Cullen Asks the Minister Why Offshore Drilling is Exempted from Environmental Assessments

Mr. Nathan Cullen (Skeena-Bulkley Valley, NDP): Mr. Speaker, Americans are rightly outraged that British Petroleum was given a pass on the standard environmental assessments in the gulf. When a government is too close to the oil lobby, rules get watered down, major tragedies occur and communities are the ones on the hook. In Canada this exception is now the rule. We all know that since 2005, offshore oil companies have not been subjected to a full environmental assessment.

Why will the Conservatives not stand up to protect Canadians and end the weakening of our offshore environmental rules and regulations?

Hon. Christian Paradis (Minister of Natural Resources, CPC): [Translation] Mr. Speaker, it is outrageous to hear such things. The hon. member is trying to discredit the National Energy Board, an independent agency that conducts scientific and strategic reviews. The board has announced that it would be examining the situation in the Gulf of Mexico to better understand, to learn and to perfect the current regulations. We want no project to see the light of day unless we are convinced that workers’ health and environmental protection are guaranteed.

Mr. Nathan Cullen (Skeena—Bulkley Valley, NDP):  [English] Mr. Speaker, the minister’s talking points will not cut it anymore.

Today at committee we heard that the oil industry itself, the Inuvialuit and environmental groups came together with a plan to protect the Beaufort Sea. This plan for the Arctic has been sitting on the minister’s desk for more than a year.

We now know that contrary to what the minister just said, the government has weakened environmental protection. A two-page screening just does not cut it for Canada’s Arctic. How can Conservatives continue to stand by regulations that simply will not protect our environment?

Hon. Christian Paradis (Minister of Natural Resources, CPC):   [Translation] Mr. Speaker, my colleague knows full well that no drilling permits have been issued for the Beaufort Sea or the surrounding area. No project will see the light of day unless we are convinced that workers’ health and the environment are protected. The industries are required to have contingency plans in place and that is what is happening. Enough with the fearmongering. Currently in Canada no drilling permit has been issued for the Beaufort Sea or for the Arctic.