THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON ENERGY, THE ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES
HALIFAX, Wednesday, April 24, 2019
The Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources, to which was referred Bill C-69, An Act to enact the Impact Assessment Act and the Canadian Energy Regulator Act, to amend the Navigation Protection Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, met this day at 7:59 a.m. to give consideration to the bill.
Senator Rosa Galvez (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: Good morning and welcome to this meeting of the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources. My name is Rosa Galvez, a senator from Quebec, and chair of this committee.
I would now ask senators around the table to introduce themselves.
Senator Neufeld: Richard Neufeld, British Columbia.
Senator McInnis: Tom McInnis, Nova Scotia.
Senator Griffin: Diane Griffin, Prince Edward Island.
Senator Duffy: Mike Duffy, Prince Edward Island.
Senator Simons: Paula Simons, Alberta.
Senator C. Deacon: Colin Deacon, Nova Scotia.
Senator Mercer: Terry Mercer, Nova Scotia.
Senator McCallum: Mary Jane McCallum, Treaty 10 territory, Manitoba.
The Chair: Today, we are continuing our study of Bill C-69, An Act to enact the Impact Assessment Act and the Canadian Energy Regulator Act, to amend the Navigation Protection Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.
We welcome as our first panel, from Clean Ocean Action Committee, Nathan Blades, Director; from The Maritimes Energy Association, Rey Ritcey, Chief Executive Officer; and from Offshore Energy Research Association of Nova Scotia, Alisdair McLean, Executive Director.
Each of you has five minutes for your opening statement, to be followed by questions and answers.
Nathan Blades, Director, Clean Ocean Action Committee: I am the General Manager of Sable Fish Packers 1988 Limited located Cape Sable Island, a seafood company that was started by my grandfather, Basil Blades, in the 1940s. I am past president of the Nova Scotia Fish Packers Association,which is now known Nova Scotia Seafood Association.
Right now, Clean Ocean Action Committee represents about 9,000 seafood industry stakeholders in Nova Scotia. Meaningful environmental regulation and transparent robust assessment processes are necessary to ensure that the environment is protected and that impacted stakeholders are protected from potential risks of industrial projects.
Bill C-69 is a positive step toward restoring the environmental assessment process in Canada. However, we cannot support Bill C-69 as it is written. Specifically, we cannot support the granting of greater authority to offshore petroleum boards and/or their members to participate in impact assessments for offshore drilling projects.
For a bit of background, the seafood industry that I am involved in contributes 25,000 direct jobs to the economy of Nova Scotia. We have an exported value conservatively estimated at around $2 billion. Every coastal community in Nova Scotia depends on the seafood industry in some form.
Offshore oil and gas activity represents a serious threat to my industry, as an oil and gas disaster could easily wipe us out.
Clean Ocean Action Committee and I have spent more than three years asking the C-NSOPB, Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board, and both provincial and federal governments to enact stronger offshore oil and gas regulation for our protection. We asked for things that we thought were reasonable, such as declaring important fishing grounds and sensitive nursery areas in the offshore as off limits to oil and gas exploration.
We asked for a regulation for a capping stack to be located on the East Coast, preferably in Nova Scotia and ready to deploy within 24 hours of a blowout. We asked for a commitment not to use toxic dispersants on potential oil spills in the offshore. We asked for requirements to improve spill response methods and technology. We asked for a requirement that spilled oil be physically removed from the ocean as much as possible. Finally, we asked for the establishment of an insurance fund to compensate the seafood industry should we be wiped out by an oil and gas disaster.
All of these requests for stronger protection have been dismissed by the C-NSOPB that claims the existing regulations are strong enough, the oil and gas industry is very safe, and the possibility of a disaster occurring is infinitesimal.
In 2016, off Nova Scotia, the Stena IceMAX for the first time in history broke and dropped a 115-tonne lower marine riser package off of their drill ship and 2,000 metres of drill pipe to the ocean floor, mere metres from a wellhead.
In 2018, off Nova Scotia, West Aquarius leaked a reported 136,000 litres of synthetic drilling fluids to the ocean floor.
In November 2018, off Newfoundland, Husky Energy spilled a reported 250,000 litres of oil while trying to restart operations in extreme sea states following a massive storm. Existing regulations at the time did not require Husky to obtain permission from the C-NLOPB to restart operations, and the investigation reported that Husky followed established protocols.
Clearly the current regulatory regime for oil and gas in the offshore is not sufficient to protect the marine environment in the extreme conditions of the North Atlantic. We, the seafood industry, are at risk and our pleas for better regulation are ignored.
Further to that, the offshore petroleum boards are made up of unelected political appointees. Predominately, they are long-time oil and gas veterans, including the former CEO of The Maritime Energy Association who is now a board member of C-NSOPB.
No offence, that association promotes, encourages and supports oil and gas development. Its member companies service and support the energy sector in Eastern Canada. These are vocal advocates of oil and gas development, whose jobs depend on oil and gas development.
They are not capable of acting without bias to assess in environmental impacts of offshore oil and gas projects. They are the regulators of projects that will undergo environmental impact assessment, which places them in conflict.
Bill C-69 must not be allowed to grant greater power or authority to offshore petroleum boards and/or their members to participate in impact assessments for the offshore oil and gas sector projects they promote.
We request that Bill C-69 be amended to remove the offshore petroleum boards from any role in the impact assessment process other than their current advisory role.
To that end, we ask that subclause 46.1(3) and subclause 48.1(3) of the bill be deleted as such.
Considering the amount of time I have taken today, it is our position that all seismic exploration in the offshore be added to the list of projects requiring full impact assessment.
Rey Ritcey, Chief Executive Officer, The Maritimes Energy Association: On behalf of The Maritimes Energy Association, we are pleased to appear before the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources, in particular as it seeks further input into Bill C-69. Welcome to Halifax.
We advocate for over 200 maritime-based companies that market goods and services around the world. For over 37 years we have promoted the Canadian East Coast energy industry in a changing global environment.
We engage with our members to advance the region and its energy economy by working with key stakeholders, including governments and their respective policy-makers.
Through partnerships we can advocate policies that work for the region and for our members as the world adapts to a lower carbon economy to address climate change.
Getting this adaptation right is crucial in a complex energy world in which hydrocarbon supplies are still essential, renewables play an increasingly important role, and clean technologies are driving efficiencies and lowering omissions.
Our membership represents the diversity of the energy sector. It is comprised of companies involved in everything from oil and gas production, renewable energy, smart grid operations, to clean technology app development. Our strength can be found in that diversity.
Collectively we employ thousands of people and contribute tens of millions of dollars of GDP to the regional economy annually.
Our association has been actively participating in this process since April 5, 2017, when the expert panel created to review the Canadian Environmental Assessment processes released its final report Building Common Ground: A New Vision for Impact Assessment in Canada, and on June 29, 2017, when the Government of Canada released its follow-up discussion paper on environmental and regulatory reviews. On August 17, 2017, The Maritimes Energy Association submitted written comments on this discussion paper.
Since that time the government has received numerous suggestions for improved effectiveness of the proposed legislation. We continue to review the documentation and note that submissions by the Canadian Association of Pipeline Producers, the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association and the Canada West Foundation appear to outline reasonable suggested changes with supporting rationale.
With the above in mind, we continue to have the following seven concerns consistent with our August 17, 2017, submission.
The first is our economic competitiveness. Competitiveness is essential to our ability to attract investment and ensure we continue to benefit from our vast natural resources. Resources drive our economy and help provide access to essential services and the quality of life our citizens have come to expect from their country and government.
The second is greater clarity around the Aboriginal consultation process. We support the engagement of Indigenous communities and would encourage greater clarity around the process to provide certainty and predictability for energy projects. Clarity around the process is foundational to project and investment decisions and key to reducing project risk.
Third, the impact assessment should consider the views of those who are reasonably impacted. In considering a transition from an environmental assessment to a broader impact assessment, the range of the impact area must be reasonable and clearly defined.
This remains a significant area of concern enabling anyone with an opinion to have an opportunity to influence a project outcome regardless of whether or not they are impacted.
Fourth, modern energy regulations should clearly define the scope of impacts. The regulatory process should not be considered a platform for philosophical discussion or debates about government policy. Projects should be assessed based on a clear scope and impacts like environment and safety. Other platforms or processes should be clearly articulated for those policy discussions.
Fifth, single agency assessments should leverage expertise of existing regulatory bodies. In principle, our association supports streamlining the environmental review process and believes the single agency assessment should be conducted jointly with the existing offshore regulatory boards.
For example, in Nova Scotia the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board, the C-NSOPB, has the industry and regional knowledge to effectively regulate offshore oil and gas activities. This would allow for more efficient and effective outcomes.
Sixth, the importance of recognizing the federal provincial offshore accord and accord acts. We are pleased to see the recognition and a strong role of the established expert regulators for offshore oil and gas under the Canada-Nova Scotia accord acts for the co-management and regulatory regimes in Nova Scotia.
Any suggestion that the federal minister or cabinet would determine unilaterally if a project is in the public interest undermines the intent of the accord acts. The acts give the provinces equality in decision making and the management of our natural resources. It is an established regime which should be maintained, respected and protected.
Seven, offshore oil and gas exploration activities should not fall under the environmental assessment process. We encourage the identification of efficiencies in regulations and support regional strategic assessments that would cover geographic areas of interest for resource development.
With robust regional assessments already in place for offshore oil and gas, it alleviates the need for duplication in regulatory processes. Finding efficiencies will greatly assist our competitiveness while ensuring stringent regulatory oversight.
With this in mind, we believe regional assessments are sufficient to address exploratory oil and gas drilling activities in offshore Nova Scotia, for example, exploration and delineation wells in the offshore.
As a result, we would suggest that environmental, social and health considerations are contemplated under the expanded approach to regional assessments, thus removing the need for further environmental assessments for exploratory oil and gas drilling.
In summary, The Maritimes Energy Association is encouraged by many of the changes proposed in this legislation. However, we would recommend the mentioned submissions and proposed changes be considered before legislation is implemented.
While we support greater Indigenous public engagement, our priority is ensuring that we remain globally competitive and that we are able to attract continued investments in our energy sector.
In closing, I quote what Royal Bank of Canada CEO Dave McKay said in Halifax at the bank’s AGM on April 4 that investment in energy was critical to ensuring that Canada remained prosperous for now and generations to come. He went on to say that we must balance the need to reduce our carbon footprint, with the need to produce more energy to supply growing demand globally, and that we were putting our standard of living at risk if we didn’t achieve this balance.
Alisdair McLean, Executive Director, Offshore Energy Research Association of Nova Scotia: Madam Chair and senators, you are in for a long day, so I wish you good luck. I am glad I am in this chair and not in yours.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak here in Halifax. I would like to make a few comments on the Impact Assessment Act from the perspective of the Offshore Energy Research Association of Nova Scotia.
The OERA is an independent not-for-profit corporation that since 2012 has funded and facilitated collaborative offshore energy environmental research.
Our mission is to lead environmental renewable energy and geoscience research that enables a sustainable development of Nova Scotia’s energy resources through strategic partnerships with academia, government and industry.
Our members are Acadia University, Cape Breton University, Dalhousie University, St. Francis Xavier University, Saint Mary’s University, Nova Scotia Community College and the Nova Scotia Department of Energy and Mines.
The OERA and predecessor associations have funded $26 million of geoscience research to better understand offshore Nova Scotia, $8 million in marine renewable research focused on industry and tidal energy in the Bay of Fundy, and $2 million in marine sound research.
OERA welcomes more public participation in impact assessments. It is required for successful projects as legitimate concerns need to be expressed and taken into account.
OERA also welcomes the incorporation of Indigenous knowledge into decision making. The natural world is complex and good decisions benefit from evidence of many sources.
At the OERA where we fund science and research we appreciate seeing in the preamble and clause 6 purpose references to scientific information and best available scientific information and data.
It is also good to see that clause 41 states a criterion for a review panel member is to be unbiased, free from conflict of interest and have knowledge or experience relevant to the designated projects anticipated effects.
Further, clause 156 includes the agency’s duties to establish research and advisory bodies for matters related to impact assessment.
However, the bill does not define scientific information. In the Internet age where just about anything can be presented as facts and science, it would be helpful to attribute a measure of quality to the information taken into account during an assessment.
Clause 105 attributes scientific information only to the proponent or the federal authority, which is one way to screen information, but it is restrictive. Research associations like OERA can contribute good science to impact assessments.
Project assessments must be evidence based and conducted by people with relevant skill sets using standardized methodologies.
For impact assessment of offshore energy projects in Nova Scotia, the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board has the knowledge and experience relevant to do the work.
Whether an impact assessment is performed by the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board, the agency or a review panel, the output should be clear recommendations about projects and go and no-go decisions with mitigations as appropriate. Difficult decisions should be made by the people who assess the projects.
Understanding potential benefits of a project should be part of the scope of an impact assessment. What are project benefits and to whom do they flow are important factors to be assessed.
Currently benefits are implied in the definition of sustainability and they are implied in “public good.” The act should be clear about assessing project benefits as well as environmental effects.
Proposed changes to do so would be to add to clause 22 a factor for project benefits and to whom they flow and to edit the purpose of clause 6 from to avoid “significant” adverse environmental effects to avoid “disproportionate” adverse environmental effects.
Energy project investments are evaluated by proponents on a global basis and regulatory certainty is an important criterion. Therefore, timelines for impact assessments must be globally competitive. It is not correct to call assessment timelines arbitrary with the implication that a good impact assessment cannot be completed in time.
Similarly, there should not be many opportunities for the assessment process to be suspended or extended by the minister or ministers where there is joint jurisdiction or by Governor-and-Council.
The bill, as written, creates a risk of political interference and uncertainty that may drive investment to competing jurisdictions. Political interference also diminishes confidence in evidence-based decision making.
The planning phase is a good investment in time and resources if it prevents uncertainty later in the process due to court challenges or political intervention.
For that to be true, the notice of commencement needs to be precise with details about how the impact assessment will be carried out so that the result will withstand court challenges. In particular, details about Indigenous consultation, public engagement, project description, assessment methods and scopes of factors should be clear.
In summary, the OERA supports an impact assessment that is evidence based and conducted by qualified people using sound methodology. We believe such a system will produce sustainable projects that protect the environment and contribute to the social and economic well-being of the people of Canada.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
First, before we move to questions, I want to make a couple of remarks. I remind senators and witnesses that we are studying Bill C-69 and Bill C-69 only. Please make sure that your questions and answers are within the mandate of that bill and not other legislation.
Second, we have a lot of senators visiting us and we would like to give them an opportunity to ask questions. Each will be given three minutes, so keep your preambles short.
Senator MacDonald: I welcome everyone to Nova Scotia today. It is a beautiful day.
There are a lot of people around the table so I will just ask one question. Maybe we could sort of set the table with this.
The grey-headed people from Nova Scotia will remember when Premier Regan back in the 1970s held up a little bag of oil on the front page of The Chronicle Herald and under the big headline, “It’s Oil.” We have never had much of an oil industry here, but we have had a fairly substantial or a hopeful natural gas industry.
I would like to ask Mr. Ritcey and Mr. McLean, in particular, for their assessments of the management of the offshore gas sector in this province and of the apparent lack of development of onshore gas sector when we are awash in natural gas in this province, with particular emphasis on how government handles this portfolio.
Mr. Ritcey: Your question strikes right through to the heart of the issue. For those that are not familiar, Nova Scotia was home to the only two offshore gas projects in Canada: Sable Island and Deep Panuke.
You may or may not be aware that those projects are now going through their final decommissioning phase. They have largely ended their useful lives.
The reason why they ended their useful lives, though, was largely driven by technology changes related to hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus and Utica basins closer to the northeast and closer to the markets. That was the significant game changer.
While our offshore gas came to its natural life’s end, provincial legislation, not only in this province but in the provinces of New Brunswick and P.E.I., enacted either legislation that put a moratorium on the use of hydraulic fracturing or an outright ban.
Currently at this point in time since gas was turned off from the offshore facilities as of last December, all of the natural gas coming into the province is imported from the U.S. Most of it is hydraulic fracked gas coming from the Marcellus and Utica basins. This means that natural gas and energy users in the province are now paying a much higher price for that resource than anywhere else. It is estimated that it has risen from $100 million to $500 million per year. That is a significant challenge for a number of users of the fuel in the market. It reduces our competitiveness on a global basis.
I remain hopeful that at some future point in time that will be revisited. If you look at the press today, you will see that that certain counties in the province are looking at seeing if they can move forward with some local oil and gas production, utilizing hydraulic fracturing technology.
Mr. McLean: I will just add that many Nova Scotians are familiar with an independent report about hydraulic fracturing referred to as The Wheeler Report. It laid out quite a few recommendations that should be considered before any industrial actions should start.
From a science perspective, it would make sense for us to be looking at the environmental impacts and the benefits of any energy technology in Nova Scotia, so that policy decisions can be made based on evidence and based on sound science.
Senator Simons: I had a question I wanted to direct first to Mr. Ritcey and maybe to Mr. McLean.
When we were in Newfoundland yesterday, we heard from a witness in the afternoon who was an environmental activist. He told us that under the terms of the Atlantic Accord, if a company is drilling an exploratory well and there is an accident while they are doing that discovery work, they are not required to report the spill in order to protect the confidentiality of their exploration work. By that time, all of the people from the offshore industry had left the building.
I wanted to take this opportunity to ask if you could explain to us whether that is so and if so, why that is so?
Mr. Ritcey: I cannot answer that question. I don’t believe it is correct, but I am not the right person. It doesn’t make sense based on what I have seen on the offshore both in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland with any kind of incident that has been involved in the exploration phase. I can use Nova Scotia as an example.
Mr. Blades just commented on one where Stena IceMAX had an incident on its ship when a device fell to the ocean floor. That was reported on right away and action was taken.
I am not an expert on that aspect of the regulatory agencies, either the C-NLOPB in Newfoundland or the C-NSOPB, but based on what I have been able to observe, certainly since the 20 years that I have been back home, that does not reconcile.
You would be better to ask someone from the board itself or one of the representatives from the government that I think are on one of the additional panels.
Senator Simons: I have a quick follow-up question for Mr. Blades. It is interesting that we have heard arguments both here today and yesterday that the offshore boards should in fact have a lot more suasion in the process, that they should not be limited to one person and that they should be allowed to chair.
Bill C-69, as you know, now limits the role of the offshore boards so that they cannot be a majority of a panel and they cannot share a panel. Yet, the gentlemen on the panel today would like a different outcome.
Is it possible that we actually have the right balance in Bill C-69 where we include the knowledge of the offshore boards but we do not let them dominate the panel or the chair?
Mr. Blades: No. My position remains the same and probably stronger after listening to the last 10 minutes. We do not believe that the offshore petroleum boards should have any further power to influence environmental impact assessment beyond their current advisory role.
In my opinion, they are incapable of acting without bias and they are in conflict. They are the regulator.
Senator Woo: I want to ask about exploratory drilling and the treatment of exploratory drilling under the Impact Assessment Act.
We have heard from Mr. Ritcey that regional assessment might be the way to deal with a set of exploratory drilling initiatives rather than treating each one piecemeal.
You seem to indicate that the current process is not sufficiently comprehensive. You talked about including health and social impacts and so on. Perhaps you could explain a bit more about what is lacking in the current process to enable a regional assessment to be the proper tool for dealing with exploratory drilling.
Maybe Mr. Blades could respond as well as to why he thinks — and I believe this is his position — that each individual exploratory drilling initiative should be given a separate and independent impact assessment because it is unique and has special risks associated with that particular drilling.
Mr. Ritcey: Maybe I could set the context first before I answer your question. Offshore drilling has been going on off the coast of Nova Scotia since the late 1950s or early 1960s. I think in Atlantic Canada the number of wells drilled to date have been in excess of 250 in total, going back a long period of time.
All of this has not resulted in any significant environmental impact to the environment. I think that is important to understand.
We have had great history to date, largely the result of good regulatory oversight both in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.
The process in place today has continued to be enhanced and amended over the history of time, largely due to the technological advancements going back to the industry itself. I think the results speak for themselves.
Perhaps I could also add, if you look at other offshore jurisdictions around the world, all of those jurisdictions to date have been able to coexist with their respect fishing industries. Whether you are in the U.K., Norway, the Gulf Coast of the U.S., the respective industries have been able to coexist, recognizing a number of their respective regulatory regimes are different.
In Nova Scotia, as in Newfoundland, we have had a regional assessment process that has largely worked. It continues to be amended based on either improvements from a science perspective, a technology perspective or a best practice perspective.
Certainly those in Canada would view that the strength of our regulatory regime, relative to some other jurisdictions, is stronger and represents better practice than exists in a number of other jurisdictions.
To date the only way that I can answer your question is by saying that the current process has worked well and the results speak for themselves. They continue to amend, as needed, to reflect changing standards in other jurisdictions.
Senator Woo: You alluded to the fact that some factors were not currently included in the process and that they should be included in future regional assessments.
Mr. Ritcey: The central agency, the Impact Assessment Agency, was looking to consider other aspects over and above what was happening in the regional assessments.
The regional assessments could be amended to cover off the other factors. It is no different from what has already happened over the history of oil and gas development in Atlantic Canada.
Mr. Blades: I guess my response to that would be the seafood industry contributes greatly to the economy of Nova Scotia, the livelihood of all coastal communities in Nova Scotia.
We set out to try to coexist. In my opinion, we are not in a position where we are coexisting because seafood industry interests have no representation at the regulatory level of this process. We are the industry that has been operating in the oceans off Atlantic Canada for over 300 years. We are the impacted community. We are the potentially impacted stakeholders.
We have no seat at the table to make any decisions regarding the regulatory regime of this incoming industry that wants to operate in our territory. I say that kind of harshly.
It is interesting that we bring up technological advances in drilling and exploration. This is causing oil companies to explore farther from shore with extremely deep depths of drilling in extremely deep water. In our place in the North Atlantic there are extreme conditions. I totally believe that the regulatory regime that we have now is not strong enough to protect against a potential disaster.
You will recall the Ocean Ranger disaster of decades ago. Ocean Ranger was the most advanced, newest oil rig in existence at the time. It was supposedly unsinkable, but it sank.
In 2010-2011, the disaster with the Deepwater Horizon, the most technologically advanced oil rig in existence on the planet, was not possible but it happened.
The unexpected happens. Mistakes are made. Conditions are extreme. We are not sufficiently protected against a potential blowout. What could possibly happen in these more extreme conditions and these more extreme depths?
The Chair: I want to take advantage of a couple of comments to ask Professor McLean a question. In order to measure impact on the environment you have to have a reference. I salute the fact that all these universities are together. That is fantastic.
Yesterday, we heard that there is a lack of data, lack of information, and that there are cumulative effects coming with climate change, acidification and death of benthic organisms, et cetera.
Do you have a reference point, at least for your area, to compare how these wells or these platforms are impacting the environment? Because conflict of interest has been raised, could you tell us from where the money is coming to fund your research?
Mr. McLean: Madam Chair, you are the first person in my life to call me a professor. I do not deserve the title.
To answer your question, though, the funding for OERA principally comes from the Government of Nova Scotia. We have also received funding from the federal government through ACOA and through Natural Resources Canada.
If your question is are we taking money from industry to do our research, I would say that we try to maximize the benefit of the tax dollars we receive by collaborating with industry to get resources to do our work.
In the marine environment, that could be planning to do some research and then encouraging an industry participant to supply a vessel and a crew, at their cost perhaps, to allow the research to happen at less cost.
Like all of my university colleagues, we are always trying to stretch our pennies as far as we can.
Your question about baseline data is a good one. I think the answer is that it depends on where you are looking. Certainly, if you look in the Bay of Fundy from the tidal energy perspective, very many studies have been done. I think 90 studies or thereabouts have been done near the tidal energy devices we put in the water. Yet, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans would tell you that there is insufficient baseline data to have a really good understanding of what would happen when there are multiple devices in the water.
I am less familiar with the quality of our baseline data for the offshore, but certainly your question is correct. We need to be sure we have baseline data available so that when we are looking at cumulative effects we have evidence to make our decisions.
The Chair: Senator Carignan.
Senator Carignan: My question is for all members of the group. Paragraph 63(e) measures the public interest and states the following:
(e) the extent to which the effects of the designated project hinder or contribute to the Government of Canada’s ability to meet its environmental obligations and its commitments in respect of climate change.
The same type of wording is used in the criteria to be considered with respect to the impacts set out in clause 22.
Given that the impacts of climate change are global, shouldn’t we also take them into account elsewhere in the world and not only in Canada? The reason is simple: there could be a project in Canada that would increase GHG emissions or affect the achievement of Canadian targets, but that would reduce coal use in other countries and therefore reduce global GHG emissions. Do you think that this element should be part of the measure?
Mr. Ritcey: Senator, that is a very good question. As a case in point, you can look at some of the ongoing liquefied natural gas development activities on the West Coast of Canada and the two on the East Coast of Canada. A surplus of natural gas is available in Canada for different reasons. Mainly the difficulty is that there is not enough pipeline capacity to move it south of the border.
There is a very good opportunity to move our resources to new markets both in Asia and in Europe because they have increasing demand for natural gas. Natural gas is a cleaner burning fuel in many of the markets it is moving to. It would displace primarily coal in a number of those markets.
It is lower emissions versus what is currently being consumed in those international markets. From a climate change perspective and from a global perspective, while you might be increasing your emissions locally, overall you are reducing your emissions from a world perspective.
I think that would make good sense. It rationalizes the development of those types of projects because overall it is for the benefit of the world society.
In short, that has to be taken into consideration. I know there are a number of challenges in doing it. A previous senator asked a question around data. There are issues around data, not just in our own country but around the world.
The question: When everyone is looking at something, are they looking at the same baseline data? That continues to be a challenge.
In short, you would have to take that into consideration because it makes good sense both from an environmental and from an economical perspective.
Mr. Blades: It is funny that I read in the news media yesterday that carbon emissions from the Alberta oil patch are now estimated to be far greater than previously estimated.
Once again, I have to come back to my fisheries perspective. We as an industry depend on the clean cold waters of the North Atlantic for our raw materials, the seafood we process and export around the world.
Nova Scotia seafood, and Canadian seafood in general, has a great reputation on the world stage. To say the least, it would be an extreme disappointment for a disaster to come along and wipe out a renewable resource that feeds the world.
How does that relate to carbon emissions? If you take away a world food source, if you take away the livelihood of an entire society, what is that worth?
Mr. McLean: The short answer is yes, it should be taken into consideration.
If the purpose of a natural gas project in Canada was to shut down coal-fired power plants in China as an example, we obviously should recognize the merit of that. The challenge, as Mr. Ritcey said, will be the methodology.
If someone is to have a liquefied natural gas power plant or transportation facility, will there be long-term contracts in place to guarantee that the use of that gas will be as projected?
I think we should be taking into account the benefits on a global basis of what we might do with natural gas.
Senator Woo: Essentially, you are saying you want to take in the downstream effects of oil and gas production. I just caution that this line of reasoning has logic to it. There are methodological challenges, but in effect you are saying that we want to take into account downstream effects and that opens up Pandora’s box.
Senator Neufeld: Mr. Ritcey, I assume that The Maritimes Energy Association worked with CAPP and CEPA on the amendments put forward by those two organizations. You are shaking your head no.
Have you read the amendments that they have put forward, and are you in agreement with those?
Mr. Ritcey: When the proposed legislation first came out, I reviewed the first two tranches of it extensively. I also worked with a number of other internal folks to come up with a position paper we submitted in August 2017.
Subsequently, we were aware of a number of iterations from a number of stakeholder groups including CAPP and CEPA and of the Canada West Foundation. We were not part of those processes. We were made aware of them basically by going to the website and seeing what was submitted under Bill C-69.
I spent a lot of time reading the materials that they put forth. For the most part, the suggestions they were making seemed to be rational and seemed to make sense.
At a very high level, that was the review I largely undertook. Then we mapped it back into what was originally proposed, and hence the remarks that I provided.
Senator Neufeld: Mr. McLean, I believe I heard you say, in relationship to standing and having an ability to comment on a project, what was in the bill now was fine and was opening it up to the world.
How do you feel about the individuals in the fishing industry that might be most affected? Should they have the same standing as someone from Europe or wherever? The U.S. funds an awful lot of activism in Canada.
Should they all have the same standing? As it presently is, should those who are most affected be the ones that they would relate to plus experts rather than just saying, “Hey world, come in and you can have your opinions? ”
If in fact you still believe that, could you tell me how a board would deal with it?
Mr. McLean: I did not mean to suggest that someone, to your example, from Europe who might come over would have the same standing as someone from Shag Harbour to talk about an offshore project.
I agree with what you are saying. I think those most likely to be affected by a project should be the ones that are listened to most carefully.
Senator Patterson: My question is for the Clean Ocean Action Committee and Mr. Blades.
I was really shocked at your lack of confidence in the Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board because I would think you would agree in principle that representatives of the people of Nova Scotia should be involved in the regulation of activities in their waters.
You said that the board was not capable of acting without bias because of its composition and that the seafood industry had no representation at the regulatory level.
You are suggesting that there should be better, more diverse appointments. If that were the case, couldn’t the regulatory regime work just fine with Nova Scotians on it?
Mr. Blades: Let us take a look at the make-up of the Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board right now.
The chairperson is Keith MacLeod with lifetime involvement in the oil and gas industry. Roger Percy from the environmental field was appointed for the province. He has worked extensively in the oil and gas sector. Harold Giddens is an alternate provincial board member with lifetime involvement in oil and gas. Corrina Bryson is a federal board member.
Senator Patterson: I understand you are alleging bias and that there is no balance in the board.
Mr. Blades: There is not.
Senator Patterson: You also said that there was no seafood industry representative.
Mr. Blades: There is not.
Senator Patterson: If there were more balance, would you not want to see Nova Scotians involved in regulating what goes on in their waters adjacent to where they will have to deal with the impacts?
Mr. Blades: Of course, I would want that. I am lamenting the fact that we do not have that.
Senator Patterson: I have a second question. John Davis of your organization has publicly described offshore oil projects as a gamble. He said of one of the BP wells that it was a relief they hadn’t found commercial quantities of oil.
Is your organization affiliated or a member of the Offshore Alliance that has called for a moratorium on oil and gas exploration in Nova Scotia? Is your ultimate agenda, as a member of the Offshore Alliance, to stop oil and gas exploration in the waters off of Nova Scotia?
Mr. Blades: That is an interesting question. Being a member of the Offshore Alliance is a necessity. We have always taken the position that the oil and gas industry should be able to coexist in the waters of the offshore with the seafood industry.
In our calling for a moratorium, it would only be because we are not at the table in a regulatory sense. We have no confidence in the regulatory regime. We do not have confidence in the regulator to stand up for our interests.
We have asked for a full public inquiry into the potential risks of offshore oil and gas development. I believe we asked for a moratorium on new offshore oil and gas development until a public inquiry could be conducted.
Senator Patterson: Since you are alleging bias in the board, there are some unsubstantiated allegations I think we should try to ask the boards both in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia to respond to. I am sorry they are not here.
Could you give us your sources of funding? I know you are affiliated with the Sierra Club and The Council of Canadians. What are your sources of funding?
I must ask you that, with respect, because you are alleging industry bias in the regulatory regime. Does your organization get funded by anti-oil and gas interests?
Mr. Blades: Are you asking about the Clean Ocean Action Committee?
Senator Patterson: Yes, or its affiliates.
Mr. Blades: The Clean Ocean Action Committee is funded on a shoestring that relies on donations mostly from seafood industry stakeholders.
John Davis is not on the payroll. We hope that we can put together enough money to help offset his travel costs in the time that he puts into doing this. No, we do not receive funding from the Sierra Club or anything like that.
Like I said, it is mostly donation. If we are getting a donation from my company, Sable Fish Packers, or a fishing organization like the Bay of Fundy fishing organization, that is it.
The Chair: I just want to say to the members of the committee that both boards were invited, and they declined our invitation. We invited them to submit written statements, and we are still waiting for them.
Senator McCallum: I want to ask for comments on statements that were made about benefits and standard of living.
It was said that benefits were to be applied for the public good and for the social and economic well-being of Canada, which would put our standard of living at risk, and that we needed to be prosperous now.
I have looked across Canada at what has occurred in land-based industry. I have looked at mining, at hydro, at oilfields, and at forestry. People living in the areas have been left with a lot of devastation and havoc. When I look at industry, I see very little good that happens.
I am actually very concerned for Canada because we are left with billions of dollars to clean up. I do not know where Canada will get the money to clean up the mess. We are still promoting more industry, and yet there seems to be no scientific basis or data for it. There is very little consideration for the animals, whether they are on land or in the sea.
Could all of you comment on whether there will eventually be a climate change balance in the sea, on the land and in the environment? We are heading for destruction. My major concern is the limited food supply on earth that is dwindling.
Mr. Blades: You have raised very good points, especially when I think about food supply. Actually I mentioned that a few minutes ago.
The Canadian seafood industry, including that of Nova Scotia, provides food to the world that comes out of the ocean. It goes back to a previous question that was answered for another senator.
When you try to wrap your head around the idea of whether it is worth while to initiate and conduct a project in Canada that may have destructive environmental impacts because the product might be sold to a foreign country and help them reduce their carbon emissions or replace a dirty fuel source. That blows my mind.
As I mentioned earlier, we are talking about the offshore pushing into deeper depths than have ever been drilled before and harsher conditions than have ever been drilled in before. We are talking about, in my opinion, a far greater risk of disaster.
When a disaster happens in the oil industry, it is huge. Once the cat is out of the bag, you cannot put it back in. Then what happens if you pollute or wipe out the seafood industry? What happens if you destroy all of these marine organisms that we depend on?
We are not just talking about cod, haddock, halibut or lobster. We are talking about phytoplankton, the food for the marine species that we happen to depend on for commercial fisheries. We are also talking about whales, which are not commercially valuable to us, but are marine species.
I am very worried about the toxicity of oil, especially the toxicity of chemically dispersed oil and what potentially it can do to marine species. I am not only referring to the ones that commercially valuable, but to the plankton and the micro-organisms in the ocean that all sea life depends on.
I have already identified that the regulatory regime in the offshore is not sufficient. I have already argued that we do not even have a voice at the table when it comes to regulating the industry that wants to come in.
The potential effects are extremely huge. Why would you not want to have a stronger regulatory package? Why would you not want to try to do your best to protect the best interests of the people here?
We are not disposable. I guess that is what it comes down to at the end of the day. I would hate to think of all the livelihoods and standard of living of thousands and thousands of families and people in the seafood industry in all the coastal communities of Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, P.E.I. and New Brunswick suddenly being wiped off the map with one disaster.
In my opinion, it is immeasurable. Could a balance be found? I don’t know. We are definitely not in it now.
Mr. Ritcey: Our country was built on resource development. It continues to be built on resource development. Whether it is fisheries, forestry, mining, oil and gas, et cetera, the primary driver in our economy has always been resource based. Looking into the future, it is not going to be different.
Most would recognize what is different. We have looked to trying to do things in a responsible and now sustainable way. The way to accomplish that is through effective legislation and regulation.
With all due respect to Mr. Blades, as I said earlier, in the last 50 or 60 years in Atlantic Canada the oil and gas industry and the fisheries industry around the world have been able to coexist. We have been able to recognize that there are risks in every activity we do, whether it is resource based or non-resource based.
The question is: How do you develop the right balance of effective legislation and regulation while we continue to utilize our current resources to grow our economy in a responsible and sustainable manner?
Senator Massicotte: I heard comments from Mr. Blades and Mr. Ritcey, but I want to address my question to you, Professor McLean.
Mr. Ritcey made it very clear that there is obviously a risk when we do exploration. We know about the benefits economically. We also know about the CO2.
Mr. Blades talked about the Ocean Ranger accident over 15 years ago. Because my memory lacks me, could you summarize for me what were the consequences of that disaster? In other words, what are the consequences many years later?
Describe to me again, just for the sake of understanding, what could happen if things go wrong and to what extent do the consequences affect today?
Mr. McLean: I cannot comment on the specific lessons from the Ocean Ranger. It was a lot longer than 15 years ago. It might have been back in the 1980s. I think it was 1982 or 1984. It is sad to say that I was probably still in high school or university at the time and maybe not paying attention.
Your question about risk assessment is important. That methodology is what is key. For an impact assessment to be valuable and to be trusted, not only does the evidence have to be there, not only do the people who conduct the impact assessment have to be skilled, but they have to be using methods that are widely recognized as being sound.
Other jurisdictions in the world have a very good body of methods which we could draw on. When there is an incident, there is always an evaluation of methodology to see what could have happened. Then the methodologies get changed so risk can be better analyzed.
That does not directly answer your question about the impact of the Ocean Ranger, but methodology needs to be considered if we are to have good impact assessments.
The Chair: Thank you very much for your testimony, and thank you, senators, for the questions.
For our second panel we welcome, from Sierra Club Canada Foundation, Gretchen Fitzgerald, National Programs Director, and from Ecology Action Centre, Mark Butler, Policy Director.
Each of you has five minutes or so, and then we will follow with a question period.
Mark Butler, Policy Director, Ecology Action Centre: About 7:30 this morning the sun came out for a moment and I said, “Ah, the Senate must be in town.” Then it went in again. I hope this cross-country tour will shed more light on Bill C-69 and result in a better and stronger act for all Canadians.
Ecology Action Centre is based in Nova Scotia. We have been around since 1971. We work nationally and sometimes internationally. For example, we do a lot of international work around fisheries. We have over 5,000 paid members, mostly in Nova Scotia.
Lisa Mitchell was meant to be on this panel. She is the executive director of East Coast Environmental Law. Unfortunately, she has come down with pneumonia and wisely chose not to appear. It is too bad because she would have brought some legal heft to this current panel.
My background is more in participation in environmental assessments and trying to get more science integrated into environmental assessments.
With the chair’s permission, I will make a few brief points. Then I would like to read a section from our joint submission which I think senators might have a paper copy of. I will definitely stay under 10 minutes.
I want to make four points. As much as we might like it differently, impact assessment is pretty obscure to most Canadians until it is very real. I will explain that. Impact assessment can help avoid future liabilities. All projects can benefit from IA. Then I will say a couple of words on the role of science in impact assessment.
Going back to my first point that impact assessment is obscure until it is very real. Most Canadians are unaware of impact assessment. However, it becomes very real to people when a large industrial project is proposed for their community.
Regardless of your politics, at a minimum you might have some questions about impact on air quality, drinking water, property values and livelihoods if it is tourism or fishing.
Whom do citizens call when confronted with news of a project? Often, they call groups like ourselves. Too many times I have heard the following question. The government can’t do that, can they?
I would ask you to please keep in mind the well-being of all Canadians as you deliberate this bill. This bill will have a real impact on Canadians across the country in coming years.
My second point is that impact assessment can help avoid future liabilities. You are in Nova Scotia. There are a number of toxic sites in Nova Scotia, legacies of past industrial projects. Think of Boat Harbour, Sydney Tar Ponds and mine tailing sites. Often these sites are adjacent to communities with the least ability to say no. You might have heard of the term environmental racism.
I do not want our generation to leave a legacy of toxic sites or degraded lands and waters for the next generation to pay for and clean up. Good environmental assessment can prevent future liabilities.
On a quick point, all projects can benefit from EAs. Be they a coal mine, offshore drilling, or renewable energy projects, they should all receive the same scrutiny. If they are flawed, then they should be assessed, recommended or rejected.
Finally, I have a word on science. This topic that is dear to my heart. Ecology Action Centre has participated in many assessments over the years. Based on that experience, we made a submission to the government appointed expert panel that toured the country a couple of years ago. We focused on the poor quality of science in nearly all EI statements and how to change that.
Our main recommendation was to ensure that science, Indigenous and community knowledge was the foundation of the process, that the science was independent and that the impact assessment document was peer reviewed and credible.
While the expert panel did a good job of capturing input from Canadians including recommendations on the role of science, the government chose not to adopt many of the recommendations from the panel. Presumably, because of pressure from industry, this was regrettable.
I re-read the section on science last night. It is excellent. I am sorry there was not more pickup from those drafting the bill.
Now I would like to turn to the brief from ECELAW and EAC and focus primarily on the role of the petroleum boards. Lisa Mitchell commended the government for including consideration of climate. I know that is controversial. However, you either respect the science on climate or you do not. We are glad to see climate being a consideration in this bill. We also support the opportunity for all Canadians to have input into industrial projects.
As public interest organizations based on the East Coast, Ecology Action Centre and East Coast Environmental Law have been closely following the development of offshore oil and gas proposals in Atlantic Canada. As you know, the petroleum boards are the regulatory bodies responsible for the development of oil and gas resources and the management of petroleum operations off the coasts of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.
Currently under CEAA 2012 petroleum boards do not conduct environmental assessments of designated physical activities. In this regard, they are treated differently than the other two energy regulators. National Energy Board and Nuclear Commission Canada are responsible authorities under CEAA 2012, with a power to conduct EAs on designated projects in combination with their own regulatory processes.
Under Bill C-69, the minister will be required to refer an impact assessment to a review panel for any designated project regulated by the petroleum boards.
The minister appoints the review panel including a chairperson and at least four other members. At least two of the persons the minister appoints must come from an established roster that includes members of the petroleum boards and must be recommended by the chairperson of the petroleum board.
The persons appointed from the roster must not constitute a majority of the members of the panel. The review panel chair can be a petroleum board member.
In essence, this means that a review panel with a minimum of five persons will conduct all federal impact assessments for designated projects in the Atlantic offshore. At least two of those persons will be from or associated with petroleum boards.
Although members of the petroleum boards cannot constitute the majority of the review panel, a petroleum board member is not prohibited from serving as chair of the panel.
Under Bill C-69 the influence of petroleum boards on impact assessment will be significantly enhanced. For the most part, the assessment process for the petroleum boards is the same as that of the Nuclear Commission and the Canadian Energy Regulator with one key difference.
Designated activities regulated by the Nuclear Commission and the Canadian Energy Regulator will be assessed by a review panel, but the review panel chair cannot be a nuclear commissioner or energy regulator member.
Under Bill C-69, the influence of the Canadian Energy Regulator and the Nuclear Commission on impact assessment will be significantly curtailed.
Regulators have an important role in providing expertise to the impact assessment process. We support consultation cooperation with the regulator as prescribed in clause 21 of the bill. However, the assessment process should be conducted independently.
As we presented to the House of Commons committee, we continue to believe that selection of review panel members should be done on a case-by-case basis, with a focus on ensuring that those selected have relevant expertise, local knowledge and no conflict of interest.
Limiting the role of the regulators in the assessment process to providing input and expertise rather than full participation as panel members helps to protect the independence of the assessment process. We must remember that the government’s promise was to restore credibility to the IA process.
To conclude, this time we specifically recommend amendments to clauses 46 and 48 to at least bring the requirements respecting panel composition of assessments of projects regulated by the offshore boards into alignment with those of projects regulated by the energy regulator and the nuclear commission.
We were told and we accepted to some extent that there must be consistency among the three life-cycle regulators. Then somebody slipped something in which allowed the petroleum boards to chair panels, which the other two life-cycle regulators cannot do. This is inconsistent with the consistency promised. Thank you very much.
Gretchen Fitzgerald, National Programs Director, Sierra Club Canada Foundation: I would like to acknowledge that we are on unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq people.
My focus today is to ask you that the offshore petroleum boards have less, not more, power under the new Impact Assessment Act.
Sierra Club Canada Foundation is a national grassroots organization with the mission to empower people to be leaders in protecting, restoring and enjoying a healthy and safe environment.
Sierra Club has been involved in the development and amendments of environmental assessment laws since their inception in Canada. We have participated in numerous environmental assessments over the years, including the cleanup of the Sydney Tar Ponds, the Muskrat Falls mega hydro project, the Digby Quarry, and various offshore oil and gas projects off the East Coast.
Because of this experience, we know that offshore boards do not have the mandate or the expertise that would enable them to assess accurately and without bias offshore oil and gas projects.
The phase-out of fossil fuel development and the just transition for those affected by this change is what the Senate Energy Committee should be holding hearings on today.
Offshore oil and gas development usually occurs over the time scale of decades, but the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has told us all that we do not have decades, as you are all very well aware. We have a matter of 11 to 12 years to prevent a climate crisis and limit global temperatures from rising above 1.5 degrees Celsius.
According to the IPCC report issued last fall, the final tick box is political will for achieving these safe levels. As senators you must be part of this will.
The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador plans to increase oil and gas development off its coast with potentially devastating impacts on climate and our oceans. Calculations performed by my colleague’s organization, Ecology Action Centre, indicate that if Newfoundland and Labrador develop oil and gas reserves as proposed in its advanced 2030 document on the way forward on oil and gas, this single province will be responsible for almost 10 per cent of the global allowable GHG emission budget to keep our planet within 1.5 degrees Celsius.
To us, it is not a weakness but a strength that the Bill C-69 will require us to take into consideration the impact of proposed projects on our obligations to meet climate targets. The early planning phase proposed in Bill C-69 is also a step in the right direction because it will engage community members and Indigenous communities earlier in the process and allow them a window into planned projects that will affect them.
Sierra Club Canada Foundation has concerns about Bill C-69 in that it does not go far enough to ensure there is science-based decision making by requiring independent review of assessment reports or by ensuring that decision making on proposed projects happens free from political interference.
Bill C-69 does not commit to ensuring we uphold the rights of Indigenous peoples by obtaining free, prior and informed consent. It does not propose a method for engaging in collaborative consent processes, a concept proposed by the expert panel on Bill C-69.
Given the reason for engaging in the process of drafting a new Impact Assessment Act was to make environmental assessments credible again. We are very concerned about giving greater powers to the offshore boards as is proposed in the draft bill.
The offshore petroleum boards have a dual mandate to promote oil and gas development and to protect the environment and the safety of workers.
Members of the boards are often drawn from the fossil fuel sector and do not have expertise in protecting the environment, ecology and endangered species or in reflecting the concerns of other marine industries such as fishing and tourism.
Some examples of poor decision making on behalf of the offshore boards in recent memory include having no rules in place that would halt attaching a drill to the seafloor when there were nine-metre waves occurring off Newfoundland last November, resulting in an estimated spill of 250,000 litres of oil into our oceans, not a single drop of which has been recovered. We do not know the death toll of seabirds caused by this spill.
Another bad example is allowing seismic blasting to proceed when critically endangered blue whales were migrating into the Gulf of St. Lawrence in 2010. There is growing evidence that seismic blasting can be devastating for marine mammals and other ocean life.
Recently, the Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board issued a call for bids for oil exploration that includes Sable Island National Park Reserve. This would allow drilling within one nautical mile of this precious island.
Perhaps there is no greater example of the failure of offshore boards to deal with the impact of oil and gas development than allowing offshore oil and gas to occur in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
The Gulf of St. Lawrence is bounded by the coasts of five of Canada’s ten provinces. The Mi’kmaq, Maliseet, Innu and Inuit people have fished and travelled in the gulf for thousands of years.
The Newfoundland Offshore Board is responsible for issuing calls for bids and permitting oil and gas development in its section of the gulf, even though this is a single shared ecosystem.
A spill in the gulf could impact the coast of five provinces, threaten multi-billion dollar fishing and tourism industries. Noise from seismic blasting, chronic pollution and a major spill from oil development in the gulf could spell the extinction for critically endangered whales and other threatened species in the gulf.
We are particularly concerned about the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale. They had major deaths in the gulf two years ago.
A recent scientific paper indicates that the Gulf of St. Lawrence, because it is such a unique place, where arctic waters and the warm gulf stream waters mix, will be greatly impacted by climate change. It may be more than any other marine ecosystem on this planet.
Scientists warn that the warming of waters in the gulf may create hypoxic or low oxygen levels that will not enable it to sustain life in some areas.
In spite of these multiple threats and calls for a moratorium from numerous organizations and the chiefs of Indigenous communities in the gulf, the offshore petroleum board has allowed oil and gas exploration to continue.
Offshore petroleum boards should not be getting more power under the new Impact Assessment Act. Certainly, they should not be able to appoint two members to a review panel or even chair an assessment panel. Our recommendation is that they would play an advisory role to assessments but not sit on review panels at all.
The influence of the oil industry over the drafting of Bill C-69, which has already been weakened, is making it difficult to see how the government will accomplish its mandate to make assessments credible again.
We know as practitioners that this influence will be brought to bear once impact assessments are undertaken for specific projects. Giving more power to offshore boards in Bill C-69 is simply a bridge too far.
In conclusion, our major recommendation to the committee today is to limit the role of offshore boards in reviewing offshore oil and gas projects. Thank you very much.
Senator Mercer: My question is actually a fairly simple one. It should have been directed at the previous panel as well. We have done some things right, though, even without heavy regulations being in place.
The regular route of whales coming into the Bay of Fundy was constantly having trouble with shipping. Industry came up with a solution to move the shipping route coming into the Bay of Fund and over to Saint John, New Brunswick, farther east and closer to Nova Scotia. Guess what? That is where the whales aren’t. Since they have moved that, there have been very good results with fewer incidents of ship/whale encounters in the Bay of Fundy.
At all our committees we tend to end up hearing the bad news stories. I wish people would tell us some of the good news stories, and that is a good news story.
Ms. Fitzgerald: Yes. We are very heartened to see that there are seven new baby right whales were born over the winter months. They are coming back, but they are coming back through a pathway of hazard. You will be hearing presentations on the impact of seismic on marine mammals later today.
The noise from that blasting is so loud that it can be heard halfway to Europe. If we are blasting off Newfoundland, as we plan to do this spring, and if we are blasting for the next 10 years, as we are proposing to do off Nova Scotia, those whales all the way down the seaboard will be hearing that noise and experiencing it as a constant stress. It is a blast that happens every 10 to 14 seconds.
It is like having a strobe light in your face for days, to weeks, to months. That is the comparison because whales use sound as we use vision to find their mates, to find their babies and to find their food. The impacts of seismic are far reaching.
I am glad to see the shipping industry is taking action. The rapid action of the fishing community in response to the deaths of whales in the gulf is wonderful to see.
We need to understand the scope of what we are doing with regard to ocean noise, offshore oil and gas development, and their impacts on global biodiversity and the entire seaboard.
It is interesting to note that in the United States there has been action to limit this development unlike in Canada.
Senator Simons: My question is for Mr. Butler this morning. We have heard from other witnesses as we have been around the country that we need to strengthen language in the bill around science, scientific integrity, scientific analysis. But I do not think anybody has given us much language around specific amendments.
You referenced a report that some of your organizations that you have partnered with had written about strengthening the language around science. And I am wondering if you have the text of that, could you share it with the clerk, could you read to us? What would you have us do to give to you the assurance that scientific credibility is given its due weight in the process?
Mr. Butler: Thank you for your question. I mean my main frustration with IA or EA over the years has been the quality of the document that the whole process centres around and that is it quantity but not quality. It is pages and pages of description without much analysis, without, I would, say good peer-reviewed science.
So finding a way to make the document that should ultimately be the guide to the project, more scientifically credible, is crucial.
And we had some early proposals in our submission to the expert panel that toured the country that the government appointed. I am happy to share our submission. I think at that time we were still exploring how the process could be improved, but when I reread the expert panel’s recommendations on science, I thought they were very good.
So I think if you are looking for guidance on how to make the act stronger with respect to science and make science a key part along with traditional knowledge, be it Indigenous knowledge or community knowledge, then the expert panel which is a distillation of 1,000 presentations, I think that is a good place to look.
The Chair: Senator Carignan.
Senator Carignan: My question is about the composition of the list recommended by the board. I’m trying to understand your concern about bias. Looking at your list, I see that the word “oil” appears on it. I know that the mandate and composition of this board is based on an agreement between Canada and Nova Scotia, that the members are appointed by both governments and that they have a mandate for environmental analysis. So there is an expertise that has developed within this organization. People will be appointed by this office or, in any case, will be on a list.
However, there are the provisions of clause 2 that indicate that appointees must not be in a conflict of interest and must maintain an appearance of bias. I’m a little uncomfortable with this question. I’m trying to find a balance between seeking the expertise of an individual or group without necessarily giving the appearance of bias. I have difficulty with the fact that the board is recommending a list of members to be selected by the minister. The members selected must not be in a conflict of interest. So it can create a fear of institutional bias, from the public perspective. What do you propose? Ultimately, the minister will have to choose someone. Is it better to proceed as illustrated by The Globe and Mail this morning, when the Prime Minister makes a choice after considering potential contributions or support?
Ms. Fitzgerald: I have a few responses. I just think it is dangerous to make an analogy between Indigenous rights holders and the fossil fuel industry.
Senator Carignan: However, it is in the legislation. The body that will decide, according to the legislation, could be indigenous groups, which are considered a body. They could do an impact assessment and measure the impact on indigenous rights. It is set out in the legislation....
The Chair: Senator Carignan, let the witness answer the question.
Senator Carignan: It’s dangerous to make an analogy, but that’s what’s stated in the legislation. I’m taking it as it is; I didn’t write it.
Ms. Fitzgerald: With Indigenous peoples, I think we in Canada are in a process in acknowledging reconciliation and the truth of history that they are the rights holders. I hope the role of the fossil fuel industry is a different one on this land.
That is why I think it is appropriate. Actually it is not even in place as far as the expert panel recommended with regard to the bill.
One must be very careful making a parallel between Indigenous rights holders and the fossil fuel industry. It is a very different legal standing. I would hope in the process of reconciliation that is acknowledged by the entire Senate.
You asked with regard to fairness. What would be a good list for the minister to use to select unbiased panellists I think is the heart of the question.
Before I go to answering that, you talked about fairness. I don’t know the story, but apparently the federal government has appointed or cherry-picked a new commission, it sounds like from what you are suggesting.
We feel the same way with regard to offshore boards and their role. They will pick people whether or not it is conscious. It is not about individuals. It is about being part of a process, a system and learning. By being part of an industry that is what you know and that is where you are most expert and comfortable. This would be all people. It is called regulatory capture.
We saw that with the pipeline assessment of Energy East. It blew up in the face of the government because that regulatory capture became too flagrant. It did not pass the sniff test for Canadians.
We would not want to see that happen again on review panels for offshore oil and gas. It was a regulatory fail from all perspectives whether or not you wanted that pipeline to go ahead.
One of the best panels I have seen selected independent experts linked to universities. They had expertise in planning, ocean environments and geology. This was the Digby Quarry panel. They were selected from independent academic institutions. With that, as you were mentioning, there could be seats for Indigenous rights holders as well if acceptable to those communities.
That would be the gold standard. It would achieve the level of credibility the government says it is trying to achieve here.
The Chair: Do you want to add something?
Mr. Butler: We recognize the expertise of the regulator, but there are ways to integrate their expertise into the process without putting them on the panel. We have other regulators like Transport Canada, DFO and Environment Canada. They are regulators that are not on the panel.
There is more I would like to say on that topic, but I will stop.
Senator Woo: Let me get to the heart of your recommendation to reduce the power of the offshore boards on review panels.
We actually heard a rather curious recommendation from one of the oil companies yesterday, saying that projects in the offshore should not have mandatory review panels but should be allowed to go through the Impact Assessment Agency itself as an option. I want you to comment on that idea. It is a curious recommendation because it seems to go against their interests.
On your point about consistency, which is a fair one, one could argue that having two offshore board members out of the five on the review panel is in fact consistent with what the rest of the bill is trying to do with CNSC and with the new NEB. The chair issue is separate. The NEB are advocates, calling for the possibility of somebody from the new NEB to be the chair of that review panel. That would be consistent as well.
To the extent that we already have the possibility of CNSC and NEB members in a minority position on review panels for their projects, why would we not have a minority of C-NSOPB and C-NLOPB members in those review panels?
Mr. Butler: Our colleagues in the rest of the country are more comfortable with the situation. That does not make it any easier for us to accept here, given our experience with the petroleum boards. This is actually an increase in their influence over the process.
I would say that allowing a petroleum board member to chair a panel is inconsistent. I would encourage this committee to make an amendment so that is not allowed. If your argument is to be consistency, you need to use that argument all the time and not be inconsistent in your use of the consistency argument.
Lisa Mitchell pointed out to me the other scenario. There could be two petroleum board appointees on a panel and a third industry person on the panel, perhaps with an oil and gas industry background. This would result in a majority of members on the panel.
If the purpose here is to make EA credible and to try to generate greater social licence, regardless of who are these individuals, that will not help.
Senator Massicotte: I certainly share your comments that this is the most significant challenge we have in our generation. The consequences are immensely serious, and I am a bit discouraged by our little progress so far.
Be that as it may, let me talk to you about an issue though. Obviously, markets are determined by supply and demand. I want to seek your comment, but, in my opinion, it does not change one iota of CO2 in the air if we import our oil and gas, as Quebec does to a large agree, or we produce it locally. Therefore, whether nor not we build another pipeline will not change our situation on global CO2.
We should do more but not on the supply side. In other words, everybody talks about supply but I say that is irrelevant. What is relevant is that we have to reduce consumption, which means the government should do a lot more to discourage us or to encourage us to find innovation to consume a lot less CO2.
Would you agree with that?
Mr. Butler: I think it is everything. I would say that it is.
Senator Massicotte: So what if you build or do not build? Do you think we will have a shortage of oil and gas in the world? In other words, on the supply side, if you are convinced that the world will not run out of oil and gas, it makes no difference whether we increase the supply of oil and gas from the oil sands, let’s say. Therefore that issue is irrelevant.
What is relevant is that we have to reduce our consumption of CO2.
Mr. Butler: Maybe my colleague wants to jump in here. I think it is both a question of supply and consumption. We have to tackle it at all ends.
I appreciate your acknowledgement of science. We should acknowledge the critical situation we are in and try to do everything we can to address it.
If you live in Nova Scotia, you will know about coastal flooding. I was in a fish shop two days ago and the guy was telling me that in the silver hake trawls they are now finding fish they have never seen before, such as John Dory and other species from southern waters. We are really seeing the impacts here.
Senator Massicotte: Let me be specific. Let’s say Trans Mountain and let’s say we build it or do not build it. If we build it, maybe some Canadian consumers will consume that oil and gas. If they do not consume it, I suppose, with the world supply, we will just ship it in as we are doing currently in Quebec to a large part.
Mr. Butler: That is the argument that what we do here does not make a difference because they are building more coal plants in China. We will never solve the problem if we take that attitude. Somebody has to lead.
Ms. Fitzgerald: It would be rare on a global issue as important as climate change, if you think of the other global issues where Canada is active internationally, for Canadians to throw up their hands and say, “We can’t play a role.”
Senator Massicotte: I do not recommend that though.
Ms. Fitzgerald: What we do does matter. By shifting supply, we are helping our communities with the challenge ahead and hopefully helping those workers that will be affected through just transition plans.
I think we also send a strong signal to what we want in this world. We are actually part of a global movement that is shifting this way.
I do not think pointing fingers is the way to solve any problem. I am so proud of some of the things Canada has done internationally to help with global crises. This is one where what we do does matter.
Senator McInnis: I join with Senator Mercer and Senator MacDonald in welcoming all the senators to Nova Scotia. It is nice to see the sun breaking through. It is nice to see you, Mark Butler. I have talked to you on the phone in the past on issues, and I truly appreciate what both of your organizations do.
Here in Nova Scotia, and, of course, in Newfoundland, we have vast oil and gas resources. I have the figures back in my office in Ottawa, but there are huge amounts of resources which will ultimately be produced.
I could predict pretty much what you were going to say this morning. I know who you are and what you represent, and I appreciate what you do. At the same time, I think you will all agree that we have natural resources and we do need an economy. All of us today should also recognize that we need a protected environment.
I do not want to make this too general, but I want to hear from particularly your two organizations. Where is the reasonable ground to meet this? We have to produce and do what we can with the natural resources we have particularly in the energy sector. Where is the ground from where we can go forward?
Ms. Fitzgerald: I guess the ground would be meeting and exceeding our existing climate targets. Unfortunately we are not in a place where we can say we are doing it as Canadians. I think it would be looking to that. Assessments show time and time again that the emissions from the oil and gas sector are a great hindrance to achieving those targets.
We are here to talk about Bill C-69. Incorporating a good assessment of the climate impacts in what we are doing would be a step in that direction, I would argue.
You said there are huge amounts of resources. There are also huge amounts of renewable resources in our energy efficiency resources. I was at a presentation yesterday that was ostensibly about fracking in Nova Scotia. The most exciting part of what I heard was about solar. There are tons of other things we should be doing that is about the economy.
Climate assessments are showing time and time again that the economy will be devastated by climate change. We have to meld those two goals. This bill is a step in that direction if it remains strong.
Mr. Butler: I am very passionate about this topic. I care a lot about the prosperity of Nova Scotia. I see our job is not just to hug trees but to hug people. We need to care about both.
If Nova Scotia cannot make the transition away from fossil fuels, I question if any jurisdiction can do it. We have abundant resources here. They are not just fossil fuels, but tidal, wind, small-scale biomass and even some hydro.
We can do it here. I think that is the direction we should be heading in and I think that is where prosperity lies.
There was a billion dollar offshore proposal. It was not oil and gas; it was Beothuk wind. In the end it did not go ahead. I am not sure of the reasoning. I would love to know why. It was a billion dollars and it was not oil and gas. It was the wind. It was offshore. It was European pension money coming in looking to develop wind offshore.
Those are the kinds of opportunities I think we should be pursuing. Those projects should go through a rigorous environmental assessment too to protect the environment and industries that currently rely on the ocean like fishing.
Senator Patterson: First of all, let me say that I am delighted to be in Nova Scotia. I was counsel for the Ecology Action Centre in 1972 on the Quinpool Road project. Hopefully I have some credibility with you guys.
For Ms. Fitzgerald, I have a real quick question. Seismic blasting every 10 to 14 seconds for days, weeks and months. Which is it? Days, weeks or months? What other evidence are we going to get today?
Ms. Fitzgerald: I think you are going to be hearing from Dr. Hal Whitehead, a professor at Dalhousie University who is an expert in marine mammals.
It depends on the project. Perhaps it is a really short-term project, but it tends to be weeks or months. It depends.
If you look at the maps of seismic planned for Newfoundland and Labrador and for Nova Scotia in particular, there is a nine-year plan that would entail blasting over a large swath of the entire Scotian Shelf. It is large geographic areas over time.
Senator Patterson: Both of you have advocated, to my surprise, a reduction in the role of offshore boards. I understand there are some concerns about the board appointment process.
I believe that Nova Scotians should be looking at the impact of development and protection of the environment in their waters.
On the role of a life-cycle regulator on a panel, we heard from the Nunavut Impact Review Board, where I come from, about this issue of balancing roles as an impact assessor, licensor and life-cycle regulator.
NIRB said that the way our system was designed meant that things had less certainty during environmental assessment. When they are on the ground and projects are actually operating, the precautionary approach we take yields new information that allows us to adjust in terms of approval, as needed, as the project goes ahead.
We have many instances where that has become necessary when something that in theory seemed like a good idea and then, when it goes to licensing, does not work as expected. We go to an alternate means of still allowing the project to go ahead and protect the environment.
I would like to ask a question of both of you. Would it not be important for life-cycle regulators to have familiarity with the project and use their knowledge of the project, the promises made in the assessment phase and their expert knowledge to manage potential issues as they occur throughout the life of a project? That is the logic of it.
With all respect, university professors will not have knowledge whether the promises made in impact assessment were actually realized during the life of the project.
Ms. Fitzgerald: I guess I would argue that sequential learning from experience is not happening with regard to environmental assessment now. In the offshore in particular we are not learning from past mistakes.
It would be appropriate if there were a requirement. For instance, if we have learned from past projects that there is methyl mercury contamination downstream from mega hydro, then what do we know for future assessments? If we know that when you try to attach to a well in nine-metre waves there might be a major spill, perhaps we should have some regulations about that.
I am not seeing that happening with the offshore petroleum boards frankly. Definitely, with regard to seismic blasting, we have a code of practice right now but we do not even have regulations for that.
I am not seeing the learning from science or the learning from experience. International experts evaluated what happened with the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico. They looked at what is happening here in Canada and said that the risk assessment was 10 to 100 times off what it should be, from what they can tell from looking at our assessments.
It is inadequate. If that sequential learning is to happen, it would be best housed in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the Environmental Assessment Agency and the Impact Assessment Agency, whatever it is renamed, and not within the boards with regard to protecting the environment.
As we have tried to convey, the boards have expertise with regard to the industry. They have way less expertise with regard to meeting our climate targets and protecting our obligations to the environment, endangered species, Indigenous people and endangered species.
The Chair: Could you please send us the BP report on the comparison with the gulf?
Ms. Fitzgerald: Yes.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
For our third panel three we have, from Dalhousie University, Hal Whitehead, Tenured Professor, as an individual; and from Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs Secretariat, Andrea Paul, Chief, Pictou Landing, and John G. Paul, Executive Director.
Professor Whitehead, the floor is yours.
Hal Whitehead, Tenured Professor, Dalhousie University, as an individual: I am a professor in the biology department at Dalhousie University and a member of COSEWIC, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, of which I am co-chair for marine mammals. I am concerned about the regulation of offshore energy projects off eastern Canada.
For 45 years I have been sailing the waters off Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador studying whales. Most of that time I have used a 40-foot sailboat in the deeper offshore waters as I am particularly interested in the deep diving whales. We go out for three weeks at a time. For those three weeks, we are immersed in that offshore world about 100 to 250 miles off our coasts.
It is a wonderful world. Not only are whales and dolphins in the waters around us, but the seabirds are above us. If we could look below us, there would be deep water corals and all kinds of unusual life beneath us. These waters have been and still are the focus of vital fisheries.
The whales that we study are intensely acoustic animals. Sound is how they sense their world and they communicate with one another. The same is true for other ocean animals. The waters that we sail and the waters that they use are getting noisier and noisier.
There are several sources of this noise, but the worst are seismic surveys for oil and gas. When we are sailing east of Newfoundland listening for whales through hydrophones and underwater microphones, much of the time we hear the booming of seismic boats.
They are the predominant background noise on our recordings from those waters as well as from recorders positioned in various places off the East Coast and thousands of kilometres away on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Seismic sounds are extremely loud and dangerous to marine life, including the whales that I study. These sounds travel huge distances.
During the last year, tens of scientific papers have been published about the effects of underwater noise on marine life. The news is generally bad. We find that animals are being affected in a range of important ways from disruption of feeding to death by these noises, sometimes at much lower levels and at much greater distances from the sound source than any of us scientists suspected.
Seismic surveying, the predominant source of underwater noise, is expanding rapidly, especially off Newfoundland and Labrador. It has increased about sixfold since 2015, compared to 2000 to 2014, and the Newfoundland Government plans for further increases.
That extraordinary ocean life in the waters of our coast is under increasing threat. That threat is not being managed in an even slightly rational way by the offshore petroleum boards.
Seismic lines are duplicated. I provided a map which shows the seismic lines off Newfoundland and Labrador. The same lines are repeatedly surveyed even though the geology does not change. The same information is obtained repeatedly each time destroying more of the life of the ocean.
These practices need to be regulated very carefully in a manner that seems completely outside the current remit of the offshore petroleum boards. We need strong and careful regulation tailored to different areas and adapts as we learn more about the effects of the noise.
I have sailed the Sackville Spur and Flemish Pass far east of Newfoundland. I have been surrounded by whales and seabirds. I have watched fishers make great hauls in those waters. I have heard and met the seismic ships. They order us and everyone else they meet out of their way, and they continue their disruption.
Thank you very much.
John G. Paul, Executive Director, Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs Secretariat: Welcome to Kjipuktuk or Halifax. We have beautiful weather today.
Chief Andrea Paul and I are pleased to have an opportunity to speak to the standing committee on Bill C-69 as representatives of the Atlantic region and representatives of the Atlantic Policy Congress, or APC, a federally unincorporated not-for-profit organization established in 1995. It is a policy research and advocate secretariat for 31 First Nations communities, Mi’kmaq, Maliseet, Passamaquoddy and Innu across Atlantic Canada. APC is governed by a board of directors comprised of elected chiefs.
As co-chair representatives of APC, we wish to emphasize the importance of early and ongoing engagement of Indigenous peoples during the development and implementation of legislation, regulations and policies that may impact Aboriginal rights and titles.
The Atlantic Policy Congress is generally supportive of Bill C-69. It introduces mandatory considerations of Indigenous knowledge, broadens the scope of assessment and establishes an Indigenous advisory committee. The Atlantic Policy Congress also approves of the notion that proponents will have to explain how they incorporate Indigenous knowledge into their projects.
We would like to highlight the continued importance of Indigenous knowledge, Canada’s commitment to reconciliation and the Crown’s viewing Indigenous peoples as equal partners. These commitments are important for many reasons and can apply to Bill C-69.
First Nations often know the land which they live on better than most. Because of this, we are uniquely positioned to provide information to assist with the prediction of environmental impacts. Therefore, Bill C-69 is valuable in this federal vision of reconciliation and for changing the proponent and government culture and views toward Indigenous people.
The Atlantic Policy Congress also welcomes how Bill C-69 will require a necessary assessment of impacts on rights in decision-making regulatory opportunities for First Nations governments to lead impact assessments themselve and the direct reference to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, UNDRIP.
The key principle of UNDRIP is for states to seek the free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous people before implementing legislation and administrative measures that may affect them.
With this bill, Canada has the opportunity to help implement UNDRIP and provide the political conditions necessary for the Atlantic Policy Congress to contribute effective and lasting change in legislation, governance and institutional infrastructure for Atlantic Canada.
This would help foster a nation-to-nation relationship between Indigenous people and Canada. There can be no longer a single perspective that represents the views of Indigenous peoples across Canada. Therefore, Canada should take an approach that is representative of existing Indigenous processes and governance. This is an opportunity to move forward in the spirit and intent of reconciliation to co-develop environmental legislation, regulations and policies in Canada.
We must foster a nation-to-nation relationship between our Indigenous people and Canada for effective and lasting change. Thank you.
Andrea Paul, Chief, Pictou Landing, Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs Secretariat: Good morning. I would like to thank the Senate Standing Committee for allowing, as Chief Sabattis did not make it, John J. Paul and I to provide a submission on Bill C-69.
As representatives of the Atlantic Policy Congress, we are supportive of the amendments put forward by our colleagues at the Assembly of First Nations on Bill C-69 regarding a move from respect for the rights of Indigenous people in the purpose of the Impact Assessment Act to protection of equality of protection for Indigenous knowledge, culture as a separate pillar of sustainability and a comprehensive registry under the Canadian Navigable Waters Act.
As representatives, we strongly recommend a dispute resolution mechanism to be included in Bill C-69. This will provide an opportunity for both Indigenous groups and proponents to work with the government toward a solution that benefits both parties and ensures the protection of Aboriginal rights and title from significant adverse effects of a project.
Furthermore, it provides a venue where proponents can be held accountable for potential impacts to Aboriginal rights and title that their project may have. This will also help to mitigate and avoid impacts in the future.
A similar provision is in the Canadian Energy Regulator Act which should be included in the Impact Assessment Act. This will provide Indigenous groups with an opportunity for recourse and resolution of issues prior to accessing the courts.
As representatives, we do not agree that the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board and the Canada-Newfoundland Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board take on the environmental assessments for exploratory drilling activities.
It must be noted that these boards promote offshore oil and gas exploration and development. The environmental assessment process should be a separate process. Further, it must be noted that these boards do not have the same capacity to consult with and accommodate First Nations as the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.
CEAA has more capacity to consult and accommodate First Nations groups and will have mechanisms in place to take Indigenous knowledge into account. These regional bodies are at an arm’s-length of the Crown and therefore they are unable to ensure the protection or mitigation of Aboriginal rights and title.
Lastly, the community of Pictou Landing First Nations recommended a federal environmental assessment for the proposed Northern Pulp effluent treatment plant. So far, the minister has not made a decision to proceed with a federal assessment. There is an opportunity still to do so through the provincial environmental assessment process.
A focus group has been decided on and a year has been given to Northern Pulp. We would still love for CEAA to intervene and to designate the project under a federal environmental assessment. Therefore, we strongly advocate that impact assessments be required when a project has potential adverse effects on Aboriginal rights and title has been identified.
Senator Griffin: Thank you for your presentation and welcome to the Maritimes, as we say to everybody else. You already live here, so you are home, as are a bunch of us around the table.
My question primarily relates to a project that you just mentioned, the Northern Pulp pipeline that would also impact us potentially in Prince Edward Island. As stated in an earlier panel, the fishery is very important in this region of the country.
If this new bill were to cover an environmental impact assessment at the federal level, will that project give you a lot more confidence in what the result of the project would be than it would be if it were under the current legislation that the federal government has for environmental impact assessment?
Would it improve the situation for you in terms of credibility?
Ms. Paul: I do believe so. It would definitely improve the relationship also. We have a long-standing trust issue in our community in terms of there is no trust. I feel it is really important to provide an opportunity where people can come together and have the Indigenous knowledge piece brought forward.
We had a conversation with CEAA. I know what a lot of the conversations have to do with. You hear quite often, “We are only interested in the science.” When I hear that, it definitely tells me that what my people have to say is not important, that their knowledge, their way of two-eyed seeing and the way of their science are not credible, valid or important.
When I hear those comments, they are hurtful. They are not about reconciliation or building a relationship. I believe all of that has to come into play because we are the first peoples.
We have been here for a very long time. We have a lot to offer. It may not be a technical or a science perspective, but it is through the eyes of our Indigenous people.
Senator C. Deacon: Thank you to the panellists. I have two separate sets of questions.
Dr. Whitehead, have you looked at alternatives to traditional seismic activity? How might that address the issues you are talking about?
Data sharing could be required. There could be new technologies. I do not know, but I want to know what you have looked into in that regard.
Mr. Whitehead: I see three primary alternative routes. The first is how we manage offshore areas. At the moment, basically everything is out there for the offshore oil and gas industry to go after.
We need to set up a zoning system so that the parts we think are most ecologically important become part of the marine protected area network and there are parts set aside for the fishing industry. That is step one.
You alluded to the second route, and that is the sharing of data. To me, it is utterly irresponsible that we have seismic surveys repeatedly using basically the same technology and getting basically the same data. Each of them is probably providing a pretty severe impact on the environment.
There should be a system where surveys are not repeated. If another company wants the data from that area, they should have the means to get it by paying the people who obtained it. That is the second route.
You also referred to the third route, and that is alternative technologies. There are alternative technologies. One is called the vibrator. It is the system that has been used primarily for seismic surveys on land for the last 50 years. It can be used on the ocean. It is a bit trickier. Engineers are working out how to do it. They are currently testing it.
I was talking yesterday to one of the people involved in the tests and it looks good. It produces way less energy in the ocean than the current systems.
The vibrator produces lower frequency energy which tends to be less harmful. It is produced at a lower level. It needs to be tested, but it sure looks promising.
Senator C. Deacon: Chief Andrea Paul, I am thinking about the full life-cycle costs of projects. That is something of interest to all Canadians. You have some experience with full life-cycle costs, be they incurred in the project or outside of the project.
What evidence have you looked at that shows the potential benefits of examining full life-cycle costs right upfront? Sometimes, if we do not do that, we do not put in protective measures that can save a lot money over time. Have you looked at any projects?
You have very carefully examined one project at your backdoor, but have you looked at anything internationally where there is really good evidence, when full life-cycle costs are examined upfront and different measures are taken, that they yield better economic returns?
I believe that could be the situation in many cases, but I do not have access to particular work that has been done. Are you aware of anything in that regard?
Ms. Paul: I am not really clear on what you mean by life-cycle costs.
Senator C. Deacon: You have unintended consequences, one might say, or maybe understood consequences in terms of the waste produced by Northern Pulp at Boat Harbour.
What was the cost of managing that more effectively upfront relative to the cost now of cleaning up this problem? By not managing it properly upfront, we have a larger problem today.
I am wondering if you have found any examples where we have done a better job of that.
Ms. Paul: I would say it is really important to listen to what the people have to say. We talk about looking back. If you look back to 1965 when there were having communications about this possible mill discharging into Boat Harbour, it was known then what the impacts would be.
When you look at that today, everything the people of my community listed and said have impacted. When we are going through this process again today, we really need to pay attention to what the people are saying.
I know what I know and what I know is Boat Harbour. I know a lot of that history and I know the impacts it has had.
Moving forward, we really need to have an open discussion where we are not just listening but are hearing what is being said. The piece that has really been missing is hearing what people are saying. Even today when we talk about the air I always use that example.
When we make a complaint about air quality, we are told that it is more of a nuisance than anything. They are not listening to what is being said. They are not hearing what is being said through all of that.
When I talk about the whole Indigenous knowledge piece, it is important to understand what that they are saying and to hear what they are saying.
The impacts on the life cycle has been tremendous and multi-layered. There have been impacts on our traditional way of living, our traditional way of knowing and our traditional way of passing down that knowledge.
When Boat Harbour was polluted, it impacted the waters, the lands and the air, but it also impacted who we were as cultural people. It impacted our language. It impacted our traditions. It impacted our traditional medicines. It impacted our safety and food security.
There were huge impacts. When you talk about impacts to the life cycle, you really need to think about what are people saying and how you hear what they are saying. How do you mitigate that? How do you do it so that at the end of the day we are creating something that will be safe for everyone?
That is the hope at the end of the day. Pictou Landing has invested a lot of time, energy and money into the whole process. It is not something we wanted, but it is something we have been given. From this, we continue to try to learn and figure out how we do better so that in the future this does not continue. A lot of the times, when a project like this one comes to a community, we bear the burdens on many different levels.
Even with regard to trying to mitigate something, the financial cost has been enormous. It is not something that we have received funding for. It is an added burden to the community as a whole and not just to the administration.
There are many layers when it comes to the life-cycle piece. I do not know if I answered your question.
Senator Duffy: Professor Whitehead, you talked about marine protected areas in the Atlantic. In Prince Edward Island we are very concerned with the Northumberland Strait and the Gulf of St. Lawrence. There are already some protected areas in the gulf. Do you believe that the federal government should expand those areas?
I have a second question about how we resolve the federal provincial conflict. We have another Love Canal, another Sydney Tar Ponds, sitting 12 miles from P.E.I. at Pictou Landing, and it is a provincial issue, apparently only Nova Scotia.
Is there anything in this legislation that allows us to resolve this incredibly dangerous conflict between federal and provincial?
Mr. Whitehead: First, I cannot answer the second part of your question. I am not an expert on federal/provincial relations.
However, for the first part, marine protected areas are one of the best ways to protect our marine environment. They can, if planned well, do a major job of saving endangered species and increasing sustainable harvest from the ocean.
Just a few weeks ago I was working on the edge of a marine protected area in the Caribbean which has been there for many years. It is communally run by the local people. I watched the fishermen making great hauls just outside it. Their catch rates have gone way up.
In the marine protected area of Nova Scotia, I am most familiar with the Gully near Sable Island. Fishermen fish around the edge. By the look of things, they are doing very well too. Marine protected areas can be a benefit to ocean life. They can be a benefit to those who use ocean life sustainably. They need to be planned well.
The current government is making major attempts to produce a network of marine protected areas. It is moving more slowly than I would like. It is really important, as they do this, that they consult with people like the First Nations, like the fishers, and like other users of the ocean so there is buy-in. If there is no buy-in, it will not work.
It is a difficult process. I am pleased that the government is working on it. I wish them the courage to do it well.
With the Gully Marine Protected Area, I know best how it was done. It was done with a lot of consultations. It was done with a lot courage. I applaud the government that did that back in 2004. I hope the current government follows through on that kind of action.
Senator Woo: Professor Whitehead, one of the big debates we are having as we review this bill is the extent to which we subject offshore activities to standalone impact assessments through the review panel process, and whether or not some sets of activities can be dealt with in a parcel, so to speak, through a cumulative assessment sort of process, a strategic assessment or a regional assessment.
Others benefit through parcelling groups of projects under one set of assessments, but I am wondering if that is possible, particularly in the area of concern that you have expressed with respect to marine mammals.
We have heard different views from industry. The general feeling is that it should be possible to do some kind of a regional strategic assessment that looks at cumulative impacts of seismic activity that can then provide the baseline for which all projects can proceed under certain conditions that have been established through that assessment.
What is your view on this?
Mr. Whitehead: You are right. There are benefits efficiency-wise in terms of getting the information right and doing it on a larger scale.
Whereas the activities of the oil and gas industry are fairly standard and a seismic operation on the southern Grand Banks will be somewhat similar to a seismic operation of the northern Grand Banks, as I see it, the problem is that the ecology is totally different in those two areas. Not only are they totally different, but we do not even know how it works.
If you look at the number of seismic surveys that have been conducted off eastern Newfoundland and at the number of biological surveys that have been conducted, especially in the waters beyond our current 200-mile limit, it is almost nothing.
Even in the waters within the 200-mile limits there have been two standard aerial surveys for marine mammals. There was one about three years ago and one about 12 years ago. Those missed a lot. They were good, but they are just a few weeks of surveying from a small aircraft.
Once you go beyond the 200-mile limit in the areas where I sometimes work, there has been nothing. We do not know what is out there. The work that I do from my little boat is basically the state of the art. I go out there maybe once every few years. In contrast, the seismic boats are out there pretty much all the time.
If we want to go to large-scale environmental impact assessments, we need to have good, large-scale ecological data to do that, and we do not have that at the moment.
Senator Woo: Do you recommend the dispute settlement mechanism for the Impact Assessment Agency? There is one for the energy regulator.
To my mind, the logic is that the energy regulator is the regulator and therefore is in a position to resolve disputes among proponents, the holders have benefits and so on.
I am not clear why the Impact Assessment Agency would get involved in dispute resolution in the first place. They are not really part of the implementation phase of the project and so on.
Could you say a bit more about the function of a dispute settlement mechanism for the IAA would be?
Mr. Paul: I guess the important part is that no matter what happens under the process we still believe there will be disputes of one sort or another. We want to make sure, in any transparent process that goes on, there is such a mechanism rather than leaving it to chance and then having to use the court and other means to try to address those things.
It has to be designed as a fair and open process so everybody’s perspective is included. The outcomes of the process, as well as the outcomes of a dispute resolution process, would bring more credibility to the entire process and system.
If you are trying to enhance the level of public trust in our institutions and in our mechanisms, such an add-on is a small price to pay to improve the process basically.
Senator McCallum: I wanted to acknowledge you for your Indigenous knowledge involving two-eyed seeing. When I was a professor of the faculty of dentistry at university, this was used in the research project. It is the main way that we look at the research we are doing. I wanted you to know that we are using your knowledge.
I also wanted to speak about one of the layers you talked about: the inability to protect yourselves and your land. It is as if industry, whether it is offshore or a pulp and paper mill, does not see people as people. They see the resources. That is what they focus on. It is a layer of being almost in a no man’s land.
There is really no recourse out of there because we have been in it forever as Indigenous people. The municipalities are in it as well and the government has given industry too much power over the last few years. That needs to be tempered.
I was interested in your remark that with offshore oil the impact assessment should be separate. Could you explain how that would work?
Ms. Paul: What was your question again?
Senator McCallum: You made a statement saying that with offshore oil the impact assessment should be kept separate.
Ms. Paul: When I think of that, I think it has a lot to do with the trust piece. When we are talking about the impact assessment piece of it, we have a duty to protect.
Mr. Paul: I guess it is really important to build credibility in the process. One of the largest intentions is to make the process better. We see doing that as a separate activity would make the process better and would allow the public to put more credibility in the system.
In our world view, building more trust and credibility in the system is of paramount importance to us. That is why we see doing it as a separate activity. Then you can see it for the merit it is or it is not.
Our view is about trying to improve things and make things better for everybody. We have been here for 10,000 years, and we are going to be here for another 10,000 years. We want to make sure the invoked processes allow that and protect everything for you as well as for us. We see that as very important.
Ms. Paul: I am going to add on because I was a little distracted. I think of impact assessments. I will say it in an image that was given to me by the elders. This is why it is so important to keep this piece separate and to continue to work on it.
The elders said was that when the pollution came in or when the toxic effluent came in, everything that lived in that water did not have a chance. There was nothing they could do to protect themselves.
An image sticks with me so vividly that I can see it. When they went down to the shore, probably within two to three days after the effluent was coming into the waters, all the fish were rising up to the top because they were just gulping for air. An elder said, “We could literally scoop them up.” That image has always been with me.
I also think of a video of pumping aerators. You are looking down at this and you are thinking, “Oh, my God.” You see all the pollution and all the species that were in that water. Everything died quickly.
We all have that knowledge and we all need to do what we can to protect that knowledge and to protect the species. Everybody has an inherent duty. They just want to do it.
I wanted to add that piece because when Mr. Paul started I was like getting these images in my head.
Senator Massicotte: Earlier you made reference to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. You made specific reference to the prior informed consent provisions which are obviously very important.
Could you describe to me how you see that working? Let’s say you have certain rights to a certain territory, lake, fishing, hunting or whatever. If somebody wants to make use of that land, I presume they have to come to see you because they need your consent.
Therefore, is my understanding accurate to say if you cannot come to terms, in other words, you cannot give your consent, then the project would be refused? Is that how you see things? Is that accurate?
Ms. Paul: I would love for that to be accurate. We say that, but it is really difficult. At the end of the day when an industry comes in, oftentimes what wins is maybe little regard for the impacts but more regard for what it will do for the economy.
When we are talking about free, prior and informed consent, we may not give consent. We may say that there will be potential adverse impacts to our fisheries. At the end of the day, the government will make the ultimate decision as to whether something moves ahead.
The prior informed consent piece allows the conversation to happen, triggers consultation and brings us to the table so that we can bring our concerns forward.
This is the piece I was talking about that is really difficult when you are trying to navigate your way through a process. At the end of the day they tell you it is the science that will determine.
When you get a bit emotional about something, they don’t want to hear that emotional piece. We have to continue to talk about the Indigenous knowledge piece. That is significant for First Nations people because we have a different way of seeing things.
We do not say that we are not giving consent because we do not want to give consent. Sometimes we say it because we know what those impacts could be.
Senator Massicotte: The government adopted Bill C-262. It refers frequently to free, prior and informed consent. The wording is very clear that on anything that affects your territory and your rights, those provisions apply. If you look at Webster’s Dictionary, consent means approval.
The Chair: Senator Massicotte, we are discussing Bill C-69. We are not discussing Bill C-262.
Senator Massicotte: It is in the preamble.
The Chair: I am very sorry, but we are already late. I am sorry.
Senator Simons: Dr. Whitehead, I was very moved by your presentation but Senator Woo effectively asked my question, and so I pass.
Senator Patterson: Professor Whitehead, I have a couple of questions that arose from your testimony.
First, seismic boats are out there pretty much all the time, I think you said. Are there data on how much seismic testing is going on, how much of the time it occurs and whether it is seasonal?
Second, you said that seismic testing could result in disruption of feeding and death. How can soundwaves kill a creature?
Mr. Whitehead: The offshore petroleum boards may be questionable about their regulating, but they do keep data. Both Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board and the Canada-Newfoundland Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board give data as to seismic surveys that occur in their waters.
First, the PowerPoint I sent gives the profile over decades in these activities off Newfoundland. One can also look at activities seasonally. Yes, it is seasonal. It does not happen in the middle of the winter, or very little. Data are out there if you need them.
Second, how can loud sounds cause death? They can cause death directly if the animal is close to the source.
The way current surveys work is that they have air guns which make extremely loud sounds. If you remember, the sound is made at the surface. It has to go through the water column, which may be several thousand metres deep. It has to go through the surface and into the bedrock. It has to go through the bedrock many hundreds or perhaps thousands of metres. Then it has to come back with an echo off the different geological formations through that whole thing. Then they will be picked up by underwater microphones and hydrophones at the surface which are impacted by wave noise, ship noise and so on.
These have to be very loud sounds, and they are. If a creature is close to them, it can be killed in a number of ways.
Senator Patterson: Has that happened?
Mr. Whitehead: It definitely has. Yes, it has happened. If plankton is close to it, it will die.
Senator Patterson: I mean a whale.
Mr. Whitehead: Yes, it is likely. The evidence is not absolutely clear. We know that whales have been killed by other loud sound sources, particularly those made by navies.
The evidence for seismic directly killing whales is less clear, but it seems likely. Yes, there is one or two cases where seismic is the prime suspect for a dead whale.
Senator Patterson: Chief Paul, I have a question on UNDRIP, which is in the preamble to the bill. You very carefully said that the principle was for states to seek the free, prior and informed consent.
I think the other Chief Paul was saying that you want to make sure your concerns are heard, and not just the science but traditional knowledge.
Would you say that asking states to seek consent is as far as UNDRIP will go? I guess that does not deal with the issue of whether the consent is not given. You are saying it is more the respectful process that you see coming out of FPIC. Is that right?
Mr. Paul: I think that is what it is. From our perspective, we are looking at making a better Canada from our perspective. By Canada following a high threshold and a high standard, I think sets it apart from others.
If they want to be a leader in advocating and supporting Indigenous people, I think this is part of it. It is a very important piece because it acknowledges who we are and our importance to Canada and its future.
You always have to look at that because everybody looks at things like the Constitution, the BNA Act, and all these different things that helped create Canada.
We want to become part of all of that. Making something like UNDRIP a part of it would go basically a long way in moving toward a reconciled Canada.
The Chair: Senator Carignan and Senator McInnis, who is replacing Senator Mockler.
Senator Carignan: My question is for Mr. Whitehead. We have often heard environmental groups say that members of committees or agencies that consult or report from the academic community, such as scientists or university researchers, should be selected. This recommendation was made mainly by environmental groups.
However, I have in front of me the most prominent scientist in the region, if not in all of Canada. I’ve done some research on you, and your work is quite impressive. What is your opinion on this? Should scientists or academics be included among the members of an environmental assessment agency?
Mr. Whitehead: Thank you, senator. I think they should. Scientists are often the people who know most about certain issues, although I would say that in some cases we do not. In some cases Aboriginal people know more than us.
Often, as we have seen in COSEWIC, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, the two streams of knowledge can interact very positively in terms of getting right what is really going on.
For instance, Aboriginal people often have a long time scale to their knowledge which modern science does not have. Perhaps, on the other hand, modern science may have a deeper insight into chemical processes. We can put these things together.
I do not think it should be just academics, but I think academics should be brought in. They should be considered. They have a lot to say. They are not the only people.
People who are on the ground, and perhaps especially Aboriginal people, have very important knowledge about all these things. They can also have really good judgment about these things.
Senator McInnis: I did have two questions but I will just ask one about the marine protected areas.
As a point of interest, Professor Whitehead, you may not know this or you may. You can have all the marine protected areas you want, but the accords with Nova Scotia and with Newfoundland reign supreme. In other words, you can have a marine protected area. You will still have seismic testing and you will have drilling.
I am not sure if you are aware of that, but that is the law. Those two acts reign over the Fisheries Act, the Oceans Act and all those other acts.
We should be looking at the Province of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, when marine protected areas are put in place, signing off on them so that there is an agreement that it will really be a marine protected area.
I do not know if you want to comment, but that is what the law is.
Mr. Whitehead: I was a bit familiar with that because that came up when the Gully was made a marine protected area. At that time I cannot exactly remember the process, but there was an agreement on all sides that the marine protected area would be respected in spite of the law, as you have laid it out.
The Chair: Thanks to everybody.
We now welcome, from the Government of Nova Scotia, the Honourable Derek Mombourquette, MLA, Minister of Energy and Mines; Simon D’Entremont, Deputy Minister, Department of Energy and Mines; and Kim Himmelman, Director, Regulatory and Strategic Policy, Department of Energy and Mines.
Please go ahead with your statement, and then we will follow with a question and answer period.
Hon. Derek Mombourquette, M.L.A., Minister of Energy and Mines, the Government of Nova Scotia: Before I start my formal remarks, I commend you for your time and dedication to this bill and your due diligence in meeting with the government representatives and stakeholders that have been engaged in these discussions. To all of you, thank you for coming here. Thank you for being in Nova Scotia. I know some of you are from Nova Scotia, so it is good to see you as well. I am honoured to be in your presence today to provide some remarks on behalf of our government.
I would like to begin by thanking the committee for the invitation to appear to share my views on Bill C-69 and to highlight issues that are important to Nova Scotia. The issues I will raise here today are the ones that you have already heard, either directly from other governments, from industry or from non-governmental organizations interested in improving Canada’s approach to environmental assessment.
I would like to acknowledge the importance of this work. I agree with comment made to this committee previously by our neighbours in Newfoundland and Labrador that the current regime under the CEAA 2012 needs to be improved. This is an opportunity to improve it. We do not support scrapping or completely rewriting the proposed legislation, but we agree that it does need amendments. As Nova Scotians, we are proud to live in a country that places an emphasis on protecting what most of the world envies. Our identity has been moulded by our relationship to the sea, land and wildlife.
I would also like to acknowledge the consultative approach the federal government has taken with this legislation. They saw that the current legislation needed to be revised and embarked on a thorough review that reached out to jurisdictions.
Nova Scotia government departments participated in various expert panel and standing committee reviews, as well as in ongoing discussions with federal officials. Through these fora, we were able to learn about the impact of what was proposed and raise in person and through letters issues that were of particular concern to Nova Scotians.
As senators, you are aware that Canada is blessed with an abundance of rich and diverse natural resources. They play a key role in driving our economic growth. We believe these resources must be carefully and responsibly managed and sustained. This sector contributes over 1.8 million jobs to the Canadian economy.
Furthermore, federal, provincial and territorial governments directly receive $22 billion each year from natural resource sectors. For Nova Scotia, resource revenues have supported investments in health care and education. Last year, it allowed my government to invest $193 million to provide rural Nova Scotians with access to high-speed Internet.
Our resource development takes place in the context of a highly competitive and skilled global market. We rely on the knowledge and innovation of our workforce. We rely on infrastructure, and we rely on the stability and predictability of an effective regulatory process to get those products to market. Senators, this is why it is important that I add Nova Scotia’s voice to the feedback you have already received and that this committee delivers the amendments this bill needs.
In submissions made to the federal government in consultation leading to this bill, Nova Scotia stressed the importance of its offshore oil and gas sector and the joint management regime established under the offshore accord. It is critical to Nova Scotia that Bill C-69 be aligned with the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord and the principle of joint management.
As you may be aware, in the 1980s, Canada and Nova Scotia agreed to set aside many years of disagreement about ownership and jurisdiction over Nova Scotia’s offshore area. The aim was to create a climate of cooperation and confidence to develop an effective and collaborative regulatory regime for offshore oil and gas.
It was and is an excellent example of joint resource management. Both Canada and Nova Scotia have enabling legislation for the accord that is intended to take precedence in the context of the offshore. Through the accord acts we have created the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board as a joint federal/provincial regulator of offshore petroleum activities in Nova Scotia. The board has a track record of nearly 30 years of excellence in offshore safety and environmental regulation. We are very proud of this. The board has significant experience and expertise conducting environmental assessments and should be designated a responsible authority for federal environmental assessments under the current CEAA 2012 legislation.
I would like to raise two points related to this bill’s impact on our offshore joint management. First, on the importance of involving the board’s technical expertise in impact assessment, the assessment and regulatory regime led by the C-NSOPB exemplifies the approach advocated for the proposed legislation. It is a one project, one assessment approach led by technical expertise and understanding of the potential environmental impact of the activities and monitors. It provides evidence-based decision in a timely manner. We continue to believe the C-NSOPB is the best place to conduct environmental assessments of petroleum-related activities in Nova Scotia offshore.
The second point is the current bill’s inconsistency with the joint management regime and commitments that Canada has made through the accord. I have heard significant discussion in this committee and elsewhere looking for solutions like board members nominating more seats to the review panel. I would like to caution the committee, however, that this would not address our concern. We believe Bill C-69 should respect Nova Scotia’s position, the principles of joint management and our shared jurisdiction entrenched in the accord.
I hope this background will provide the context to frame our recommended amendments. They are collectively intended to provide constructive feedback and strengthen the bill. We would also echo the amendments suggested by others, including our neighbours in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Clause 31 of the bill allows for the substitution of impact assessment processes to a jurisdiction that has the appropriate powers and duties. However, subclause 32(b) prohibits the substitution for activities that fall under the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Implementation Act. We recommend that clauses 31 and 32 be amended to require substitution with the C-NSOPB processes to allow the C-NSOPB to continue to do its job under the new legislation.
This would require the board to continue to update and modernize its assessment processes and to provide the federal minister assurances that these processes continue to meet the requirements of the new impact assessment regime. Further, it would reaffirm our joint respect for the commitments to collaboration that Canada and Nova Scotia made through the accord.
Timelines for impact assessments must be globally competitive and not exceed those of comparable international jurisdictions such as Norway or the United Kingdom. With respect to the offshore projects, the automatic deferral of all offshore activities to a review panel should be removed. The full suite of assessment tools should be available for offshore projects. The appropriate processes should be determined, based on the specifics of the project.
Through new language and amendments to clauses 18 and 65, we would suggest that the process would establish a legislated maximum time frame of 730 days and eliminate the minister’s and cabinet’s ability to extend timelines, except at the request of proponents or in cases of changes to the project.
This bill introduces a 180-day early planning phase to the assessment process. We feel this phase must be used to reduce timeline uncertainty later in the process. If a federal power to pause, suspend or cancel a project remains, the legislation should be amended to reflect joint management principles of the accord requiring the federal minister to consult with the provincial minister on matters that have potentially significant impacts on our offshore.
As the name reflects, new impact assessments will examine a wide range of issues. Nova Scotia supports this approach, but new items raise significant uncertainty and there is risk that they may not be interpreted similarly in different offices across the country. To address this, we would support amendments to ensure that the scope of the assessment and consultation process is well defined in early stages.
Subclause 18(1) of the bill should be amended to require that a notice of commencement clearly sets out the scope of the project’s assessment, the factors that will be considered and the process that will be followed with respect to consultation and engagement. The responsible authority for the assessment should use the early planning phase to make those decisions.
Subparagraphs 22(h)(i) and (s) of the bill and their equivalence under clause 183 require consideration of project impacts to sustainability, climate change and social policy considerations such as sex, gender and identity factors. Nova Scotia supports a comprehensive blend in assessment. We suggest that these clauses must be amended to clarify that assessments are to be conducted using the standards of established and relevant public policy on these issues. This small change will allow proponents to understand what they are being assessed against to ensure consistency throughout the process.
I would also like to address the project list which is to be defined in regulations but does not yet exist. A well-defined and well-designed project list is required. We recommend the bill be amended to clarify that the federal project list is to be carefully targeted to capture only environmentally sensitive projects with long-term operational life cycles. Offshore exploration, delineation drilling programs, geological surveys and similar routine activities with well understood and readily mitigated environmental impacts should be exempted from the list.
Similarly, aquaculture which is administered under a robust regulatory framework in Nova Scotia should be exempt from this list. All new aquaculture projects must go through an exhaustive environmental and socio-economic review that includes multiple provincial and federal departments and agencies.
First Nations consultation must be transparent and must provide opportunities for public input. We have heard about the possibility of regional or strategic investments being used to support reduction in scope or to expedite timelines for individual project assessments. This sounds like an efficient workable approach, one we would support. However, for us to rely on these assessments, the bill should be amended so that it clarifies the purpose and use of the assessments, how they will be completed and what they will contribute to the process.
In closing, thank you for taking the time to come to our province and hear our feedback on this important legislation directly. Nova Scotia has a proven track record of responsible management of our resources in making environmental responsibility and economic prosperity work together. We are confident that this can continue with the amendments we have suggested to this legislation.
Senator MacDonald: Thank you to all the government witnesses for being here. There is much we can talk about, Minister Mombourquette, but you raised clauses 31, 32, 18 and 65 and the project list. We have heard much about these across the country. This is not new.
I am curious as to how much input the Government of Nova Scotia had in the early stages of the planning of this bill. What response have you received from the government about your concerns? Have you brought these concerns forward to the government since the proposed bill came out? What responses, if any, have you received from the government?
Mr. Mombourquette: We engaged in this very early in the process. It has been very open. I know that my predecessors were involved in the early stages with regard to certain aspects of the bill. In my time as minister, we have been able to relay some of our feedback with regard to what we see as positive amendments to the bill.
As I said, we understand that changes need to be made. At the same time, we want to ensure that Nova Scotia’s strong record with regard to resource development and environmental stewardship was heard loud and clear through that. I feel confident in the opportunity to provide feedback from the very early stages of the bill.
Senator MacDonald: What sort of response have you received from the federal government with regard to the concerns about the clauses you just raised?
Mr. Mombourquette: As I have said, we have had a lot of input. I think today is one of those very important days because it gives us an opportunity. You have been given the mandate as a committee to do your work to support the bill and what stakeholders are saying across the country. We have provided input. As I have said, there has been very open dialog between our staff and the federal government.
This is an important step forward. Today is an opportunity for me as minister of this department to provide feedback on what we feel are some positive amendments to the bill moving forward.
Senator Simons: Thank you, minister, for your presentation. I have a question arising from testimony we heard yesterday in Newfoundland.
A witness who appeared before us in the afternoon testified that when an exploratory drilling company has an accident or creates a spill of some kind, they are allowed to keep that information secret in order to protect the proprietary knowledge of where they are exploring and to protect their confidentiality. They said that it was laid out in the Atlantic accords.
By the time that witness testified, the people who were experts on the offshore industry had finished their testimony and left. I was hoping that you, or perhaps some of your senior staff, could answer the question about whether the Atlantic Accord actually protects the privacy of companies that are doing exploratory drilling in that way.
Mr. Mombourquette: For us, if there is a spill, it is reported immediately to our offshore regulator, independent of us, and in turn is reported to the public. The response is immediate.
Senator Simons: That is a simple question and answer, so I have another one.
Aquaculture is not something that any witness has raised with us yet. Every province we visit has its own particular issues. Your concern is whether aquaculture will come under federal regulation because it has to deal with the potential of farmed fish affecting natural fish stocks. I am curious as to why you are concerned that aquaculture might be encompassed by the regulations in Bill C-69.
Mr. Mombourquette: We are getting a sense that aquaculture will fall under this bill, so that is why we are bringing it forward.
Our province has had a strong history of coexistence with resource development and our fishery. We have a strong record of public engagement through the C-NSOPB when it comes to consultations with our fishers with regard to resource development. Nova Scotia has been extremely successful in that coexistence.
As we were going through our deliberations specific to this bill, when it came to aquaculture we wanted to ensure that we brought this forward because of our strong track record and the work we already do as a province.
Senator Simons: Just to clarify, when you are saying “aquaculture,” you do not mean fishing. You mean farming fish. Is that correct?
Mr. Mombourquette: Yes, farming fish is correct.
Senator Simons: I do not understand how that relates to Bill C-69. Perhaps you could just explain that.
Simon D’Entremont, Deputy Minister, Department of Energy and Mines, the Government of Nova Scotia: There have been some discussions about what activities fall under the project list. In some of those discussions, aquaculture has come up as one of the potential activities that would fall under the project list.
Our position is that we have very robust provincial environmental standards and regulations that regulate that sector. We are doing a good job in doing so, and hence its inclusion in the project list is not needed.
Senator C. Deacon: We have heard a lot of concern this morning about a lack of perspective and those with different interests and different perspectives on the offshore petroleum boards, particularly the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board.
How would you recommend that concern, which I think has meaningful implications, be balanced in this bill with the proposal to increase powers to those boards? How do we make sure that these very important perspectives are considered and managed so that we can understand the full implications of a project upfront? Because I think there is some validity to the points being raised, what is your recommendation in that regard?
Mr. D’Entremont: Our position is that the offshore petroleum board is very capable and does a good job at doing its work in assessing environmental impacts of the work in the offshore. It also reflects our dual or joint management principle in the offshore.
By empowering them either as a responsible authority or giving them more authority for substitutions, they could be used as a mechanism to do environmental assessments in the offshore. By using the offshore petroleum board, we believe it is a good tool that reflects our environmental stewardship ambitions and aspirations. It also reflects the joint nature enshrined in the accord.
Senator C. Deacon: That addresses a federal/provincial standpoint, but from the ocean around Nova Scotia we are extracting resources in two different forms. We have not extracted any hydrocarbons, and we have been extracting a lot of fish, a lot of seafood. They have a shared interest in this regard, but only one party is represented. How would that be managed, potentially?
The legislation, as I understand it, is increasing the power of those boards and devolving more authority to those boards than is the case today. How would that be balanced in the future to make sure that those shared interests from other extraction industries are considered?
Mr. D’Entremont: The offshore petroleum board has long established processes to have subcommittees for the fishery as well as for Aboriginal consultation. They are equipped with the tools. Their current process is to make sure that they look at the broader spectrum of the assets in the ocean including the strong fishery that we have.
They have evidenced their ability to do that well by the fact that the last 20 years have seemed, for us, both the most successful time we have ever had in the offshore and the biggest growth we have ever had in the fishery concurrently, demonstrating they can coexist, which is the principle we think we can achieve.
Senator C. Deacon: Just to drill down one last little bit, that is absolutely fair enough. If parties are not feeling that their voices are being heard, that can be quite problematic.
If we have been so successful at it, why do we have parties voicing quite strongly that they are not being heard?
Mr. Mombourquette: To follow up on the deputy’s points, I am not sure of the party specific that you are talking about. As the deputy said, we know that through the C-NSOPB these subcommittees have been very successful.
We have seen a very strong relationship with our fishers, as you and everyone on this committee are well aware. We have a very successful fishing industry that has coexisted with our offshore. It has been very strong. We support it. It has been a success for our province. I think it is important to keep in mind as you continue through your deliberations on the bill.
The Chair: If I just continue on that line, the last time I was in Japan I was eating lobster and crab from here. They were very, very expensive.
You have these two very important industries. We have heard data on the official stock or on the food chain that helps the production of all these very appreciated species. One of the problems was that insufficient data was available, but the other problem was that there was not enough consultation with fishermen and the First Nations. Of course, there was the issue on the transparency of oil spills that my colleague raised.
Do fishermen have any insurance in case there is an oil spill and their stock is impacted? Is there any insurance fund like what happened in the Gulf of Mexico where all the shrimp industry was wiped out and then there was a fund to reimburse fishermen?
Kim Himmelman, Director, Regulatory and Strategic Policy, Department of Energy and Mines, the Government of Nova Scotia: I would like to respond to that question. On the Canada-Nova Scotia offshore area both the federal government and the provincial government amended legislation a number of years ago to put one of the most comprehensive financial liability regimes in the world in place.
The responsibility on the oil and gas industry for accidents is unlimited. Even if they are not at fault for an incident in the offshore, there is $1 billion liability in place. We have had fisheries compensation mechanisms in place in the Nova Scotia offshore for decades. I do not know the recent history, but up until a number of years ago there had not ever been a single claim against those mechanisms.
We have very robust mechanisms in our offshore regime. It is well respected around the world. We are approached by other countries internationally because our offshore regime is so well respected. They are up in the A class level of offshore regulators around the world comparable to Australia, Norway, the U.K., et cetera. They are regularly consulted and are in regular touch with those regulatory agencies.
Senator Mercer: We had witnesses prior to your arrival from First Nations with a good deal of talk about Boat Harbour and Northern Pulp. I reminded one of my colleagues on the break that the first election I ever worked on in Nova Scotia provincially was in 1970. The government changed that day on October 13, 1970. It was a great day.
However, in 1970, environment was not a top issue on anybody’s agenda except when you knocked on doors in this province, from one end to the other, and you used the words Boat Harbour in discussing the future of development in Nova Scotia. People listened. It is interesting that the issue of Boat Harbour changed the government of that day. We, meaning my party, elected people in places where we would never have done so if there had not been that particular issue.
How would Bill C-69 help if there were another Boat Harbour/Pictou Landing situation in the future? Will it be helpful to the provincial government in protecting us against having another situation like Boat Harbour/Pictou Landing?
Mr. Mombourquette: I think of the importance of this conversation and what the legislation could represent. We are presenting amendments to it today, as have other stakeholders, to provide clarity, certainty and provisions around timelines that would set a clear path for offshore development, or other development for that matter, in the province.
That is why I think it is important. The amendments we are providing strengthen the bill. They are consistent with our colleagues in Newfoundland and Labrador and what it really represents.
You are absolutely right, senator, when you talk about the environment because it is top of mind for all Nova Scotians. I hear it in my capacity as a Minister of Energy. We deal a lot on the offshore development side. We also deal a lot on the clean energy side. We are a national leader in reducing GHG emissions. We are spending significant resources in continuing to grow in that sector. At the same time we are growing our traditional sectors and being very cognizant, in partnership with the environmental stewardship, of what Nova Scotians expect.
I go back to our C-NSOPB. They are world renowned for the work they do with regard to their environmental stewardship and their work with stakeholders across the province, First Nations, private business, fishers and other various stakeholders.
We see on a daily basis that the environment is top of mind for everyone. These conversations and this legislation have the potential to be a positive impact. I believe that we should take a look at the amendments put forward by us and by others to tighten some of the timelines and some of the policy.
Senator Woo: Let me get to the core recommendation on substitutions. In effect, you are saying that there are two implications to removing the requirement for mandatory reference to a review panel for offshore projects in Nova Scotia.
One is that it allows the substitution. That is for sure. If you take out clause 31.1, whatever it might be, it also presumably opens the door to an agency-led review of projects. That is what you would be opening up.
I am not sure that is the direction you are heading in, but you should be aware that taking away mandatory review and making offshore projects similar to other projects would allow for substitutions. It would also allow for agency-led reviews, which seems to me not to be the optimal approach for projects in the offshore.
Why do you think the current approach, where C-NSOPB has a significant role in the review panels, including the possibility of chairing these panels, is not sufficient to protect the interests and the expertise of the regulator to create a firewall between the group that makes the assessment and the group that does the regulation?
There is a well-founded principle that you should not have the same agency do both because of the potential conflicts of interest and what they call regulatory capture. Could you respond to both parts of those questions?
Mr. D’Entremont: On the issue of substitutions, we believe that we have a good track record with our offshore regulator being able to do a good job.
On the issue leading to the current system or the proposed system going to a mandatory panel, we have previously seen the timelines for exploration wells going from 12 to 15 months when they were done by the offshore petroleum board for three years under the current regime.
We are not confident that this has led to a more comprehensive review of the work but just to longer timelines. We believe the same amount of work and the same due diligence can be done by our agency or our offshore regulator. We have undertaken a large number of exploration wells where there is 30-day to 90-day activity. We have a really good understanding of how that works. Having a substitution mechanism or a regional assessment methodology would allow us to do great science, good work and good due diligence.
Of course, we need to keep meeting the high bar of stewardship for environmental protection that citizens expect. We believe we can accomplish that through the use of our offshore petroleum board.
Senator Woo: You are open to agency reviews then. If you take out mandatory review, you are open to review led by the agency and not by C-NSOPB.
Mr. D’Entremont: Our position is founded on the fact that we feel you need the appropriate expertise employed on these environmental assessments to understand both the ocean environment and the methods and impacts of the oil and gas industry.
Our concern with agency-led assessments is that they may have one-half of the equation and not the other. Ideally you would want both of those types of expertise employed. In Canada currently the expertise for the offshore environmentally and operationally resides with the offshore petroleum boards.
Senator Woo: As to the functions between the assessment agency and the regulator, why do you not see a necessity to try and create a bit of a firewall between those who assess and those who regulate?
Mr. D’Entremont: In our world, I guess, we see more of the need for a firewall between economic decision making and environmental decision making. We have established our offshore board to be primarily an environmental safety and operational regulator.
We see that to be the biggest concern, not necessarily this concern of a firewall between those two items.
Senator Patterson: I would like to thank the minister and his officials for expressing confidence in the co-management model and reminding us how there was a hard-fought battle to win a voice for Nova Scotia and its adjacent residents in managing the offshore.
I have to say the boards have been kind of beaten up in our two days of hearings in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. Unfortunately, they chose not to present to us. We have only one side and usually unsubstantiated stories. We have to rely on you, although I think the committee should encourage the boards to submit. I hope they will.
Here is basically what we heard, and I am just the messenger. First of all, is the allegation of bias. This morning, in this very room, we heard Ocean Action say that board members were not capable of acting without bias and that they were all captured by industry.
My first question is: Is it possible that the composition should be reconsidered and made more diverse?
Sierra Club would like to see university professors on the board. Someone else in St. John’s said that they should be somebody who knows about biology.
Mr. Mombourquette: Thank you for the question, senator. I will start my comments by saying I have full confidence in the C-NSOPB and the record that they have had for a very long period of time. It is a successful environmental stewardship on and offshore. We have an exemplary record.
They are recognized for their processes all over the world. They have an extensive consultation process when it comes to our traditional industries with regard to fishing, our First Nations leaders and our other stakeholders that are important to offshore development. They are independent of us. They have set a standard that is very high, and I have full confidence in it.
On your question, I am confident in the composition. I am confident in the process that we have right now. I think they have done good work.
Senator Patterson: The other allegation was that they have not done a good job. Again, I am just the messenger here.
We were cited some incidents several times: some equipment sank in 2016 off Nova Scotia; in 2018, 136,000 litres of drilling mud was spilled by the West Aquarius; and in Newfoundland, a Husky project where 250,000 litres of oil was lost in heavy seas.
I do not mean to minimize these incidents, but if that was the worst that happened in so many years, are you confident to say that there is a rigorous process that has not led to major environmental disasters?
The Ocean Ranger was also resurrected. To me, it is like the Exxon Valdez in the Gulf of Mexico. It was very dated events, but I wonder if you would comment on the safety and the rigour of the regime.
Mr. Mombourquette: There is a very rigorous process that they go through. As I said in answer to an earlier question, if there is an event they are quick to respond. It needs to be immediate, so they respond to the C-NSOPB, which in turn will respond to the public.
In my experience, I have seen that action has been very quick and it has been very responsive to the situation taking place. Again, I reiterate that we have an offshore petroleum board that is highly commended for the work they do all over the world, for the consultation they provide with regard to offshore development, and for supporting our fishing industry, which is very significant to our economy and to the livelihoods of Nova Scotians.
I am confident in their abilities to do it and in the processes they have in place if an event takes place.
Mr. D’Entremont: Perhaps I could just follow up. The question is linked to some of your earlier questions and to Senator Woo’s comments.
Something that is not very well understood here is that we have designed the offshore petroleum board with a clear separation of health and safety regulators from the economic and promotional mandates. They play no role in selling the offshore for us.
We have staff within the Department of Energy and Mines who are very diligent in making themselves available in international fora and in talking to investor companies to attract investment to our offshore, but they play no role. They go through the mechanics of issuing call for bids, but based on the policies we have designed and the promotions we do within the department.
We believe, as a best practice, in not just separating economic and safety regulations from your perspective, but also in the firewall piece. They are staffed with the people they have because that is where the expertise lies, but we keep the economic promotion part of the mandate within the department.
Senator Patterson: I have a very quick follow-up. You say they match up with the best in the world. Is there any data that you can give us on that?
Mr. D’Entremont: There have been studies done over the years by Natural Resources Canada. That information exists within the Government of Canada.
We are undertaking a jurisdictional review over the next number of months on that type of question and comparing our regulatory regimes and the performance of our boards around the world. It has been done in the past, but we will be undertaking it again shortly. I could request that Natural Resources Canada send them to you.
The Chair: Please send them to the clerk.
On the last question, Senator Massicotte.
Senator Massicotte: I do not have a question.
The Chair: With that, I thank you very much for your testimony. Thank you very much, colleagues, for your questions. They provoked a very interesting conversation.
(The committee adjourned.)