Speaking Notes for the Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport, to the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade


January 25, 2017

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Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you for joining me.

It's an honour to be here today on the traditional territory of the Coast Salish peoples.

As an MP from Montreal who spends much of his time in Ottawa, I feel that British Columbia is becoming my home away from home away from home.

This is my seventh visit to Vancouver in a little over a year as Transport Minister. And it is always a pleasure – especially when I wake up and my phone tells me the temperature back east.

Recently, I was here in November along with the Prime Minister. Our visit came shortly after we announced the transformative changes that our government will be bringing to Canada's transportation sector in the years ahead.

These changes include:

  • A $10.1 billion transportation infrastructure fund – to ensure that travelers and cargo alike can move more swiftly across our land.
  • Reforms to international ownership rules, to increase competition and reduce fares in our domestic airline industry.
  • An air travelers' Passenger Rights Regime – to ensure that Canadians are protected by rules that are both fair and clear.
  • And action to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector.

There is one other key element of our vision for the future of Canadian transportation – and that's what I'm here to discuss with you today.

Canada has the longest coastline in the world – tens of thousands of kilometres of beaches and shoals, cliffs and forests, glaciers and grassland, cities and villages.

Our coastline is home to fisheries. It supports traditional Indigenous and coastal community livelihoods.

It draws Canadians and tourists who come to play, to challenge themselves, or to relax and reflect.

It allows our businesses to trade with the other countries of the world, in emerging and established markets.

Our coasts help to define the Canadian experience – and power the Canadian economy. It is therefore vital that we put in place a clear and effective plan to protect our coasts – to ensure they remain clean and safe, vibrant and diverse, accessible and sustainable—while growing our economy.

Our new Oceans Protection Plan will safeguard our coastlines and marine environment – so that these iconic elements of our national identity can be enjoyed by all of us, and by future generations.

The plan was developed in collaboration with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the Canadian Coast Guard and the Department of Environment and Climate Change. I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge the fine work led by my colleagues, the Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Fisheries and the Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of the Environment, in building this plan.

Our Oceans Protection Plan reflects and relies on scientific evidence. It puts a priority on co-management with Indigenous Canadians. And it responds to the Canadian desire to better protect the coastal environment that is central to our way of life.

As a government, we are investing $1.5 billion in our Oceans Protection Plan.

This plan will create a world-leading marine safety system – including new preventive and response measures to better protect our waters and coasts.

It will also:

  • restore and protect marine ecosystems and habitats;
  • strengthen our partnership with Indigenous communities;
  • support new and better methods of oil spill cleanup;
  • build local emergency response capacity; and,
  • strengthen our ability to trade with confidence and safety.

It is good for Canada – and good for British Columbia.

Today, I'd like to take you through four key elements of our Oceans Protection Plan.

Let's start with safety.

Safety is crucial. It's the top priority.

That's why we are putting into law a moratorium on crude oil tankers on the north coast.

That's why we are supporting this moratorium with an enforcement regime that could result in fines of up to $5 million for offenders.

Today, I'm pleased to announce that within the last week (Jan. 19), as part of the Oceans Protection Plan, we have launched a concentrated campaign to inspect tugs and barges in B.C to ensure compliance with all safety regulations. We began these inspections near the mouth of the Fraser River, and we will work our way up to the most remote areas in northern B.C. in the coming months.

In Canada, we have a strong marine safety record but we can do better.

In fact, I believe we must do better if we are to truly succeed in preserving our natural environment for future generations to enjoy.

And so this is about putting in place concrete measures that deliver tangible progress to make our coastlines safer, more vibrant and better protected.

Our plan will help Canada achieve a world-leading marine safety system – one that does more to prevent damaging incidents, and is better able to respond quickly and efficiently in the unlikely event of a crisis.

To that end, we are going to ensure the Coast Guard has the equipment and the tools it needs to better protect our waterways.

That means more vessels here in B.C. to enhance search and rescue capability.

More rescue stations. Better communications gear. And more towing capacity – so the Canadian Coast Guard is able to respond more quickly and effectively to save lives and protect our environment.

It also means enhancing the Coast Guard's ability to take the lead as part of any coordinated response to an incident or event.

Additionally, we will be extending the role of the Coast Guard Auxiliary, or the RceeMSAR here in BC, to include environmental response functions. That will allow a greater role to be played by more than 4,000 specially trained volunteers across Canada.

To further enhance safety in Canadian waters, and along its shores, we will provide improved marine traffic and navigation information – including hydrography and charting – to mariners, Indigenous peoples, and coastal communities.

And we will invest in leading-edge research on oil spill clean-up technologies.

Our goal is to keep Canadian waters free of damaging accidents. Our new safety measures will take us further in that direction.

But it would be irresponsible not to be prepared if an accident were to happen.

Our government will therefore examine how we can improve clean-up technology, how best to mitigate impacts, and how to encourage ecological recovery.

Our goal is quite simply to become the best in the world at this – by investing in research and building a new and stronger collaborative approach to spill response.

This brings me to a second element of our Oceans Protection Plan: We are going to get tough on businesses and industries that pollute along our coasts.

When it comes to oil spills, we already have in place a comprehensive system of liability and compensation. But we're going to improve it.

We will lift the existing limit of the Ship-Source Oil Pollution Fund to ensure that unlimited compensation is available to those affected by a spill.

Should the cost of a cleanup exceed the amount in the fund, the government will step in and pay all eligible claims in full and recoup the funds from industry. It would do this through a special levy on those companies who import and export oil by ship.

Unlimited compensation is only part of it.

We are also going to make the claims process much simpler. And we are going to better address the risk posed by other types of hazardous and noxious substances transported by ships.

With these measures brought forward, Canada will become a world leader in polluter-pay ship-source liability and compensation.

In that same spirit, we will also introduce new legislation to increase vessel owner responsibility and liability for abandoned and wrecked vessels.

This national plan includes a new law that will prohibit vessel abandonment.

It will include a strengthened system to identify vessel owners – and better efforts to educate vessel owners on their responsibilities.

We will also adopt measures to ensure vessel owners are fully liable and responsible for the costs associated with the removal of wrecks.

This is about making sure that the people and businesses who use our waters, do so responsibly. And are held accountable for their actions The third element of our Oceans Protection Plan involves further strengthening our partnership with Indigenous and coastal communities.

Our coasts are the traditional territories of Indigenous peoples.

We are committed to taking a real and tangible step toward co-management of our coastlines – to ensure they remain healthy, clean, and safe for generations to come.

In particular, the traditional knowledge and expertise of Canada's Indigenous peoples is critical to protecting our coastal waters more effectively.

Coastal Indigenous communities will have real opportunities to be partners in the marine safety regime.

They will be offered training in search and rescue missions, environmental monitoring, and emergency spill response.

We will continue to work with our Indigenous partners to create regional response plans for the West coast.

We will also pursue shared leadership opportunities in other areas – such as the creation of local vessel control areas to help minimize safety risks and environmental impacts.

Our government is dedicated to further integrating Indigenous groups into the decision-making process as it relates to our marine environment.

An illustration of our commitment can be found in the new Pacific Region Place of Refuge Contingency Plan, which was developed in collaboration with the Council of Haida Nation and other provincial and federal partners.

This plan can be put into action on short notice – and can help to mitigate the impact of an accident or other crisis on the water.

Together – through consultation and engagement – we have created a process that will ultimately improve our ability to identify places of refuge for vessels in need of assistance anywhere along the B.C. coast.

I am particularly pleased with the early discussions between the Coastal First Nations and the Government of Canada to develop a coordinated regional approach to Indigenous partnerships by implementing the Oceans Protection Plan on B.C.'s north and central coasts. We are working to build similar relationships with Indigenous communities on B.C.'s south coast.

The joint Heiltsuk/federal steering committee that was established to address the Nathan E. Stewart incident near Bella Bella demonstrates how we can work together to deliver on the Oceans Protection Plan in a way that involves coastal communities in marine safety operations.

The fourth element of our plan reflects the reality of increased trade and marine development.

As a trading nation – as a country that is open to the world – our coastlines are essential to our economy.

Canadian jobs depend on our ability to access and serve the markets of Asia and Europe. That's how many of our commodities and processed goods reach buyers around the world.

With more goods being shipped along Canada's coasts, it is more important to get products to and from market in a safe and responsible way, while at the same time safeguarding the health of our marine ecosystems.

We will therefore invest in preserving and restoring marine ecosystems – and in reducing the impact of vessel traffic on marine mammals.

In particular, we need to focus on killer whales along the B.C. coast – and we need to take action to further reduce the threat posed by noise and by a potential collision with a commercial vessel.

The challenge is clear: How to preserve and protect our coastlines – and limit the impact on marine mammals – while at the same time advancing our ability to trade and keep our economy strong?

First of all, we are going to fund new research into the impacts of increased shipping on marine ecosystems. The government has long been a participant in programs to protect marine mammals. But the more we know, the better equipped we'll be to effectively address the issue.

Let me just say a few words about some recent development on projects and partnerships underway.

My officials have been working closely with Green Marine on a study to improve understanding of the impacts of both natural and human-caused underwater noise on marine animals. I am pleased to say that the study is available on the Transport Canada website so that all can benefit from its insights.

Second, I am delighted to note that today, Green Marine is officially launching performance indicators on reducing underwater noise from ships and ports as part of its environmental certification program for the North American marine industry.

These indicators were developed with the collaboration of experts from the marine research and science community, environmental non-government organizations, and the federal government. This leadership initiative is the first of its kind in the world – one in which companies will be formally evaluated on their efforts to reduce underwater noise from their operations.

Third, I am happy to report that the vessel the Buena Ventura, one that delivers salt regularly to Vancouver and is owned by NYK Bulk and Projects, has agreed to participate in a pilot project with the Port of Metro Vancouver to measure the noise reduction potential of hull-cleaning.

I want to thank the BC Chamber of Shipping for helping to make this connection. It's truly great to see the industry's commitment to finding solutions to this complex issue.

To that end, we will help fill in the gaps in the existing network of underwater listening stations. These devices help provide us with a better understanding of the impact of shipping activities on whales.

And we will increase our efforts to share data with partner organizations like Ocean Networks Canada. This will help provide us with more essential evidence as we work to understand both the challenges and the potential solutions. These activities to protect marine mammals are part of the broader Action Plan under the Species at Risk Act being developed by DFO to enable the recovery of the Northern and Southern Resident Killer Whales. The revised Action Plan will be released in the coming month and outlines measures to provide the best chance for the recovery of the species.

When it comes to the ocean environment more broadly, our government will support the establishment of coastal zone plans and identify restoration priorities on all three coasts.

Habitat restoration projects will engage – and in many cases be guided by – Indigenous communities, resource users and local groups and communities.

In addition, we are going to establish a pilot program in several high-use areas to record baseline ecosystem conditions.

It is our hope that this will help identify where habitat restoration would be beneficial. Baseline environmental data collection will help detect changes in the ecosystem and improve our understanding of the cumulative effects of shipping.

So those are four key elements of our Oceans Protection Plan.

I believe these measures are long overdue. Frankly, they should have been put in place a long time ago.

That's why I have made the protection of our oceans and coastlines a top priority.

And that's why the Oceans Protection Plan is one of the key pillars of our plan to transform Canada's transportation system – to ensure it is resilient, versatile and innovative enough to handle our current needs, and the growing and shifting demands of tomorrow.

Today, I've focused on how our plan will benefit and preserve the coastal areas of British Columbia. But the impact of the plan will extend across the country.

Out east, for instance, we will be reopening the Maritime Rescue Sub-Centre in St. John's – increasing the overall search and rescue capability in the region and providing important local knowledge that will allow response to be more effective. In the North, we'll be investing to make it safer and more efficient to transport goods to northern communities. It is a truly national plan.

And it is a plan that literally thousands of Canadians have helped to shape.

When we resolved to begin this transformation of Canada's transportation system, my officials and I engaged in a dialogue with Canadians – in person and online.

We met with representatives of both industry and workers. We sat down with Indigenous groups, non-governmental organizations and individual Canadians. With provincial and territorial ministers of transport. With ministers of agriculture, environment and natural resources.

In all, we held over 50 sessions – gathering the widest possible range of views to gain the best possible understanding of where we need to go and what we need to do.

We wanted to avoid quick fixes and short-term perspectives. We wanted to instead focus on setting the conditions for long-term success.

When it comes to our oceans and coastlines, that meant coming up with a plan that is squarely focused on safety and environmental protection – so that we can continue to trade with confidence, and keep our economy strong.

The Oceans Protection Plan represents the most significant investment ever made to protect our waters and shores. These ambitious measures are urgently needed and long overdue.

We are fortunate to have some of the most spectacular coastlines in the world – places of raw beauty and ecological diversity.

People come from across the country and around the world to experience them, and then to hold them forever as a memory.

For some, it's a place of leisure, of contemplation, of faith. For others, it's home.

Our government is committed to protecting our coastlines – for today and for tomorrow.

With this new plan, Canada will have a truly world-class system for marine protection and emergency preparedness – one that will meet or surpass the world-leading marine safety practices of other nations.

We are going to do more to limit pollution and prevent accidents – and we are going to be better prepared in the unlikely event they occur.

Working with our Indigenous partners, we will ensure the efficient transportation of goods, protect and create jobs and preserve the unique environments that we cherish as Canadians.

These measures are progressive and proactive, and will ensure the health of our oceans for decades to come.

I have described multiple initiatives that are underway to deliver on this plan. In the coming weeks and months, our government will be providing additional details on each of these initiatives and will be engaging with partners in implementing them. Canadians will see concrete improvements. These include the reopening of the Maritime Rescue Sub-Centre in St. John's, enhanced resources to the Canadian Coast Guard, and new research into the impacts of increased shipping on marine ecosystems.

When the Prime Minister was here in Vancouver with me late last year, he spoke about what drives and motivates him. He said that everything our government does – every action we take – is about leaving our kids and grandkids a better Canada.

An even better place to live – with good, well-paying jobs for the middle class, safe communities, and natural places that are protected and preserved for all to enjoy and cherish.

The Oceans Protection Plan will help deliver on that vision. It is an investment in our country's future.

By working together with our partners along the coasts and across the country, I know we can preserve our coastlines for generations to come.

Thank you.

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