What the Leader of the Opposition made very clear was that there needed be other elements to a forward-going policy to deal with oil spills and other components of protecting marine parks.
It is not ironic. It is directly contradictory to the spirit of the people of British Columbia in their role as stewards of their own area, as with other people of Canada, which has become more and more equated with this particular test of Canadians and their representatives in terms of what is lacking in the current environment here in Ottawa.
In fact, there needs to be a party in government that can do sustainable development, not pose, as so many members of the government have, fake, false trade-offs. Somehow every time there is any kind of implication for someone's economic bottom line, the government thinks the environment needs to be traded off, sold off, hived off and utilized in that favour.
What Canadians are starting to awaken to is that is a view that not only harms our environment unnecessarily and robs the next generation of the utilization of the air, land and water, but it is actually bad economics, bad planning and poor for jobs.
Sustainable development actually means reconciling those interests, coming up with one answer that works on the economic and environmental sides of the equation wherever possible.
When we look at the circumstance of the coast, the Great Spirit Bear Rainforest, which so many people have worked to have as a protected area, being right there and affected, and when we look at the very first baby steps that have happened in terms of marine protection, right in that nearby area, in terms of Canada's first marine park, we realize that the trade-offs being proposed by the kind of wide open acceptance and defence being made of the acceptance of tanker traffic by the people opposite just does not meet the test of any form of reasonableness.
We start to see what some of the deficiencies are in terms of how the government is not able to represent all Canadians and is not able to make these decisions in a way that will actually benefit this generation and the next.
When we look at the area and we see the kind of existing and potential growth from both fishing and eco-tourism and we see the number of jobs attached there, between 25,000 and 50,000, depending on how wide an area of impact we want to talk about, compared to the 1,100 that might be created by the acceptance of this tanker traffic, we have to ask ourselves where the economic case is.
Who on the other side is making the economic case to put those kinds of jobs in jeopardy in a fragile ecosystem, which has been recognized by every scientific and biological expert, that would not withstand a major oil spill?
We had some blithe assurances from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities about the preparedness of Canada because nothing has gone wrong yet. Perhaps we will hear a little more objectively from Environmental Commissioner on oil spills and Canada's capacity to deal with them next week. We will see what that looks like.
I would just like to let people know that the last major oil spill in Spain was some 60,000 tonnes. Canada's preparedness is only for 10,000 tonnes. It is delegated, south of 60, to the private sector. It is not the capacity of the coast guard or anyone else to be able to respond. Anybody who watched the struggles that the United States went through in the gulf must have a concern.
Let us come back to the premise that being prepared for an oil spill in an ecologically sensitive zone like that is not sufficient reason to go ahead. The onus on lifting a 37-year moratorium or ban is on the government to make the proof for that.
The fact that the government came so woefully unprepared today to make a case on behalf of this and is still, based on the tenor of the remarks we have heard so far, going to oppose this motion, gives people an idea of the kind of reckless government we have in place. It seems to be here to serve a narrow base of interest. It is not willing to look at the facts nor is it willing to release the facts.
I would like to believe that the ad hominem attack of the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca is totally unacceptable. I would like it if each member of this House would concede that each hon. member has to be treated with civility and respect. To call into question his decision, after a career of public service, serving this House, and calling into question his motives by defining his particular reasons for quitting differently than he did simply because the member was unprepared for this debate, is utterly unacceptable and beneath the government's position, putting him in a lead position to do that.
I would like to think that some of the future members who speak for the government will repudiate that, that we honour our members, perhaps not as much when they are here, but certainly when they have put in that kind of time and with that kind of unmatched integrity. That integrity extends to that member's support and the other British Colombian members' support of the official opposition for this particular initiative.
This is something where people have worked hard, have engaged people on and will continue to do that, working with the members of any other caucus who want to actually grapple with some of Canada's challenges. It does not just go to some book somewhere and they are all answered for them or it takes a phone call from someone's office and then goes accordingly.
That demeans the House. This debate reached that territory. I, frankly, find it perhaps an accurate reflection of where the government wants to go with this particular debate.
The capacity that we need is to be able to prevent and protect our environment. It is our current health, our children's heritage and in issue after issue on matters of the environment there has been nobody home. We have a part-time minister today. We do not even have someone giving thorough attention to matters of the environment.
We have unmet commitment after unmet commitment. We have the Government of Canada in wholesale retreat right across the country, from research in the Arctic on climate change to the impacts of the oil sands. We cannot find a federal official working for Environment Canada in Fort McMurray today. Regardless of how we look at the facts of that particular set of projects, the biggest environmental challenge in the country, and there is nobody home for the federal government.
When we talk about the ability and the capacity of the government to give us a fair hearing today, I guess we should not be surprised that instead we have had ad hominem attacks and a very loose association with the facts. We think this is too sensitive an area to permit those very tricky navigable waters, as the lead speaker today put forward, to navigate with oil tankers and expose that kind of spill.
All kinds of experts agree. The government should come forward with opposing facts rather than to put Canadians in that kind of risk for the kind of legacy that is at risk there. There are 2,500 different salmon runs and all kinds of special species that are there that the government should be seeing as part of its job in the particular responsibility it has for now of governing to look after.
It is not just an absence of balance. It is an absence of accepting responsibility to make these reconciliations, to listen to all Canadians and, in this case, in particular British Columbians because, as is so often the case with environmental matters, they are a little ahead of the rest of the country and they certainly know the difference in terms of the trade-offs.
For members of the government to try to lecture the House that this is somehow a great economic expense and therefore everything should be permitted simply shows how out of touch they are. I think British Columbians will be very alert to the fact that there is no one on the government side, not one member from British Columbia or anywhere else, who is prepared to put on the table a balanced view to say what kind of environmental protections they are ready to offer.
What we have heard so far today are these blithe assurances that if messes are made they can be cleaned up flies in the face of the recent experiences of what happens with oil spills in these kinds of areas. It is hard to navigate some of those waters. It can be hazard for larger tankers. We heard somebody say that they are no longer single hulled, but double hulled tankers have oil spills as well. In fact, one of the latest oil spills concerned one of those types of boats.
The UN Convention on Biological Diversity was mentioned by the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca. When he did that he was talking about a fact. The Conservative government was awarded a dodo award from the international community, from the collection of 194 nations from the not for profit sector. They looked at who was helping and who was hurting when it came to the protection of wildlife and our natural resources and decided that Canada was doing the worst job, that it actually stood in the way of an agreement, that it was preventing reference to the UN recognition of the rights of aboriginal people being in a sharing of resources for first nations.
It is ironic, or perhaps appropriate in that perverse kind of way, that the government's representatives have stood and tried to attack the person who called them on this particular part of its track record, a government that said in its throne speech that it would recognize those rights, stood in the way and helped to water down the language.
Today we are talking about the first nations as much as we are about our overall stewardship, with the vast number of coastal beds already having come out against this, the grassroots of the proposed pipelines are saying that this is something they do not want to do.
The member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca, who spoke earlier, did not reference the utter failure of benefit-sharing for first nations and aboriginal people. I have spent time in Fort McMurray, and anyone who wishes can find the do-it-yourself environmentalism and the do-it-yourself aboriginal rights that the government has left in the footprint of one of the biggest economic undertakings this country has ever seen. It is shameful and embarrassing, and no rightful government should show up in this place without making commitments to fix it.
To propose some other kind of project without some due regard for what aboriginal rights should mean, for every Canadian who sits at home and wonders what combination of things it would take to offer and extend just the same citizenship rights to every first nation and aboriginal person in this country, surely access to the economic benefits, on their terms and in their own backyard, should be part of it. For people to simply say that they will impose yet another project on top of that against their will is simply untenable.
Reference has been made to the Exxon Valdez and the things that we should have learned. This is the exact same territory, some of the same coastline, not very far away, that would be affected. We will find out next week, when the Environmental Commissioner reports, where Canada actually sits. However, from the standpoint of some of the people who have looked at it, there are aspects of what we are doing that are severely outdated, that are not in touch with modern needs, and it is under that regime that some of this stuff would be proposed to go forward.
The Convention on Biological Diversity, which Canada did sign but did not help to create, requires us to protect 10% of our marine coastal environment. We only have half a per cent now. It is reckless of us to consider putting hazardous and high-risk projects like this into operation when we have not figured out how by 2020 we will have these protected areas.
The idea that we should put tanker traffic in close proximity to the area that we have already designated, that has been conceded by the government to have special properties, shows Canadians the kind of choice they have. The government is prepared to put a very little bit of our natural heritage under a bell jar and then leave all the rest of it to wide open exploitation.
The point of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity is how we look after all of our natural resources. The motion today will be a test for how well Canada does. It picked up the dodo award internationally but the question is whether the government will wear a dodo award today. Will it really stand here today against the expressed will of all the first nations that are affected, against the public will of British Columbians, in terms of wanting to have a ban on tanker traffic on this part of their coast?
What we have, from any of the participants here, is straightforward, basically very honest facts put forward. Will the government stop referring to distracting things? It talks about a tanker exclusion zone that only has to do with the tanker traffic going up to Alaska. It has nothing to do with the northwest coast zone that we are talking about.
The government talks about five, six, seven, eight times and letters to the editor and so on. It talks about drilling moratoriums. What it will not talk about is whether it will ban tankers in a highly sensitive ecological zone of Canada. That is what this motion is about. All the rest of it is obfuscation that should be beneath this House.
We are seeing the government revert to these kinds of ways in committee and in this House. If it can get in the way of debate and get in the way of public understanding that seems to suffice.
The very arrogance of that toward Canadians, and British Columbians in this case, is breathtaking. The government really feels it has the capacity to manipulate, sidestep, and not bear the burden and responsibility of actually governing by coming forward with its position on the facts and showing Canadians where it is coming from when it comes to meeting the challenges of sustainable development.
We have been very clear that we will have an independent review of Canada's capacity on oil spills. We will start where the environment commissioner is able to take us. We will make sure Canada has the capacity to deal with our existing challenges.
We will have a ban on drilling in the Arctic. That is a place where, under current technology, we simply cannot reconcile what is going to happen. We will maintain this tanker ban and put it in legislative form so the ambiguity is missing.
We will put forward the capacity to have this debate and discussion. Each time one of these challenges comes forward, we will better understand, as we should, what some of our responsibilities are.
Per capita, Canadians are the biggest stewards of nature in the world. We have more of the world's resources on a population basis than anyone else. There is no excuse but laziness or disregard for that responsibility that we should not be the best at it. This debate today should be honoured by people's best efforts.
We have put forward a position. We have researched it and talked to all the people who are connected with us. Everybody had an opportunity a few days ago to meet with people at a reception. The Leader of the Opposition has taken a very specific and strong position that I think is generating a great deal of debate, but that debate needs to be fairly met.
I would say to all members of this House that we need to exhibit for British Columbians, and for all Canadians, that we are able to bring forward these issues in a distinctive way. Nobody is going to be assured that we are able to handle an oil spill and therefore we should allow tanker traffic. That is not even at the lowest end of the scale of the kind of standard Canadians expect from us when it comes to managing our environment.
We have an arrangement now that allows Canada to export its products. There is capacity elsewhere to grow that. The economic side is fairly well protected. There may be a particular interest and a particular proposal that has to be denied, but in the interests of Canada's overall well-being, really sustainable development, it should be denied. There should be a tanker ban.