Speeches | In Pursuit of Common Ground

18 March 2016

 Senator Grant Mitchell will soon introduce a bill to protect underground infrastructure. He recently spoke about his efforts to an audience of 1,000 people at a Common Ground Alliance convention in Nevada.

There’s an invisible world beneath your feet.

Electrical wiring, gas mains, cable, water — the sources of so many things we take for granted are buried just a few feet underground.

But it might surprise you to know that in Canada there’s no reliable source of information for where all this stuff is. In fact there’s only one province — Ontario — that has addressed this issue with legislation.

That’s a problem. Whether you’re a construction worker excavating a foundation or a homeowner building a backyard barbecue pit, it’s crucial to know where you can safely dig.

Accidentally sever a cable line and you won’t be the most popular person on your block — but accidentally slice into a gas or electrical line and you have a very dangerous situation on your hands.

That’s why I’m introducing a bill on underground infrastructure safety. It might not make the front page of the New York Times, but I do know this: my bill will save a lot of people a lot of money and aggravation.

It could even save lives.

The bill has three main parts.

The first section requires owners and operators of underground infrastructure that is federally regulated or on federal land to register and provide information about that infrastructure with a notification centre.

The second part says anyone planning to dig must make what’s called a ‘locate request’ to the relevant notification centre.

Finally, the third part says that owners and operators must mark out their underground infrastructure on the ground and co-ordinate with the would-be diggers.

At the end of the day, it’s just common sense. But if that’s not incentive enough, my bill provides for steep fines for people or companies who don’t comply.

It’s funny how these ideas come about. Some time ago the Senate’s energy committee was doing a study on petroleum products. At a meeting in Calgary, I was chatting with an executive who mentioned that what’s known as ‘Call Before You Dig’ legislation exists only in one province.

Then, at another meeting 3,000 kilometers away, another executive told me the exact same thing.

Now this really had my attention, and I started to figure out how get something done.

The Canadian Common Ground Alliance describes itself as Canada’s damage prevention voice; they’ve developed a number of best practises from excavators, road builders, insurers, and utilities workers, to name but a few.

They were a great help in drafting this legislation and they helped us pass our first obstacle — the fact that most underground infrastructure comes under provincial regulation.

But — and this was our breakthrough — there is a good deal of federal jurisdiction that affects underground infrastructure over things and places like pipelines, military bases, railways, Crown lands and parks.

With a strong, sensible federal statute in place, it will be easier for provinces to create their own Call Before You Dig legislation to fill in the legislative gaps.

That’s good for everyone.

I look forward to introducing this bill and encouraging my colleagues to support this important initiative.

Together with the Canadian Common Ground Alliance, we have the people and the passion to lay the groundwork for the national damage prevention network we need.

Please click here to read this speech in French / Veuillez appuyer ici pour lire ce discours en français.

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Selected Speeches

Boyle Street Community Services

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Bill S-229: An Act Respecting Underground Infrastructure Safety

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Telus World of Science

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Second reading of Bill C-14, Medical Assistance in Dying

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May 5, 2016

Digging Safely

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In Pursuit of Common Ground

Mar 18, 2016

Speech from the Throne—Motion for Address in Reply

Dec 10, 2015

Second Reading of my Underground Infrastructure Safety Enhancement Bill

Jun 22, 2015

Second Reading of my Enhancement of Civilian Review and Oversight in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Bill

Jun 19, 2015

Third reading of Bill C-51, Anti-terrorism Bill, 2015

Jun 2, 2015

Second reading of Bill C-51, Anti-terrorism Bill, 2015

May 13, 2015

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Apr 29, 2015

Third reading of Bill C-44, An Act to amend the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act and other Acts

Apr 1, 2015

Bill 10 in Alberta

Mar 11, 2015

Speech at Report Stage for Bill C-279

Mar 10, 2015

Second reading of Bill C-44, An Act to amend the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act and other Acts

Feb 25, 2015

Senate energy report makes recommendations to protect underground infrastructure

Dec 16, 2014

HeForShe Campaign

Oct 1, 2014

Dandelion Renewables

Sep 25, 2014

Alberta Emerald Foundation

Sep 18, 2014

Global Wind Day

Jun 13, 2014

Safe Digging Month

Apr 29, 2014

Northwest Territories Devolution Bill

Feb 27, 2014

Speech at second reading of Bill C-279, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code (gender identity)

Feb 4, 2014

Forestry Industry

Dec 10, 2013

Geothermal Energy

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Trans Day of Remembrance

Nov 20, 2013

Discours au congrès de la Canadian Common Ground Alliance

Nov 18, 2013

Speech to the Canadian Common Ground Alliance convention

Nov 14, 2013

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Jun 25, 2013

Speech at Third Reading of Bill C-42 (Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability Act)

May 23, 2013

Speech at Second Reading of Bill C-42 (Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability Act)

Apr 16, 2013

Speech at second reading of Bill C-279, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code (gender identity)

Apr 16, 2013

Allotment of Time on Budget 2012

Dec 13, 2012

Speech at Second Reading of Budget 2012, Bill C-45

Dec 10, 2012

Speech on Korean War Veterans Day Bill

Dec 6, 2012

Two speeches on the third reading of Budget 2012, Bill C-45

Dec 6, 2012

iSisters Technology Mentoring

Nov 2, 2011

Canadian Wheat Board

Oct 18, 2011

"Because I Am a Girl" Campaign

Oct 18, 2011

La campagne « Parce que je suis une fille »

Oct 18, 2011

La Commission canadienne du blé

Oct 18, 2011

Canadian Foundation for Women's Health

Sep 29, 2011

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Le Budget des dépenses de 2011-2012

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L'école secondaire Queen Elizabeth

Jun 23, 2011

Queen Elizabeth High School - Congratulations on Fiftieth Anniversary

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Le budget de 2011

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Budget 2011 - Inquiry

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DeforestAction

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DeforestAction

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Mar 24, 2011

Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Act Pension Act

Mar 24, 2011

Support Program for Aboriginal Nursing Students at the University of Lethbridge

Mar 9, 2011

Sur le Programme de soutien des étudiants autochtones en nursing de l’Université de Lethbridge

Mar 9, 2011

Corporate and Income Taxes

Feb 3, 2011

Climate Change Policy

Feb 2, 2011

Women in Prisons in Canada

Dec 15, 2010

Les femmes incarcérées au Canada

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National Day of Service Bill

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Senatorial Selection Bill

Nov 2, 2010

Second reading of Bill S-221, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (carbon offset tax credit)

Oct 7, 2010

Jobs and Economic Growth Bill – Sixth Report of National Finance Committee Negatived

Jul 21, 2010

Study on the Current State and Future of Energy Sector

Jun 15, 2010

Bill C-311, Climate Change Accountability

Jun 1, 2010

The State of the Senate's Online Presence

Jun 1, 2010

Bilingual Supreme Court Judges

May 12, 2010

Environment and Human Rights

May 4, 2010

Erosion of Freedom of Speech

Apr 27, 2010

What is Realistic and Effective Parliamentary Reform?

Mar 17, 2010

It's Time To Shelve Bottled Water

May 5, 2009

The Danger of Unintended Consequences - Senate Reform

Apr 28, 2009

Bill S-3, Energy Efficiency Act

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Bill S-213, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (carbon offset tax credit)

Feb 10, 2009

Bill C-474, Federal Sustainable Development Act

Jun 18, 2008

Bill C-33, An Act to Amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act

Jun 12, 2008

Bill S-228, An Act to amend the Canadian Wheat Board Act

Feb 26, 2008

Speech from the Throne: A Government Without Leadership

Oct 30, 2007

Temporary Foreign Workers Program

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Kyoto: Response to the Third Reading

May 31, 2007

Statements on the second reading of the Budget Implementation Bill

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