House of Commons Hansard #109 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was oil.

Topics

Opposition Motion--West Coast Oil Tanker Traffic
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Madam Speaker, I think what is becoming very clear here is that the government is choosing certain winners and losers in Canada's economy.

When serious issues about the use of supertankers through the Dixon Entrance and along the Queen Charlotte Islands is brought forward, we do not see the government standing with members from British Columbia to talk about the effects that is going to have on British Columbia. It has the member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca stand up.

The government is there to defend, at whatever risk to the rest of the Canadian economy, the absolute pillaging of the tar sands. Meanwhile, serious questions are being raised in this debate by the opposition parties about the effect of this reckless development, particularly on the B.C. coast.

We have a letter from February 15, 2007, from then Canadian Ambassador Michael Wilson, hardly a socialist in anybody's world view, who said that allowing these tankers would pose an unacceptable environmental risk. This is a position that has been taken by numerous organizations, first nations and businesses all across British Columbia, yet the government is willing to take unacceptable environmental risks if it means the quick exploitation of raw bitumen from the tar sands to ship overseas.

I would like to ask my hon. colleague why he thinks the government is deliberately ignoring the wishes of the people of British Columbia in order to advance the pillaging of these natural resources.

Opposition Motion--West Coast Oil Tanker Traffic
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Madam Speaker, we have seen a huge indication of the lack of respect for British Columbia here today with Conservatives members interrupting B.C. members who are rising to speak and B.C. Conservatives not speaking out on this issue.

When we look at the overall economic impacts, over 50,000 jobs in British Columbia are threatened by these monster tankers. The best economic impacts of this in terms of long-term jobs for the project is maybe a couple of hundred. We can do the math.

New Democrats always do the math in this corner of the House. That is why the ministry of finance, over the last 20 years, has said NDP governments manage budgets better than anyone else, any other party. It is because we always get into the figures and we do the math.

The math shows that to threaten 50,000 jobs for 200 jobs makes absolutely no economic sense whatsoever. We have to wonder when the Conservatives are pushing this project and have stood up in this House seemingly to continue to push it. None of the Conservatives have yet risen to say they support the motion, which I think is a matter of real concern to the 80% of British Columbians who feel that this motion should go through and that the government should be proposing legislation to ban these monster tankers from the B.C. coast.

We have to wonder to just what extent the Conservatives are willing to disrespect B.C., to take B.C. for granted, to continue to think that B.C. is a source of votes they can milk without doing anything to actually deserve or merit the votes of British Columbians.

I think the economic ramifications, particularly of this project, seem to indicate that we are in a situation where the Conservatives, almost surrealistically, do not seem to be listening to British Columbians or keeping the interests of B.C. in mind and are certainly not thinking about the B.C. economy. The net loss of jobs is in the tens of thousands.

Opposition Motion--West Coast Oil Tanker Traffic
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like the hon. member from British Columbia to explain to me why the oil companies would not refine the oil right here in Canada so that we would not have to ship it in tankers to other foreign countries.

We could create well-paying jobs in Canada, yet we are creating well-paying jobs in foreign countries. Could the member expand on that?

Opposition Motion--West Coast Oil Tanker Traffic
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Madam Speaker, that is a great question from the member for Nickel Belt who has been a very strong advocate in the House for Canadian jobs.

What we have is a Conservative government that has overseen the greatest loss of our manufacturing capacity and manufacturing jobs in the nation's history, half a million manufacturing jobs lost. The government seems completely incapable of putting in place an industrial policy that allows Canadian resources to fuel Canadian jobs.

What we have now through the softwood lumber sellout is exports of raw logs, exports of raw bitumen, exports of our raw resources and loss of Canadian jobs. It is unprecedented and that is how irresponsible the Conservative government is.

Opposition Motion--West Coast Oil Tanker Traffic
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Mayes Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands.

Okanagan—Shuswap happens to be in British Columbia. I would like members to know that. The member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley 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.

Opposition Motion--West Coast Oil Tanker Traffic
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Madam Speaker, I guess there are two fundamental questions here. The government keeps talking about how there are enough safety mechanisms in place that people should rest assured. We know, and they point to the Canadian Coast Guard as the group that is responsible for oil spills from tankers, which is true. That is the authoritative body that has to clean up the mess if any of these things spill. We hope that never happens, but we know that in the oil and gas industry accidents do happen from time to time. The consequences can be quite striking.

The question to my colleague is this. He has put his faith in the regulations, his government and the Coast Guard's ability to respond. We know from an internal audit from the Coast Guard this very year, and I am quoting here:

The Canadian Coast Guard lacks the training, equipment and management systems to fulfill its duties to respond to offshore pollution incidents such as oil spills....

This is an internal audit that was done by the Coast Guard on its own ability to handle oil spills.

We know that during the gulf disaster, the BP spill, the Canadian Coast Guard from the east coast sent down several kilometres of oil booms, which represented half of all the oil booms on our east coast. That shocked Canadians because the total was a little less than three kilometres' worth of oil booms. What was used in the gulf to try to contain that disaster was many, many times more than we have in total in Canada.

My question is this. The hon. member is trying to relieve the concern of the people of British Columbia, three-quarters of whom have said this is a bad idea. All the municipalities of the UBCM said this is a bad idea and the first nations have consistently said this is a bad idea, but the Conservatives are saying they know better. They are saying this is a great idea. This should be permitted.

The fact of the matter is that right now on our books one can ship super oil tankers off British Columbia's coast, and the Coast Guard is not able to respond. I would like the hon. member to respond to that one statement of fact. Where, then, does he put his faith regarding an oil spill happening from one of these super tankers, which are three times the size of the Exxon Valdez? On what does his faith rely?

Opposition Motion--West Coast Oil Tanker Traffic
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Mayes Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Madam Speaker, the member is missing the point that there are more than 475,000 vessel movements per year off the west coast and the tankers only account for about 0.3% of that traffic.

The fact is that currently today, off the west coast of British Columbia, 25% of all the crude needs for the United States is flowing from Alaska to the continental United States via tanker traffic, and there have not been any problems whatsoever. I would question whether the context of what the member stated, with regard to the comments from the Coast Guard, really reflects the debate we are having right now over preparedness for the oil tanker movement.

Opposition Motion--West Coast Oil Tanker Traffic
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Madam Speaker, I noticed that when the hon. member started his speech, he talked about laws and regulations. I want to use an analogy that my dad used on me. I was born and raised on a farm, and when I wanted something and he did not want that, he used to tell me, “You can argue with me until the cows come home. You are still not going to win”.

I want to use this analogy on the laws and regulations. We can make laws and regulations until the cows come home and we are still going to have accidents. It does not matter how we regulate it, we are going to have accidents such as the Exxon Valdez and the disasters in the Gulf of Mexico, China, South Korea, Spain and Norway.

My question for the hon. member is this. Why would we not refine our bitumens right here in Canada where we could create real, well-paying Canadian jobs?

Opposition Motion--West Coast Oil Tanker Traffic
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Mayes Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Madam Speaker, just from the fact that we have not had any problems with the traffic that I mentioned earlier, obviously the regulations are working.

There is always going to be risk to life, but the fact is that we cannot shut down the economy. We cannot deny jobs to people by shutting the economy down because we think there might be a risk.

Obviously the Government of Canada, through Transport Canada, has provided the regulations to assure Canadians that we are doing everything possible to mitigate any risk of the traffic going down the B.C. coast.

Opposition Motion--West Coast Oil Tanker Traffic
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands
Saskatchewan

Conservative

David Anderson Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and for the Canadian Wheat Board

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 Skeena—Bulkley Valley 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.

Opposition Motion--West Coast Oil Tanker Traffic
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Madam Speaker, will the hon. member approach the interim Minister of the Environment and ask him to do the following: first, put a price on carbon; second, develop an integrated partnership with the private sector, universities and provincial governments to come up with an integrated plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and, third, develop and adhere to objectives and targets for marine protected environments?

Canada is a laggard in terms of identifying marine protected areas. This is crucially important for my constituents in Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca as well as constituents of those other MPs who live in British Columbia.

Would the member ask the Minister of the Environment to adopt these three initiatives?

Opposition Motion--West Coast Oil Tanker Traffic
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, while that is not directly on topic today, I will respond to it. Our government has moved very responsibly and very quickly in terms of these areas. We work not only with universities, but other levels of government across Canada to develop new technologies, new ways of saving energy, conserving energy, protecting the environment, and we have been very successful at that. Our eco-energy programs are well known both for homes and small businesses, where we have encouraged people to change their footprint and to improve their energy efficiency. That has been very popular. People want to live more cleanly these days and they will continue to do that.

In terms of the protected areas, our government, and particularly the former minister of the environment, has been very aggressive about putting new areas into protected status, into parks as well. We will continue to do that. We will look after the environment. We also want to work with industry and other levels of government to ensure we have a strong economy as well.

Opposition Motion--West Coast Oil Tanker Traffic
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Madam Speaker, to be clear for my colleague who stands on the opposite side of this question about supertankers off of B.C.'s north coast, the Union of B.C. Municipalities voted, without dissension, that there must be a supertanker ban put in place legislatively. That was from the mayors and councillors representing communities across British Columbia. The first nations leadership in B.C. has also said this as well as every environment group and an increasing number of businesses.

When the government says it does not believe that a legislative tanker ban is important, it is standing offside of all these groups. The government is saying that it knows better than all these other groups. Every time British Columbians are asked, the people who would be most directly impacted from any kind of accident, whether it be a supertanker or a pipeline, the minimum of three-quarters of B.C. residents say, “No thanks. The risk outweighs the benefit”.

I have a clear question for my colleague from the west. When a western province, from all its leaders and communities, has so clearly said that it wants the government to respect and listen to its opinions on this, that it knows its coast and waters and knows the risk and the peril of supertankers in those waters, would he at least bend his ear and consider that maybe all these folks are right and his government is wrong?

Opposition Motion--West Coast Oil Tanker Traffic
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Madam Speaker, I do not think we need to take lectures from the members across the way about representing our constituents. I will bring a couple of illustrations into this. On Bill C-300, the mining bill that would be so damaging to Canadian industry, Canadian economy and Canadian jobs, and the NDP members fought against that.

The free trade agreements, particularly the one with Colombia, which our western Canadian farmers desperately needed for their special crops, the NDP members fought and fought against it and took as long as they could to see that stop.

The long gun registry is another example. Since coming here, I do not think I have ever seen anything that was handled as cynically as the NDP handled the long gun registry, allowing a few of their members to vote with us so the others could oppose it and ensure the bill was defeated.

Another example would be the economic action plan. Yesterday the leader of the NDP begged us to increase, improve, expand and continue our economic stimulus plan after he had opposed it at every turn.

When it comes to listening to Canadians, we will not take any lessons from the New Democratic Party. We have the environmental assessment process in place for these projects so everyone gets a chance to participate and government can make the best decision.

Opposition Motion--West Coast Oil Tanker Traffic
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Burnaby—Douglas.

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 Skeena—Bulkley Valley 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 C-571 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 Burnaby—Douglas and Burnaby—New Westminster 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.