The federal government is investing more than $80 million to protect Canada's waters, marine life and habitat from potential oil spills under the $1.5-billion oceans protection plan announced in November 2016.

Kings-Hants MP and Treasury Board president Scott Brison made the announcement Monday at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography in Dartmouth.

Part of the funding will go toward creating a $45-million, multi-partner oil spill research initiative, Brison said.

"This investment will ensure that Canada has the capability to provide the best scientific advice and tools to prevent and potentially to respond to oil spills in our waters," he said.

Scott Brison

Kings-Hants MP and Treasury Board president Scott Brison announced federal funding to protect Canada's oceans from potential oil spills. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

The $45-million program will be led by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans with support from other federal departments.

Of the $80 million, more than $17 million will go toward enhancing ocean models of wind, waves and currents so that emergency responders will be able to track spills and predict their path, Brison said.

Lee returns to DFO from Australia

Kenneth Lee, DFO's national senior science adviser, called the initiative significant and said it will bring together the best people in the world to work with Canadians on oil spill research.

"What we're looking at is building the capacity for oil spill research, actually developing a research program to provide the science for those tough decisions that have to be made when oil spills occur," he said in an interview.

"So should an oil spill occur of major national significance, we know who to call for help and we can move forward with advanced technologies," said Lee, who has spent his whole career working on oil spills.

Kenneth Lee

Kenneth Lee is the Department of Fisheries and Oceans's national senior science adviser. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

In 2012, six months after his federal research lab was downsized in a budget cut, Lee took a leave of absence and moved to Australia to work with that country's national science agency. He returned to Nova Scotia in the spring.

While in Australia, Lee continued to work with DFO on a number of research initiatives, he said.

Lee also spent four months providing expertise to the U.S. government after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.