ARCHIVED - Safety First: Canada’s commitment to Responsible Resource Development

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Notes for Remarks


The Honourable Joe Oliver, P.C., M.P
Minister of Natural Resources

at the

Port Metro Vancouver

Safety First:
Canada’s commitment to Responsible Resource Development

September 7, 2012
Vancouver, BC


Thank you for your hospitality today, and your fascinating tour of the Port Metro Vancouver. What an impressive operation! The amount of trade moving through the port – $75 billion annually – is truly staggering. The business conducted here supports this thriving and vibrant city behind us and the economic success of British Columbians and Canadians.

And all of this activity is carried out in an environmentally sustainable way. This port is recognized globally -- not only as a naturally beautiful and clean port -- but as an environmental leader.

This commitment to protecting the environment is reflected in Port Metro Vancouver’s outstanding track record for safely shipping Canadian energy supplies to foreign markets.

Oil tankers have been moving safely along Canada’s West coast since the 1930s. In the last five years, 1,302 tankers have safely arrived at the Port. In 2009 just over 164,000 barrels a day of oil were shipped out of Vancouver to reach the United States and Asia.

Today, I want to talk about the broad range of concrete measures already in place and the new actions we are taking to build on Canada’s strong marine and pipeline safety systems from coast to coast.

I want to talk about the facts so that Canadians can be assured of our commitment to responsibly develop our natural resources. A commitment that impacts Canadians in every province – by creating and sustaining high value jobs and economic growth, by generating billions in tax revenues to help pay for important services like health care, education, and Old Age Security.

Quite simply, development will not proceed unless it can be done safely and responsibly.

Canadians – especially British Columbians – have been clear that they expect no less. Our Government agrees. Canada is a world class producer of natural resources and that means we must also have world-class safety and environmental protection.

The world witnessed the devastating impacts of poor standards and lack of preparedness to respond to environmental emergencies back in 1989 with the Exxon Valdez. People in this part of the country understand -- better than most -- what can happen if safety standards and response capacities are inadequate.

Fortunately, the world has changed since 1989. Global safety standards and performance have moved to a new age.

The federal government has put in place strict rules and regulations governing the development and shipment of products like oil to safeguard public health and the environment. And we are determined to raise the bar even higher, based on sound science and world-class standards.

Marine protection

In Canada we have nine acts of Parliament governing marine safety alone.

These laws complement and reinforce international regulations established by the International Maritime Organization. The application of these various Acts establishes the foundation for safe marine transportation in Canadian waters.

For instance, Canada requires ships to provide notification 24 hours prior to entering its waters. All vessels of 500 gross tons or more must report to the Canadian Coast Guards.

When tankers are loaded with oil they are subject to extremely strict safety measures. They can only sail during the daylight hours and only on calm waters. In addition, they must travel only though a clear channel meaning other vessels must stop and wait.

Canada’s Mandatory Pilotage Zones, which covers all areas where tankers operate, require that a highly trained mariner with extensive knowledge of local waterways and ports board a vessel and guide it safely to its destination.

Each mariner is required to have 10 years of training and years of first-hand experience at sea. These local mariner pilots know every bay and rocky outcropping along the B.C. coast. Like all British Columbians they love their province and its majestic shorelines and they work hard to ensure tankers are escorted safely.

Pilots protecting of the B.C. coast is not limited to our waterways. The National Aerial Surveillance Program conducts overflights to monitor ships by using state-of-the-art surveillance equipment to help prevent incidents in waters under Canadian jurisdiction. Last year, they flew 436 patrol hours and conducted 3,714 vessel overflights in this region.

The Government of Canada inspects every foreign tanker on its first visit to a Canadian port and, for vessels making multiple visits to Canadian ports, at least once a year thereafter.

All large crude oil tankers must now be double-hulled and all smaller vessels must be double-hulled by the end of 2014.

In addition, Port Metro Vancouver has several specific requirements for loaded tankers that enter the Burrard Inlet and Indian Arm. For example, they must be escorted by two tugs as they navigate towards the oil terminals.

Canada has a tough Marine Oil Spill Preparedness and Response regime. The Government of Canada inspects the pollution response capability of oil handling facilities, which are required to have oil pollution prevention plans and oil pollution emergency plans. The Government reviews the plans and equipment and evaluates the oil handling facilities capabilities through exercises.

On the west coast, the certified response organization for ship-source spills is the Western Canada Marine Response Corporation, which is responsible for covering all Canadian waters south of 60.
Western Canada Marine Response has equipment and resources located all across B.C.’s coast, including trained fishermen and barge operators.

In addition, the Canadian Coast Guard maintains response equipment in more than 80 sites across the country, which can be deployed to an incident scene to provide support.

The Coast Guard has over 75 trained and experienced Environmental Response personnel available to monitor, provide advice and take action in addressing pollution incidents and protect the marine environment.

Ship-source oil spill prevention, preparedness, response and recovery are undertaken collaboratively. Key federal departments work with private industry, as well as provincial and municipal governments, to ensure an incident is responded to in a coordinated and efficient manner, marshalling all available resources.

The good news is these response measures are rarely used. Thanks to tough legislation, coupled with technological innovations, there have been no spills from double hulled tankers in Canadian waters, nor have there ever been spills from tankers escorted by tugs with a local pilot aboard.

Pipeline Safety

Clearly, every conceivable and reasonable precaution is taken to prevent an accident and to respond swiftly in the exceedingly rare event of a spill. Our government has similarly tough legislation and rules in place to prevent pipeline spills.

The National Energy Board subjects pipeline development proposals to an extensive review that ensures pipelines are safe and protect the environment and the public. Permits are only granted once environmental issues and First Nations concerns have been considered.

We are seeing this process play out right now, with the start of final hearings into the Northern Gateway initiative which began a few days ago.

If and when projects are approved, the NEB then regulates all aspects of pipeline activity for inter-provincial and international pipelines within Canada’s borders. It also requires federally regulated pipeline companies to have Emergency Response Plans, which the Board reviews and audits. The NEB reviews and audits company pipeline safety programs, conducts pipeline inspections and can order companies to implement measures to improve the safe operation of pipelines. Its enforcement authority covers all aspects of pipeline planning and operations.

However, we can and must do better. Canadians expect no less. So do we. Our goal, working together with stakeholders and regulators, is to have the safest pipeline system in the world.

If a pipeline rupture or spill occurs, the NEB Act is clear that it is the responsibility of the company to clean-up and remediate the impacts. To ensure this is done quickly and responsibly, the NEB has a range of tools. This includes revoking a company's ability to operate, ordering the shutdown of a pipeline until the company demonstrates it can safely restart, as well as pursuing financial penalties and taking court actions.

Tough action on polluters is what Canadians demand. And we’ve been listening. We are taking every possible measure to reduce the risks associated with resource development and transportation. In fact, we are going further than any government before under our Responsible Resource Development Plan.


The resource sector is the cornerstone of our economy, our prosperity and our quality of life. Natural resources have been a key driver of Canada's economy for decades.

In 2011, our energy, forestry, metals and minerals industries accounted for 15% of Canada’s nominal GDP.

When you take into account the purchase of goods and services from other sectors – construction, machinery and equipment, business and professional services – natural resources add significantly more to Canada's GDP.

Directly and indirectly, the natural resources sector accounts for nearly 20% of our economy — one-fifth of all the economic activity in Canada.

That generates 800,000 high-quality jobs in Canada. Add to that the additional 800,000 indirect jobs in other sectors and you have close to 1.6 million jobs that depend on natural resources – nearly 10% of all the jobs in Canada.

And the best days are still to come. Major resource projects currently under construction, together with projects planned over the next 10 years, are estimated at about $650 billion in investments, which represents hundreds of thousands of jobs for middle class Canadian families in every sector of our economy and in every region of the country.

Take for example the opportunities created by the natural gas industry in this province. Earlier this year, the NEB approved BC LNG’s application for a 20 year licence to export up to 1.8 million tonnes per year of liquefied natural gas.

And last year, it approved KM LNG’s application for a licence to export up to 10 million tonnes per year of liquefied natural gas destined to markets in the Asia-Pacific region. The Kitimat LNG terminal would be served by Pacific Trail Pipeline, a proposed $1.1 billion pipeline that would extend 463 kilometres from Summit Lake, BC to Kitimat. This is an unparalleled opportunity for Canada.

That’s why our Government has a plan to responsibly unleash Canada’s natural resource potential. This will generate jobs and continue to underwrite our high standard of living, while continuing to protect what British Columbians and all Canadians cherish – magnificent seas, mountains and forests.

While much of the attention surrounding our plan has focused on reducing duplication and promoting efficiency, the other, equally important, side of the story is much more effective oversight. We will be zeroing in on projects that have the potential for significant adverse environmental effects – and taking appropriate action.

One of the most important pillars of the plan is strengthening environmental protection. To ensure that projects move forward with proper environmental safeguards, we are improving our regulatory system for major natural resource projects.

As just one example, pipeline safety was strengthened under Economic Action Plan 2012. The NEB is increasing the number of oil and gas pipeline inspections by 50 percent annually. You may be interested to know that we will soon have over 19 times the number of inspectors per thousands of kilometers of pipeline as the United States. We are also doubling the number of annual comprehensive audits to identify potential issues and prevent incidents from occurring.

And we are getting tough on companies that don’t follow the rules by providing the NEB with authority to impose significant fines.

Our plan also proposes further measures to enhance the oil spill response regime, including:

  • new regulations to strengthen the inspection requirements for tankers;
  • measures to strengthen tanker safety and the nation’s oil spill preparedness and response regime;
  • a review of handling processes for oil products by an independent international panel of tanker safety experts;
  • improved aids to navigation, such as updated charts for shipping routes; and
  • research to improve our scientific knowledge and understanding of marine pollution risks and to manage the impacts on marine resources, habitats and users in the event of an incident.

These changes will take place in tandem with the other three elements of our plan – making project reviews more predictable and timely, reducing the duplication of overlapping project reviews and enhancing Aboriginal consultation.

This is how you achieve responsible resource development.


Make no mistake. Our government takes environmental protection and public safety very seriously, because we understand its importance and because it is a pre-condition to successful economic development.

I am proud of our strong regulatory regime -- a system that is fair and independent and one that considers different viewpoints, including those of Aboriginal communities. A regulatory system based on the best available scientific evidence and the facts.

I am encouraged by the support provincial governments are showing for our approach to Responsible Resource Development.

I am looking forward to discussing how we can further improve the regulatory system when I meet with my provincial counterparts at the annual Energy and Mines Ministers Conference in Charlottetown next week.

Indeed, I look forward to continuing my conversation with all Canadians – including everyone here today – as we seize the extraordinary benefit our resources wealth can bring to Canadians now and for generations to come.

Thank you.