OTTAWA -- On Wednesday, the Senate committee on transportation recommended against proceeding with Bill C-48, which would enact an oil tanker moratorium along the northern coast of B.C. C-48 would enshrine in law a tanker ban that was honoured by federal and provincial governments, and the courts, from 1972 until Stephen Harper ignored it in 2012.
“Unelected senators are now seeking the defeat of a bill supported by elected Members of the House,” said Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada (MP, Saanich-Gulf Islands). She added, “Every time people propose expanding oil tanker traffic along our coast, they point to the safety record. But the ban on tankers has everything to do with that record. There were no spills, because there were no tankers, since 1972.”
The moratorium began as a response to increased oil tanker traffic from Alaska to the Juan de Fuca Strait. The waters between Haida Gwaii and the coastal mainland are particularly treacherous; the Hecate Strait is the fourth most dangerous body of water on earth. The extreme turbulence of this area means that any spill in the Hecate Strait, Dixon Entrance and Queen Charlotte Sound would slosh the oil back and forth between Haida Gwaii and British Columbia, causing untold damage to sensitive ecosystems, not to mention the traditional fishing grounds of coastal First Nations, tourism and the local economy.
“We have to understand these ecosystems are already in jeopardy as ocean temperatures rise and extreme weather events occur with greater frequency” said May. “An oil spill will greatly exacerbate the damage we’re seeing as a result of climate change, including species extinction and an irreversible loss of biodiversity.”
The senators decried a lack of consultation with First Nations as a reason to terminate the bill. This ignores, however, the extensive consultations that took place before the 1972 ban was implemented. The Haida Nation as well as coastal nations along the B.C. mainland have the most at stake. They have been consistent for decades that oil tankers in their territorial waters are unwelcome.
“This is not about penalizing Alberta,” May emphasized. “When we export raw resources, we export jobs along with them. We need to concentrate on making a value-added product and on using that to secure our own domestic energy needs. The Bank of Canada reported just today that investments are falling in the carbon-intensive sector and that a great many of our assets will become stranded, losing their value and hurting Albertan communities. The answer to this predicament is to look inward. We don’t need another underutilized pipeline selling Canadian crude to an Asian market that doesn’t exist. We need refineries here in Alberta, with good, unionized jobs. If we can supply our own energy, we will have no need to import 700 000 barrels a day from Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, and Nigeria – we will have, in other words, a tanker ban along both our precious coasts.”
“Every promise matters. The government’s promise to legislate a tanker ban for the northern B.C. coast is historic and significant. We need Bill C-48,” concluded Ms. May
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