Offshore Health and Safety Act

Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, my friend from Halifax West will know that I have been long concerned with the functioning of the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board in particular, in relation to exploration for natural gas in inshore areas, as he mentioned correctly.

The Old Harry site, though, is actually in the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board area and would be the first ever development of petroleum resources inside the Gulf of St. Lawrence, which is one of the most biologically productive areas of Canada’s coastline and is uniquely susceptible to threats from oil and gas accidents or disasters because its counter-clockwise current would take any oil around to absolutely all of the provinces in the area, which as he mentioned, is a multi-jurisdictional area, with Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador.

This piece of legislation deals solely with worker safety in the offshore for both the Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia boards. In fact, it is not objectionable, even though it does not go far enough to ensure those workers have an independent safety board. However, when speaking of independence, we have now had the downloading of environmental reviews to these very boards, and they have shown a pattern of consistent bias in favour of developing oil and gas, and in that, they have a conflict of interest when trying to protect the public interest, environmental concerns and the interests of fisheries and fishermen’s organizations throughout the region.

I ask my colleague if he thinks the time has come to have a look at these accords and these acts and see if we should separate out regulatory functions from offshore petroleum promotion functions.


Geoff Regan: Mr. Speaker, it seems to me that what ought to govern in these questions about what happens in the Gulf of St. Lawrence is science and evidence.

We know the history of the government. It seems to prefer policy-based evidence to evidence-based policy, and really, these decisions ought to be made on the basis of science and evidence.

I suppose on the one hand, the answer to the question depends upon how these boards are structured, who is on them and so forth. Those are important questions in terms of the kinds of decisions that would be made.

I think I have made clear that in relation to this legislation my argument has been that there ought to be a separate independent body dealing with health and safety and that area of regulation. I also know my hon. colleague is well aware of the way the Liberal Party has opposed the many negative changes that the Conservative government has made to harm, really, our environmental legislation in this country.