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Bill C-22, Energy Safety and Security Act

 

Bill to Amend—Third Reading—Debate Adjourned

Hon. Scott Tannas: Honourable senators, I rise again to speak to Bill C-22, the energy safety and security act.

This legislation will enhance the safety and security of Canada's offshore and nuclear industries to ensure that these industries have world-class safety standards. In 2012, our energy, minerals and metal, and forestry industries directly and indirectly accounted for a fifth of nominal GDP and about 1.8 million jobs. These sectors account for $30 billion in revenue to governments to support critical social programs and represent over half of our exports. Natural resources are poised to play an even greater role in our future.

Right now, the opportunities for growth are unlike anything we have seen in our history. We know that over the next 10 years, several hundred major resource projects worth $650 billion are planned or are currently under way.

There are tremendous opportunities right across the country, from oil and gas in Alberta, to forestry and liquefied natural gas in British Columbia, offshore energy developments in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador, and new discoveries of minerals and metals in northern Quebec and Ontario's Ring of Fire. Our government is committed to developing these resources in a responsible way that will ensure the protection of our environment and the health and safety of all Canadians. That is the commitment that the passage of Bill C-22 will reinforce with new measures to ensure safety and security in Canada's offshore and nuclear energy industries.

The legislation enshrines the polluter-pays principle into law and protects taxpayers by making the company liable for any accidents that may occur. The measures in the legislation will ensure that Canadians continue to have a world-class regime that is accountable, responsive and transparent, and that works to prevent incidents from occurring.

I don't want to delve too much into the specifics of the bill, but I will briefly mention the changes to the liability limits. Let me begin by discussing the changes to Canada's offshore regime.

Currently, the absolute liability limit for offshore incidents is $30 million in the Atlantic and $40 million in the Arctic. This legislation before us will increase the absolute liability limit for both jurisdictions to $1 billion. Companies must also demonstrate that they have at least $1 billion in financial capacity in the event the damages go up to this amount.

In the event of an incident, Bill C-22 establishes that the operator is liable for the actions of the contractors. It goes without saying that we are maintaining the unlimited liability for operators who are proven to be at fault or whose negligence causes or contributes to a spill in the offshore. By raising our liability amount to $1 billion, Canada will be in line with comparable regimes in Norway, Denmark, the United States and the United Kingdom.

Bill C-22 will also change the liability limits to the nuclear sector. Under Bill C-22, the absolute operator liability limit will be significantly increased from $75 million under the current Nuclear Liability Act to $1 billion. I think that all honourable senators will agree that the current limit of $75 million is completely unacceptable.

This $1 billion limit will put Canada's liability limit among the highest internationally. For example, the U.K., France, Spain and other European nations are moving now to an operator limit of $900 million. This amount balances the need to ensure equitable compensation for civil damages, without burdening operators with high costs for unrealistic insurance amounts for highly improbable events.

It is due partly to our nuclear power that Canada can boast a non-emitting electricity mix of 77 per cent. Honourable senators, that puts us first in the G7. In addition to this impressive statistic, the nuclear power generation sector produces about $5 billion in annual revenues and supports 17,000 direct jobs. Additionally, uranium mining accounts for over $1 billion per year in exports and supports 5,000 direct jobs. Our nuclear sector is an important asset to our country and is worth protecting.

The passage of Bill C-22 will bring in new and stronger measures to prevent incidents in both offshore and nuclear sectors. In the unlikely event that an incident does occur, measures in Bill C-22 will ensure that the response will be both rapid and effective.

Honourable senators, I strongly believe that the legislation before us today strengthens the safety of resource development and the energy sector. It ensures that Canada remains a world-class safety regulator and positions us to better take advantage of the opportunities that stem from resource development. Our government has been clear in our support for increased safety standards, and this piece of legislation demonstrates this commitment once again.