Offshore Health and Safety Act

Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, contrary to the impression left by the Minister of Natural Resources, the bill before us, Bill C-5, deals entirely with offshore health and safety affecting the workers, transportation of workers, and their right to refuse unsafe work. The member for St. John’s East has knowledge and a deep background on the very slow pace of the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board and the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board in taking worker safety seriously, and that is a real concern for me as well.

I would like to underline that although the Minister of Natural Resources talked about how this bill would make environmental progress, there is none of that in the bill. I would like to know if my hon. colleague would agree with me that it falls far short of the independent safety board that we really need, because in practice, these offshore petroleum boards are not unbiased; in practice, they operate to promote offshore oil and gas.

Would my hon. colleague agree with me that the legislation before us is indeed better than nothing, but falls far short of what we would all like to see, based on the recommendations of Mr. Wells?


Jack Harris: Mr. Speaker, the member is absolutely right: it is a good step forward, but it falls far short, particularly in terms of recommendation 29 with respect to independence.

The member is also right in saying that although the minister talked about environmental issues, there is absolutely nothing in this legislation that deals with the environment. In fact, that has been another criticism of the offshore oil and gas regime, particularly with respect to even having access to the environmental monitoring that ought to be taking place. That monitoring is not done by independent monitors; in fact, researchers and academics are denied access to the oil platforms for the purpose of even counting birds, doing basic studies, or following up on baseline studies that might have been done years ago.

As a result, we have a situation in which the people who are expected to follow the regulations are the ones who are doing the monitoring. It is not being done by somebody independent. That is the situation in the environmental field, and unfortunately that was also the situation with respect to offshore safety when it came to the lack of regulations: the standards were being set by government, but how to do it was left up to the industry.

In this particular case, we still have a problem in that the same regulator is dealing with both aspects of offshore operations, and we believe that is wrong.