Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak about this topic, which is very important to Canadians. I will be sharing my time with the member for .
I was actually born in British Columbia and I spent a lot of time on the water. I do have a full understanding of what this entails. I have to say, listening to the NDP, one would think Chicken Little was running around and the sky was going to fall.
The reality is that oil tankers have been trading safely and regularly off British Columbia's coasts for many years. In fact, for more time than I have been alive they have been trading safely. I do not believe there has been one oil tanker incident at sea in that period of time.
Measures actually exist to prevent this kind of thing and to ensure the safe transportation of petroleum products, not only to prevent possible ship-source spills but also to ensure preparedness and an appropriate response in the unlikely event of a spill. So there is actually a dual way of dealing with it if it does happen.
As I said, there has not been one incident at sea since before I was born. The likelihood is very remote indeed. We have had additional things happen, double-hull tankers and things such as that. Of course, we have our pilots who make sure that our ships get to where they are supposed to go, and safely in places where it might pose a danger.
Transport Canada's marine mandate is related to navigation. Navigation is very important. Shipping and protection of the environment from ship pollution are also included, and that includes response and enforcement. As I mentioned, we have a lot of different ways to make sure that this does not happen, not only to avoid it but to take care of it if it does indeed happen.
Transport Canada's goal as the lead federal department responsible for Canada's national ship-source oil spill preparedness and response regime is to ensure a national response capability is in place and to be ready to respond in the event of an incident wherever it is in our nation.
That is where we are today. Notwithstanding what the New Democrats claim, we all know that they would like to shut all our borders and shut down Canada. That is not the position of this government. It is about jobs and creating jobs for Canadians. At the same time, it is about making sure that future generations, our grandchildren and great-grandchildren, have a safe and great environment in which to live. That is what this government is going to do and actually is doing.
Operators of oil-handling facilities in fact must maintain a minimum level of preparedness and have oil pollution prevention and emergency plans in place.
The government has a strong regulatory regime that encourages and demands that people who handle this type of fuel are ready to take action if necessary and that they avoid it in all possible cases through better equipment and through investments by them.
As I mentioned, Transport Canada is also mandated to regulate the ship-source oil spills regime. Offshore oil and gas exploration and environmental response for such activities fall under the mandates of some other departments, particularly Natural Resources Canada and the Atlantic and Newfoundland offshore petroleum boards.
The national ship-source oil spill preparedness and response regime was established in 1995, following increased public attention on high-profile oil spills in North American waters. The regime is built on a partnership between government and industry, with the respective responsibilities of each party set out in the Canada Shipping Act.
The key underlying principle of the regime is that polluters pay, that polluters are responsible, as they should be. Canadian taxpayers should not be on the hook for the negligence of a polluter.
In this particular case, this is the situation with this government and our strong response in relation to industry. Industry is accountable for both areas: the prevention of oil spills and the actions necessary to prevent them, as well as the response to its own ship-source oil spill, subject to government oversight and regulations.
So even though we require industry to pay for this, to be prepared and to clean it up, the government has a strong regulatory regime to make sure they actually do that and are held to account.
Private sector funds deliver the operational elements of the regime, which ensure that industry has the capability to respond to individual ship-source oil spills of up to 10,000 tonnes in Canadian waters south of 60° north latitude. A network of four Transport Canada-certified response organizations provides this coverage.
Response organizations are required to ensure that there is response capability in place should a ship-source oil spill occur.
Mr. Speaker, notwithstanding the NDP's attempt to drag me away from my speech to talk about the great things the government is doing and what the NDP is trying to stop us from doing, I am going to continue on with my speech, but I appreciate the clatter across the way, though.
Under Canadian legislation, the Canadian Coast Guard is the lead agency responsible for ensuring the appropriate response to spills in Canadian waters. In this respect, the Canadian Coast Guard maintains a national response capability to supplement that of the private sector response organizations and to provide coverage where there is no clearly identified polluter or response organization responsible for that area.
Where most of these incidents could occur, which they have not in decades, at least in the water, we have organizations we can look to in the private sector. However, when we are not certain as to which organization is responsible for the clean up in a certain area, the Coast Guard is in place to provide coverage where there is no clearly identified polluter.
Canadians want the government to be responsible if no private organization is held to account in that area, for whatever reason, either it is something that happens without our knowledge or the knowledge of the Coast Guards or it just suddenly appears. That does happen. Where that is the case, the Coast Guard will come in and take care of the situation, such as in the case of ship source mystery spills or spills in the Arctic, which is north of 60° latitude.
Environment Canada is responsible for providing environmental, scientific and technical advice to the Canadian Coast Guard. Therefore, the government relies on it for its expertise, as does the Coast Guard, for a certified response organization to effectively respond to a marine oil spill.
In the case of oil handling facilities located south of the north of 60° latitude, Transport Canada requires that each facility have on-site plans, equipment, personnel, training and exercise programs that enable them to deploy an immediate response in the event of a ship source oil spill. Also, it has an agreement in place with a certified response organizations, so we would have an immediate response. Therefore, if there were to be any damage, it would not be of any substance.
Transport Canada manages the national aerial surveillance program, which is the primary tool for detecting any illegal discharges at sea and for environmental monitoring.
I had an opportunity to see a facility like this in eastern Canada. I was impressed with the detail and its ability to track oil pollution and ships in all of our waters. I think most Canadians would be impressed with the initiatives this government has taken.
Therefore, polluters should be aware that we can see what they are doing and where they are. We can see oil coming from a ship.
We have a strong regulatory regime in place in relation to the ability to see what goes on in our waters. There are currently six regional advisory councils on marine oil spill preparedness and response across Canada. These councils serve as advisory bodies to the and make recommendations on oil spill preparedness for ship source and oil handling facilities spills in accordance with the Canada Shipping Act.
The membership of these advisory councils includes a cross-representation of individuals, groups and companies whose interests could be positively or negatively affected in the event of a ship source or oil handling facilities spill. That is because this government takes very seriously the issue of pollution and protecting our environment.
These interests might include fishing, aquaculture, aboriginal and environmental interests, port authorities, businesses and tourism associations and shipping interests. This varied and balanced representation allows the advisory council to offer valuable and pertinent information to Transport Canada. Clearly on all the bills and initiatives the Conservative government has put forward, we have consulted widely with stakeholders to ensure we strike the right balance, and this is no different.
We also have the ship source oil pollution fund, which is available to pay compensation for spills of all types of oils from ships of all classes. The House may not be aware of this, but we almost tripled the financial consequences of spills. In 2009 the Marine Liability Act was amended by the Conservative government to further protect Canadians from those financial consequences, up to $1.3 billion. That is because the government cares about the environment. We will ensure that we continue to trade and do a good job for Canadians on the environment, in the industry and in the economy. We will continue to create jobs.
Mr. Speaker, as a proud British Columbian, having lived there all my life, I want to put the lie to some of the scaremongering that we hear from the NDP benches.
Due to the recent oil spill on the U.S. Gulf Coast, it is understandable that attention has been focused on oil tanker traffic on our Pacific coast and the potential threats to our environment which such traffic represents.
It is appropriate to re-examine whether Canada has the right regulations, enforcement and response mechanisms in place to handle an oil spill on the west coast. I believe that all members in the House will conclude that Canada's ability to respond to such events remains robust and sound.
Perhaps the most relevant indicator in understanding oil tanker safety issues is to look at past history. That history clearly shows that oil tankers have been travelling safely along the British Columbia coast for many years. That is not to say there is a zero risk of an accident. Nothing in life is without some risk. The key is to balance risk against the reward, to find out what are the benefits and then to manage those risks.
Allow me to explain what our government is doing to avoid those risks and to ensure that those risks are handled effectively when an event occurs.
There is currently a tanker exclusion zone in place, which protects the most vulnerable parts of our west coast. That is something the NDP never mentions. This exclusion zone applies to all loaded trans-Alaska pipeline tankers travelling southbound between Alaska and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. As a result of this agreement, U.S. tanker ships stay between 25 and 75 miles off the B.C. coast.
Southbound laden tankers are required to report to the Canadian vessel traffic system and immediately if they develop any defect of deficiency which impairs the progress of that vessel. It is important to note that the establishment of the tanker exclusion zone was never intended or designed to absolutely prohibit all tanker traffic or tankers calling in Canadian ports.
Over 1,000 tankers each year comply with and respect the tanker exclusion zone. There have been no reports of non-compliance. Additionally, at least once a year, Transport Canada inspects each and every tanker that arrives in a B.C. port. It has the authority to detain a ship if it is deemed a risk. When ships do pollute our waters, the Government of Canada takes a zero tolerance policy. Canada has a strict liability approach to these kinds of pollution offences.
Transport Canada investigates all reported incidents of ship-sourced marine pollution. Whenever there is sufficient evidence, the department follows up with enforcement action. Such action can include prosecution of the marine polluters, as well as the levying of administrative monetary penalties.
Just to be clear, although there is a federal moratorium in place on the west coast that applies to oil and natural gas exploration and related development, that moratorium does not apply to the storage or movement of tankers, and it should not. With respect to tanker traffic, our government has no plans to remove or change the 1988 exclusion zone on tankers travelling between Alaska and Washington State. We have made that clear time after time. We believe this exclusion represents sound environmental policy and protects the most vulnerable areas of our coast.
I will review for a moment Canada's historical response to tragedies, such as the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska and perhaps the Nestucca spill in Washington state.
In June 1989, Canada's federal government appointed the public review panel on tanker safety and marine spills response capability, also known as the Brander-Smith panel. That panel's work resulted in the creation of the Canadian marine oil spill preparedness and response regime. Building on that success, considerable planning work was undertaken by the Canadian Coast Guard and Environment Canada, in consultation with the private sector, to encourage the development of a private sector funded response strategy. Shortly thereafter, the Shipping Act was amended to implement improvements to Canada's oil spill response capability.
To further safeguard our coastal waters, Transport Canada and the coast guard enforce a policy that tankers of over 40,000 dead-weight tonnes are not permitted to use the inside passage but will instead be directed to the outside route for north-south transit. Furthermore, Port Metro Vancouver requires all loaded tankers entering Burrard Inlet and Indian Arm to be escorted by tugs as they navigate toward the oil terminals. They also require mandatory pilotage zones where tankers are required to take onboard a marine pilot with local knowledge before entering a harbour or busy waterway, such as the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Certain vessels operating in Canadian waters are monitored and guided by the Canadian Coast Guard's Marine Communications and Traffic Services centres. The Government of Canada has also taken steps to increase surveillance and tracking of marine traffic, including the implementation of mandatory automatic identification systems.
Let us put all of this into perspective. The demand for oil is growing around the world, especially from countries such as China. Oil refining activity takes place on B.C.'s coast for both domestic and international consumption. The movement of oil occurs primarily through the ports of Vancouver, Prince Rupert and Kitimat. In the last five years, over 1,300 tankers have arrived in Port Metro Vancouver and 187 have arrived in the ports of Kitimat and Prince Rupert.
Interestingly enough, since 2003, there have been about 475,000 vessel movements per year on the west coast, yet tankers accounted for only 0.3 of 1% of this traffic in the 2008-09 fiscal year. Tankers have been involved in only five shipping incidents on the west coast since 2003, not one of which resulted in pollution to our coast. Indeed, the only significant oil spill on the west coast did not come from a tanker at all, but from the B.C. ferry, Queen of the North, when it sank in 2006.
In conclusion, Transport Canada remains confident that the Canada Shipping Act and its regulations, and their regional policies and procedures, have demonstrated their effectiveness on the west coast. Despite an extensive coastline, B.C. has enjoyed an enviable safety and environmental record.
The long and short of it is that the world's demand for oil and gas continues to grow. Canada happens to be one of the world's energy superpowers and the world is beating a path to our doorstep in order to acquire our resources. Much of our future prosperity depends on Canada's ability to grow its markets and to safely and efficiently get those resources to its customers. What has made Canada's west coast and Pacific gateway even more important to our national prosperity is the dramatic growth of economic opportunities in places such as China and India. Tankers are an indispensable way of getting our resources out to those markets.
The question remains: Can tankers safety use our west coast shipping lanes? History and experience show that, in Canada at least, the answer is yes. The answer is yes provided that we continue to focus on a number of key priorities. It is that balance I spoke about earlier in my speech.
Those priorities are, first of all, exclusion zones for the most vulnerable areas of our coast; second, a robust monitoring and enforcement scheme; third, tough laws and regulations relating to tanker traffic along our coast; and finally, a high degree of co-operation and collaboration among the various stakeholders in maintaining a high level of emergency preparedness.
I believe those priorities are being met and that it is possible to secure the future prosperity of our country by ensuring the safe passage of tanker traffic through Canadian waters.
What the Leader of the Opposition made very clear was that there needed be other elements to a forward-going policy to deal with oil spills and other components of protecting marine parks.
It is not ironic. It is directly contradictory to the spirit of the people of British Columbia in their role as stewards of their own area, as with other people of Canada, which has become more and more equated with this particular test of Canadians and their representatives in terms of what is lacking in the current environment here in Ottawa.
In fact, there needs to be a party in government that can do sustainable development, not pose, as so many members of the government have, fake, false trade-offs. Somehow every time there is any kind of implication for someone's economic bottom line, the government thinks the environment needs to be traded off, sold off, hived off and utilized in that favour.
What Canadians are starting to awaken to is that is a view that not only harms our environment unnecessarily and robs the next generation of the utilization of the air, land and water, but it is actually bad economics, bad planning and poor for jobs.
Sustainable development actually means reconciling those interests, coming up with one answer that works on the economic and environmental sides of the equation wherever possible.
When we look at the circumstance of the coast, the Great Spirit Bear Rainforest, which so many people have worked to have as a protected area, being right there and affected, and when we look at the very first baby steps that have happened in terms of marine protection, right in that nearby area, in terms of Canada's first marine park, we realize that the trade-offs being proposed by the kind of wide open acceptance and defence being made of the acceptance of tanker traffic by the people opposite just does not meet the test of any form of reasonableness.
We start to see what some of the deficiencies are in terms of how the government is not able to represent all Canadians and is not able to make these decisions in a way that will actually benefit this generation and the next.
When we look at the area and we see the kind of existing and potential growth from both fishing and eco-tourism and we see the number of jobs attached there, between 25,000 and 50,000, depending on how wide an area of impact we want to talk about, compared to the 1,100 that might be created by the acceptance of this tanker traffic, we have to ask ourselves where the economic case is.
Who on the other side is making the economic case to put those kinds of jobs in jeopardy in a fragile ecosystem, which has been recognized by every scientific and biological expert, that would not withstand a major oil spill?
We had some blithe assurances from the about the preparedness of Canada because nothing has gone wrong yet. Perhaps we will hear a little more objectively from Environmental Commissioner on oil spills and Canada's capacity to deal with them next week. We will see what that looks like.
I would just like to let people know that the last major oil spill in Spain was some 60,000 tonnes. Canada's preparedness is only for 10,000 tonnes. It is delegated, south of 60, to the private sector. It is not the capacity of the coast guard or anyone else to be able to respond. Anybody who watched the struggles that the United States went through in the gulf must have a concern.
Let us come back to the premise that being prepared for an oil spill in an ecologically sensitive zone like that is not sufficient reason to go ahead. The onus on lifting a 37-year moratorium or ban is on the government to make the proof for that.
The fact that the government came so woefully unprepared today to make a case on behalf of this and is still, based on the tenor of the remarks we have heard so far, going to oppose this motion, gives people an idea of the kind of reckless government we have in place. It seems to be here to serve a narrow base of interest. It is not willing to look at the facts nor is it willing to release the facts.
I would like to believe that the ad hominem attack of the member for is totally unacceptable. I would like it if each member of this House would concede that each hon. member has to be treated with civility and respect. To call into question his decision, after a career of public service, serving this House, and calling into question his motives by defining his particular reasons for quitting differently than he did simply because the member was unprepared for this debate, is utterly unacceptable and beneath the government's position, putting him in a lead position to do that.
I would like to think that some of the future members who speak for the government will repudiate that, that we honour our members, perhaps not as much when they are here, but certainly when they have put in that kind of time and with that kind of unmatched integrity. That integrity extends to that member's support and the other British Colombian members' support of the official opposition for this particular initiative.
This is something where people have worked hard, have engaged people on and will continue to do that, working with the members of any other caucus who want to actually grapple with some of Canada's challenges. It does not just go to some book somewhere and they are all answered for them or it takes a phone call from someone's office and then goes accordingly.
That demeans the House. This debate reached that territory. I, frankly, find it perhaps an accurate reflection of where the government wants to go with this particular debate.
The capacity that we need is to be able to prevent and protect our environment. It is our current health, our children's heritage and in issue after issue on matters of the environment there has been nobody home. We have a part-time minister today. We do not even have someone giving thorough attention to matters of the environment.
We have unmet commitment after unmet commitment. We have the Government of Canada in wholesale retreat right across the country, from research in the Arctic on climate change to the impacts of the oil sands. We cannot find a federal official working for Environment Canada in Fort McMurray today. Regardless of how we look at the facts of that particular set of projects, the biggest environmental challenge in the country, and there is nobody home for the federal government.
When we talk about the ability and the capacity of the government to give us a fair hearing today, I guess we should not be surprised that instead we have had ad hominem attacks and a very loose association with the facts. We think this is too sensitive an area to permit those very tricky navigable waters, as the lead speaker today put forward, to navigate with oil tankers and expose that kind of spill.
All kinds of experts agree. The government should come forward with opposing facts rather than to put Canadians in that kind of risk for the kind of legacy that is at risk there. There are 2,500 different salmon runs and all kinds of special species that are there that the government should be seeing as part of its job in the particular responsibility it has for now of governing to look after.
It is not just an absence of balance. It is an absence of accepting responsibility to make these reconciliations, to listen to all Canadians and, in this case, in particular British Columbians because, as is so often the case with environmental matters, they are a little ahead of the rest of the country and they certainly know the difference in terms of the trade-offs.
For members of the government to try to lecture the House that this is somehow a great economic expense and therefore everything should be permitted simply shows how out of touch they are. I think British Columbians will be very alert to the fact that there is no one on the government side, not one member from British Columbia or anywhere else, who is prepared to put on the table a balanced view to say what kind of environmental protections they are ready to offer.
What we have heard so far today are these blithe assurances that if messes are made they can be cleaned up flies in the face of the recent experiences of what happens with oil spills in these kinds of areas. It is hard to navigate some of those waters. It can be hazard for larger tankers. We heard somebody say that they are no longer single hulled, but double hulled tankers have oil spills as well. In fact, one of the latest oil spills concerned one of those types of boats.
The UN Convention on Biological Diversity was mentioned by the member for . When he did that he was talking about a fact. The Conservative government was awarded a dodo award from the international community, from the collection of 194 nations from the not for profit sector. They looked at who was helping and who was hurting when it came to the protection of wildlife and our natural resources and decided that Canada was doing the worst job, that it actually stood in the way of an agreement, that it was preventing reference to the UN recognition of the rights of aboriginal people being in a sharing of resources for first nations.
It is ironic, or perhaps appropriate in that perverse kind of way, that the government's representatives have stood and tried to attack the person who called them on this particular part of its track record, a government that said in its throne speech that it would recognize those rights, stood in the way and helped to water down the language.
Today we are talking about the first nations as much as we are about our overall stewardship, with the vast number of coastal beds already having come out against this, the grassroots of the proposed pipelines are saying that this is something they do not want to do.
The member for , who spoke earlier, did not reference the utter failure of benefit-sharing for first nations and aboriginal people. I have spent time in Fort McMurray, and anyone who wishes can find the do-it-yourself environmentalism and the do-it-yourself aboriginal rights that the government has left in the footprint of one of the biggest economic undertakings this country has ever seen. It is shameful and embarrassing, and no rightful government should show up in this place without making commitments to fix it.
To propose some other kind of project without some due regard for what aboriginal rights should mean, for every Canadian who sits at home and wonders what combination of things it would take to offer and extend just the same citizenship rights to every first nation and aboriginal person in this country, surely access to the economic benefits, on their terms and in their own backyard, should be part of it. For people to simply say that they will impose yet another project on top of that against their will is simply untenable.
Reference has been made to the Exxon Valdez and the things that we should have learned. This is the exact same territory, some of the same coastline, not very far away, that would be affected. We will find out next week, when the Environmental Commissioner reports, where Canada actually sits. However, from the standpoint of some of the people who have looked at it, there are aspects of what we are doing that are severely outdated, that are not in touch with modern needs, and it is under that regime that some of this stuff would be proposed to go forward.
The Convention on Biological Diversity, which Canada did sign but did not help to create, requires us to protect 10% of our marine coastal environment. We only have half a per cent now. It is reckless of us to consider putting hazardous and high-risk projects like this into operation when we have not figured out how by 2020 we will have these protected areas.
The idea that we should put tanker traffic in close proximity to the area that we have already designated, that has been conceded by the government to have special properties, shows Canadians the kind of choice they have. The government is prepared to put a very little bit of our natural heritage under a bell jar and then leave all the rest of it to wide open exploitation.
The point of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity is how we look after all of our natural resources. The motion today will be a test for how well Canada does. It picked up the dodo award internationally but the question is whether the government will wear a dodo award today. Will it really stand here today against the expressed will of all the first nations that are affected, against the public will of British Columbians, in terms of wanting to have a ban on tanker traffic on this part of their coast?
What we have, from any of the participants here, is straightforward, basically very honest facts put forward. Will the government stop referring to distracting things? It talks about a tanker exclusion zone that only has to do with the tanker traffic going up to Alaska. It has nothing to do with the northwest coast zone that we are talking about.
The government talks about five, six, seven, eight times and letters to the editor and so on. It talks about drilling moratoriums. What it will not talk about is whether it will ban tankers in a highly sensitive ecological zone of Canada. That is what this motion is about. All the rest of it is obfuscation that should be beneath this House.
We are seeing the government revert to these kinds of ways in committee and in this House. If it can get in the way of debate and get in the way of public understanding that seems to suffice.
The very arrogance of that toward Canadians, and British Columbians in this case, is breathtaking. The government really feels it has the capacity to manipulate, sidestep, and not bear the burden and responsibility of actually governing by coming forward with its position on the facts and showing Canadians where it is coming from when it comes to meeting the challenges of sustainable development.
We have been very clear that we will have an independent review of Canada's capacity on oil spills. We will start where the environment commissioner is able to take us. We will make sure Canada has the capacity to deal with our existing challenges.
We will have a ban on drilling in the Arctic. That is a place where, under current technology, we simply cannot reconcile what is going to happen. We will maintain this tanker ban and put it in legislative form so the ambiguity is missing.
We will put forward the capacity to have this debate and discussion. Each time one of these challenges comes forward, we will better understand, as we should, what some of our responsibilities are.
Per capita, Canadians are the biggest stewards of nature in the world. We have more of the world's resources on a population basis than anyone else. There is no excuse but laziness or disregard for that responsibility that we should not be the best at it. This debate today should be honoured by people's best efforts.
We have put forward a position. We have researched it and talked to all the people who are connected with us. Everybody had an opportunity a few days ago to meet with people at a reception. The has taken a very specific and strong position that I think is generating a great deal of debate, but that debate needs to be fairly met.
I would say to all members of this House that we need to exhibit for British Columbians, and for all Canadians, that we are able to bring forward these issues in a distinctive way. Nobody is going to be assured that we are able to handle an oil spill and therefore we should allow tanker traffic. That is not even at the lowest end of the scale of the kind of standard Canadians expect from us when it comes to managing our environment.
We have an arrangement now that allows Canada to export its products. There is capacity elsewhere to grow that. The economic side is fairly well protected. There may be a particular interest and a particular proposal that has to be denied, but in the interests of Canada's overall well-being, really sustainable development, it should be denied. There should be a tanker ban.
Mr. Speaker, I thank my Bloc Québécois colleague and my NDP colleague for their warm welcome.
I am pleased to speak today on this opposition day to discuss an NDP motion. I want to take a few seconds to read the motion before us:
That, in the opinion of the House, the government should immediately propose legislation to ban bulk oil tanker traffic in the Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound as a way to protect the West Coast's unique and diverse ocean ecosystem, to preserve the marine resources which sustain the community and regional economies of British Columbia, and to honour the extensive First Nations rights and title in the area.
First of all, I would like to say that we will support this opposition motion for several reasons. First, we cannot have economic development without considering the people who live in or near marine areas. The first nations were quick to oppose oil tanker traffic. These communities, which are the primary residents and inhabitants in the area, feel that this type of transport and oil tanker traffic could have a considerable impact on them. Furthermore, nearly 80% of the population of British Columbia is against oil tanker traffic in this coastal area. The people of British Columbia and all first nations clearly want us to take action to avoid increasing oil tanker traffic.
Why are we here debating this motion today? First, because Enbridge, a large multinational oil company, plans on building two pipelines to transport oil from the oil sands in Alberta from a terminal to a port complex in British Columbia. Two pipelines approximately 1,170 kilometres in length will link the oil terminal in Alberta to the port terminal in Kitimat, British Columbia.
This will mean that once Alberta has produced oil from the oil sands and it has been transported through the pipeline to the port in British Columbia, it will then be exported. On average, tanker traffic will increase by approximately 225 ships a year. So, 225 ships will be transporting crude oil that is destined, most likely, for Asian markets.
Essentially, it is a question of economics, but we need to look beyond that. We need to recognize that the Pacific coast and this marine area are fragile. In nearby marine areas, the government has created national marine reserves to protect these areas of high biodiversity.
Today we are having a hard time understanding the government's attitude. It seems to be talking out of both sides of its mouth in terms of a moratorium on tanker traffic. Why are we having trouble understanding?
It is because the environment minister told us a couple of months ago that this zone is fragile and rich in biodiversity and that it must be protected. Today, the Conservative government is refusing to take a clear position, while the environment minister is announcing that protected world reserves are a huge step forward in the protection of biodiversity and incredible resources.
On the other hand, our government wants to ensure that oil from the oil sands finds an export market, from north to south and east to west. It is not true that we will accept putting oil interests first. The people want this ban and it is necessary in order to protect our ecosystems. Over the last number of years, particularly in the port of Vancouver in British Columbia, there has been an increase in tanker traffic. I looked at some numbers. Between 2008 and 2009 alone, there was a 48% increase in the number of oil tankers. That represents a 77% increase in the volume of crude oil transported. In that period, tanker traffic increased by 48% and the volume of oil transported increased by 77%. There has already been an increase in traffic, but the public wants a ban on it.
We need to think about this, because there is a rich biodiversity in the zones that border on the zones mentioned in the motion. For instance, there is the Straight of Georgia, the stretch of sea between Vancouver Island and mainland British Columbia, which is home to 200 species of fish, five species of wild salmon and 500 species of marine plants. This rich biodiversity must be protected because that is what communities want.
Basically, we know that this zone, including the Burrard Inlet among others, is one of the main gateways for transporting the oil and, as I said, the rich biodiversity there must be protected. It needs to be protected because shipping traffic has increased 48%, and this is raising some concerns among the local population and local and municipal authorities.
A few months ago, in response to the increase in tanker traffic I mentioned earlier, the mayor of North Vancouver, Darrell Mussatto, said:
We hope we never have to deal with anything like what is happening in the Gulf of Mexico.
It seems that economic pressure on ports and ecosystems is growing. This has to slow down. When it comes to shale gas development in Quebec, our artists have said, “Wait a minute.” Indeed, we can only go so far so fast. Seeing as how there has been a 48% increase in traffic and two more pipelines are going to be built, which will bring an average of 225 oil tankers a year to these fragile zones, the precautionary principle must prevail. This precautionary principle should help us ensure that all necessary guarantees will be given to the public. We are saying this for environmental as well as economic reasons. The people of Îles-de-la-Madeleine are facing the same reality as the people of British Columbia regarding oil tanker traffic and oil and gas development.
Mr. Speaker, I toured maritime Quebec this fall. What did the people in the Gaspé and the Magdalen Islands have to say? An industry that causes so much pollution should not be favoured over our fishery and local economy.
Quebec's coastal areas are built upon exactly the same foundation as British Columbia's. And what is that foundation? The fishing and tourism industries. I have some figures here. On the Pacific coast, 13,000 jobs are related to commercial fishing, which generates $1.7 billion in revenue. Ten thousand jobs are related to the cruise ship industry and recreational tourism. Since the local economy is essentially based on these two industries, why would we want to run the risk of moving backward?
History speaks of the catastrophic effects of oil spills. I am thinking of the considerable costs associated with the Exxon Valdez disaster, which totalled between $3 billion and $9 billion.
Why would we risk jeopardizing local communities? This would merely be an attempt to satisfy the insatiable needs of an industry that contributes to the increase in greenhouse gas emissions. And how many long-term jobs would this project create? According to Enbridge, the company that wants to build these two pipelines, 200 long-term positions would be created. And yet there are already 13,000 jobs in the fishing industry and 10,000 jobs in the tourism industry. Are we going to risk sacrificing 23,000 existing jobs for 200 long-term positions in a polluting industry? The answer is clear; the answer is no.
Who will ultimately pay in the event of an oil spill? In theory, and Enbridge will agree, Enbridge will take full responsibility. In practice, in the event of an oil spill, Enbridge's responsibility is limited to land. In the event of an oil spill, shipping companies are responsible. There is indeed a compensation fund, but it limits redress to $140 million. If the disaster is on a larger scale—like the Exxon Valdez catastrophe, which caused between $3.5 billion and $9 billion in damage—the Canadian government, therefore all Canadians, will be on the hook. What is Enbridge's responsibility in that case? It has no responsibility, but the cost is passed on to the public.
Most importantly, we need to ensure that this ecosystem is protected. It needs to be protected because of the unique conditions in this region mentioned in the motion. We know that in the event of an oil spill, it will be impossible to clean up the entire affected site. Cleanup is limited to roughly 15% of the area; the rest of the oil is left behind.
Another important aspect is the climate conditions in the area mentioned in the motion. This area is quite unique. It experiences high winds and that needs to be taken into consideration. We know that with winds of over 45 km/h it becomes impossible to clean up sites. That is precisely the average wind speed calculated over the past few years in the area mentioned in the motion.
We have to take these factors into consideration. We must also take into consideration that in the winter in this area, we cannot guarantee cleanup in the event of an oil spill.
This is also the case in the Arctic. In the event of a spill, we cannot guarantee that cleanup operations will take place during the winter. This is another factor to be taken into consideration when making decisions. We also have to consider the strength of the winds, winter conditions, the fragility of the ecosystems and the threat to some economic sectors, such as fishing and tourism. And why, exactly?
The production of oil sands oil transported by this pipeline will increase greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, 6.5 megatonnes of GHG emissions will be produced by the construction of this pipeline. That is equivalent to 1.6 million cars on our roads.
This puts local economies and biodiversity at risk, contributes to increased greenhouse gas emissions, makes the rich even richer, and economically consolidates an energy position we do not want. In the end, our taxes and accelerated write-offs will help pay for the associated construction and infrastructure.
Canada does not have a green tax system. On the contrary, the oil industry receives subsidies through more than 50 programs even though the government told the OECD and the G20 summit that it would eliminate this assistance. But no, through tax incentives we will help fund the development and construction of the pipeline infrastructure.
In closing, we must remember that local populations want to preserve the biodiversity of their environment and strengthen their economy. We must respect the wishes of the population and the first nations if we want to continue to hand down to future generations resources they can continue to use, with a view to sustainable development. For these reasons we will support the motion before us.
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for . I would like to thank the Bloc member for his remarks and especially for his support. There are sometimes profound differences between our parties, but we tend to agree on subjects like this.
I would like to begin my remarks by reading today's opposition motion by the member for .
That, in the opinion of the House, the government should immediately propose legislation to ban bulk oil tanker traffic in [a number of places on British Columbia's west coast] as a way...to preserve the marine resources which sustain the community and regional economies of British Columbia, and to honour the extensive First Nations rights and title in the area.
The commission chaired by Gro Harlem Brundtland produced the famous report entitled Our Common Future for the United Nations. It defined sustainable development as the obligation of every government to consider the effect that all of our actions will have on future generations. Every time a government has to deal with a problem, it has to take into account economic considerations, of course, but also social considerations and, most importantly, environmental considerations.
If one thing has become increasingly clear, it is that the obligation to consider environmental, economic and social elements has been anything but a priority over the past few years in Canada. Yes, things got worse when the Conservatives took power, but let us look at the facts with respect to the Liberals. While in power, they signed the Kyoto protocol. Then, during their 13 years in power, they were responsible for the largest increase in greenhouse gas emissions of all Kyoto signatories. That is why we now get very suspicious when the Liberals say that they understand the merits of this proposal.
In 1972, British Columbia's New Democratic government—led by Premier Barrett—asked Ottawa to impose a moratorium. The Liberals, who were in power, agreed to do so but never put it in writing. It was never put down on paper, and that is a fact. That lasted a few years, but then in the 1980s, a right-wing government wanted to lift the moratorium, and everyone was worried. The only good thing to come out of the Exxon Valdez tragedy was that after the accident, the government abandoned any thought of letting oil tankers near British Columbia's coastline.
As I recall, even Eddie Goldenberg, former chief of staff to Jean Chrétien, said in a famous speech in the spring of 2008 in London, Ontario, that the Liberals had signed the Kyoto protocol purely for public relations purposes. His exact words were, “to galvanize public opinion”. That is about as cynical as can be. The Liberals signed the Kyoto protocol for PR purposes, but they never followed through on it. As the current leader of the Liberal Party said to the previous leader of that party, “They didn't get it done.”
It is true that the Liberals cannot be trusted when it comes to the environment. They will always signal a left turn, but turn to the right. They will always present themselves as great defenders of the environment and serve up fine speeches. They had the chance to really do something when they were in power, yet they did nothing.
My colleague who will speak after me today, the hon. member for , like the Acting Speaker and like my colleague who moved the motion, the hon. member for , is from British Columbia. These people know the local geography and the extremely fragile nature of the ecosystems in question, and they will be able to tell us more about them. In the few minutes I enjoy here today, my speech will deal mainly with the three aspects of sustainable development.
I will focus on the economic aspect. I am the NDP finance critic. In response to a question, the Bloc Québécois member who spoke right before me referred to something known as Dutch disease.
It is interesting to note that Andrew Nikiforuk's book on oil sands was just translated into French. I must admit, I had the honour of writing the foreword for the French version. When I was writing it, I again concentrated on the economic aspect because the book gives an extraordinary account of all the social and environmental considerations. Of course, it also touches on the economic aspect, as we are doing.
I really want us to look at this aspect. All too often, the environment and the economy are seen as opposites. The Conservative and Liberal arguments are outdated, including these: progress cannot be stopped; the economy has to grow, no matter what; and are you against job creation?
I submit that the entire debate is false. My colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley spoke about this earlier when he talked about the Enbridge pipelines. That same company, need I remind the House, seriously damaged the Kalamazoo River in the United States not long ago. After Enbridge guaranteed the U.S. government that the pipeline would not pose a problem, that river in Michigan was contaminated. It is the same company.
Before letting them begin playing with these ecosystems, we must examine the past. We should pause, take a step back, and look at the effect this is having on our economy in general.
In the summer of 2006, Statistics Canada published a report. It was rather odd to see Statistics Canada on the defensive. It reported that Canada was not suffering from Dutch disease.
For our audience at home, here is the abridged version. In the Netherlands in the 1960s, large offshore gas reserves were discovered. They thought this discovery would result in a huge windfall for the country. They were right about that. However, they had not predicted one thing: the influx of foreign currency had a large impact on its currency at the time, the guilder. The value of the Dutch currency spiked and paradoxically caused great harm to the economy of the Netherlands, because it was increasingly difficult to export the goods manufactured in that European country.
Two years later, the same organization—Statistics Canada—was forced to change its tune. In 2008—before the current crisis hit, it should be noted—Statistics Canada had to report that its 2006 statement was wrong because, in the four-year-period between 2004 and 2008, Canada had lost 322,000 manufacturing jobs, mainly in Ontario and Quebec, the industrial heartland of Canada.
These were jobs with salaries high enough to support a family. Given the nature of this sector's structure, these jobs often came with a retirement pension.
When it comes to sustainable development, it is easy to think first and foremost of the environment. However, sustainable development actually involves all the obligations that we are in the process of dumping on future generations.
When we replace a well-paid job in the industrial sector with a job in the service industry that pays $12 an hour and does not have a retirement pension, we are burdening future generations with the responsibility of taking care of hundreds of thousands of people who, when they reach the age of retirement, will not have enough money to take care of themselves because they do not have pensions. This is part of the challenge. Sustainable development includes not only environmental and social considerations, but also economic considerations.
Moreover, as the motion indicates, there already is economic activity off the coast of British Columbia. This is the same false argument and the same false dichotomy between jobs and the environment that we heard when I signed the ban on seismic testing in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
People were saying that I wanted to prevent them from conducting exploration. I said that was not the case and that we were going to do things right so those who were already making a living in industries that might be affected would not have to suffer any long-term, negative effects of what some people wanted to do.
The problem is that the Conservative government's activities and choices are destabilizing the balanced economy that we have been working to build since the second world war. Going ahead with the proposed action and allowing oil tankers off the coast of British Columbia will serve only to exacerbate this economic, social and environmental problem.
Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Outremont for sharing his time with me today.
Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member for for bringing forward this very important opposition day motion.
This has certainly been an issue with the NDP for 40 years. We were very happy to hear that, although they are Johnny-come-latelies, the Liberals and the Bloc are now willing to join with us on something that the NDP has been fighting for.
It is important to note that it was the Dave Barrett NDP government back in 1972, freshly elected as the first NDP government in British Columbia, that pushed for this moratorium and was able to succeed in pushing the federal government at the time to announce it. However, what we have seen subsequently, and what the member from said so eloquently earlier, are Liberal and Conservative governments trying to undermine that moratorium.
The reality is that in looking at the impact of just one accident, the Exxon Valdez, over 20 years later we are still talking about nearly 2,000 species that have not fully recovered. We talk about the fact that the environment continues to be impacted a generation after that accident.
We then have to wonder what the Conservatives are thinking in trying to bring hundreds of ships that are monster tankers, twice as large as the Exxon Valdez, to the B.C. coast. It is absolutely absurd that anyone would contemplate something that could be so destructive to the B.C. economy, whether we are talking about tourism, the fisheries, or other industries within our natural resources. To contemplate that a government would seriously consider bringing monster tankers to the coast is something that defies reason.
What we have heard so far from Conservative speakers in this House is that they are very clearly contemplating this incredibly risky, imprudent action. That is why it is so important that the member from has brought this forward today. Of course, NDP members in this House will all be standing together to vote for this motion and to push the government to introduce legislation.
In a very real sense, we talk about B.C.'s alienation from the Conservatives, which is so manifest to the Conservative Party itself that it is refusing to call a byelection in Prince George—Peace River. It is doing a great disrespect to the people in northern British Columbia, since other byelections have been held. However, the Conservative Party has been holding off on Prince George—Peace River for the simple reason that it knows there is going to be a backlash for a whole number of reasons that I will get into in a moment. We have been saying all along to hold that byelection, but it is refusing to do so.
Why would that be?
Part of it is the broken promises. British Columbians remember, of course, that when the Conservative Party was running for election it said it would provide support on leaky condos. That was a promise to British Columbians that it promptly betrayed after forming government.
We also have the pine beetle epidemic and the fact that this government continues to use smoke and mirrors in announcing funds but never paying out. In fact, some estimates have been that only 10% to 20% of the pine beetle funding has actually been paid out to support the communities across British Columbia that have been impacted by this epidemic.
The Conservative government keeps churning around money that it is not willing to pay out, even though it is certainly willing to pay out tens of billions of dollars to their friends on Bay Street, to the banking industry and to the big energy industry.
Of course, we have seen the Conservative government's lack of action with the collapse of the salmon fishery. We do have a fourth year of the cycle that took place this year that continues to maintain a healthy fishery's return of sockeye salmon, but we have not seen any substantial increase in resources allocated to rebuild the fisheries in British Columbia.
Those are broken promises, but I think it is more important to talk about the pending third strike against the Conservatives in B.C.
The first strike was the softwood lumber sellout. In this corner of the House, the NDP was the only party who actually read the agreement, spoke out about the agreement and knew that it would cost thousands upon thousands of B.C. jobs. Yet Conservatives from B.C. helped to push something through that was enormously destructive to our softwood lumber industry.
It is well documented. If we go back in Hansard, we will see New Democrats speaking up against that. The Liberals and the Bloc, sadly, supported this Conservative initiative. What happened is exactly what we predicted: the loss of tens of thousands of jobs in British Columbia and a permanent restructuring that has led to massive raw log exports. So British Columbia logs are now fuelling jobs in the United States, thanks to the Conservatives.
The second strike is even more reprehensible; that is, forcing the HST on British Columbians. That is why, as I mentioned earlier, the Conservatives are so scared to call a byelection in Prince George--Peace River. They simply know that what was a solid Conservative riding is not anymore, because in the Peace River region particularly--
I hear some Conservatives denouncing Peace River people and Prince George people. I would say, do not show contempt for people from Prince George and Peace River, because those individuals, those British Columbians, have the right to parliamentary representation. They have the right to call for a byelection, as many residents of that area have. It is simply disrespectful to British Columbians in northern B.C. that the government refuses to hold a byelection there, even though it wanted to hold byelections in Ontario and in Manitoba.
Of course, the HST is--
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
happens to be in British Columbia. I would like members to know that. The member for would lead the House to believe that there are no safety regulations and no oversight of marine traffic on the B.C. coast. My presentation will dispel this false perception.
Transport Canada is the lead federal department responsible for ship-source pollution. The department uses a number of measures to prevent ship-source spills, including regulations, enforcement of regulations through its inspection regime and surveillance, just to name a few.
While oil tankers have been transiting safely along British Columbia's coast for many years, Transport Canada ensures operators comply with the latest in vessel construction standards such as double hulling requirements for tankers, the International Safety Management code and mandatory port state control inspections if visiting a Canadian port. It ensures that they carry onboard shipboard oil pollution emergency plans and maintain an arrangement with a certified response organization in Canada in case of a pollution incident or threat of a pollution incident.
The 2001 Canada Shipping Act and its associated regulations and standards demand that the vessel owners operate well constructed and maintained vessels, crew those vessels with professional certified seafarers, have a safety management system onboard and maintain an appropriate level of preparedness at all times.
Transport Canada recognizes that because of the international nature of shipping, action to improve safety and pollution prevention in marine operations is most effectively carried out at an international level through the IMO. Global standards established at the IMO are prescribed in regulations under the 2001 Canada Shipping Act and apply to all vessels operating in waters under Canadian jurisdiction. In certain cases, stricter environment controls than the global standards may be required and implemented in our domestic regulations.
The provisions in annex I of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, also known as MARPOL, have been incorporated into Canadian legislation through the regulations for the prevention of pollution from ships and for dangerous chemicals under the Canada Shipping Act, 2001. Transport Canada establishes regulations under the act and also under the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act. Canadian ships must be built, maintained and operated according to regulations that help to prevent accidents and oil spills at sea.
Transport Canada's ship inspections are also an important means to prevent spills from ships. The department's marine safety inspectors board and inspect foreign ships at Canadian ports regularly. Those that do not meet safety standards are detained until their deficiencies have been corrected.
As per an International Maritime Organization agreement, Transport Canada has established regulations and standards requiring tankers to have double hulls, following international focus on mitigating the risk of oil pollution in the event of a tanker running aground.
These requirements are based on tanker tonnage, the year built and a phase-in schedule. As of January 1, 2010, all tankers except those less than 5,000 dead-weight tonnes built before July 1993 must be of double-hulled construction.
In addition to the double-hull requirements, under Canada's port state control program, Transport Canada inspects foreign ships and that includes tankers in Canadian ports.
The international port state control agreement requires Transport Canada to inspect 25% of all foreign vessels visiting Canadian ports by way of a port state control inspection.
Transport Canada also has a national policy that requires each region to inspect 100% of all tankers coming into ports on their first visit and at least once a year thereafter.
In the past five years, Transport Canada inspected 390 tankers and 1,600 other vessels in the ports of Vancouver, Prince Rupert and Kitimat.
Aerial surveillance by Transport Canada over all Canadian waters allows for detection of pollution from ships. Under the national aerial surveillance program, crews help to enforce domestic and international laws and gather evidence against polluters so that charges can be laid under the regulations. Regular aerial surveillance is a widely recognized and effective deterrent that reduces oil discharges in our waters, because potential polluters are aware that Canada has heightened surveillance.
During the last two years, crews observed some 11,000 vessels, more than 100 pollution sightings, of which approximately 20 were from ships, and just over 8,000 litres of oil on the ocean surface, a significant decrease compared to the two previous years. Three marine polluters were prosecuted in fiscal year 2008-09 as a result of the evidence gathered under the national aerial surveillance program. This demonstrates Transport Canada's commitment to the prevention of ship-source pollution.
In the Arctic, enforcement occurs through aerial surveillance reports from government ships and reporting through the long-range identification and tracking system, which automatically transmits and identifies the positions of vessels to authorities. Larger ships that intend to enter Canada's northern waters must report their position under the northern Canada vessel traffic services zones regulations.
Transport Canada works with pilotage authorities across Canada, which are responsible for providing safe, reliable and efficient marine pilotage services at ports in all geographic areas of the country. On the west coast, the Pacific Pilotage Authority is responsible for British Columbia's coastal waters, including the Fraser River. The authority also has five compulsory pilotage areas in place, where vessels must use certified pilots.
The prevention of oil spills is a priority of Transport Canada. Regulations, standards and programs demonstrate Transport Canada's commitment to prevention as well as preparedness and response capabilities in the unlikely event of a spill.
Madam Speaker, I am happy to be here this morning to address this issue. I am excited when I hear the NDP members defending the jobs in the oil sands. They want to talk about the importance of the jobs in processing and the refining. We know that is being done in Canada, so those jobs are important. However, supporting those jobs also means supporting the jobs of production and supporting the oil sands as they are doing their production.
It is exciting this morning to hear the NDP members finally coming to their senses and realizing the oil sands are a very important part of the Canadian economy and to hear them supporting the oil sands as enthusiastically as they are.
I am pleased to talk about our government's commitment to the safe, responsible development and transportation of Canada's natural resources. Canadians know they can take comfort in the fact that we currently have in place very strong environmental laws, policies and standards for resource development and transportation.
We appreciate the fact that the residents of British Columbia have concerns with respect to the potential environmental impacts of oil tanker traffic off of the northern British Columbia coast. Canadians need to be and should be assured that we already have measures in place to mitigate such risks and have, as our utmost priority, the protection of the public, the communities and the environment. In fact, these measures have been in place for decades.
It was interesting yesterday when I heard the member for at his press conference. He said, “This issue arises every 15 years or so”. He is right about that. We are wondering why, at this time, he would raise it again.
A couple of articles in the media this fall talked about the fact that a lot of U.S. money was being spent here by various environmental organizations. In fact, one of those foundations has funded at least 36 campaign organizations across the United States and Canada. Charities based in California and New York have granted $15 million since 2003, specifically for campaigns against the Alberta oil, against oil tanker traffic and pipelines through British Columbia.
I hate to question the motivations of my colleague across the way, but we need to take a look at where some of the NDP's direction is coming from on this issue.
We know the voluntary tanker routing measure, known as the tanker exclusion zone, is in place off the west coast of British Columbia. The current restriction on tanker traffic, which is voluntary one, was negotiated between Canada and the United States in 1980s.
Under this agreement, tankers carrying crude oil southbound from Alaska voluntarily agreed to travel to ports on the U.S. west coast by taking a route on the Pacific Ocean side of the Haida Gwaii islands in Vancouver Island, thereby maintaining a safe distance, a minimum of 25 miles, from the coast.
However, under federal and provincial laws, tankers have always been free to travel to and from ports in British Columbia. Nevertheless this voluntary approach has been effective in keeping tankers bearing Alaskan crude oil off the British Columbia coast. We intend to keep it that way.
I noted in the media last weekend that some Liberal members of Parliament were now advocating for a ban on tanker traffic. Last weekend's Calgary Sun mentioned that the members for Vancouver South and Vancouver Centre were “joining the call for an oil tanker ban that would prevent the vessels from travelling through B.C.’s coastal waters to the ports of Kitimat and Prince Rupert”. I guess they have changed their mind. As I mentioned, this voluntary exclusion zone has been in place since the 1980s and both of those members were part of the previous government.
In all the years they were here and in government, they never brought forward this policy as one that they wanted to change. The reason the previous government did not change the policy was it served Canadians and it served British Columbians well.
The question then would be, why do those Liberal members oppose it now? Could it be that they are playing some sort of political games with British Columbians?
As members know and Canadians need to realize currently petroleum tankers routinely and safely import and export crude oil and petroleum products through British Columbia ports. For example, and I did not know this until I received this information, the port of Vancouver handles more than five million tonnes of crude oil and petroleum products annually and all types of ships use the Douglas channel to reach Kitimat including tankers.
The only restriction we have in the B.C. offshore is the offshore moratorium on oil and gas exploration development. That moratorium has been in place since the 1970s, when Pierre Trudeau was prime minister, and it applies to offshore oil and gas activity, but does not apply to tanker traffic.
Seeing as how the voluntary exclusion on tanker traffic and the moratorium on offshore oil and gas activity have been effective in ensuring the safety of the public, communities and the environment, our government is not considering changes at this time. Why are the Liberals now opposing some of Pierre Trudeau's policies?
It is important for Canadians to understand that while this motion does not directly mention the proposed Enbridge northern gateway pipeline project, the ban on bulk tankers would effectively shut down this project before any public hearings or independent reviews could take place. Is that the real reason for today's discussion in the House?
The motion could also have some unintended consequences that have not been examined. I am not sure that the authors understand them. It could impact existing tanker traffic, the crucial supply of fuel to northern remote communities and prohibit future projects that would benefit local economies.
We on this side of the House do not think the motion is the responsible approach to resource development and transportation issues.
When it comes to federal energy transportation matters, decisions must be made with the greatest care and only after a thorough examination of all factors. For example, to ensure pipeline safety, all aspects of federal oil and gas pipelines, including safety and security, are regulated by the National Energy Board. This regulation covers the full life cycle of oil and gas pipelines from approval and operations to abandonment.
Proposals for projects to develop pipelines are subject to extensive environmental and regulatory review and permits are only granted once the environmental issues and first nations issues are considered.
Since May 27 of this year, the proposed Enbridge northern gateway pipeline project has been the subject of an application to the National Energy Board. It has been referred by the government to a joint review panel. The joint review panel, which is independent of government, is charged with reviewing the project pursuant to the environmental assessment and regulatory review requirements that are found in the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the National Energy Board Act.
This is the highest level of environmental assessment scrutiny. All issues, including marine shipping issues, will be examined. The panel has received the Enbridge gateway application and is already engaging the public on certain questions.
When the panel determines that an application is ready for public hearings, it will start an open and transparent public review process where any citizen can participate. Participants' funding will be available to facilitate a complete analysis. Approval is not automatic and the outcome should not be taken for granted by anyone.
If the government concludes that the project will cause adverse environmental affects that cannot be justified, the project will not be allowed to proceed. We have made such decisions in the past, but only after a fair hearing has taken place. That is why we are committed to letting this review process go forward.
It is simply a reality that we must responsibly and realistically look at options to ensure we have a sustainable and secure supply of energy now and into the future. The International Energy Agency estimates that 20 years from now, even under the most optimistic scenario for the adoption of alternative fuel sources, fossil fuels will still provide almost 70% of the world's energy demand.
While there is no such thing as zero risk, the safest and most efficient way to deliver these resources is by pipeline. That is why, when there are proposals for new pipelines or extensions of pipelines, all issues and viewpoints are considered. This is certainly the case with respect to the Enbridge northern gateway pipeline. As I mentioned earlier, we have referred this to a joint review panel, the most stringent level of review possible.
Our government will not pretend difficult decisions will not have to be. Instead, we will continue to do the work that is necessary to ensure that the best decisions are made. We will ensure that independent and scientific review form the basis of those decisions.
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
I just listened to the Conservative member say that he would not take any lessons from the NDP, and that is fine because we sort of expected that. However, at the heart of this debate today is whether the Conservative government will take any lessons from the people of B.C. and actually listen to the people of B.C.
I want to thank the member for for bringing forward this excellent motion that would ensure there is legislation to ban bulk oil tanker traffic in the Dixon Entrance. This is something that the member, along with other members of our caucus, has worked on diligently and passionately. There has been broad public discourse in our province over this issue. I thank and congratulate the member for the fine work that he has done.
I would also like to give recognition to Catherine Bell, a former member of this House for Vancouver Island North and who will again be a member of this House. In 2008, Catherine Bell brought forward Bill and introduced legislation to ban tanker traffic in this same area. We are very appreciative of the work that Catherine Bell did on this issue. She is still working on this issue. It is of key interest to people in Vancouver Island North. We know she will be back here to represent those folks very soon.
This motion is very straightforward. When we look at what is at risk here in terms of one of the most pristine, beautiful parts of our planet, our country and certainly in British Columbia, the thought of these massive supertankers carrying this oil from the Enbridge pipeline and the tar sands through this very ecologically and historically sensitive and beautiful area is something that nobody in British Columbia can contemplate. The risks are so high that there is obviously nothing more to be said than that we need to have a legislative ban to make it abundantly clear that this is not acceptable in terms of the risk to our environment and to our local communities.
The motion today does present a very clear choice. When one begins to look at the people who have weighed in on this issue, poll after poll has consistently supported a ban on tanker traffic by as much as 80%. We know the proposed pipeline by Enbridge crosses the territory of more than 50 first nations. That is massive.
We know that coastal first nations made a very important declaration on banning tanker traffic on their traditional territory in March 2010. The Union of B.C. Municipalities, representing many communities, large and small, also passed a resolution at their convention in October. The First Nations Summit Chiefs Assembly passed a resolution also in October. The list goes on and on.
I do believe that part of the debate today is whether the Conservative government is listening to the people of British Columbia. The government was elected by saying that it would be accountable to British Columbians, that we would not experience western alienation and that the people of British Columbia counted.
What has the government done time after time? Let us just think of issues like the HST. I do not remember one Conservative member standing up and saying anything in defence of his or her constituents and how he or she felt about the HST. The Conservatives all ran for cover. They tried to pass it off on the Gordon Campbell Liberals and we saw what happened to him.
That was one example of where the Conservative members of Parliament from British Columbia refused to listen to their constituents in B.C. Let us look at Insite in my community. There has been a groundswell of support for life-saving measures for people who are facing addiction and overdoses. The board of trade, the local police, city council, the Premier of B.C., all supported Insite, along with the local community an, most important, the people who use the facility.
What did the government do? It is taking it all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. It is fighting it every step of the way.
We could look at the destaffing of lighthouses in B.C., where small coastal communities are dependent on this very important service and the staffing of lighthouses, they are now facing another uphill battle in terms of the future of those lighthouses and the staffing that has been there.
We could name issue after issue on which the Conservatives have abandon the people of British Columbia. However, on the issue of supertankers going through this very sensitive area in B.C. is probably the most significant thing that has happened to date. I have to say that Conservative members should be ashamed of themselves for ignoring all of the opinions and strong feelings out there about what this motion means.
The government can go ahead and ignore the NDP, we can deal with that and we will fight tooth and nail in this Parliament, but if the government votes against this motion, then it is a clear indication of how it feels about the people in their local communities.
I was very proud recently to host a public forum with two of my colleagues from and on the issue of tanker traffic. We had a full house with leaders from industry, the Marine Pilots' Association, environmental activists from the Western Canada Wilderness Committee and a number of excellent speakers. I know all of us heard the concerns from folks in Burnaby and in east Vancouver and how strongly they feel about these issues.
This is more than the supertankers. As we know, this is linked to the growth in the tar sands. I think it is well-known that if this pipeline goes ahead and these tankers are allowed to operate, it will lead to a massive growth of the tar sands by at least 30%. That has been raised in the debate here today. It throws into question the whole future of the tar sands and why it is that we are so hell bent on exporting this raw bitumen to other countries and using this pipeline. At least, as a first priority, we should have a made in Canada energy policy that respects our domestic markets and serves our local markets, instead of shipping out raw resources, notwithstanding the environmental damage that will take place.
I strongly support this motion today. It will be an environmental travesty if we allow these proposals to go ahead. As legislators, we should take a clear stand and position to say that there should be a ban on these supertankers through this area of northern B.C. That is what we are here to do. We are here to represent our constituents. We are here to make decisions that respect the future of our environment. I cannot think of a more important thing that we have to do.
If we are not willing to take this on and recognize that there is a public interest at stake here, then we are abdicating our responsibility. If we only listen to the statements by the captains of industry about what they see as future profits and export markets, then we are not getting the full picture. I believe that the people in our communities, our constituents, are demanding that we, as legislators, bring a balanced and fair view to the decisions we make. The environment is part of that. The social impact is part of that. The impact on first nations is part of that.
Organizations, like the Union of B.C. Municipalities, the First Nations Summit, the labour organizations and many others, have supported this ban. They have come to this conclusion because they are looking at the full picture. They are looking at the impact on the environment. They are looking at the impact on future generations and the image of what a spill would look like in that area of British Columbia, which is something that none of us want to even contemplate.
I urge my colleagues to support this very important motion today. We will be watching very closely to what every member of the Conservative Party for British Columbia does on this motion. We want to know if they have been listening to their constituents to uphold the future of our province, our environment and to ensure we do not go through a scenario of disaster, which will surely result unless we pass this motion.
Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to participate in this debate on an NDP motion today, which says that:
...the government should immediately propose legislation to ban bulk oil tanker traffic in the Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound as a way to protect the West Coast's unique and diverse ocean ecosystem, to preserve the marine resources which sustain the community and regional economies of British Columbia, and to honour the extensive First Nations rights and title in the area.
This is a very important and timely motion. Many people in British Columbia have recently become mobilized. People have been mobilized on this issue for decades, but recently the Enbridge proposal to put a pipeline through northern British Columbia, from the Alberta tar sands to the north coast of British Columbia, to allow supertanker traffic out of the north coast of British Columbia has mobilized people to call into question the judgment that would see this kind of proposal go forward.
People are hot to trot on this issue, to put it mildly. It is something that is incredibly concerning and there is huge support for ensuring a ban on tanker traffic on the north coast of British Columbia. Polls have shown that over 80% of British Columbians support a ban on tanker traffic on the north coast of British Columbia.
We know that there are very significant features of the north coast that are significant in terms of the ecology of this planet. The Great Bear Rainforest is the largest intact coastal, temperate rainforest in the world, and the government and others have worked to preserve that area. Unfortunately, all it would take is one tanker accident to undo that work and to damage, perhaps irreparably, that rainforest. This is one area that a legislative tanker ban would continue to protect.
We also know that the ecotourism industry is growing in British Columbia and certainly in the north coast. We know that it is a $2.6 billion industry at this point and there is lots of potential for expansion of that industry.
We know too that the kind of support that has been exhibited in British Columbia is extensive. The Union of B.C. Municipalities in October, without dissent, passed a motion calling for a ban on tanker traffic on the north coast.
We also know that B.C. first nations have been very involved in this, that their territories are directly impacted by this proposal and would be directly impacted by any kind of tanker accident on the north coast. They have been incredibly outspoken and united in their opposition to tanker traffic on the north coast. The Coastal First Nations made a statement in March 2010. The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs and the First Nations Summit have spoken out clearly on this issue. Just minutes ago, the Fraser First Nations, who represent 61 indigenous communities along the Fraser River, signed on to their Fraser declaration opposing the Enbridge pipeline and the tanker traffic on the north coast. There is absolute unanimity among first nations in British Columbia on this issue, and it is growing daily, as we have seen today.
There are many concerns about what an accident on the north coast would mean. We have seen that on the west coast of North America before. The Exxon Valdez is a terrible example of what could happen, with 11 million gallons of crude oil spilling in Alaskan waters. We know that it killed 2,800 sea otters, 250,000 birds, 22 orcas, 300 harbour seals, 250 bald eagles, 1.9 million salmon and 12.9 billion herring, so it was a significant accident and it caused incredible long range damage to the west coast.
We keep hearing that there is an Alaskan tanker exclusion zone, that tankers cannot come within 150 miles of the coast of Haida Gwaii, and yes, there are in place north-south restrictions, but what we are talking about now is opening the door to east-west transport in and out of ports on the north coast of British Columbia. This is a completely different proposition, so responding to questions about a north coast tanker ban by saying that there is this exclusion zone really completely misses the point and does not deal with the need for a legislative ban on tanker traffic on the north coast of British Columbia.
Why is it necessary? Environment Canada tells us that it predicts, every year, 100 small oil spills, 10 moderate oil spills and 1 major oil spill, based on current levels of tanker traffic in Canada.
Given the unique difficulties of navigating the north coast of British Columbia, the unique difficulties of cleaning up a spill that happened in those waters, this has to be a concern.
In my own constituency, people are concerned as well. I think the issues on the south coast are somewhat different because there already is existing tanker traffic on the south coast, and a lot of that is based in my constituency of .
Because of the concerns that folks on the south coast and in Burnaby have about this, I hosted, with my colleagues from and , a forum on oil and water transportation issues back on November 10. We invited a range of people to speak to this issue.
Kinder Morgan, which represents the existing pipeline from Alberta to the coast, which has its terminus in my riding, did not participate in our panel. However, it did send representatives to attend the meeting. Port Metro Vancouver, as well, sent representatives to attend the meeting and be available should there be questions.
The panel included folks from Dogwood Initiative, Andrea MacDonald was the representative of Dogwood Initiative. We had Ben West from the Wilderness Committee and Terry Engler from the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, Local 400. We had the Pacific Pilotage Authority. Captain Kevin Obermeyer, its president and CEO, was its representative. Captain Stephen Roy Brown, the president of the Chamber of Shipping, was also on our panel.
Those folks all presented about the key issues that are related to the transportation of oil on the south coast and out of Port Metro Vancouver, out of , in fact.
Burrard Inlet forms the northern boundary of , of my riding. It is, as I said, the terminus of the existing pipeline from Alberta's oil fields to the west coast. Kinder Morgan owns and operates that, and that facility is located in the riding.
is also home to the Chevron refinery, the only refinery on Canada's west coast.
Burnaby—Douglas used to be the home of a Shell refinery and Gulf refinery, as well. Those have since wound down. However, Shell and Petro-Canada still have distribution facilities in .
The oil and gas industry is a significant industry in my constituency. It would be wrong for me to ignore the fact that people are concerned about their jobs in this industry, in my riding. They do recognize that this industry does provide good, family-supporting union jobs, and that they produce and distribute products that we all still use. That raises the question of the job impact. It also raises the question of how we change our lifestyle and our dependence on fossil fuels.
We know, too, that products that are produced in Burnaby and that are piped to Burnaby are also shipped up the coast of British Columbia to coastal communities, to power vehicles, to actually power electricity production in some communities, so that this is still a necessary requirement for those communities and something that has to be maintained.
We also need to consider, though, how we change the fuel consumption habits in those communities, how we can help those communities change their dependence on fossil fuels and shift to alternative energy sources.
We also know that some of the products that come through the pipeline to Burnaby are shipped to the northwest United States for both further refining and distribution. Recently, products are being shipped to Asia, more oil and crude oil is being shipped to China, in particular, and the potential for raw bitumen exports to Asia also continues to come up.
There is concern about oil spills in my community. We have seen a major pipeline accident in July 2007, where oil spewed over a neighbourhood for almost half an hour while it could not be shut down after an excavator broke the Kinder Morgan pipeline. That has people in my constituency very concerned about the safety of pipelines, given that they go through residential neighbourhoods, given that they go through wilderness areas, as well, in British Columbia.
People in the riding have concerns about the navigation of supertankers and large oil tankers into Port Metro Vancouver and under the Iron Workers Memorial Second Narrows Bridge.
There is concern about pilots. There is concern about what happens if a ship loses power. There is concern about the clearance from the bottom of the harbour and what it would mean if a tanker ran aground. There is also concern about spill response capacity. We know that Burrard Clean Operations, the organization that has major responsibility in Port Metro Vancouver, has a 10,000 tonne cleanup capacity, but we also know that many of the tankers that come in and out of the harbour carry 110,000 tonnes of oil products. We also have heard recently that the Coast Guard's capacity to respond to an oil spill is also in question after a recent audit.
There are lots of questions that arise for people on the south coast as well, questions about risk management, questions about how we want to tie into the further development of the tar sands, and these are all issues that need to be addressed both on the north coast and--
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to present some of my thoughts on the issue of the NDP's opposition day motion.
This is a commitment that has long been held by the Liberal Party of Canada. In fact, it is the heritage of Prime Minister Trudeau from back in 1972 that the Liberals are still supporting. We are very pleased that the NDP members are in support of this also.
I have been listening to the debate. That eight out of ten British Columbians feel very strongly that there should be a ban on supertanker traffic along the north coast is a very key point.
Let us look at what is behind the fact that British Columbians feel so strongly about this. I think it is simple and we can never lose sight of this context. That is, if there are 200-plus supertankers in that area and something goes wrong, and it seems that something always will, we cannot undo it. We can never reverse it. There is no turning back. The government can spend billions but we can never go back to the way it was. Nor can we ever reverse the public anger and the public sense of betrayal should there be an accident. That is the key point.
If the government, as it seems to be doing, is determined to support a project that would entail hundreds of crude oil supertankers in these vulnerable and dangerous waters and the worse should happen, the world will be changed forever. British Columbia's coastline will be changed forever and the world will have changed for the worst. That is the key issue. That is the crux of why so many British Columbians are clear that it is not worth that risk.
We mentioned that eight out of ten British Columbians support this ban. There was a poll by an independent polling agency that asked:
Since 1972, the Canadian federal government has banned oil tankers from transporting crude oil through B.C.'s inside passage to protect the coast from oil spills. Now, Ottawa is considering allowing oil tankers to transport crude oil through our coastal waters. In your opinion, should we ban or allow oil tanker traffic in B.C.'s inside coastal waters?
Over 80% of respondents said to ban it. Just 15% said to allow it. That is a very clear indication of the will of British Columbians.
As other members have pointed out, this is across the spectrum. Communities right across British Columbia support a ban. First nations support a band. In fact, 61 indigenous communities that have claimed territory in the Fraser Basin which actually represents about two-thirds of the land mass of British Columbia have just signed a declaration. They are concerned about the impact of tanker traffic and potential spills on the salmon's ocean migration routes and rightly so, because there is no going back should there be a major spill.
I have been in that area of British Columbia. I have had the privilege to work in inlets on the coast. I have had the privilege to be in boats and small planes, and to recreate in that area, as do many thousands of British Columbians and tourists. People come from outside our province and our country to experience what is considered to be an international jewel, the mid and north coast of British Columbia.
I have walked in the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary amid the grasses and the estuarial waters where grizzly bears come to feed on the returning salmon. To picture that area covered with black, tarry goo is unimaginable. Modelling of a spill from a tanker in the inland north Pacific coastal waters suggests that the spill could affect the ecology, the coastline and plants and animals that depend on it from the tip of Vancouver Island to well north of Prince Rupert, depending on the time of year and weather conditions.
Do we want to risk that? Does the government want to risk that? The government is speaking in favour of that, but the people of British Columbia and first nations are against it. The government has a choice either to listen or not to listen to the people of British Columbia.
It could risk changing the coastline of B.C. forever. These tankers are far larger than the Exxon Valdez. That oil spill happened over 20 years ago and the oil has not gone away. The impact on wildlife is ongoing. Some species have never recovered. We risk losing more wildlife should the government continue to push forward.
The Conservative government has adopted its usual tactic of sowing confusion through deceit in its response to questions that I have put forward since visiting the Gulf of Mexico last May. I have received an array of responses to my questions as to whether the government will continue to respect the ban on tanker traffic in the inland north coast waters as governments have done since 1972. The responses from the government have been designed to confuse this protection with the protection on the exterior coast of Haida Gwaii and with drilling moratoria. This was a separate moratorium.
The government is using its usual tactic to deceive and confuse. That is exactly why the Liberals have taken a stand. That is why in June, the said that the Liberals would put a permanent ban in place to ensure the continued protection of this precious area.