Speech Article from  Transport Canada

Archived - Speaking notes for The Honourable Lisa Raitt, Minister of transport at an event to announce new measures to strengthen a world-class tanker safety system

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Saint John, New Brunswick
May 13 2014


Many thanks to Port of Saint John President and CEO Jim Quinn and his team for hosting us here today. Thanks to Premier Alward for joining us for today's announcement.

Just a little more than a year ago, our government announced key measures to strengthen Canada's already robust oil tanker safety system, and we have accomplished a lot since this time  to achieve a world-class tanker safety system. We have:

  • increased tanker inspections so that every foreign tanker that enters Canadian waters is inspected the first time it comes to port, and annually after that;

  • expanded aerial patrols off our coasts and increased satellite surveillance through the National Aerial Surveillance Program;

  • supported the Canadian Coast Guard to adopt the internationally-recognized Incident Command System that will help co-ordinate response efforts with multiple partners in the case of an incident;

  • conducted ground-breaking research on new oil products and how they  behave under different marine conditions;  and,

  • created an independent Tanker Safety Expert Panel whose work has been invaluable. That panel is now setting its sights on improving marine safety in the Arctic and for the transport of hazardous and noxious substances by ships.

These measures demonstrated our government's commitment to build a world-class tanker safety system that would protect both coastal communities and our environment. I grew up in the Maritimes, so I both appreciate the beauty of our Atlantic coast, and I value the vital role it plays in the economy of this region.

One year later, I am here to tell you we are achieving this goal and keeping our commitment to Canadians.

The government is taking action to improve tanker safety based on three main principles:

  • doing everything possible to prevent an oil spill;

  • being fully prepared to respond to one if it happens; and

  • ensuring that it's the polluters that pay.

And, in order to act, we have done a great deal of listening.

We listened to the recommendations of the independent Tanker Safety Expert Panel.

We listened to stakeholders in the marine industry and provincial governments.

And we listened to Aboriginal groups who were concerned about protecting coastal waters that sustain their communities and heritage.

Our work has included officials from several federal bodies: Transport Canada, Natural Resources Canada, Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and the Canadian Coast Guard.

For the past year, they have had a truly national conversation about how to combine our skills, expertise, and resources to get tanker safety right.

New measures

This conversation has strengthened the improvements we are announcing today.

These new measures, once implemented, will make Canada a world leader in tanker safety and in effect, ensure Canada has a world-class tanker safety system. 

  1. We are moving towards e-navigation and investing in state-of-the-art technology such as smart buoys and advanced navigational products and services to provide vessel operators with the real-time information they need to navigate safely and prevent oil spills.

  2. We will put in place new area response planning and resources, in four areas across the country that currently have relatively higher tanker traffic;

    1. the southern portion of British Columbia;

    2. Saint John and the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick;

    3. Port Hawkesbury in Nova Scotia; and

    4. The Gulf of St. Lawrence in  Quebec.

    5. This was the Tanker Safety Expert Panel's most significant recommendation, so I should explain it. There is widespread agreement that we need to tailor response plans and cleanup resources for spills based on the geography of a region, its tanker traffic, and its environmental conditions.  Enhancing our readiness to respond to spills in these four initial areas represents a first step to establishing a stronger oil spill preparedness and response regime along all of our coasts.

  3. We will expand the range of tools available for oil spill cleanup by lifting legal barriers on the use of dispersants and other cleanup alternatives when the use of such tools will be of net environmental benefit.

  4. We will conduct additional research into the pre-treatment of heavy oil products at the source; the behaviour of different formulations of heavy oil products when spilled in marine environments; and a variety of potential alternative response measures. Also, a new transfer payment program will support projects by industry and universities to improve the recovery of spilled heavy oil.

  5. We will support Aboriginal participation in marine emergency preparedness and response by helping communities purchase equipment and partner with the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary.

  6. Canada's liability and compensation regime for oil spills is based on the “polluter pay” principle, and we are going to further strengthen this regime by introducing legislative and regulatory amendments that will enhance Canada's domestic Ship-Source Oil Pollution Fund (SOPF). These amendments will:

    • remove the fund's existing per-incident liability limit of $161 million in order to make available the full amount of the Ship-Source Oil Pollution Fund for a single incident—currently around $400 million; and

    • in the unlikely event that all domestic and international pollution funds have been exhausted, the Government of Canada will ensure compensation is provided to eligible claimants and recover these costs from industry through a levy.

When you include shipowners' insurance, and international and domestic funds to cover damages in the case of an incident, 1.6 billion dollars will   now be available to cover those potential damages. With these changes, Canada will have the most robust and comprehensive liability and compensation system in the world.

Aboriginal participation

I want to take a moment to underscore the importance of Aboriginal input and participation in these measures to strengthen tanker safety.

Acting on the advice of the Special Federal Representative on West Coast Energy, Mr. Douglas Eyford, we want to ensure the open and active participation of Aboriginal communities, especially in those coastal communities affected by tanker traffic.

We have heard your concerns, and we need to better understand and incorporate your interests and ideas in preparing and responding to oil spills from ships if they occur.

We also want to improve our Regional Advisory Councils, with First Nations (Aboriginal) representation at those tables.


Our Government understands that having a world-class tanker safety system requires a long-term commitment.

But not by government alone.

This action also requires the commitment of the marine and petroleum industries, the provinces, certified response organizations and Aboriginal groups.

These groups and others will need to work together to make Canada a world leader in tanker safety.

In my first year as Transport Minister, I have seen that commitment and I am proud of what we have accomplished.

I am convinced that the result will protect Canadians and our environment.

Thank you very much for being here today and at this point I will take questions from the media.

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