OTTAWA - Despite attempts to expedite the passage of Bill S-15 before summer recess, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, MP Saanich-Gulf Islands, has blocked a motion for unanimous consent that would have bypassed the normal legislative process and allowed for oil and gas development in the newly created Sable Island National Park Reserve.
"During negotiations and in the Environment Committee, I made it clear that I could not support this Bill as it is written; it opens the door to oil exploration on Sable Island and sets a dangerous precedent for the rest of our National Parks," said May. "I am disappointed that all other parties were apparently willing to speed this Bill through the House without proper scrutiny, but I am unwilling to take that step."
Bill S-15, an Act to amend the Canada National Parks Act and the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act and to make consequential amendments to the Canada Shipping Act 2001, would, among other things, establish Sable Island as a National Park Reserve, a move that the Green Party enthusiastically supports.
Unfortunately, Bill S-15 also enshrines the ability of Exxon-Mobil to conduct oil and gas exploration activities on Sable Island itself, in addition to drilling and fracking beneath the island using directional drilling. Further, power to make regulations regarding these activities rests solely with the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board, an organization with an explicit mandate to promote oil and gas development.
"It is disturbing that we would hand off decision making authority over Sable Island to an organization with such an atrocious record as the CNSOPB, and I've yet to see any indication that either the government of Canada or Nova-Scotia ever even asked Exxon Mobil to forgo its oil and gas licenses above ground or underground on Sable Island," said Elizabeth May. "We can and we must do better. If that means we wait a little longer in order to get this legislation right and provide genuine protection for Sable Island, I have no choice but to try. Unless there is a prorogation, the Bill will be here for us to debate in the Fall."