With fresh offshore helicopter issues in the news Wednesday, Liberal Leader Dwight Ball wanted to know what the province is doing to have an independent offshore safety regulator.
During question period in the House of Assembly, Ball wanted to know whether the government had suggested any specific legislative amendments to the federal government, which would create an offshore safety regulator.
Premier Kathy Dunderdale told him that’s just not how things go.
“The Leader of the Opposition ought to know that this is not how this process works,” she said. “Mr. Speaker, we are clearly on the record in supporting an independent regulator. We are asking the federal government to support the recommendation as well. Once they concur, Mr. Speaker, we will both prepare the appropriate legislation — us for our legislature here in Newfoundland and Labrador, and they for the parliament of Canada.”
The crash of Cougar Helicopters Flight 491 killed 17 people and prompted a judicial inquiry by retired Justice Robert Wells.
Wells recommended an independent safety regulator for the offshore oil industry — the job is currently done by the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board which regulates all aspects of the offshore environment.
The Dunderdale government has embraced the recommendation and, in the 2011 Throne Speech, it promised to make it a reality.
Earlier this week, The Telegram reported documents obtained under Access to Information legislation show little work has been done on the file in the past year.
On Wednesday, the CNLOPB reported a Cougar helicopter had stayed on the Terra Nova production vessel after a warning light came on.
That prompted questions in the House of Assembly by Ball about the possibility of an independent safety regulator.
Dunderdale said they’re still waiting on the federal government, which is still studying the issue.
“If we could act independently and set up an independent regulator, Mr. Speaker, we would move. We cannot; we are bound by the Atlantic Accord Act,” Dunderdale said. “We support it. We are recommending it to the federal government, but they have to concur, because legislation has to be passed in the Parliament of Canada to allow it to happen.”
Dunderdale declined to speak to reporters after question period on the issue.
Ball wasn’t satisfied with what he heard in the House.
Speaking to The Telegram later in the day, he said he thinks if the provincial government is prepared to wait for Ottawa to be ready, then nothing will ever happen.
“Unless the premier takes some leadership on this issue, there will never be anything done,” he said. “She has to press the issue, and she has to make sure that the federal government knows how important of an issue this is for the people of the province.”