Energy Safety and Security Act
This bill has been a long time coming to the House. It addresses a number of specific provisions for the offshore oil and gas industry as well as the nuclear energy industry. It is our government’s effort to modernize legislation and regulation around these industries. We are hoping that this will not be the third or potentially fourth time that the NDP attempts to delay and block such important modernizing legislation.
The offshore industry is an area where the federal government works collaboratively with the Atlantic provinces. There are accords with the Government of Nova Scotia and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. Those provinces will update their legislation following the passage of Bill C-22. For offshore exploration in the north, it is the National Energy Board that is responsible for the oversight of exploration and drilling, whereas with Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador, it is the offshore petroleum boards that are the specific and expert regulators.
This bill is our attempt to make sure that Canada continues to have world-class and modern regulation of these industries, which are parts of Canada’s dynamic energy economy; to make sure that safety is at the forefront of these industries; and to make sure that the environment is respected in the process as well.
As I said, the two areas addressed by this bill are the offshore industry and the nuclear industry. I will speak to both briefly in my remarks on elements of the bill, and then I will discuss something dear to my heart, which is the nuclear energy industry in Canada.
On the offshore oil and gas exploration side, this bill would carry out an important act by clearly enshrining the polluter pays principle in legislation. That is important. It would recognize that when there is fault or negligence on the part of operations in the offshore environment, there would be unlimited liability for people who are negligent or at fault in their operations in that sector.
In the no-fault regime, this legislation is important because it would update and modernize an approach and compensation levels and structures that are remnants of the 1970s. In the case of the offshore oil and gas industries, the no-fault provisions would be increased from a $30 million range for compensation to a $1 billion range for compensation. I think most Canadians would agree that these things should be updated at least every 25 to 30 years. In this case, we are looking at a gap of almost 40 years in updating the regulatory approach and updating those limits and insurance requirements for operators.
The bill would also make it much easier for the government to be directly capable of seeking damages for environmental impact from operations. We all want to make sure that those things never happen, but this bill, which promotes safety and security, would address these liability issues with unlimited liability where there is fault, as I said, and with requirements for compensation of up to $1 billion in the no-fault regime. Canadians think that that is important.
The other aspect, as I said at the outset of my remarks, is the nuclear industry. This is another case in which the regulatory regime and compensation levels would be updated after a lag time of 30-plus years. In cases of incidents in nuclear energy generation, the old cap of civil liability, which is in the $75 million range, would also be increased to $1 billion. Absolute liability would rest with the operators.
The operators, who have a terrific track record in Canada, a perfect track record, I might add, certainly know that they are required to keep the highest standards and ensure that they have adequate operating and insurance coverage to meet the new limits, which would be updated with Bill C-22.
Importantly, on the nuclear side, we are also increasing the limitation period from 10 years to 30 years. This is important because claims may arise from an incident. Remember that we are talking about the what ifs, the very unlikely scenario of any incident. The claims period for accessing compensation should be longer than 10 years. As a lawyer, I know limitation periods are important, but it is important to have a limitation period that acknowledges that some damages or injuries will present themselves long after the incident. This is another way of bringing this up to a modern era.
This bill would also allow Canada to be a signatory to an international convention, the International Atomic Energy Agency’s convention on supplemental compensation. This would bring us up to a standard where we could be a signatory to that important international convention, which deals with transborder and international issues with respect to offshore and the nuclear energy industry. This would also make sure we would be world class. Our compensation levels are among the top in the world, particularly in the top for countries with active industries in these sectors.
This is an important modernization of the regulatory and compensation structure for these important industries.
As the member of Parliament for Durham, I am also very happy to be an active proponent of nuclear energy in Canada. Our world-class excellence in this area is something we do not talk about enough. I wanted to do that as an MP, someone who had worked in some energy regulatory matters as a lawyer beforehand, so I helped create the nuclear caucus in Ottawa to promote the industry, to try to raise the level of knowledge among parliamentarians and certainly among Canadians on the important role this industry played in Canada.
Canada was the second nation to have controlled nuclear fission, to create cheap and affordable clean energy. That is an achievement we sometimes forget. The great part of our experimental work in industries in the nuclear sector is that we were never a nuclear nation in terms of warheads. We always used nuclear energy peacefully, and our technology remains among the world’s best.
There are 71,000 jobs connected to the nuclear and supply industry in Canada, representing a $7 billion benefit to our GDP. There are 19 operating reactors across Canada. In Darlington, there are four reactors, which, in 2013, were awarded an international safety award from the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations.
If we look at the Durham region at large, beyond just my riding, 50% of Ontario’s electricity is generated by nuclear power, a good portion of that coming from the Durham area. This is important because this power is affordable and predictable, it is baseload power, and it is GHG emission-free. So many people in the House, particularly in the NDP, talk about reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but then, at the same time, oppose nuclear energy. It is really an absurd position.
I would note that the member for Winnipeg Centre actually said in the House, “We do not want to see the Darlington nuclear power plant doubled in size. We want to see it shut down”. When 50% of the baseload electricity in Ontario is from nuclear, we cannot set up a few wind turbines to replace that. It shows the absurdity of the position of the member for Winnipeg Centre and many of his colleagues.
I have been a proud supporter of working not only with Darlington Nuclear Generating Station in my riding, but also the Organization of Canadian Nuclear Industries. Our government provided it with an $88,000 global opportunities for associations grant to sell technology abroad. AECL Candu technology is present in China, Romania, India, Pakistan, Argentina, and in Canada, with a perfect track record. I do not want to forget that It is also in South Korea. When I was in South Korea, people talked positively about our industry. It has an error-free record and some of the best technology in the world, so we need to celebrate industries that are world champions.
I would also like to mention the University of Ontario Institute of Technology’s clean energy research laboratory, where nuclear power can help work with hydrogen and isotopes to create clean technology.
The bill is important to modernizing our regulatory structure and allowing our industries’ offshore industry and the nuclear industries to excel.