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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 columbia.

Topics

Opposition Motion--West Coast Oil Tanker TrafficBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP 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 TrafficBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Mayes Conservative 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 TrafficBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle NDP 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 TrafficBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Mayes Conservative 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 TrafficBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands Saskatchewan

Conservative

David Anderson ConservativeParliamentary 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 TrafficBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal 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 TrafficBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative 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 TrafficBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP 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 TrafficBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative 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 TrafficBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP 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.

Opposition Motion--West Coast Oil Tanker TrafficBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, we share the same province and our constituents have spoken loudly about their concerns over the environment and the government's lack of action in dealing with some of the major environmental challenges we have seen.

My colleague mentioned the first nations situation and how they must be consulted as partners in addressing these challenges. Could she tell us how the government could do a better job of engaging first nations to ensure their needs and the needs of non-first nations people are met and we have sustainable development in the future for British Columbia?

The engagement between environmental and human security are two halves of the same whole and, unfortunately, the government is missing the boat on this. China and other countries are vaulting ahead and we do not seem to have a plan. As I mentioned before, even the United States has an active partnership that it has developed with the private sector and other partners.

The government has an opportunity to develop these innovative partnerships to deal with the environmental challenges before us. How does my colleague believe it needs to do a better job to achieve these objectives?

Opposition Motion--West Coast Oil Tanker TrafficBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, we must respect the traditions and territories of first nations. More than 50 first nations will be impacted in a very negative way by this pipeline and any disaster or spill that might happen. The fact that first nations have come out so strongly and in such a united way with one voice and working with many other partners and allies is a strong indication that the government not only has to be at the table in terms of working out land use, development and plans, but it needs to be done in a way that is respectful of the history and traditions of first nations communities. We have not seen that.

What is taking place with this Enbridge proposal flies in the face and contradicts many of the principles we have heard around working in partnership with first nations. From that point of view, it is a test of what the government says and what it actually does. This motion brings that to the forefront.

The government has an opportunity here to do something in a meaningful way by engaging in consultation, or it can ignore what first nations are saying and only listen to the captains of industry who basically just want to export more and see the tar sands grow more.

Opposition Motion--West Coast Oil Tanker TrafficBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Langley B.C.

Conservative

Mark Warawa ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Madam Speaker, my colleague across the way talked about action on the environment. As she well knows, this government is one of action and we have a continental harmonized approach to tackling the fight against climate change with aggressive targets of a 17% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. She also knows that emissions have already started to go down under this government.

Last night, we saw her and all the members of the NDP vote against a federal sustainable development act. We also know that in committee they are opposing and actually trying to change the definition of “sustainable development”. We have seen them in action voting against sustainable development last night and also in committee. Why does she not care about ensuring her actions match her words?

Opposition Motion--West Coast Oil Tanker TrafficBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, I would note that the parliamentary secretary neglected to mention one other action his government has taken, which is to kill the great climate change bill that was in the Senate, using an unelected, undemocratic body to kill a very progressive, forward-looking bill. It is sad that he would neglect to mention that action.

The fact is that the NDP has a superb record on bringing forward concrete proposals around climate change. We have been the strongest opponents in this House in terms of challenging the government on its lack of accountability on climate change. Our bill passed, not once but twice, through the House of Commons and then was killed in the Senate. Need I say more in terms of where the government is at?

It is heading into the next round of negotiations in Cancun and it has no plans. The one thing we had as a ray of hope, the government killed it off.

Opposition Motion--West Coast Oil Tanker TrafficBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

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 Burnaby—Douglas.

Because of the concerns that folks on the south coast and in Burnaby have about this, I hosted, with my colleagues from Burnaby—New Westminster and Vancouver East, 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 Burnaby—Douglas, in fact.

Burrard Inlet forms the northern boundary of Burnaby—Douglas, 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.

Burnaby—Douglas 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 Burnaby—Douglas.

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--

Opposition Motion--West Coast Oil Tanker TrafficBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster.

Opposition Motion--West Coast Oil Tanker TrafficBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Burnaby—Douglas for his comments on this important motion. The member is renowned as one of the strongest constituency members of Parliament in the country. He has a long history of serving the previous member of Parliament. In the last six and a half years he has been absolutely phenomenal in providing that constituency service and support in the constituency. He runs an operation that is really a template for all of us as members of Parliament.

The member hosted, as he mentioned earlier, that public meeting around the issue of this possible extension of monster tankers off the B.C. coast. I would like him to speak very specifically about what kind of feedback he had from the residents of Burnaby—Douglas at that meeting, how people feel in his riding. We heard earlier that the Conservatives were saying do not listen to British Columbians. They certainly do not seem to care about British Columbians' opinions on the softwood lumber sellout or the HST. I guess the question is are they going to listen to British Columbians on monster tankers? To what extent are people in his riding concerned about the Conservative plan to push monster tankers on the B.C. coast?

Opposition Motion--West Coast Oil Tanker TrafficBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Madam Speaker, as the member knows because he was at that meeting, people are very concerned about the whole question of tanker traffic and oil tanker traffic on the coast. They are concerned from the point of view of what it means to the explosive and expanded development of the tar sands and the sustainability of that kind of oil development. But they are also concerned about what it means to transport bitumen, crude oil and other petroleum products through a pipeline across British Columbia through wilderness areas and through residential and urban areas. They have had the very dramatic experience of what results when there is an accident and accidents happen. Enbridge had a very serious pipeline accident in the American Midwest in the not too recent past. These are very serious issues and accidents can happen. Almost inevitably accidents happen, so people are concerned about the safety of the pipeline.

People are also concerned about what happens when that oil is transported out of Burrard Inlet. They have seen what happens when there is a spill in our local harbour in Burrard Inlet. They saw that after the pipeline accident where a lot of that oil that spewed from the pipeline when it was broken ended up in the harbour, in Burrard Inlet. They saw the damage that caused. They have seen smaller oil spills resulting from ordinary tanker traffic in and out of the harbour, which has caused problems for wildlife and problems for recreational use around the harbour area. They have seen the kinds of issues that arise and the kinds of problems that we have with managing the industry that we have now.

People are not taking a ridiculous position on this. They realize that they still use those products. They realize that jobs are part of all of this, so they know it is not necessarily an easy solution on the south coast where we demand these products, where we need these jobs, but they believe that there are alternatives to further expanding the tar sands, to further expanding and enabling the use of fossil fuels. They want a government that hears them on that. They do not have that now. They do not have a government that listens to them when it comes to their concerns, the overwhelming concerns of British Columbians, about tanker traffic on the north coast and their concerns about how that existing traffic is managed on the south coast.

They do not have a government that is willing to listen to them and to take action on those things. That is why we have brought this motion forward today, to say that we need a legislated ban on supertanker traffic on the north coast. That is something that needs to be written down so that it is taken into consideration so that the policy is in place and there is no backing away from it. The support for that position is so widespread in British Columbia, municipal politicians without dissent agree with that. Incredible organizations and coalitions of first nations have come together, almost unprecedented, to support a ban on this and to oppose the Enbridge pipeline through northern British Columbia.

Something is happening. The Conservatives had better listen to it or they are going to hear it from British Columbians.

Opposition Motion--West Coast Oil Tanker TrafficBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

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 Leader of the Opposition said that the Liberals would put a permanent ban in place to ensure the continued protection of this precious area.

Opposition Motion--West Coast Oil Tanker TrafficBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The hon. member will have 12 minutes left for her comments after question period.

Special Olympics World Summer GamesStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

LaVar Payne Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to congratulate my constituent, Christine Sullivan, who will be competing in power lifting at the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Athens, Greece.

Christine is from my riding of Medicine Hat, and she and 108 other athletes are proudly representing Canada. In Greece they will promote the fundamental principles and values of the Olympics. These athletes show us that no matter what the obstacle, through hard work and dedication they can achieve athletic excellence. They are an inspiration to us all.

The 2010 Winter Olympics were a resounding success. There we saw the Olympic spirit as we watched our athletes uphold the values of friendship, respect and excellence.

I am certain that Christine and her fellow athletes will continue to make Canada proud. Sportsmanship is a commendable goal and these athletes are given the opportunity to be role models and teach our kids valuable lessons. The real winners in sports are those who know how to persevere and to behave with dignity.

Let us all unite behind the red and white jerseys of our Special Olympics athletes.

Mental HealthStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Newton—North Delta, BC

Madam Speaker, mental health is something that impacts all Canadians, either directly or indirectly.

Dr. Shimi Kang is a young woman who has spent many years as one of Canada's leading experts on youth and women's mental health and addictions.

She founded Canada's largest program for youth with mental health and substance use disorders, and created the youth, culture and mental health fund to address awareness and stigma in diverse and immigrant populations.

She is making a real difference by creating awareness across all communities.

I stand today to commend Dr. Kang for her work and wish her luck in her candidacy as one of Canada's Top 40 Under 40.

International Day of Persons with DisabilitiesStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Josée Beaudin Bloc Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, in 1992, the United Nations General Assembly declared December 3 to be the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. According to the World Health Organization, approximately 650 million people throughout the world have a mental or physical disability that affects their daily lives.

The International Day of Persons with Disabilities provides an opportunity to gain a greater understanding of how having a disability affects people's lives. This day also serves as an opportunity to increase awareness among the public and private sectors of the concrete benefits of integrating these individuals into our economic and social system. Today, the public and private sectors are encouraged to find innovative solutions to effective integration.

I would like to emphasize the importance and relevance of this day on which we all have the opportunity—together—to transform words into actions. We all have a role to play in making equal opportunity a reality, thus ensuring that people with disabilities are truly able to participate in our society.

Mining IndustryStatements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, today I am standing on behalf of the people of my riding and the people of Manitoba who are saying that Vale's plan to close the smelter and the refinery in Thompson is unacceptable.

Many Manitobans are critical not only of Vale but of the federal government. How can this government justify giving Vale $1 billion to strip over 600 jobs from Manitoba and eliminate our major processing capacity?

Did the federal government know that Vale was planning to cut our jobs when it gave Vale our money? Did it even ask? Where were the Manitoba Conservative members of Parliament? Is it just a coincidence that all this took place during the debate over foreign takeovers and potash in Saskatchewan?

One thing is clear: Vale's announcement is an attack on the people of Manitoba. The government talks about job creation. How about working to keep our jobs?

The government must be at the table. It is time for the government to stop standing up for Vale and to start standing up for the people of Thompson and Manitoba.

Renfrew County District School BoardStatements By Members

December 2nd, 2010 / 2 p.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, the students and teachers of Renfrew County District School Board are saying goodbye to Mr. Roy Reiche.

Roy served the students and parents of Renfrew County for 15 years as the elected trustee for Laurentian Valley and North Algona Wilberforce townships as well as being the board chairman for three terms.

Renfrew County's population is spread out in pockets over a wide geographical area. Our residents, particularly in the rural areas, face a number of challenges when it comes to the delivery of services. This fact is apparent when it comes to education and the need to provide the same opportunities for our students as students receive in areas where they have access to more resources.

Roy operated on the basis that one puts the students first. This has meant fighting for education dollars when necessary and using the resources one has in a responsible fashion. It is a lot of hard work with many tough decisions. For his time on the board of education, Roy will be remembered as a class act.

I appreciate being given this opportunity, on behalf of the people of Renfrew County, to pubically thank Roy for his years of public service on the board of education. May he enjoy his retirement.