The federal government has introduced legislative amendments to implement key parts of its $1.5-billion Oceans Protection Plan. The amendments are buried deep in the omnibus, 850+ page Bill C-86, the Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 2, introduced in the House of Commons on October 29, 2018.
Burying the amendments in an omnibus budget Bill is a curious decision for a government that has tied its support for the Trans Mountain Pipeline to its Oceans Protection Plan. The federal government has consistently pointed to the regulatory framework of its Oceans Protection Plan to argue that tanker traffic off the West Coast can grow without taking a toll on the marine environment.
For instance, amendments to the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 will strengthen Transport Canada’s regulatory authority to protect marine environment and animals, including endangered whale populations, as well as allow for immediate actions to be taken in urgent or unforeseen circumstances. Enforcement authorities, including the Canadian Coast Guard, will be authorized to enter private property in the case of a discharge of oil from a vessel or oil handling facility. This will strengthen the Canadian Coast Guard’s authority to intervene in a ship-source pollution incident. Administrative monetary penalties for certain incidents will double, with the maximum rising to $250,000 per incident.
Amendments to the Marine Liability Act are intended to modernize the Ship-source Oil Pollution Fund, the industry fund established for the purpose of ensuring the payment of claims for marine oil pollution that originates from ships. The amendments will remove the existing per-incident liability limit, making unlimited compensation available to responders and victims of a ship-source oil spill. In the event that the fund is depleted, the amendments will allow temporary funds to be transferred into it from federal coffers. The amendments will also introduce a fast track for small claims.