Adjournment Proceedings – Transport

Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, may I take this opportunity, since it is the first time I have had the opportunity of addressing you as duly appointed Deputy Speaker, to say what a great pleasure it is and how wisely I think the powers that be have moved to put you in the chair.

The question that leads tonight’s adjournment proceedings was a question I put in June, before the House rose for the summer. Unfortunately, the response came from a minister whose areas of responsibility do not actually fall within the parameters of the question I asked. It means that this time the representative for the Minister of Transport is here. However, my question did not specifically relate to transport. It was a tangential issue.

My question was one of constitutional authorities. In particular, I put it to the Prime Minister that since he was well known in opposition as an individual who believed that the provinces should exert their jurisdictional authorities to the maximum to press back against heavy-handed federal intrusion into their areas of authority, I wondered if he had now changed his mind. Those of us in British Columbia felt very clearly that the Prime Minister was pushing a particular project on the people of British Columbia whether we liked it or not.

Just to make it clear to all present today, to refresh their memories, the question I put was the following:

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister for many years expressed concern as an Albertan about the heavy-handed intrusion of federal policy on the will of Albertans.

Right now, British Columbians oppose supertankers on the coastline, the Union of British Columbia Municipalities opposes supertankers and today’s polls show by a margin of three to one that British Columbians do not want oil tankers on their coastline. Will the Prime Minister run roughshod over the will of British Columbians for his pet project?

In that brief question I was alluding to something that is famously known as the firewall letter. This was back in January 2001, when our current Prime Minister was not serving in the House but had left a position as MP to become the executive director of the National Citizens Coalition. In that capacity, he co-signed a letter with University of Alberta professor Tom Flanagan; with Ted Morton, who was described in the letter as Alberta senator-elect; with the head of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation; and with other Albertans, particularly Ken Boessenkool, who is now an advisor to Christy Clark.

The irony is not lost on British Columbians. This famous letter was designed to do the following. The current Prime Minister wrote in 2001 about what could be done to extend provincial powers to “limit the extent to which an aggressive and hostile federal government can encroach upon legitimate provincial jurisdiction”.

Perhaps I will have better luck tonight. I will put my question again.

Has the current Prime Minister lost track of his previous concerns that provincial rights, privileges and powers, and particularly the will of the people of a province, should be respected and that in fact he should be guided on the matter of the Enbridge proposal and the supertankers, which British Columbians do not want, by the will of the people of British Columbia and not his own preference for expansion of bitumen production?

Pierre Poilievre: Mr. Speaker, I will begin by addressing the constitutional and jurisdictional questions that the member posed. I would point out the very obvious, that even the most strong believer in the principle of subsidiarity would accept that the federal government is responsible for regulating shipping and the associated industries. That is because ships cross borders. It is an international business and it would be impossible for it to be adequately regulated on a province-by-province basis.

The member mentioned oil tankers and the safety-related issues around them. The reality is that oil tankers have been moving safely into west coast waters since the 1930s. This, contrary to the member’s remarks, is nothing new. In fact, a total of 82 oil tankers arrived at Port Metro Vancouver in 2011. During the last five years there were 1,302 tankers that arrived at that same port. During that time period, nearly 200 oil and chemical tankers safely visited the ports of Prince Rupert and Kitimat. They follow international and Canadian requirements, including double hulling of ships, mandatory pilotage, regular inspections, and aerial surveillance. With double hull, the bottom and sides of the vessel have two complete layers of water-tight hull surface. Tankers that are not double hull are being gradually phased out. For large crude oil tankers, like the Exxon Valdez was, the phase-out date for single hull vessels was 2010, which means that all large crude oil tankers operating in our waters today are double hull.

In compulsory pilotage areas, the pilotage authorities require tanker operators to take on board a marine pilot with knowledge before entering a harbour or busy waterway. The department ship inspectors are on board and they inspect foreign vessels, including oil tankers, entering Canadian ports to ensure they comply with all of our rules. In 2011, there were 1,100 inspections carried out across Canada, 147 of them on oil tankers.

We also have the eye in the sky which watches tankers as they approach our shores. Transport Canada performs aerial surveillance over Canadian waters to detect pollution from ships. In 2010-11, crews observed more than 12,000 vessels, nearly one-third of which were over west coast waters. It is an effective prevention tool because potential polluters know that Canada is watching and we have the power to prosecute.

What I am about to say is very important, so I ask that the member listen carefully. The good news is that over the last 20 years there has not been a single major oil spill in Canadian waters. We will work to ensure that the next 20 years are as successful as the last.