Nathan calls for an Emergency Debate on Offshore Oil & Gas

Following the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, and the resulting spill, Canadians have questions about the safety and environmental protections for offshore drilling.  Nathan rose in the House today to call for an emergency debate in the House of Comons.

Request for Emergency Debate Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling industry [S. O. 52]

The Speaker:  The Chair has received a request for an emergency debate from the hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, and I will be pleased to hear his submissions on that point now.

Mr. Nathan Cullen (Skeena—Bulkley Valley, NDP):  Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to speak to this issue. This will be of interest to all members and in fact all Canadians. I wrote to you earlier today to seek leave for an emergency debate on the topic of safety and regulation of the offshore oil and gas drilling industry in Canada. The specifics and need for the emergency debate are clear. Canadians and the rest of the world have seen the horrors, as the Prime Minister referred to today, of the environmental disaster that is happening in the Gulf of Mexico right now. Almost one million litres of oil are spewing up from the seabed floor onto the coast of New Orleans and other places across the coast.

The Deepwater Horizon explosion is relevant to the Canadian context and is relevant for an emergency debate because the very same companies involved with that project are seeking an exemption. They are probing and lobbying the government right now to seek exemptions from the safety practices that are not being applied right now in the gulf, so in fact lessening the safety rules. The emergency debate is prevalent and important at this time because the government has not yet come forward in the issuing of leases for offshore, both for the west coast and particularly the Beaufort Sea in the north. The matter concerns the ability of Canadians to know their government has rules in place that are stronger than the ones that led to the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

We need to hear from the government of the day. Opposition members need to be able to make the case that no licences should be issued right now. The National Energy Board is hearing these petitions as we speak and any day will rule on these exemptions for British Petroleum and other companies. It is incumbent upon us as the House of Commons to deal with this now, before the licences are issued, before the drilling begins, because once begun, once the permits are out, there is no way to pull back from disasters like the one we are seeing in the gulf.

Our Arctic region and the west coast of British Columbia simply could not survive the devastating effects of a major spill like the one we are seeing from the Deepwater Horizon. This is all about same-season relief wells. This is about an exemption being sought on that exact issue by British Petroleum and others. The House must engage with this issue forthwith, and I humbly seek and request an emergency debate for this evening.

The Speaker: I thank the hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley for his submissions on this point. I have considered that and the letter he forwarded to me this morning on this subject.

I have no doubt that the situation in the Gulf of Mexico would constitute an emergency if it had happened in Hudsons Bay, for example, but it has not happened in Canada at the moment. Accordingly I am not inclined to grant the request the hon. member has made for an emergency debate at this time.

The argument about possible changes in regulations is, of course, one that can be debated in the House. I point out to hon. members that we do have a supply day almost weekly these days, so there is opportunity for debate on this kind of subject to take place on one of those days.

Accordingly, I am going to turn down the member’s request at this time.