House Passes Motion to Ban Tankers in the northern BC coast

On Tuesday, the House of Commons passed a motion to ban tanker traffic off the B.C. coast. The motion was introduced by Nathan Cullen of the NDP and was supported by the Liberals and the Bloc Quebecois. It calls on the Harper government to come up with legislation banning oil-tanker traffic in B.C.’s north coast – namely, Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound. A ban would clarify the questions around the exiting moratorium on tanker traffic, which the government claims is voluntary. And more importantly, a ban on tanker traffic would protect the ecosystems and coastal communities of northern BC from a potential oil spill.
Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline Project proposes to build pipelines from Alberta to B.C.’s Kitimat port to ship oil from the tar sands to markets in Asia. This would 1) contribute to the projected increase in tanker traffic on the B.C. coast (about 225 per year to begin with), 2) increase the likelihood of another Exxon Valdez disaster, and 3) give the Canadiantar sands (the largest carbon emitting industry in Canada) more reason to exist.
A ban on tanker traffic would stop this dangerous and unsustainable proposal.
On the same day the motion passed, the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Scott Vaughan, unveiled his alarming conclusions on Canada’s readiness to respond to offshore oil spills, including that:- The government lacks the readiness needed to respond to a major oil spill;
- Both Transport Canada (the regulatory agency responsible for preparing spill responses) and the Canadian Coast Guard (the federal body that would manage the spill on-site) have incomplete or outdated knowledge on the risks of spills;- The Canadian Coast Guard hasn’t evaluated its capacity to respond to spills since 2000, and doesn’t have a system in place to track spills!Have you ever wondered how many oil spills take place in Canadian waters? Well, apparently between 2007-2009 there were 4, 160. Vessels, such as oil tanker and fishing boats, were involved in 2, 000 of them.

Now that the motion has passed, what happens next?
What should happen, is that a bill is introduced and new legislation is put in place to ban oil-tanker traffic. But there isn’t much reason to hope the government will act on a motion they didn’t support, even if it is the will of Parliament. After all, they continue to ignore a motion they did support.
What am I talking about?
In May this year, following the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the House unanimously passed NDP MP Linda Duncan’s motion to take hard look at Canada’s preparedness and fix any weaknesses. The motion read:
“That this House notes the horror with which Canadians observe the ecological disaster unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico and their call for action to prevent such an event in Canada, and therefore calls on the government immediately to conduct a thorough review and revision of all relevant federal laws, regulations and policies regarding the development of unconventional sources of oil and gas, including oil sands, deepwater oil and gas recovery, and shale gas, through a transparent process and the broadest possible consultation with all interested stakeholders to ensure Canada has the strongest environmental and safety rules in the world, and to report to the House for appropriate action”.

In the long-term interests of coastal wildlife and the communities that exist along Canada’s west coast, the government should take the opportunity to implement BOTH motions and move us closer to preventing a major oil spill in Canada.