. Ted Opitz

    Etobicoke Centre, CPC

  • Mr. Speaker, I have to question my colleague about keeping Canadians safe. We saw what happened at Lac-Mégantic. We see another incident where the response time was not acceptable. Conservatives are trying to tell us that even if the Kitsilano Coast Guard had been there, they would not have been able to respond. However, we hear otherwise from the people who actually worked there.

    I was at the North Channel Marine Tourism Council conference this weekend, and they raised concerns about the fact that the coast guards in our area were cut back or closed. I am wondering how the member can stand in the House and say they are doing what is best for Canadians when there is accident after accident. We can talk about the railroad accidents, the train derailments in Gogama, in White River, and Lac-Mégantic, as I mentioned. How can the Conservatives be so clear that they are doing things for Canadians when they are not? They do not have Canadians’ safety and security in the environment at heart.

    Ms. Carol Hughes

    Algoma–Manitoulin–Kapuskasing, NDP

  • Mr. Speaker, obviously I disagree. Canada has the safety of all Canadians at heart.

    The task was responded to fairly quickly. It was tasked at 20:06 hours and arrived at 21:25 hours. Remember, it is on the sea and it takes a while to get there. We are not on land and cannot race at speeds that some people might want to consider. We have to remember that this is a marine emergency being responded to, and the entire ship was boomed off by 5:53 in the morning. I think that was responded to quite well.

    The other thing we have to remember is that across Canada there are over 80 caches of oil spill equipment that are accessible very quickly, and all of that was brought to bear within that timeframe. All of our services that were engaged in this incident responded very quickly, professionally, and did their jobs to a very high standard.

    Mr. Ted Opitz

    Etobicoke Centre, CPC

  • Mr. Speaker, tomorrow is budget day, and we have a government that is committed to spending endless millions of dollars in self-congratulatory types of messages about its budget. It is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on single ads during the NHL games. Yet, the government has cut back on some of the vital services that could have gone a long way in addressing the concerns being expressed today and over the last couple of weeks. It is not just the harbours in Vancouver. We have ports in Halifax, Churchill, and other areas where people want and need assurances from government that the money and resources will be there to protect our environment, especially if we look into the future in terms of economic growth. We are an exporting nation.

    How does the member justify the advertising dollars being spent, the millions being spent on advertising and the need to adequately—

    Mr. Kevin Lamoureux

    Winnipeg North, Lib.

  • The hon. member for Etobicoke Centre.

    The Acting Speaker

    Mr. Barry Devolin

  • Mr. Speaker, this country and this government are committed to the Canadian taxpayer. We are committed to balancing the budget. We are committed to public safety, and we are committed to making sure that we have and continue to have the strongest economy in the world.

    We have invested in these safety protocols all across the region. As we can see from the reports of the agencies involved, we were involved and moved very quickly to contain the spill. We have moved and made improvements and investments in the coast guard and other assets related to it. We have made sure that the communications enhancements that were made enable the coast guard and related agencies to communicate quickly and to respond at the quickest possible speed across the area.

    We have invested not only in technology, but we have invested in the safety and security of Canadians on land and sea and in the air.

    [Translation]

    Mr. Ted Opitz

    Etobicoke Centre, CPC

  • Mr. Speaker, our country has one of the best marine safety regimes in the world. Marine transportation is the cornerstone of many regional economies in Canada. Goods have been shipped safely in Canadian waters for decades thanks to responsible shipping industry partners and navigators and also because of the effective prevention measures in place.

    Our government has made significant investments in the world-class safety system for tanker ships in order to prevent spills, quickly clean up any spills that occur and enforce the polluter pays principle.

    Canada continues to be a world leader in the implementation of new navigation technologies by providing navigators with the vital information they need. Progress and innovation, together with real-time analysis of vessel traffic and the extension of automatic identification requirements to a greater number of vessels, will ensure that ships navigate even more efficiently and safely.

    As a result of the world-class tanker safety system, there has been even better co-operation between experts in various fields. Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the Canadian Coast Guard, Transport Canada, Environment Canada and Natural Resources Canada are working together on important initiatives that support marine safety and the protection of our marine environment.

    In May 2014, our government announced that Canada had adopted an area response planning model, which provides a new, collaborative, transparent and risk-based approach to preparing for and responding to ship-source oil spills.

    As a federal agency responsible for providing an appropriate response to ship-source marine pollution incidents, the Canadian Coast Guard will bring its partners together more than ever to develop area response plans and further improve the decision-making process. These partners include many local stakeholders and representatives from aboriginal communities, the industry and other levels of government.

    The area response plans will be improved through scientific research on pollutants and how they behave in water. This research will help the Canadian Coast Guard learn more about new products and how they interact with the marine environment. It will also give the coast guard a wider range of response measures to draw upon. This new response planning approach will strengthen the current system, under which private sector response organizations are required to maintain a 10,000-tonne response capacity throughout Canada. The current approach has proven to be extremely effective for many years and has successfully protected the environment.

    However, our government is committed to continually improving the safety of Canadians and the environment. That is why our government is taking this opportunity to strengthen and improve the existing measures in order to protect our environment now and for generations to come.

    The new area response planning process will be piloted at four test sites: the southern portion of British Columbia, Saint John and the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick, Port Hawkesbury and the Strait of Canso in Nova Scotia, and the St. Lawrence Seaway from Quebec City to Anticosti Island, Quebec.

    The Canadian Coast Guard and our federal colleagues recognize that we cannot develop area response plans in isolation. That is why, beginning this year, a series of activities will be planned so that the perspectives of stakeholders and aboriginal groups can be taken into account throughout the process.

    To reinforce the response element of our world-class tanker safety system, our government announced $31 million over five years for the Canadian Coast Guard to adopt an incident command system, known as ICS, across the Canadian Coast Guard.

    This is a critical initiative that will bring about the implementation of a standardized management approach on the ground for the efficient command, control and coordination of responses to all marine incidents.

    The new incident command system will enhance the Canadian Coast Guard’s ability to respond to marine pollution incidents together with major partners and response organizations.

    The Canadian Coast Guard recently used the incident command system to successfully manage the recovery of pollutants from the wreck of the Brigadier General M.G. Zalinski in the Grenville Channel. The system creates a centralized, controlled approach enabling the Canadian Coast Guard to collaborate with federal and provincial partners, first nations and the private sector to respond quickly and safely.

    Over the next few years, the incident command system will be fully implemented, thereby strengthening the existing response regime. Simply put, the Canadian Coast Guard and its partners will be in a better position to deal with pollution incidents and other marine incidents, by relying on an already robust environmental response system.

    The incident command system is another example of how our world-class tanker safety system is being enhanced in order to protect Canadians and our environment.

    It is important to note, as many of my colleagues know, that under the laws of Canada, the liability and compensation regime for oil spills is based on the polluter pays principle. In other words, the polluter is always responsible for paying for the costs of an oil spill. If a ship causes a spill, Canadian law makes its owner liable for losses and damages.

    Our laws also require ships to have an arrangement in place with a marine response organization to respond to any requests for an environmental response that may be needed.

    These response organizations play an important role by being an essential part of the environmental response capability in Canadian waters.

    In closing, through our robust safety regime and our world-class tanker safety system, our government will continue its important work to protect Canadians and our marine environment.

    Mr. Jacques Gourde

    Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, for Official Languages and for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, CPC

  • Mr. Speaker, I cannot believe my ears.

    I am fortunate to represent a riding that stretches along the St. Lawrence River. Like all Canadians, we are all connected by our waterways. The spill in British Columbia could just as easily happen on Canada’s east coast, because the current government is completely oblivious when it comes to Canadians’ safety and especially environmental protections.

    My colleague who moved the motion said that the Conservatives decided to shut down the Kitsilano Coast Guard base in secret. It did not consult the provinces or the cities.

    What does my government colleague have to say about the fact that co-operative federalism is nowhere to be found in Canada?

    Ms. Hélène LeBlanc

    LaSalle—Émard, NDP

  • Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question. Our government is ensuring that we are in a better position to respond to such incidents by providing new funding and new tools, and by ensuring that the companies responsible have to pay.

    Mr. Jacques Gourde

    Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, for Official Languages and for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, CPC

  • Mr. Speaker, in looking at the economics and how important it is that we do what we can to protect our environment and looking into the future, Canada being an exporting nation, we can see that there is going to be an increased demand for us to use our ports. That is why it is critically important for the federal government to invest in areas in which we can provide that level of comfort and reality of having a safe environment.

    At a time when Canada should be investing in our Coast Guard and other safety measures to protect our environment, why has the government chosen to make cutbacks? It seems to be at odds in terms of our being able to create the important jobs in the area of exports. It is also neglecting the important issue of our environment, something on which Canadians have a high expectation and want leadership coming from Ottawa.

    [Translation]

    Mr. Kevin Lamoureux

    Winnipeg North, Lib.

  • Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

    However, I remind him that under our government, funding for the Canadian Coast Guard has increased by 27%. Unfortunately, the member and his party, the NDP, voted against increasing these budgets.

    Mr. Jacques Gourde

    Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, for Official Languages and for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, CPC

  • Mr. Speaker, we have heard the current government’s announcements. It has become apparent that the government intends to vote on advertising budgets in order to promote the federal budget. It is completely disregarding the priorities of Canadians, who are talking about climate change and protecting our waterways. They want the federal government to be there to protect the Canadian public. The government is not there for Canadians.

    Does my colleague think that the Conservatives are going to turn things around in the budget being brought down tomorrow?

    Ms. Hélène LeBlanc

    LaSalle—Émard, NDP

  • Mr. Speaker, I am sure that my colleagues across the way will completely disregard tomorrow’s budget presentation by the hon. Minister of Finance.

    I would like them to vote in favour of the benefits for all Canadians in the budget. We shall see what they do tomorrow.

    Mr. Jacques Gourde

    Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, for Official Languages and for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, CPC

  • Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my hon. colleague from Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca.

    As always, it is an honour to speak in the House on behalf of my constituents in Surrey North, especially today, because this issue is very near and dear to them.

    I have often spoken about the need to protect the pristine waters off our coasts to ensure that we have a viable tourism industry, a viable recreation industry and a viable fisheries industry. Many individuals depend on having these waters protected and their jobs protected.

    I have pointed out previously that it is sad to see what happened in English Bay, a jewel of Canadian inlets where parks are located. Hundreds of thousands of people live around the area where the bunker leaked fuel in the middle of the bay. We have been pointing out for a number of years the need for protection and the need to ensure that if this ever happened, we would have proper resources to deal with it. Not only that, we have seen an increase in tanker traffic, and marine traffic in general in English Bay, yet we have seen a reduction by the government in the number of safety valves that are available.

    What are the facts in regard to this bunker fuel that was leaked in the middle of a bay in downtown Vancouver? Let us start with the closing of the Kitsilano Coast Guard station. The Conservative government closed the Kitsilano Coast Guard station after many attempts by not only the opposition parties, but many British Columbians who were concerned. I raised concerns in the House that the closing of Coast Guard stations would have a detrimental effect on the west coast way of life.

    Someone called 911 and reported the spill, but it took 12 hours before authorities notified the City of Vancouver, the very people who were supposed to ensure that the public did not go to the beaches and ensure the safety of the general public. To me, 12 hours to respond is not a world-class response; it is more of a Mickey Mouse operation. It took six hours for authorities to get a boom installed to ensure the oil was contained. That is a lot of time before containing what was spilled there.

    The former commander of the Coast Guard base that the government closed was quoted in Vancouver media as saying it would only take six minutes to get the Coast Guard to the spillage area. How much damage can be done in the time from six minutes up to six hours? We have heard in the House where the oil went. It was spotted about 12 kilometres away from the original spill.

    In six minutes, the Coast Guard could have been there and we would have had some form of containment. However, because the government closed the Kitsilano Coast Guard station, it took six hours before we could get a ship there. That is not responsible. That is not expected from the Canadian government. I know British Columbians do not expect that from the current government, and New Democrats have been calling on the government to ensure that response time would be much shorter if it were to occur again.

    In addition to the closure of the Coast Guard, the government has also closed the Vancouver environmental station. Environmental emergencies went through the station, and the marine mammal containment program. That was closed by the government. Those are some of the facts. If we are going to see an increase in traffic in English Bay and Burrard Inlet, we need to have proper safety valves to ensure that if there were an accident that we take steps to ensure it is contained.

    As well, the Auditor General has been clear that Canada is not prepared for even a moderately sized oil spill, yet the Conservatives choose to ignore it. I do not know if they choose to ignore it or they do not believe in it, but I can assure members that people from my constituency, from Vancouver, and all along the coastline of British Columbia expect a much better response than there has been from the current government with its gutting of the protections needed in our marine environment.

    One can only imagine what would happen if this were a bigger spill. We cannot even contain bunker fuel, which is about 3,000 litres. Can anyone imagine what would happen if a big tanker were to have an accident? Imagine the devastation it would cause to the environment and the fisheries. The devastation would cost jobs in British Columbia. Port Metro Vancouver supports tens of thousands of jobs, and I cannot imagine having a bigger spill from a bigger tanker going down. It would be devastating, not only for our environment but for the economy, because many people depend on the coastal waters of British Columbia

    New Democrats have been calling on the government to establish more safety regulations and safer navigation of the waters off of British Columbia. We should be listening to the experts. The experts are meeting in Ottawa this week: the ITF Canadian maritime coordinating committee and CMWC representatives of all of Canada’s maritime unions, which include the SIU of Canada, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, The Canadian Merchant Service Guild, the International Longshoremen’s Association, the BC Ferry and Marine Workers’ Union, and CUPE Local 375.

    The ITF Canadian maritime coordinating committee and CMWC have unanimously adopted supporting the NDP motion, and make special note of the recent oil spill from the Cyprus-registered, Greek-owned Marathassa. It was further noted that under the current maritime provisions of CETA, this vessel would be permitted to operate within Canada’s coastal waters, which is presently reserved for Canadian-owned and Canadian-registered vessels adhering to Canadian law.

    I hope that members of the Conservative Party, especially the ones from British Columbia, will stand in the House, support British Columbians, and help to pass this motion.

    Mr. Jasbir Sandhu

    Surrey North, NDP

  • Mr. Speaker, again I want to reinforce the fact that tomorrow the budget will be presented. We have had Conservative majority government, for consecutive years, cut back on issues that would have had a positive impact in dealing with spills.

    If we take a look at the budget, Canadians are going to be inundated with millions of dollars of advertising, promoting the Conservative Party. My question to the member is fairly straightforward. Would he not agree that money would be far better spent by bringing back or possibly increasing resources, getting rid of the cuts that the Conservatives have made in the last couple of years, reinvesting that $7 million-plus of advertising dollars into our Coast Guard, and having other more proactive approaches that deal with issues such as oil spills?

    Mr. Kevin Lamoureux

    Winnipeg North, Lib.

  • Mr. Speaker, that shows the priorities of the government. It is going to be spending $7.5 million on advertising the budget it is bringing in tomorrow, taxpayers’ money, yet it is failing to fund $750,000 for the Coast Guard at Kitsilano. That shows the priorities and the lack of initiative from the government.

    Canadians expect better. I know British Columbians expect better. Be assured, if the government’s priorities are not changing, the government will, come October 19.

    [Translation]

    Mr. Jasbir Sandhu

    Surrey North, NDP

  • Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his very interesting speech. The situation on the west coast is rather worrisome and the people on the east coast are also concerned.

    The government has repeatedly said there is no cause for concern, since shipping companies will be held responsible for potential spills and will have to pay for damages. However, these oil spills kill wildlife and fish, which has an adverse effect on the tourism industry. Beaches have to close, for example.

    Is having an insurance policy the same as having equipment on site and a marine traffic services centre?

    Mr. Philip Toone

    Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, NDP

  • Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine for the hard work he does in the House, and also for his question.

    The bottom line is that the official opposition will not be burying its head in the sand. We know the record of the government. We will continue to speak up on behalf of constituents, whether from Surrey North, British Columbia, or coast to coast to coast.

    I often talk about polluter pays. I know I do not have enough time to get into it in this segment of questioning, but polluter pays should be the principle we are guided by. If someone pollutes, they should pay for it. Unfortunately, under this government, the polluter does not pay; the taxpayer is left holding the bag. That is not fair to Canadians across the country.

    [Translation]

    Mr. Jasbir Sandhu

    Surrey North, NDP

  • Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his speech.

    It is a question of trust. The polluter pays principle is a good thing. However, it is just as important that the government protect the public because that is its job. It must apply and enforce the regulations pertaining to the polluter pays principle.

    What does my colleague have to say about this government in that regard?

    Ms. Hélène LeBlanc

    LaSalle—Émard, NDP

  • Mr. Speaker, the number one responsibility of any government is to ensure that our citizens are safe and our environment is protected. Unfortunately, what I have seen in the last four years is cut after cut, not only to the Coast Guard and emergency services on the west coast but across the country. That is not how to govern. If a government’s number one priority is safety of its citizens and the environment, it should be making investments to ensure it is keeping its citizens safe at all times. Unfortunately, this government has failed to deliver. I hear it from my constituents. I see it in papers across the country.

    It is time that the government support this very minimal motion we are bringing forward, that immediate steps are taken to ensure safety on the west coast.

    Mr. Jasbir Sandhu

    Surrey North, NDP

  • Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on this debate today. I think that the story of the bunker oil spill from the bulk grain carrier, the MVMarathassa, is now becoming clear, not from what the government is telling us today, but through the work of journalists, sailors, and maritime workers who observed what happened in this case.

    Rob O’Dea and Arnt Arntzen, two sailors, spotted the spill at 4:45 p.m., on Wednesday, April 8, in English Bay. In about 15 minutes, they managed to track the spill to the motor vessel Marathassa. During that 15 minutes, the spill had already spread half a kilometre long and 250 metres wide. Seeing no evidence of any cleanup in process, Mr. O’Dea phoned 911 and was assured by the Coast Guard that it already knew about the spill and had dispatched a response team, even though he could not see one onsite. As it turns out, the Coast Guard’s initial notice may have only come three minutes before he called.

    Unfortunately, the private contractor was not called for another three hours. Although we do use private contractors to deal with spills, in this case the company happened to be owned by Kinder Morgan, which raises some interesting questions about companies who deliver oil to the coast and then pay themselves to clean up their spills. However, that is for another debate. It took another one and a half hours for the company to get on the water, and the spill was not contained for nearly 12 hours.

    Let us remember three things about this spill. First, it was a relatively small spill, approximately 2,700 litres of bunker fuel. However, it is not clear how much oil was spilled at this point. That is probably only an estimate. Second, it occurred in a place of high visibility. It occurred in the middle of a busy harbour and recreational sailing area, so fortunately there were people around to see the spill. Third, it occurred in calm seas on a calm day. This means that it is probably the easiest of all oil spills to clean up.

    It is clear in this case that we could have responded more quickly if the Conservatives had not closed the Kitsilano Coast Guard station in 2013, and had not put the ship that was capable of dealing with a small spill like this up on blocks, which is where it sits today. Fred Moxey, the former commander of the Kitsilano Coast Guard station, has offered to sign an affidavit saying that what the Conservatives have said about not having the equipment or capacity at the Kitsilano Coast Guard station is untrue. When he was a commander there, it did have the ability to get to a spill like this in six minutes, and could have contained the spill within 30 minutes.

    We have some very specific things we could do that would help us to deal with spills like this. We have some very concrete proposals in the motion before us today. However, I have a wish that goes along with those proposals, and that is for the Conservatives to stop talking about our world-class oil spill response.

    First of all, “world class” is not a standard by which anyone measures oil spill responses. Oil spill responses are measured by the amount of time it takes one to get to the spill and the amount of equipment one can have onsite. It is not measured by an advertising or promotional phrase like “world class”, which is normally associated with sporting events and luxury cars. It is simply not a standard that anyone uses with respect to oil spills.

    Clearly the government is using it because it is trying to sell us the idea that its record of cuts and closures to our marine emergency response system has nothing to do with our ability to respond to oil spills. We have to use this wonderful phrase that makes us all think high thoughts so we do not see the reality of what is happening on the seas, which is that we have a reduced capacity to deal with these problems.

    It is not satisfied with having moved the oil spill response centre to Montreal from Vancouver. To think that we are managing oil spills in Vancouver from Montreal boggles the mind. The government has closed the Kitsilano Coast Guard station. It has closed the Ucluelet marine transportation communications centre. Even this spill has not convinced it to back off on closing two more marine communications centres on the west coast, in Vancouver and Comox.

    I would like to issue an invitation to Conservatives on the other side to come with me and some of my friends for a crab dinner. Crab is normally caught off of Jericho Beach in Vancouver. Wait a minute. I cannot do that because the crab fishery is closed as a result of this spill. It took the Department of Fisheries and Oceans six days to close the crab fishery and put up signs. The Musqueam nation put up signs and closed its fishery only one day after the spill. Where was the federal government with respect to protecting people who use these recreational fisheries from the potentially toxic effects of this spill?

    An hon. member: Working on their ads.

    Mr. Randall Garrison

    Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, NDP

  • Mr. Speaker, one of my colleagues said they were busy doing advertising. I think that unfortunately may be the answer.

    The recreational crab and prawn fishery remains closed in Burrard Inlet, including Jerricho Beach, a very popular spot in Vancouver, until we can do some sampling of marine pollution. That should not take very long, should it? However, a year ago the government completely closed down its only department which had scientists who could do marine pollution samples, laid off the staff, and now it will have to contract that work out to somebody else because it has no capacity to test the results of these spills.

    It is not just NDP MPs who are outraged by the spill response. My colleague from Surrey noted that the Canadian Maritime Workers Council, the International Transport Workers Federation, which have endorsed this motion, have gone further to say that one of the other things we need to watch out for is that in the government’s mania for free trade agreements, quite often it includes the coastal trade in British Columbia, which right now is reserved to Canadian registered vessels that have far higher safety standards and monitoring. They are not only supporting our motion, they are saying that we should be very careful about letting foreign flag ships into our coastal shipping.

    Even the provincial premier has pointed to the failures of the federal government’s oil spill response, although once again she shows a lot of nerve, since what the provincial government has done in these areas is also completely inadequate.

    Finally, the Association of Vancouver Island Coastal Communities had its annual general meeting just four days after the spill. It passed an emergency resolution calling for an independent audit of the current state of oil spill preparedness in British Columbia. These are mayors and councils from all across Vancouver Island, and they have no confidence in the current government’s assessment of its own ability to deal with oil spills.

    I represent some of those coastal communities, and my concerns about the threats to our maritime environment became most acute when I was first elected to Esquimalt Council. Esquimalt is a town with kilometres of shorelines, both on the Strait of Georgia and around the Victoria and Esquimalt harbours. In our first month on council, we began to examine our emergency preparedness, a key municipal responsibility. What did we find with regard to the threat of oil spills? We found that we had little or no capacity to cope with existing threats, let alone those that would result from increased tanker traffic and increased size of tankers.

    It became clear that in the face of a major oil spill, we would have little more to rely on than our citizen volunteers down on the beach with buckets and mops. It is the same for other communities in my riding. We have heard discussions of improvements to come in oil spill capacity, but municipalities at this point are left on their own to try to respond to these things, if the federal government bothers to notify them.

    The Coast Guard’s own audit of oil spill preparedness released in July, 2013 found that our system on the west coast was disorganized and outdated, and most of the equipment on site on Vancouver Island was more than 25 years old.

    In October, 2013, a B.C. government report estimated we would be likely to recover little more than 3% to 4% of a modest 10,000 tonnes spill on the north coast, and somewhere between 10% and 30% on the south coast where there was actually more equipment.

    The 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska was 34,600 tonnes of the 200,000 tonnes it was carrying. Therefore, it is similar to the very large tankers we can expect to see if more pipelines proceed.

    Some argue Exxon Valdez examples are irrelevant because it was more than 25 years ago and technology has changed, but I have to remind the House that the Motor Vessel Marathassa is brand new and on its maiden voyage.

    In conclusion, we have seen in 2010 two incidents in Malaysia and Texas of accidents involving new double-hull tankers, and both spilled more than 2,500 tonnes of oil. That is more than 2.9 million litres of oil in each case, not 2,700 litres.

    We have some very big problems to deal with as tanker traffic increases on the coast, which was why I introduced a motion as a councillor that we have a moratorium on increased tanker traffic until we had better oil response in place.

    To protect the future of our existing fishing and marine recreation and tourism industries in the west coast, we have to take the threat posed by oil spills seriously. We cannot simply declare our response world class and turn a blind eye to the lack of capacity that actually exists.

    I will be watching very closely to see where B.C. Conservative MPs stand when this vote is called.

    Mr. Randall Garrison

    Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, NDP

  • Mr. Speaker, I have a quote here and would not mind hearing some comments on it. It is from the assistant commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard, Western Region Canada, who said, “Kitsilano, should it have been in place, would not have been called upon for environmental response in this scenario”.

    The members opposite continue to reference Kitsilano as though its closure would have had some impact on the Coast Guard response. We have a direct quote from the assistant commissioner. Is my colleague opposite in effect saying that the assistant commissioner is wrong?

    Mr. Ryan Leef

    Yukon, CPC

  • Mr. Speaker, first, I am sure the commissioner’s statement was approved in the minister’s office before it was issued.

    I am prepared to go with someone who has no dog in this fight, and that is the former commander of the Kitsilano Coast Guard station who said, when he was there two years ago, that they had the capacity, that they could have met the spill in six minutes and that they would have responded.

    Again, the government’s press releases to the contrary, it is clear that the closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard station reduced our ability to deal with oil spills in English Bay.

    Mr. Randall Garrison

    Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, NDP

  • Mr. Speaker, I, too, listened to question period and the debate before question period. I was puzzled by this notion of world class, but also heard at the same time that we could improve on it, which I guess makes it universe class or out of this world. I have no idea how one would improve upon world class, but improvement is possible, apparently.

    I also heard that we should not judge the response until we had the facts. I am curious as to how something could be assessed as world class if there was a public admission that all the facts were not available.

    I would also like to hear the member’s comments about how slow it was to get the mayor of Vancouver notified. As well, the other issue critical to this is if there had been Coast Guard vessels in the harbour, maybe they could have gotten the appropriate people on site sooner, but that without them, that is what the delay was all about.

    Mr. Adam Vaughan

    Trinity—Spadina, Lib.

  • Mr. Speaker, I, too, wondered. Out-of-the-world class is probably where the government is heading with this. I do not know.

    It is very clear that all the things we are doing along the coast in marine safety and security and all the things that are being cut reduce our capacity. That is common sense. We cannot cut back on the number of stations and communication centres and say that we are improving the ability to respond to these things. It is simply not true.

    The ability for municipalities to find out what is going on from the federal government is not just in the area of oil spills. We have heard the same thing on issues of toxic substances being transported by rail, where municipalities are asking for advance notice of this stuff coming through the communities and the federal government is responding that it is way too complicated and that it cannot possibly tell the communities if they are at risk.

    We do not see this just in this one area. We see it in all these areas, from food safety to rail safety to oil spills. The government’s cutbacks are having a real and direct impact on our ability to keep Canadians safe.

    Mr. Randall Garrison

    Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, NDP

  • Mr. Speaker, on this side of the House, we are concerned about the environment. We are concerned about the protection of Canadians. On that side of the House, they prefer to do a lot of cutbacks.

    Could my colleague elaborate on the fact that the health advisories have been lifted on all beaches, but the Coast Guard cautioning beach goers to remain vigilant and avoid contact with any small amounts of remaining oil?

    The government seems to be saying that everything is hunky-dory and it is taking care of it, yet the Coast Guard is saying that people still have to be concerned. I know that when people are diving underwater, it is very difficult to figure out whether they are going to be coming into contact with some tar balls.

    Could my colleague comment on the impact this could have on tourism and on the state of the situation at this point?

    Ms. Carol Hughes

    Algoma–Manitoulin–Kapuskasing, NDP

  • Mr. Speaker, the member raises the important point that while the environment is very important, this is also about jobs.

    Many people on the west coast work in tourism, recreation and in areas that depend very much on these pristine waters off our coast to maintain those industries. There is very little in terms of economic benefit in our local communities from tankers and other freighters that go in and out of the harbour.

    People’s jobs depend on ecotourism and water-based recreation. Every one of these incidents harms our tourism industry and harms our ecotourism and recreation industries. It has a much bigger impact on the economy than members might first think.

    [Translation]

    Mr. Randall Garrison

    Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, NDP

  • 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 Ahuntsic, Transportation; and the hon. member for Trinity—Spadina, Infrastructure.

    Resuming debate, the hon. member for Brandon—Souris.

    The Acting Speaker

    Mr. Barry Devolin

  • Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I would like to note that I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the hon. member for Yukon.

    I am very pleased to have the opportunity to rise in the House today to discuss the motion put forward by the member for New Westminster—Coquitlam. As my colleagues stated earlier today, Canada has one of the strongest marine safety regimes in the world. It is my pleasure to speak to the dedication and capacity that our responders and partners have to protect the marine environment.

    Today, I would like to focus my remarks on Environment Canada’s role in these kinds of environmental emergencies. I will highlight the impressive capacity and dedication that Environment Canada specifically provides in the event of a pollution incident. As well, I will speak to the critical support and expertise that Environment Canada provided in response to the marine pollution incident from the Marathassavessel.

    It goes without saying that Environment Canada is an organization that prides itself on its thorough scientific work. In fact, it is one of the largest science programs in the federal government. Environment Canada is a leader, contributing to the Government of Canada’s priority of a clean and healthy environment. Its world-class science is the foundation for the department’s policies and actions.

    Environment Canada’s key role is to provide scientific and technical advice, and guidance to reduce the potential consequences of environmental emergencies. The National Environmental Emergencies Centre is Environment Canada’s focal point for addressing and managing environmental emergencies. The emergencies centre provides high calibre scientific advice and information to responders and lead agencies in the event of an environmental incident. It advises on issues such as northern and Arctic species, weather and wind predictions, birds oiled at sea, species at risk, pollution dispersion modelling and pollution cleanup techniques.

    As members of the House can imagine, this kind of information is critically important in a variety of environmental responses. In order to safeguard the environment and determine the best course of action, lead agencies need access to this kind of strategic, expert advice.

    The National Environmental Emergencies Centre also manages the approximately 36,000 environmental emergency notifications that it receives each year. It does this efficiently and effectively. Additionally, it issues directives and takes action as per legislative requirements under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, as well as the Fisheries Act. It also assesses the appropriateness of any remedial actions required under those acts.

    Environment Canada’s National Environmental Emergencies Centre is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to provide expert scientific advice to responders and other implicated agencies. The National Environmental Emergencies Centre advises federal departments such as Transport Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard, along with various provincial and municipal departments, agencies and environmental response companies. When needed, it also offers on-site advice and coordination.

    There is another important role that Environment Canada plays in the event of an environmental emergency response. The department also enforces the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994, and the pollution prevention provisions of the Fisheries Act. This includes those provisions that prohibit the discharge of harmful substances into areas frequented by migratory birds and deleterious substances into waters frequented by fish. To accomplish this, Environment Canada provides information on migratory birds and species at risk in the area of a spill and minimizes harm to unoiled birds through deterrent measures. Environment Canada also ensures the humane treatment of migratory birds and species at risk by recommending appropriate response and treatment strategies.

    Environment Canada works closely with Transport Canada through a memorandum of understanding in the surveillance of sea-based activities, such as pollution, ice conditions and marine security.

    In order to illustrate how Environment Canada helps responders reduce the environmental consequences of polluting incidents, I would like to highlight the actions taken during the cleanup of the Marathassa spill.

    Earlier this month, on April 8, Environment Canada was notified of an oil slick in the Vancouver harbour-English Bay area. Environment Canada’s trained experts in Vancouver and across the country then worked day and night to help the Canadian Coast Guard and other partners successfully respond to the Marathassa spill.

    Environment Canada’s national environmental emergencies centre was activated and it offered initial spill trajectory modelling and maps. In addition, Environment Canada co-chaired the environmental unit inside the incident command post along with British Columbia’s Ministry of Environment.

    Environment Canada experts were able to provide advice to the response team on the water sampling, monitoring and shoreline cleanup plans. Its scientists at the Pacific environmental science centre analyzed water samples from the incident site to help determine the source of the spill and the type of oil involved. Once identified, scientists within the department’s emergencies science and technology section provided additional oil spill modelling services to help responders understand the behaviours of bunker fuel in the water.

    As well, staff from the Canadian Wildlife Service inside the incident command post provided advice to focus wildlife and other wildlife response organizations in the development and execution of a plan to assist and protect wildlife in the area.

    This is an impressive list of actions already, but Environment Canada’s strong support of Canada’s marine safety system during this response does not end here. In fact, meteorologists within the Pacific and Yukon storm prediction centre provided weather and sea state forecasts, including site-specific forecasts every six hours to incident command. These forecasts included wind speed and direction, temperature, precipitation, wave height, as well as tidal levels.

    Officers from Environment Canada’s enforcement branch attended the scene and continued to provide assistance to Transport Canada, the lead investigating agency on ship-source incidents. Additionally, Environment Canada experts operating the marine aerial reconnaissance team, which is part of Transport Canada’s national aerial reconnaissance program, used remote sensors to help calculate the volume of oil in the waters around the Marathassa.

    Finally, Environment Canada kept Canadians informed on the progress in responding to the spill, including information on oiled birds and efforts to rehabilitate them.

    As members can see, Environment Canada launched a robust and exhaustive response to this marine incident. It demonstrates how actively engaged Environment Canada is in helping its partners manage environmental emergencies.

    The dedicated efforts and scientific expertise provided by Environment Canada form a critical component of our country’s strong marine safety program. It provides efficient and effective emergency response advice and expert assistance to protect the environment, and it will continue doing just that.

    Mr. Larry Maguire

    Brandon-Souris, CPC

  • Mr. Speaker, I was impressed by the hon. member’s speech about what a wonderful job Environment Canada is doing, which speaks to a parallel reality. I am not quite sure how Environment Canada actually does a better job when it lets go 55 scientists from its contaminants program. I am not quite sure how Environment Canada does a better job by reducing the overall budget for emergency responses by something in the order of 35%. I am not sure how Environment Canada actually does a better job by lapsing over the last four or five years the equivalent of one entire budgetary cycle. Every year, Environment Canada lapses a portion of its money and the cumulative total is the equivalent of one budgetary cycle.

    I would be interested in the hon. member’s analysis as to how, given all of those core facts, Environment Canada is actually responding better.

    Hon. John McKay

    Scarborough—Guildwood, Lib.

  • Mr. Speaker, obviously, the member listened to my presentation and he heard all of the wonderful work that Environment Canada has done, is doing on a regular basis and did in responding to this emergency as well.

    I think the member answered his own question by saying that Environment Canada has done a tremendously good job in this particular case in regard to responding to all of the areas of concern, whether it was the density and of the type of oil that was in the water, the quantity of it and the amount of reclamation that was done for the fowl involved. I pointed out very clearly how Environment Canada has dealt with this emergency in regard to the Marathassa. It has been quite effective.

    [Translation]

    Mr. Larry Maguire

    Brandon-Souris, CPC

  • Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Brandon—Souris for his speech, but I cannot help but wonder what planet he lives on.

    My colleague’s speech was so off base with respect to what the people in B.C. affected by the spill are experiencing.

    We had the same problem in the Quebec City area when the Conservative government, despite all advice to the contrary, decided to close the Quebec City marine rescue sub-centre. Beyond the outcry, the government was forced to realize that moving those services to Ontario was completely unrealistic if it was to respect the linguistic reality of Quebec in the St. Lawrence sector. The government was forced to reverse its decision.

    When will the government wake up and reverse its decision to close the British Columbia centre?

    Mr. Raymond Côté

    Beauport—Limoilou, NDP

  • Mr. Speaker, my comments dealing with the good work of Environment Canada, the good work of the Coast Guard in B.C., and the notification of the province immediately whose responsibility it is to notify the city and surrounding areas municipally are targeted totally in regard to the excellent response on the Marathassa spill situation.

    I am not surprised that my colleague from the NDP has some questions in regard to this given that there has been 27% higher federal funding in the Coast Guard since 2005 under the Liberals, but the NDP voted against that increase in funds anyway.

    I think it is the opposition members who need to look at the type of plans they have for developing the safety in these kinds of situations and that is what I have tried to focus my comments on.

    Mr. Larry Maguire

    Brandon-Souris, CPC

  • Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today in the House and speak to this important motion.

    Of course, our government is committed to protecting both the safety of Canadians and our maritime environment. We have made that abundantly clear through our continued and unprecedented investments in the Canadian Coast Guard fleet.

    A key responsibility of the Canadian Coast Guard is to protect our waters through coordinating responses to emergency pollution incidents. To do so, Canadians rely on Canada’s marine safety system, a robust, multi-layered regime built on strong partnerships across industry, all levels of government and stakeholders.

    The environmental response regime of this system is what I will be using my time to discuss today. While my speech will focus mainly on the Coast Guard response, I would like to take a moment to highlight the other partners that protect the marine environment. For example, this system is founded on a comprehensive framework that is led by Transport Canada. Transport Canada has a key role in inspecting vessels to ensure that they are compliant with Canada’s rigorous safety standards. If pollution ends up in the water, it investigates and when necessary, Transport Canada will prosecute the polluters. Environment Canada and Fisheries and Oceans also play an important role in supporting this system by ensuring that we have the best scientific information available to support our decision-making.

    When it comes to the role of the Canadian Coast Guard, its top priorities are to ensure the safety of mariners and the protection of the marine environment. When a response to pollution on the water is required, it is the Coast Guard that ensures the cleanup happens and that it is done right. This is not an uncommon job at all for the Coast Guard. In fact, each year the Coast Guard addresses and investigates approximately 1,300 maritime pollution incidents.

    Depending on the situation, the Coast Guard can have a different response and take on different responsibilities during the cleanup effort. In Canada it is the shipowner’s responsibility to ensure they clean up any pollution they have caused. If this is the case, the Coast Guard monitors the situation and ensures that the owner follows through appropriately. When the polluter is unknown, unwilling or unable to step up to the task, as we have witnessed in the early hours of the MV Marathassa operation, the Coast Guard then looks after the interests of Canadians and the environment by taking the lead and ensuring pollution is contained and removed.

    I want Canadians to understand that they are not on the hook for the costs to clean up marine pollution. In Canada, polluters pay. Let me reiterate that the response is not on the taxpayer’s dime but squarely on the polluter’s.

    A key component of the polluter pay regime is the requirement that vessels of a certain size have an arrangement with a Transport Canada certified response organization to clean up any pollution they may cause. Those organizations charge a fee to ships by the tonne to fund Canada’s robust response capacity. Those response organizations in turn are required to maintain response plans and equipment. The legal requirement is that the certified response organizations maintain a capacity to respond to a 10,000 tonne event, which places Canada at the forefront in terms of spill response. In the case of the Marathassa, it was this kind of response organization with extensive capacity and expertise that undertook the cleanup work under the supervision of the Canadian Coast Guard.

    I would like to reiterate the statements made by my colleagues earlier today and address the motion before us.

    The commissioner of the Coast Guard has been crystal clear. The Kitsilano station was not an environmental response station and has never provided the kind of environmental response that the Marathassa operation required.

    As we have seen, the Canadian Coast Guard has the capacity to manage major ship-source pollution. It plans for these events. It trains its employees and practices the operations with partners to ensure everyone is prepared should such an incident occur. The Canadian Coast Guard has the ability to take these measures and the measures it believes are necessary to minimize or prevent pollution damage to the environment.

    In addition to the certified environmental response organizations, the Coast Guard has its own environmental response assets and equipment strategically located across the country.

    The Canadian Coast Guard follows a solid and effective response protocol in responding to the thousand-plus reports of pollution it receives each year. When one of those reports comes in, the first thing the Coast Guard does is investigate it. Coast Guard officials want to know where it is coming from, what it is, and what measures should be taken to protect our waters. Once the determination of the right course is made, they activate the response. They inform the polluters of their responsibilities or take over the response if the polluters are not known or are not able or willing to respond effectively.

    The number one goal in a response is to protect the marine environment. I cannot stress enough how important that is to the Canadian Coast Guard, and any decision made during an operation is made with this goal in mind.

    As I have mentioned, Canada has one of the strongest marine safety regimes in the world. That being said, we cannot rest on our past or on our successes, and our government is committed to continuing to make our response system even safer. The increase in trade and shipping in Canadian waters is an important consideration for our evolving system, and we are taking action to enhance an already robust marine safety system through the implementation of world-class measures.

    Being fully prepared to respond to pollution is only part of the equation. The key to protecting the environment is preventing pollution from happening in the first place. The Canadian Coast Guard is implementing several new prevention measures that will reduce the risk of pollution in Canadian waters. The measures will increase the safety of marine navigation. These include improving the information available to mariners on waterways on potential hazards in real time, ensuring that the Canadian Coast Guard officers have the leading-edge tools, equipment, and technology to provide safer navigation services. This of course includes the Coast Guard’s modernization of its Marine Communications and Traffic Services centres, which will provide state-of-the-art technology to officers to improve services to all mariners.

    Our government has taken and will continue to take action to strengthen our already rigorous and robust environmental protection and response system. The Canadian Coast Guard has been a tireless pillar in the safety of our waters and the protection of the marine environment. We thank it for its work and continued support on that front.

    Mr. Ryan Leef

    Yukon, CPC

  • Mr. Speaker, I could not help hearing the hon. member place a lot of emphasis on polluter pay. My question is to how he understands that. My understanding of polluter pay is that it is just the cleanup costs. It does not account for damage to our tourism industry. It does not account for damage to the fishing industry. In a riding like mine, where we face the extinction of some species, it certainly could never cover the cost of the extinction of species. I wonder if the member would be a little more clear for the public that polluter pay only very narrowly means those costs.

    The second part of my question would be this: Which companies are benefiting from the cleanup? Who owns those companies that are doing the cleanup? I think the member knows the answer to that, because it happens to be companies like Kinder Morgan.

    Mr. Randall Garrison

    Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, NDP

  • Mr. Speaker, as I stressed in my remarks, what is most important to Canadians is that prevention is the first response of the Government of Canada. We are initiating steps to make sure that accidents do not happen in the first place. The polluter pay principle in fact kicks in only once there has been pollution or when there has been an event. Our preference, and the preference of all members in this House, would be that we take measures and we make investments, and the Government of Canada is doing so, to make sure that an event does not occur in the first place. However, when it does, it is important for Canadians to know that they are not on the hook for the cleanup.

    The cleanup, at times, can be very costly. The polluter pay principle in this case is one that directs and dictates that the owners and operators of these vessels need to make sure that they have a system in place ahead of time. It is not something they engage in after the fact but ahead of time to make sure that cleanups can be dealt with in an effective, expeditious, and cost-sensible measure that does not impact the Canadian public.

    Mr. Ryan Leef

    Yukon, CPC

  • Mr. Speaker, the enthusiasm for the response to this particular incident seems to be contained only within the Conservative caucus. The Premier of British Columbia was none too impressed. The mayor of Vancouver was none too impressed. In fact, the municipal councils were really irritated in 2013 when they were blindsided by the Kitsilano closing.

    I wonder how it is that the hon. member explains that none of the other elected officials, outside of the Conservative caucus in British Columbia, are too terribly impressed by this response. How does he explain that the Auditor General took note of this several years ago, when he said that Canada needs significant improvements in both Coast Guard and National Defence search and rescue equipment and information assistance?

    Other than the fantasy world in the Conservative caucus, is there anyone else who actually supports what the response has been to date?

    Hon. John McKay

    Scarborough—Guildwood, Lib.

  • Mr. Speaker, I will quickly touch on the Auditor General’s comments from several years ago. How I can explain that is that it was certainly because of the Liberals’ legacy we inherited and their deficits, and I can say that since 2005–

    An hon. member: Oh, oh!

    Mr. Speaker, it is interesting that I gave the hon. member the due respect of listening to his question, but he is not prepared to get the answer.

    I know he does not like it, but since 2005, our government has increased investments in the Canadian Coast Guard by 27% over what the Liberal government left behind. All the improvements in Coast Guard infrastructure, all the improvements in Coast Guard support and capacity are a direct result of the deficit left behind by the Liberal government. That explains that piece of it.

    Is there anyone outside of the Conservative caucus who thinks the response was appropriate? Let me say this. This individual is not a member of the Conservative caucus and is a valued public servant. The Liberal opposition third party seems to have no problem chastising and throwing under the bus the great people in the public service who do good work for us. Michael Lowry, of Western Canada Marine Response, says there was no delay in its response. The time between when it was officially activated by the Coast Guard and when the first boat arrived was an hour and 19 minutes, which is an incredible response time. The assistant commissioner made remarks about the response time.

    While the third party feels comfortable chastising the great people in the Coast Guard of Canada, we will stand behind them and continue to support them with investments.

    Mr. Ryan Leef

    Yukon, CPC

  • Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hard-working member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine today.

    It is my pleasure to stand in the House and it is an honour and a privilege to support the motion put forward by the member for New Westminster—Coquitlam, an ardent and passionate champion for our waterways. I know that he has done an incredible amount of work, whether for the Fraser or Burrard Inlet, and now for our pristine coastline. We really appreciate his advocacy.

    The motion we have brought forward today is being brought forward as a result of a recent oil spill and a tanker leaking into our beautiful British Columbia, just off the coast of Vancouver. It is an area I know well. I lived there for well over a decade, in English Bay, and I can tell the House that the huge number of people I have talked to from the English Bay area do not feel that the response has been world-class or made up of world-class science.

    Just repeating that and hearing the echo from the Conservatives that this response was world-class and science-based does not make it so. Reading out the same phrase over and over again, when they know that it is not so, seems a bit more like electioneering and trying to bury the truth than actually dealing with what really happened.

    The oil spill in itself is alarming. It is alarming for those of us who live on the coast, but it is also alarming for those who work on the coastline and for people from coast to coast to coast. What it pointed out was how seriously inadequate our response is and that we are not ready, despite warnings from the Auditor General. The government has had the time to fix it. Instead of blaming a previous government, what it should have done was fix the response. Instead, it has started to make things worse.

    Closing the Kitsilano Coast Guard station was a major mistake. Here we have one of the busiest ports for tanker traffic. It is a commercial port. There is high tourism in that area. Taking away the Kitsilano Coast Guard station was ill thought out. Now, with this oil spill, we have seen the consequences.

    We have also closed down B.C.’s oil spill environmental response centre and shuttered three of the five Marine Communications and Traffic Services centres, all while marine traffic is increasing. Now there is a call centre in Montreal. Those of us who know our beautiful country know that Montreal is a little bit of a distance away from Vancouver. Even flying across, it takes about five hours. Here we are, allowing our pristine coastline protection to be sent off to Montreal and not having any eyes on the ground right there in B.C.

    As I said, the Auditor General was very clear.

    I also want us to imagine that this happened on a fairly calm day. There were not those beautiful B.C. storms that we know so well and love to watch, yet it took hours for the response. Imagine if this had been an oil tanker spill or an issue with the refineries in the Burrard Inlet, and imagine the devastation that would have occurred on our coastline.

    It is because of all of that that the NDP is asking for some very simple steps for the government to take. Number one is to reopen the Kitsilano Coast Guard station. Number two is to reopen the recently closed Ucluelet Marine Communication and Traffic Services centre. Number three is to halt plans to close the Vancouver and Comox Marine Communication and Traffic Services centres.

    We are not alone on this. Other groups are calling for this and are supporting the motion we are debating today 100%. The International Transport Workers’ Federation and the CMWC, representing all of Canada’s marine workers, are very clear about what is needed. This is what Peter Lahay had to say:

    Typically, the captain of the MARATHASSA tried to deny his ship was leaking. Every day, Seafarers’ Representatives in Canada claw at the corporate veil shielding Flag of Convenience ship owners.

    Then he goes on to say:

    This is exactly why domestic shipping must remain a Canadian industry. In our hands, such a catastrophic event is unlikely to occur, and if it did, the owner of the ship is right down the street. They have a stake in their community. Most importantly, we know who they are. They are not some slippery numbered company in the Cayman Islands, Panama or Cyprus.

    The other thing that is absolutely shocking to me is that we have an oil spill, and which is the company that is now in charge of the cleanup and responding to the cleanup? Kinder Morgan. I think all Canadians must be giving their heads a shake. It is not as if oil spills are unique and do not happen very often.

    It is inevitable that accidents will happen. I was quite shocked to find out that the International Tankers Owner Pollution Federation has recorded nearly 10,000 accidental oil spills globally since 1970. We are not talking about small numbers, and we are not talking about something that has happened once and will not happen again, so we need to make sure we put systems in place.

    I hear my friends across the way talking about polluter pays for the cleanup. It is exactly that, for the cleanup, but what happens to our beautiful, pristine B.C. coastline? What happens to our tourism industry, which generates $1.55 billion per year? What happens to our seafood sector in B.C., which generates close to $1.7 billion each year?

    We are not talking about small numbers. We are not talking about thousands. We are talking about industries that generate over $3.2 billion per year, and that goes right back into our economy. That is people working at decent paying jobs, and that is also ongoing. It is year in and year out.

    These sectors provide permanent sources of income for around 45,000 Canadians. Nobody across on that side, or maybe they could after what I have heard today, could argue that they could guarantee that those sectors would not be affected by oil spills.

    The other thing is that in terms of the world-class response we have, it is absolutely the Conservative government that has to wear it. The people who responded were doing the best they could with what they had, but really, it is the government that has to take responsibility, because it has been cutting. Some Coast Guard staff in B.C. have been cut by 25%.

    We are not the only ones saying that. The mayor of Vancouver stood up and said that it took not one hour, not five minutes, not ten minutes, not even five hours, it took 13 hours to inform the mayor of the city where a major oil spill has occurred.

    There is a Conservative-Liberal coalition in B.C.; that is how they govern. I do not often agree with the premier of my province on many issues, but even she was forced to acknowledge that the response was far below what is satisfactory and expected.

    I urge my colleagues in B.C. and the rest of the Conservative caucus to do the right thing and support this motion.

    Ms. Jinny Jogindera Sims

    Newton—North Delta, NDP

  • Mr. Speaker, I listened to the hon. member’s speech. I have several questions. All I am hearing is doom and gloom from the opposition. The reality is that the Canadian Coast Guard did a very good job, along with the Western Canada Marine Response Corporation, to respond to an oil spill.

    From what I can see, the WCMRC was officially activated at 8:06 p.m. and crews arrived on the scene at 9:25 p.m. That is an hour and 19 minutes. That is only three hours after the original sheen was on the water and they could actually locate where the oil was coming from, and the vessel involved.

    Immediately a boom was put around that vessel which contained 80% of the spill by the next morning, and recovered 80% of the spill. The next morning, the only oil on the water was estimated by both Canadian and American authorities to be less than a third of a litre.

    You can sit over there and criticize the Canadian Coast Guard all you want and you can say that this is the end of the world as we know it, but on the east coast of Canada, you get a response like that from the Coast Guard, you get your oil spill cleaned up, and you get back to work.

    Mr. Gerald Keddy

    Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade, for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and for the Atlantic Gateway, CPC

  • I would just remind all hon. members to direct their comments to the chair rather than directly to their colleagues.

    The Acting Speaker

    Mr. Barry Devolin

  • Mr. Speaker, I am flabbergasted and almost speechless for the first time in this House to hear the minister make up Kijiji data again.

    My colleagues across the way are not really known for knowing the data too well. They even have difficulty knowing how many people live in Canada.

    Here we are now, being told that less than a litre of oil was actually out there. The former Kitsilano base commander, Captain Fred Moxey, who is not an NDPer and who does not sit in our caucus, was very clear about what would have happened if the Kitsilano coast guard station was open. He said:

    The crew was trained and the ship was ready around the clock for a first attack. Had the base been open and the crew on duty, they would have been out into English Bay in a matter of minutes.

    Ms. Jinny Jogindera Sims

    Newton—North Delta, NDP

  • Mr. Speaker, I was kind of amused by the response from the member for Yukon when I asked why the premier of British Columbia, the mayor of Vancouver and council members were all upset. The police, fire responders and the emergency responders were all upset because of the timelines.

    The member did not respond to any one of them, but cited some person who is not known to me, but possibly is known to the hon. member who just spoke.

    Can the hon. member who just spoke tell me how it is that there seems to be such a variation in reality between what the Conservative caucus believes happened, i.e. less than a third of a litre of oil ultimately escaped, and this apparent upset on the part of every elected politician and every representative outside of the Conservative members of the B.C. caucus?

    Hon. John McKay

    Scarborough—Guildwood, Lib.

  • Mr. Speaker, what we are seeing is a prime example of speaking notes that are being read out just to convince themselves of this reality.

    It would be very hard for my colleagues across the way to actually acknowledge that the response was far less than satisfactory and nowhere near world class. The minister came out saying that, despite the fact that everybody who was on the ground was actually saying the opposite, including the mayor and the premier of the province.

    I put a lot of weight on what I hear from citizens. I have talked to many people who live in English Bay, and they are still disturbed because they are still convinced it is not as clean as it should be.

    [Translation]

    Ms. Jinny Jogindera Sims

    Newton—North Delta, NDP

  • Mr. Speaker, today, I am pleased and honoured to present my views on the opposition motion on the Kitsilano Coast Guard and the marine traffic centres across Canada.

    I have heard repeatedly in the House that the incident in Vancouver was handled properly. Quite frankly, if that is what we consider a proper response in Canada, then we have a problem. People in eastern Canada had similar experiences and understand that we are a long way from handling this sort of thing properly.

    I would like to remind members that the environment commissioner was very clear in the report he published in early 2013: when it comes to eastern Canada and the St. Lawrence estuary, we are not at all prepared to deal with an oil spill.

    We need to learn from what happened in Vancouver so that people in eastern Canada have a better understanding of what went wrong in the west coast. Western Canada should also remember what happened in the eastern part of the country. I would therefore like to briefly discuss the incidents that have occurred recently and show that, unfortunately, this government is not handling these situations properly.

    On the contrary, it is gutting our country’s protection system, which is certainly not good for Canadians. I am therefore wondering who will benefit from the dismantling of search and rescue services and protection services for our coastal communities. This jeopardizes the lives of our fishermen and sailors, not to mention the state of our ecosystems and the industries that depend on them, such as tourism and the fishery.

    Finally, the Conservatives are saying that they have greatly improved the Coast Guard’s capacity since 2005. I would like to give some examples that clearly show that the Coast Guard’s capacity has diminished at the expense of safety.

    Remember that the NDP went to the mat for the Quebec City marine rescue sub-centre, the main eastern Canada centre ensuring the safety of fishers and sailors as well as the environment. We need real resources in the regions so that we can respond to distress situations.

    In eastern Quebec, the Rivière-au-Renard marine communications and traffic services centre, which is in my riding near the city of Gaspé, is being shut down. They are talking about shutting down the marine traffic centre in St. Anthony and transferring its functions to Happy Valley-Goose Bay, and they also have the centres in Vancouver; Comox; Saint John, New Brunswick; St. John’s, Newfoundland; Tofino; and Thunder Bay in their sights. All of those centres are slated for closure, thereby weakening our ability to respond to distress situations.

    The people who work at these marine traffic centres are the first line of defence for fishers and sailors. When a fisher is in distress or there is an oil spill, marine traffic centres are the first to respond to the distress calls. Closing these centres will weaken our ability to respond to distress situations.

    In Vancouver, the response was extremely slow, even though help was not far away. In eastern Canada, such response teams are located hundreds if not thousands of kilometres away. The marine traffic centres that respond to distress situations are being closed.

    When people make a distress call, they are often the ones in distress, and therefore they are unable to give us their exact location. They expect whoever answers their call to know where American Bank is, for example. When a ship is sinking, that is not the time to consult a manual to find out where American Bank is.

    The same is true when it comes to a cleanup following a spill. We cannot rely only on the liability that the Conservatives’ new bills place on the shipping companies that use our waters when it comes to cleaning up after a spill. No, we also need to protect ourselves.

    With the Conservatives saying that they have improved the Canadian Coast Guard’s capacity since 2005, I have to ask a question. If that were true, why did the Auditor General and the Commissioner of the Environment each say, in 2010 and 2012 respectively, that we did not have the ability to clean up an oil spill? The situation has not improved, quite the contrary. I would like to see the government show a real interest in improving our cleanup capacity.

    Some 82 million litres of oil are transported through the vast region of eastern Canada, and 25 million litres of oil are transported through the St. Lawrence estuary and the Gulf of St. Lawrence every year, and yet we do not have the capacity to clean up a potential spill.

    Once again, although the Conservatives are saying that they are up to the task, on the contrary, the people of eastern Canada know very well that we are not even close. I will use a recent leak as an example. Last year in Cap-aux-Meules in the Magdalen Islands, there was a leak of 100,000 litres, and we had to push really hard to get Environment Canada to issue a statement. We must not forget the recent spill in Vancouver involving 2,800 litres, and probably more.

    We fault the government for the fact that the Canadian Coast Guard failed to communicate with local officials in the Vancouver area. The same thing happened in Cap-aux-Meules, where communication capabilities were practically non-existent when 100,000 litres of oil spilled.

    With the help of the Canadian Coast Guard and private companies, we were able to put up barriers in an attempt to recover 20,000 of the 100,000 litres. Nonetheless, 80,000 litres dispersed into the water or the ocean. We are not entirely sure.

    However, since then, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard have told us that the situation was very worrisome. They are prepared to move forward with a plan of action, but that plan has yet to materialize. We do not know what direction they will take.

    Fifty years ago, the Corfu Island ran aground near the Magdalen Islands, and we are still finding oil on the beaches today. In September 2014, Fisheries and Oceans Canada was finally prepared to move forward with a plan of action. As of April of this year, we still have no plan of action. That was 50 years ago. This just goes to show that the successive governments of Canada have not taken huge oil spills in eastern Canada seriously on many occasions. There are oil spills there almost every day. Some are small; some are big.

    As my colleague from Surrey North said, there are thousands of spills every year, and we see that the cleanup capacity is abysmal.

    When we talk about closing marine communications and traffic services centres, not only are we losing expertise on how to respond to distress situations, but we are also losing people in our regions. Marine communications and traffic services centres are often located in the regions. If we close those centres, people will leave with their families and their knowledge. The regions will suffer tremendously from this attempt to save some money at the expense of fishers, mariners and the environment.

    The Rivière-au-Renard Marine Communications and Traffic Services Centre is supposed to close this year. Its services will be provided by Les Escoumins MCTS Centre, which is on the other side of the gulf. It will be a long time before the centre closes because the communications system just does not work.

    When the Conservatives tell us that they have made major improvements to the communications system, we need to ask questions. They have been trying to close the Rivière-au-Renard Marine Communications and Traffic Services Centre and transfer its responsibilities to the Les Escoumins centre for two years. However, they cannot do it because the communications system, which was installed at a cost of $40 million, does not work. Les Escoumins and the other communications and traffic services centres are not operating properly. We have to wonder about how well they are functioning.

    I would like to point out that the Conservatives are going to buy an European communications system. Perhaps it is time that they invested in Canadians, not just in technology but also in the health and safety of people in their environment.

    Mr. Philip Toone

    Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, NDP

  • Mr. Speaker, I am trying to reconcile some discrepancies between what government members say and what seems to be the truth of the matter.

    When the Kitsilano base was open, it dealt with something in the order of in excess of 300 incidents on an annual basis, which is a little more than one a day. The response time was something in the order of five minutes for all levels of incidents. In this instance, the response time, the notification time, was 37 hours. There seems to be a bit of a discrepancy between five minutes and 37 hours. As a consequence, the response does not seem to be quite the world-class response that members across the way seem to think was operative here.

    How is it that 37 hours becomes a world-class response, but five minutes is not?

    Hon. John McKay

    Scarborough—Guildwood, Lib.

  • Mr. Speaker, that is a question that should be posed to members on the government side, because I do not work with the same math they do, and I do not think my hon. friend works with their math either. Perhaps the Conservatives should go back to using slide rules, because clearly the software they are using is not working properly.

    We should be looking at creating real standards. When we adopted legislation recently in this House regarding the responsibility that polluters pay, it was a step in the right direction. However, the problem is that we are solving a problem after the fact.

    What we are trying to bring forward here today is that the government is not giving that ounce of prevention that is worth a pound of cure. That ounce of prevention is precious. The Conservatives do not seem to understand that all they are doing is passing the buck to future generations, who will be paying through the nose for all of the bad legislation that the current government has brought forward.

    The Conservatives need to stop closing emergency response centres. They need to stop laying off scientists. They need to actually invest in the environment. They need to look back at the bills they have adopted in this House that have seriously curtailed our capacity to protect the environment. They have to start taking what they say for real and actually put some real emphasis on protecting the environment, the environment upon which the Canadian economy depends.

    [Translation]

    Mr. Philip Toone

    Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, NDP

  • Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his speech. In fact, our country does extend from coast to coast. The incident we are currently discussing took place on the west coast. However, my colleague described very well the incidents that took place on the east coast.

    He clearly explained that one of the stakeholders is not at the table, and that is the government, which has a responsibility to protect the public. I would like him to speak more about the government’s role in protecting the public, enacting regulations and better protecting Canadian coasts.

    Ms. Hélène LeBlanc

    LaSalle—Émard, NDP

  • Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague, who asked a very relevant question.

    It is important to remember that the government likely has no greater responsibility than to protect the public and put rules in place so that people know that they can count on the government in case of an emergency. This government is doing the opposite. It has tried multiple times to dismantle the Quebec City marine rescue sub-centre; the marine traffic centres; scientific institutions, such as the Maurice Lamontagne Institute; and protections that people expect.

    The government has to stop thinking that it is enough to take action after the fact, or to have the capacity to deal with problems after they occur. Canada is a 21st century country and Canadians expect us to use the technology, knowledge and expertise our country has to protect against foreseeable incidents. We know that there are going to be spills and distress situations at sea.

    Unfortunately, the Conservative government is ignoring that knowledge. It is disregarding it. It is time that the government took that knowledge seriously.

    Mr. Philip Toone

    Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, NDP

  • Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time today with my hon. colleague, the member for Sarnia—Lambton.

    I am very pleased to have this opportunity to participate in today’s debate pertaining to the Government of Canada’s robust marine safety system and environmental response capacity. All of us agree on the importance of the safety of those at sea and protecting the marine environment.

    I will be speaking today to the role of Environment Canada in our nation’s emergency response system. Emergency preparedness is a shared responsibility and we all have an important role to play in preventing or acting to mitigate the impacts of an unforeseen event. That is why emergency response planning and coordination of efforts among all levels of government, whether it be federal, provincial or municipal, is so vitally important in dealing with potential disasters.

    Environment Canada’s responsibilities relating to emergencies include administering and enforcing environmental emergency regulations under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999. The aim of these regulations is to reduce the frequency and consequences of uncontrolled, unplanned, or accidental releases of hazardous substances into the environment.

    The recent oil spill in English Bay, British Columbia, where fuel leaked from the vessel Marathassa, highlighted the importance of having a coordinated approach in handling environmental emergencies. The Canadian Coast Guard, in partnership with its federal, provincial and municipal partners, coordinated a robust response to the pollution of English Bay. As part of the unified command, the Canadian Coast Guard, Transport Canada and Environment Canada, along with their provincial counterparts and response agencies, worked together to quickly and co-operatively contain and remove the pollution. The team worked tirelessly on the subsequent cleanup and their efforts have been successful. In fact, according to the commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard, within the first 36 hours, 80% of the recoverable fuel in English Bay had been removed.

    Interestingly, when I listen to my colleagues across the way, I listen in vain for any numbers, any measurement of the environment, and what is going on in the environment. I notice how my friends, the NDP and the Liberals, never talk about the environment itself. All they talk about is symbolism, because to both of those parties, the environment is a political football and nothing else. They never look at what is actually going on in the environment. Personally, all I care about is what is happening in the environment itself.

    I want to point out to my friends across the way that the environment is about measurement and numbers. According to the numbers, there is no evidence that shellfish and groundfish in the area of the Marathassa incident posed any health danger and DFO is taking due caution in the interest of public safety until all sampling confirms that there is zero risk to public health. Furthermore, recent water samples from Siwash Rock, Sandy Cove, English Bay, and the waters surrounding the MV Marathassa had hydrocarbon levels below laboratory detection limits and meet all federal-provincial guidelines.

    I know that my friends opposite are scared of numbers and never use numbers, but on our government’s watch, most of Canada’s environmental indicators for water quality, air quality, and biodiversity have improved and continue to improve. All that counts are the numbers.

    I will briefly speak to the motion before us today as it relates to the Coast Guard response.

    The commissioner of the Coast Guard has been abundantly clear that the Kitsilano station would not have made any difference in the response. As well, it is important to note that the marine communications and traffic services centres’ modernization will actually improve the safety of mariners through state-of-the-art technology.

    Furthermore, on the Kitsilano station, the commissioner of the Coast Guard said, “I would like to respond to speculation in the media and confirm that the Kitsilano station never provided these types of environmental response operations, and its presence would not have changed how we responded to this incident”. The parties opposite want to recreate an edifice which quite frankly had nothing to do with this incident. That proves that in terms of the environment, the parties opposite only care about spending money and building buildings, and the environment does not matter at all. To me, it is the environment that counts, and under this government, Canada’s environment has improved markedly.

    I want to take this opportunity to recognize the dedicated efforts of everyone who is involved in protecting the waters and the coastline off English Bay, particularly all those who came to the rescue of affected wildlife. Our government believes in and strongly supports the polluter pays principle and that taxpayers are not going to be on the hook for this marine response operation. The owners of the Marathassawere responsible to take action to mitigate any damage caused by their ship, and they will be held accountable for damages and cleanup costs incurred as a result of this incident.

    Previous speakers have gone into greater detail about how the three federal departments worked together in this particular instance to contain the risk posed by the fuel spill, and nothing more needs to be said about that.

    Instead, I would like to speak briefly to Environment Canada’s responsibilities in such emergencies, and discuss its role in the protection of migratory birds and species at risk under its protection during such incidents.

    In the case of oil spills such as the one that occurred in English Bay, Environment Canada’s role is to provide immediate support to the lead agencies and responders. It does that through scientific and technical advice on how best to deal with specific types of environmental emergencies. As was elaborated on by my colleague earlier today, this was done through the National Environmental Emergencies Centre.

    The NEEC operates 24/7 to provide its critical support to responders. It supports all levels of government, as well as industry, by providing scientific advice such as weather forecasting, containment trajectory modelling and determining the fate and behaviour of hazardous substances. The centre also provides environmental sensitivity mapping, supports the establishment of cleanup priorities and advises on the protection of sensitive ecosystems and wildlife such as migratory birds. This program is an effective tool in helping emergency response agencies and industries take immediate and effective action to mitigate the potential impacts to the environment and human health of any pollution incident.

    Unfortunately, the impacts of environmental emergencies such as marine pollution are often first felt by our wildlife. Environment Canada’s Canadian Wildlife Service is the lead authority for setting emergency response priorities, standards and guidelines in order to protect sensitive migratory birds and species at risk. We take this responsibility very seriously.

    Under the Migratory Birds Convention Act and Migratory Birds regulations, Environment Canada has a legislative responsibility for the conservation and protection of migratory birds throughout Canada. As part of its mandate, Environment Canada collects and maintains data on all migratory birds, especially those at risk in areas impacted by marine pollution. It conducts surveys of affected areas, while assisting in the rescue and treatment of affected migratory birds or species at risk. It also offers scientific advice to responders when a critical habitat for a species at risk has been affected.

    We are committed, as our record shows, to the protection of Canada’s wildlife and to support Environment Canada’s key roles in this type of emergency, gathering samples and analysis of affected wildlife for possible legal prosecution of polluters. Environment Canada’s enforcement branch is there to ensure that companies and individuals comply with all pollution prevention and conservation rules of environmental and wildlife protection acts and regulations.

    I have just skimmed the surface of some of the programs that Environment Canada offers in the protection of our environment, the health of our citizens and sustainability of wildlife. We all have a role to play in reducing the frequency of environmental emergencies and mitigating potential impacts should they occur. Our government remains fully committed to working with its provincial and territorial partners as well as industry to ensure that we will continue to have a strong, effective and coordinated response in the event of any future environmental incidents. We will continue to work diligently on prevention to ensure that these incidents do not occur in the first place.

    In closing, I would like to again offer my thanks to all those who have dedicated their time and effort to the successful operation at English Bay. Canadians can be very proud of the strong protection of our shores.

    Mr. Robert Sopuck

    Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, CPC

  • Mr. Speaker, it is really funny to hear that side of the House. The member just said that the Conservatives would do all they could to ensure that incidents like this did not happen again. They are happening, and they are happening under their watch. Exactly what we had said was going to happen when they started cutting the Coast Guard and attacking the environmental legislation is happening now. It is happening because of the cuts you are doing because you are not doing the proper oversight.

    Ms. Carol Hughes

    Algoma–Manitoulin–Kapuskasing, NDP

  • Order please. The member knows to address her comments to the Chair and not to individual members.

    The Deputy Speaker

    Hon. Andrew Scheer

  • Mr. Speaker, you are not doing it, they are.

    It is very troubling for us on this side of the House, who have been listening to Canadians, to the scientists and the environmentalists who are saying that we have to be very careful when we are dealing with changes to the environment and with these types of cuts, irresponsible cuts with a lack of transparency on that side of the House.

    We have noticed that the Coast Guard officials have said that most of the beaches are now open, but yet people still have to be concerned about these tar balls that might be down there. Could the member tell me if it is safe or is it not safe?

    Ms. Carol Hughes

    Algoma–Manitoulin–Kapuskasing, NDP

  • Mr. Speaker, that is a typical rambling, scattered question on the environment, with nothing but hyperbole and speculation.

    It is the numbers related to air quality, water quality, biodiversity, fish and wildlife that count. On the other side, they never cite the numbers because the numbers are too good.

    Under our watch, in 2010 the sockeye salmon run to Fraser River was the record in history. Lo and behold, in 2014, on the Fraser River again, the sockeye salmon run surpassed the run in 2010. That was a remarkable achievement, done under our watch.

    After listening to the members across the way wailing away about things they know nothing about, the only thing that counts is the improvement in the numbers on the environment to the air quality, water quality, fisheries, biodiversity, and almost every one is improving.

    In terms of taking the precautions in English Bay, the government is being very prudent in ensuring that everything is absolutely safe before that area can be used again. That is just smart.

    Mr. Robert Sopuck

    Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, CPC

  • Mr. Speaker, the hon. member professes to love the environment and love data. Here is data for him. Between 2009 and 2015, the transport budget for marine safety was cut from $82 million to $57.5 million. The environmental emergencies response program was cut by 34% over the last seven years. In the last number of years, 55 scientists were fired from DFO’s marine contaminants program in 2012. This is how a five-minute response becomes a 37-hour response.

    I love the hon. member’s rich fantasy life. He is entitled to his opinion, but he is not entitled to the facts. These are the facts. These are the data. Could he respond to how these facts translate into a world-class response to a contaminant in English Bay?

    Hon. John McKay

    Scarborough—Guildwood, Lib.

  • Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member opposite for giving me this incredible opening. The numbers that he cites are dollar numbers. The only numbers that count are the numbers on the environment, air quality, water quality. I know the idea of actually spending government money and generating real environmental results is foreign to them because for both parties opposite, spending money is an end in itself. If we can spend less money and get greater environmental improvement and protection, this government will do that. In fact, we are balancing our budget and because we are such prudent fiscal managers, Canadians in all walks of life will be receiving tax benefits very soon. That is smart and good government.

    Mr. Robert Sopuck

    Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, CPC

  • Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for sharing his time with me. I appreciate that.

    I am pleased to rise today to take part in today’s debate. I fully understand the members’ concerns about the marine safety and oil spill response. My riding also is surrounded by water, not the salt water of the east coast or the west coast, but the fresh water of the Great Lakes. Any spills in the marine venue are extremely important to all of us across the country.

    Let me reassure all members of this place that Canada has one of the strongest marine safety regimes in the world. Canada exceeds international standards and Canadians can be proud of our strong marine safety track record.

    I understand the members’ concerns regarding marine safety and I also know how essential safe shipping is to ensuring Canada’s economic prosperity. The simple fact is that Canada is a trading nation. We depend on doing business with other nations to ensure that we can maintain our high standard of living and that Canada can continue to grow. Trade accounts for more than 60% of our annual gross domestic product. One in every five Canadian jobs is directly linked to exports. This trade is what drives Canada’s economy, keeps Canadians safe and healthy and allows us to enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the world. Marine shipping is a critical part of that.

    In 2012, total marine freight traffic in Canada reached 475 million tonnes, which is up 1.9% from the previous year. In 2013, marine transportation services carried freight valued at $205 billion in support of international trade. However, let me be clear. Marine shipping must be done safely and in an environmentally responsible manner. I am proud to say that Canada already has a robust marine safety system, a system that meets or exceeds international standards. This is thanks to an extensive range of prevention measures, our strong regulatory and oversight regime, work with our international partners and efforts by the shipping industry.

    The cornerstone of Canada’s marine safety regulatory regime is our comprehensive safety requirements for all Canadian and foreign-flagged vessels operating in Canadian waters. These requirements cover vessel construction and equipment, such as navigational systems, inspections and enforcement powers, and pilotage to ensure that licensed pilots are on board vessels when in sensitive or busy waterways.

    Recognizing that Canada has a strong marine safety record, we need to be prepared to take advantage of new trade opportunities as global markets and trade patterns change. As we pursue our trade agenda, we need to ensure that Canadians and the environment continue to be protected. Our government is committed to the continual improvement of marine safety and Canada’s marine oil spill preparedness and response regime. That is why our government is taking action to put in place a world-class tanker safety system.

    While a few of my hon. colleagues have spoken to this topic earlier today as it related to the Coast Guard, I would like to take a few moments to review the broader initiative and how it is improving marine safety for shippers.

    As one of our first steps, the government appointed the independent tanker safety expert panel to identify how we could build and strengthen Canada’s marine oil spill preparedness and response regime so we could be ready for the increased trade and marine shipping. We have listened. We listened to the panel. We listened to Canadians, the provinces, industry, aboriginal communities and environmental organizations.

    Based on the advice of the expert panel and Canadians, our government is putting in place a world-class tanker safety system. Once fully implemented, this comprehensive suite of initiatives will address ship-source spills of all petroleum, whether it be cargo or marine fuel, by preventing marine oil spills from happening in the first place, cleaning them up quickly and effectively, and ensuring that polluters pay.

    Our government is taking action to increase tanker inspections so that each and every foreign tanker that enters Canadian waters is inspected the first time and annually afterward; expand aerial patrols under the national aerial surveillance program to deter potential polluters; identify any marine incidents early and monitor response operations; conduct leading-edge research to build our knowledge of how petroleum behaves, how petroleum interacts with marine environments and how oil can be cleaned up; and implement the incident command system which is an internationally recognized emergency management system to help coordinate response efforts with multiple partners.

    In addition, we are modernizing Canada’s marine navigation system by taking a leadership role in implementing e-navigation. This will provide real-time marine safety information to vessel operators to help avoid navigational hazards and marine accidents.

    As part of modernizing Canada’s marine navigation system, the federal government is investing in state-of-the-art navigational technologies and services so that Canada can remain a world leader in e-navigation.

    Our government is also providing up to $20 million to support Ocean Networks Canada’s smart oceans initiative. This funding will enable Ocean Networks Canada to transform oceanographic data that it collects into navigational safety information that will help vessel operators and others avoid navigational hazards and prevent marine accidents and predict and warn of natural hazards.

    It will also improve overall marine situational awareness near Port Metro Vancouver, Campbell River, Kitimat, the Douglas Channel and Prince Rupert.

    Our government is also establishing area response planning in four areas across Canada, including the southern coast of British Columbia, which includes English Bay and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Area response planning will facilitate multi-jurisdictional response planning based on a thorough area risk assessment. Area response planning would emphasize the sharing of information, inclusiveness and collaboration among stakeholders, aboriginal groups and governments. Through area response planning, response plans would be tailored to address the risks and conditions that are specific to a certain area such as the regional geography, vessel traffic and environmental sensitivities, while still maintaining the capacity to respond to a worst-case scenario.

    We will also be expanding the response tool kit for oil spill cleanup by lifting legal barriers to using dispersants and other alternative response measures when they will have a net environmental benefit.

    We will also be conducting and supporting research and development on new oil products, the pre-treatment of heavy oil products at source and a range of response techniques so that we will be equipped to respond quickly and effectively.

    Finally, I would be remiss if I did not reiterate this government’s commitment to the polluter pay principle. We will continue to take actions to ensure that Canadian taxpayers are not on the hook to pay for costly cleanups in all modes of transportation.

    By implementing a world-class tanker safety system, our government will continue to meet its commitment to protect Canadians and the environment, while responsibly transporting our natural resources and supporting our trade agenda for the benefit of all Canadians.

    Mrs. Patricia Davidson

    Sarnia—Lambton, CPC

  • Mr. Speaker, I would like to know if the member agrees with her colleague from South Shore—St. Margaret’s who claimed that after the cleanup there was less than a third of a litre of oil left in the water.

    The second thing I would like to ask is if she agrees with her other colleagues who said that the Kitsilano Coast Guard base never did any pollution control. I would like to cite the former commander Fred Moxey’s statements from last week when he said very specifically, “On-site of the station there was 750 feet of boom, on the pollution patrol boat there was 1,000 feet, and up at Fisherman’s Wharf, in addition, we used to store a container with another 750 feet of boom.”

    The other side is now asserting they never did pollution control. Why would they have all these booms at the station if they were never doing pollution control?

    Does the member agree there was only a third of a litre left, because I think there is a lot of evidence around, in the form of oil, that would contradict that? Second, does she think the Coast Guard station never did pollution control?

    Mr. Randall Garrison

    Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, NDP

  • Mr. Speaker, as for a third of a litre of oil remaining, I believe he said, it is not my decision to take that measurement. I do not know what it is. I am responding to and taking the word of the experts who are on site and making those determinations.

    As far as the Kitsilano station goes, we have a lot of documentation and information that the Coast Guard experts have given us. They have been crystal clear that there is no change in the Canadian Coast Guard’s response with the closure of that Kitsilano station. They have been very clear that the Kitsilano station was not an environmental response station and never provided these types of environmental response or operations. The assistant commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard has stated that the Kitsilano station would not have made “an iota” of difference to the response to the Marathassa leak.

    We need to pay attention to the experts. We need to state the facts. We do not want to be playing politics with this operation. It is a very serious situation.

    When the assistant commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard says that the station was never manned with environmental response experts and would not have been called upon for environmental response in this scenario, we need to heed that remark. We need to move on from this. If there were issues in the response and notification, those are things that will be reviewed by a panel of experts. The decisions to change them, if there are any decisions, will be made on that basis.

    Mrs. Patricia Davidson

    Sarnia—Lambton, CPC

  • Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to be able to participate in this debate. As a member for a riding in the southern Vancouver area, I certainly appreciate the official opposition supporting and calling for the reopening of the Kitsilano Coast Guard base. I want to point out to my friend opposite from Sarnia—Lambton that we have also lost Environment Canada’s environmental emergency bases that were located across Canada and that we have lost the marine contaminant program within the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

    There has been a significant curtailing of capacity to handle environmental emergencies. I will just share briefly with the House that when I was a lawyer in Halifax years ago, there was an emergency at the dockside with a container ship where toxic chemicals had spilled into one another. It was an Environment Canada staffer from the environmental emergencies office that has since been closed on the east coast, as we have lost ours on the west coast, who showed up to take control of the operation and make sure that people were properly protected.

    There is no longer a command centre to respond to oil spills. It is far too ad hoc. I ask my hon. friend if she would not agree that Environment Canada should have a leadership role when a spill takes place.

    Ms. Elizabeth May

    Saanich—Gulf Islands, GP

  • Mr. Speaker, we know that there are protocols in place for those who respond when spills do take place. Those protocols have been put in place with conversations and the co-operation and collaboration among a great many people. It is not just the federal government that is responsible. The provincial governments, municipal governments and local safety response people all take part in setting up what those protocols should be. If there are issues with the way the protocols were handled and how they performed, those people who are the experts in the field will examine them.

    I know for a fact that these protocols are extremely important. In my role as a municipal politician for many years in the riding of Sarnia—Lambton, I was heavily involved with putting protocols in place with the collaboration between all of the levels of government. I know for a fact as a local politician that it is extremely important to have that voice at the table.

    This will happen if there are issues that were not followed and if the protocols need to be changed. I am quite confident that the experts will recommend that it happens and that it will happen.

    Mrs. Patricia Davidson

    Sarnia—Lambton, CPC

  • Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to this opposition day motion to protect British Columbians from environmental destruction and future oil spills.

    I would first like to thank the member for New Westminster—Coquitlam for his tireless work on this topic and bringing this very important motion forward.

    Every year I help the Wildlife Rescue Association of British Columbia secure positions on the Canada summer jobs program. It is a very good program. It trains young people about wildlife and does a lot of good for our province. The association is headquartered in my riding, and to date it has helped save almost 100,000 animals from harm.

    Last week the volunteers and workers at the Wildlife Rescue Association were busy cleaning oil off ducks and euthanizing them because they had been caught in this spill that the Conservatives are trying to dismiss as nothing, completely cleaned up and handled by some kind of world-class response system. That is simply not true. This has had a real impact, both psychologically and physically, on the people in metro Vancouver. It showed up in Burnaby. It showed up in ducks coated in oil that had be cleaned off. Some of them had to be put down.

    I would say this marks a watershed moment for us in metro Vancouver. We have to decide what kind of metropolitan region we want to be. We have to decide what metro Vancouver is going to be.

    One of these visions is pleasant and one is not. I would ask you, Mr. Speaker, to picture yourself sitting on a beach in Honolulu which is a city region with about a million people. It has a very busy port, one of the busiest ports in the United States. When picturing yourself on the beach in Honolulu, think about having a nice time, vacationing, probably with a non-alcoholic beverage, enjoying the sunshine.

    Mr. Speaker, I would also like you to picture yourself on a beach in Shanghai. Shanghai has not really achieved the balance between port traffic and livability. These are really the kinds of duelling visions that we face in metro Vancouver, whether we want to become more like Honolulu, which is destination place where people live, work and play next to the shore, or some place like Shanghai where they cannot enjoy the waterfront and it is only dedicated to port traffic.

    While you are envisioning those two things, I will let you know that I will be splitting my time with the member for Halifax.

    Metro Vancouver is caught between these two visions. I think the government on the other side is on a collision course with how most people in metro Vancouver envision themselves, their future and their children’s future. The government, supported by the Liberals, is trying to ram giant crude oil pipelines through our province with no real public consultation. There is a farcical NEB process where even if someone’s house is slated for expropriation, they cannot even send a letter to the National Energy Board.

    The government has no regard for public safety and no regard for how the pipelines will affect how we enjoy the outdoors. This spill in English Bay is a real wake-up call for people in British Columbia, because it brings clearly into focus the fact that it could have been way worse than it was. It makes people think about whether this is the kind of future they want for the place they live.

    It is really a harbinger of what our region could be, and I would say it is pushing us more towards the Shanghai-Rotterdam version of what we want metro Vancouver to be rather than the Honolulu vision.

    The plan for the region is to build a giant new crude oil pipeline that will take bitumen from Edmonton to Burnaby and put it on ships, with one tanker a day leaving the port. Now the spill in English Bay was not a crude oil tanker cracking up. It was a brand new ship that just sprung a leak, and 2,700 litres of a very toxic substance was released.

    We have been hearing nonsense from the other side, that only a third of a litre is left to clean up. There was more than a third of a litre on the ducks that are sitting in Burnaby recuperating. We have heard nonsense about a world-class response system. We have heard nonsense that the cuts have not made a difference. They have. Everybody in Vancouver, everybody in British Columbia knows they have.

    The government has gotten itself into a lot of trouble. It has been cutting, cutting. It has gotten caught with its pants down. Who pays for it? The people in metro Vancouver.

    I clearly support this motion, which is to reinvest and reopen the institutions that have been closed down, because as much as we get from this side about public safety, the Coast Guard centres and the marine response centres are for public safety. It seems bizarre to me that they could talk about moving from one oil tanker a month to one oil tanker a day coming through the port of Metro Vancouver but could reduce the capacity to respond to an emergency.

    This is a crucial motion to support, which is to reopen the Kitsilano Coast Guard station, reopen the recently closed the Ucluelet marine communications and traffic services centre and that we definitely halt the plan to close the Vancouver and Comox Marine Communication and Traffic Service Centres.

    I have to say that the Prime Minister is not a very popular guy on the west coast. I think it is because of actions like this. It is because the interests of large oil companies are being put ahead of the people in British Columbia. Kinder Morgan, for example, if it managed to get its pipeline built to the west coast, would transport close to one million barrels a day of crude oil. None of it is for us. None of it is for refinement. None of it is for Canadians’ use. It is simply to ship to overseas.

    The pipeline would make about $5 million a day for this company, yet it would only create 50 long-term jobs for the entire country. It would most likely, as admitted by the president of Kinder Morgan and other pipeline companies, be built by temporary foreign workers. The advantages are very slim. Yet we see in English Bay what the risks are, and we know that in Burnaby this could be much worse.

    The spill in English Bay was only 10% of the spill we had from a Kinder Morgan pipeline in Burnaby in 2007. That pipeline ruptured. There was a court case. Kinder Morgan was found guilty of causing the spill. We had 270,000 litres run through our neighbourhoods and into storm drains, with half of it running into the Burrard Inlet.

    It is a joke that this was some kind of world-class response for cleanup. The Western Canada Marine Response Corporation was right beside the spill. It was literally a stone’s throw away from where this oil went into the Burrard Inlet. I went for a tour, and they were boasting, because they got 15% of this oil. It still washes up on the beaches on the shoreline of Burnaby.

    The Conservatives and Liberals are playing with fire. They are putting local communities at risk. The Conservatives are making it even worse by making cuts to the Coast Guard and the response capacity in these areas.

    We have to do more. First of all, we have to make sure that British Columbians have a voice in these projects. They have been almost completely shut out. In the protests in my riding, 125 people were arrested, because they are not being heard in these processes. Again, the Conservative government is just ramming these things through. Now, of course, with the falling oil prices, who knows where that has left our economy, but I think the disregard for local citizens is astounding.

    An Auditor General’s report recently noted that Canada is not prepared to deal with even a moderately sized oil spill. This was not even a moderately sized oil spill. This was a small spill of 2,700 litres. It was caught by a sailor who happened to notice it. It took 12 hours for the City of Vancouver to be notified. Volunteers were cleaning up before there was any kind of federal response.

    This is not FEMA in the U.S., and it is not something we can be proud of. This is something we should be ashamed of, and the shame falls on that side of the House. The Conservatives have done a bad job and are continuing to do a bad job, and it is even going to get worse. I very much fear for my region, my city, and my constituents if this is allowed to continue.

    Mr. Kennedy Stewart

    Burnaby-Douglas, NDP

  • What is shameful, Mr. Speaker, is the NDP’s continuing attack on the families and workers of Canada’s natural resource industries.

    The oil sands in Alberta generate 575,000 jobs, and so his disingenuous comment about 50 jobs is pure nonsense. We are talking about real people and real families. Getting our oil to tide water is critical. Our economy loses some $20 billion per year, which could pay for a lot of social programs if we got the world price for oil. However, in his next breath, the member was complaining about the low price of oil. Which is it?

    Again, another speech from the NDP in which no numbers were put out. There was all of this rambling about the environment and where it is at. The member lives in Vancouver where the Fraser River goes through. In 2010 there was a record sockeye salmon run, and in 2014 an even higher sockeye salmon run under this government’s watch.

    This government is doing what needs to be done to create a sustainable economy, high growth, high-paying jobs, and high environmental quality. How does he square this?

    Mr. Robert Sopuck

    Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, CPC

  • Mr. Speaker, it is always nice to be lectured by a climate change denier and to get lectured on not having any facts.

    This is a disgraceful show, once again, and it is the attitude personified here. We have a plan to ram pipelines through British Columbia, and members who know better are standing up and saying that this is the right thing to do. It is a disgraceful show.

    Mr. Kennedy Stewart

    Burnaby-Douglas, NDP

  • Mr. Speaker, I asked the member for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette how he squares a cut from $82 million to $57 million in the transport budget for marine safety, a cut of 55 scientists from DFO’s marine contaminants program, a 34% cut in another contaminants program, and instead of a five-minute response time a 37-hour response time. He said that just showed the great efficiency of cutting money out of programs so that we now have a world-class response with respect to the environment, et cetera.

    The hon. member loves to have data. Because of the hon. member’s status as a legitimate scientist, I am interested as to how these cuts have affected Environment Canada and the response times for spills

    Hon. John McKay

    Scarborough—Guildwood, Lib.

  • Mr. Speaker, the member knows that science has been under attack in Canada, with over 4,000 federal scientists and researchers laid off and over $1 billion cut from the budgets. I hope he will be supporting this motion tonight, because it is an important one.

    My question for the member is this. How can his leader support the Kinder Morgan pipeline? He has stated a number of times in the paper that he hopes it is put through, which is disappointing to the people in my riding and in British Columbia.

    [Translation]

    Mr. Kennedy Stewart

    Burnaby-Douglas, NDP

  • Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his speech and for his presentation defending his constituents in Burnaby—Douglas.

    I am also aware of the work that he does as the science and technology critic. It is all interrelated. With its ill-considered cuts, the Conservative government is destroying Canada’s ability to adapt to climate change and better protect the environment.

    I would like the member to elaborate on the fact that cuts to Environment Canada and Statistics Canada are increasingly weakening our country’s environmental protections.

    Ms. Hélène LeBlanc

    LaSalle—Émard, NDP

  • Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for the work she has done to support science in this country, which has been a lot. It is very much appreciated.

    The cuts are astounding. Over 4,000 scientists and researchers have been laid off. Most of those researchers were working for Environment Canada or other agencies or departments that employ biologists to monitor such things as the environment and water. The other is $1 billion in cuts from federal government scientific research. I think the plan on the other side is to wish that it will all go away. However, what English Bay showed us is that it will just get much worse.

    Mr. Kennedy Stewart

    Burnaby-Douglas, NDP

  • Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Burnaby—Douglas for sharing his time with me but also for bringing what he is seeing on the ground there to the House of Commons. It is really important that he talked about the 12-hour response time and about the fact that volunteers are out there in English Bay trying to save the wildlife, the marine birds. It is really important to have those first-hand accounts from ridings across Canada brought here to this House.

    We all have expertise. We may not all be scientists, but we have the expertise of living in our ridings and understanding what is impacting the areas where we live, work, and play. I really want to give some credit to my colleague, the member for New Westminster—Coquitlam, for bringing the motion forward and for his expertise on this issue.

    The member for New Westminster—Coquitlam has been a tireless advocate for the protection of our waterways, and he has worked for years to raise public awareness about rivers and watersheds in British Columbia.

    The member for New Westminster—Coquitlam has made 14 marathon swims, covering 3,200 kilometres of British Columbia’s rivers, lakes, and the ocean. He also swam the 1,400 kilometre length of the Fraser River to draw attention to the environmental impact on rivers. There is not a more authoritative voice in this House than his, and I am really pleased that he brought the motion forward, because now he is bringing attention to the lack of protection for British Columbia’s coasts when it comes to spill response capacity.

    I want to thank him for bringing forward the motion to reverse the government’s cuts to marine safety, oil spill response, and environmental cleanup capacity in Vancouver and elsewhere on the coast of British Columbia.

    [Translation]

    The New Democrats want to protect the coast against catastrophic spills and to restore the Coast Guard’s ability to effectively respond to spills or other emergencies. The NDP led the charge when it was announced in 2012 that the Kitsilano base would be closed, and we will continue to fight to protect the marine environment and the economy that depends on it. Marine safety and environmental protection have been severely tested after 10 years of terrible management on the part of the Conservatives. The oil spill in the port of Vancouver is just one example of the scope of the damages. That is why my colleague from New Westminster—Coquitlam and the NDP are urging the Prime Minister to listen to the public and take action immediately.

    The Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development said the following in his fall 2010 report:

    Emergency management plans are not all up to date

    The Canadian Coast Guard lacks a national approach to training, testing its plans, and maintaining its equipment

    Procedures for verifying preparedness of the Canadian Coast Guard are not in place

    Responses to ship-source spills are poorly documented

    There is no national regime for ship-source chemical spills

    In an interview with the Toronto Star, former environment commissioner Scott Vaughan said, “We know that there’s a boom in natural resources in this country and I think what we need now, given the gaps, given the problems we found, is a boom in environmental protection”.

    [English]

    There are huge gaps in our oil spill preparedness but also in our knowledge about the potential impacts of the spill on the west coast.

    If we go back to the spill in English Bay, the most recent spill, Vancouver Aquarium CEO John Nightingale says that there is a major gap in understanding Vancouver’s coastal environment, because there is no long-term monitoring of the local ecosystems. He says that if the goal of the cleanup efforts right now is to restore the harbour to the state it was before the leak, that cannot be done, because there is no solid foundation with respect to what the harbour was like in the past.

    Why are we in this situation? It is because of cuts, cuts, cuts, with no regard for their impacts. The Kitsilano Coast Guard station was cut and closed. The Ucluelet marine communications and traffic services centre was closed. If we look at other cuts and our understanding and research of the impacts on water, we will remember the Experimental Lakes Area, the ELA. It was shuttered by the government. This was one of the world’s—I will say “is” because it continues to exist, no thanks to the government. It is one of the world’s most influential freshwater facilities. It is a unique Canadian facility for groundbreaking freshwater research, the only one of its kind in the world. It is an outdoor lab where the whole ecosystem can be studied. It is where research on environmental problems is carried out.

    In 2012, the government announced that it would close the ELA. Thanks to the International Institute for Sustainable Development, the Experimental Lakes Area was saved, but the government made it loud and clear at that moment that it does not care about evidence; it does not care about science, and it does not care about the environment. Time and time again, the Conservatives demonstrate this, like when they slashed funding at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, DFO, which left the Bedford Institute of Oceanography caught short.

    The BIO exists on the east coast of Canada. It is in the riding of Dartmouth—Cole Harbour. When those cuts were made, it resulted in the loss of oil spill expert Kenneth Lee. This research centre was established in 2002. It was established to coordinate DFO research into environmental and oceanographic impacts of offshore petroleum exploration, production, and transportation.

    While the centre did not end up closing, Kenneth Lee, the oil spill expert and director of the centre for offshore oil, gas and energy research, was forced to leave Canada. He took a job in Australia. This is a man who is internationally respected. He was a Nova Scotia-based, Canada-based scientist working for the federal government. He is a leading expert on the use of chemical dispersants when it comes to cleaning up oil spills. He helped with the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. He co-chaired an International Maritime Organization working group that established guidelines for marine oil spill bioremediation. He received the prestigious Prix d’Excellence from DFO for research on environmental issues associated with offshore oil and gas activities, as well as other awards. This man has so many awards and yet he received a letter stating that his job would be affected as a result of the cost cutting, thanks to the federal government. We had all of this expertise and we lost it. We lost him. Now he works in Australia and we do not have him here in Canada.

    [Translation]

    New Democrats share the concerns of British Columbians, who are worried about the environmental, social and economic damage the Conservatives have caused in Canada.

    Ten years after they took office, the Conservatives still have not done anything about climate change, and nothing will change if the Liberals are elected. The NDP is the only party that has a plan to protect the environment, stimulate the economy and protect the coastline from dangerous spills. We are committed to helping British Columbians fight against ill-advised projects.

    The Conservatives are ignoring or attacking those who are most concerned about British Columbia’s coastline, such as first nations, fishing organizations, community organizations, environmental organizations and the tourism industry. That is unacceptable.

    [English]

    Instead of isolating first nations, instead of demonizing people who care about the environment, the government should work with Canadians on these issues, but we know that the Conservatives do not care about these issues. It all started in 2012 with that giant omnibus budget, members will remember quite well, when we saw the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act not amended but repealed and replaced with something wholly inadequate. We saw the slashing of the Navigable Waters Protection Act and the Fisheries Act, and of course, cuts across the board at Environment Canada.

    The track record of the government speaks volumes. This is a motion we need to support. The government should come on board and actually reverse some of the cuts, especially as they concern the west coast and the Coast Guard station on the west coast, because we know that it cannot handle a response to these oil spills.

    Ms. Megan Leslie

    Halifax, NDP

  • Mr. Speaker, I want to talk about the actual “cleanup” of this particular oil spill or toxic spill.

    At 5 p.m. on Wednesday, a 911 call went out. The Coast Guard tells us that it had its cleanup boom in place at midnight. Then it changed it to say that it had the cleanup boom in place at 2 a.m. Then it changed that to say, right now, that it had the cleanup boom in place by 5:53 a.m., because it could not find the source of the spill. The person on the sailboat who made the 911 call the evening before at 5 p.m. said it took them 15 minutes to identify the source of the spill as the particular vessel that we were talking about.

    Is this a world-class response? if we are to believe any of these stories, the slowest it took was seven hours to find the craft and put the boom in. Then it was nine hours. Now it is 13 hours. How do we trust and believe a Coast Guard that keeps changing its story when a vessel could find it in 15 minutes?

    Hon. Hedy Fry

    Vancouver Centre, Lib.

  • Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her question. I think it likens to the analysis of the Keystone Cops. It is pretty bumbling. We really cannot trust the government when it comes to believing anything it has to say. I would point her to the former director of the Kitsilano Coast Guard station, Mr. Moxey, who said plain and simple that what the Conservatives are saying is not the truth, and he is willing to swear an affidavit to that. I would believe him over the Conservatives any day.

    Ms. Megan Leslie

    Halifax, NDP

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