Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Burnaby—Douglas for sharing his time with me but also for bringing what he is seeing on the ground there to the House of Commons. It is really important that he talked about the 12-hour response time and about the fact that volunteers are out there in English Bay trying to save the wildlife, the marine birds. It is really important to have those first-hand accounts from ridings across Canada brought here to this House.
We all have expertise. We may not all be scientists, but we have the expertise of living in our ridings and understanding what is impacting the areas where we live, work, and play. I really want to give some credit to my colleague, the member for New Westminster—Coquitlam, for bringing the motion forward and for his expertise on this issue.
The member for New Westminster—Coquitlam has been a tireless advocate for the protection of our waterways, and he has worked for years to raise public awareness about rivers and watersheds in British Columbia.
The member for New Westminster—Coquitlam has made 14 marathon swims, covering 3,200 kilometres of British Columbia's rivers, lakes, and the ocean. He also swam the 1,400 kilometre length of the Fraser River to draw attention to the environmental impact on rivers. There is not a more authoritative voice in this House than his, and I am really pleased that he brought the motion forward, because now he is bringing attention to the lack of protection for British Columbia's coasts when it comes to spill response capacity.
I want to thank him for bringing forward the motion to reverse the government's cuts to marine safety, oil spill response, and environmental cleanup capacity in Vancouver and elsewhere on the coast of British Columbia.
The New Democrats want to protect the coast against catastrophic spills and to restore the Coast Guard's ability to effectively respond to spills or other emergencies. The NDP led the charge when it was announced in 2012 that the Kitsilano base would be closed, and we will continue to fight to protect the marine environment and the economy that depends on it. Marine safety and environmental protection have been severely tested after 10 years of terrible management on the part of the Conservatives. The oil spill in the port of Vancouver is just one example of the scope of the damages. That is why my colleague from New Westminster—Coquitlam and the NDP are urging the Prime Minister to listen to the public and take action immediately.
The Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development said the following in his fall 2010 report:
Emergency management plans are not all up to date
The Canadian Coast Guard lacks a national approach to training, testing its plans, and maintaining its equipment
Procedures for verifying preparedness of the Canadian Coast Guard are not in place
Responses to ship-source spills are poorly documented
There is no national regime for ship-source chemical spills
In an interview with the Toronto Star, former environment commissioner Scott Vaughan said, “We know that there’s a boom in natural resources in this country and I think what we need now, given the gaps, given the problems we found, is a boom in environmental protection”.
There are huge gaps in our oil spill preparedness but also in our knowledge about the potential impacts of the spill on the west coast.
If we go back to the spill in English Bay, the most recent spill, Vancouver Aquarium CEO John Nightingale says that there is a major gap in understanding Vancouver's coastal environment, because there is no long-term monitoring of the local ecosystems. He says that if the goal of the cleanup efforts right now is to restore the harbour to the state it was before the leak, that cannot be done, because there is no solid foundation with respect to what the harbour was like in the past.
Why are we in this situation? It is because of cuts, cuts, cuts, with no regard for their impacts. The Kitsilano Coast Guard station was cut and closed. The Ucluelet marine communications and traffic services centre was closed. If we look at other cuts and our understanding and research of the impacts on water, we will remember the Experimental Lakes Area, the ELA. It was shuttered by the government. This was one of the world's—I will say “is” because it continues to exist, no thanks to the government. It is one of the world's most influential freshwater facilities. It is a unique Canadian facility for groundbreaking freshwater research, the only one of its kind in the world. It is an outdoor lab where the whole ecosystem can be studied. It is where research on environmental problems is carried out.
In 2012, the government announced that it would close the ELA. Thanks to the International Institute for Sustainable Development, the Experimental Lakes Area was saved, but the government made it loud and clear at that moment that it does not care about evidence; it does not care about science, and it does not care about the environment. Time and time again, the Conservatives demonstrate this, like when they slashed funding at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, DFO, which left the Bedford Institute of Oceanography caught short.
The BIO exists on the east coast of Canada. It is in the riding of Dartmouth—Cole Harbour. When those cuts were made, it resulted in the loss of oil spill expert Kenneth Lee. This research centre was established in 2002. It was established to coordinate DFO research into environmental and oceanographic impacts of offshore petroleum exploration, production, and transportation.
While the centre did not end up closing, Kenneth Lee, the oil spill expert and director of the centre for offshore oil, gas and energy research, was forced to leave Canada. He took a job in Australia. This is a man who is internationally respected. He was a Nova Scotia-based, Canada-based scientist working for the federal government. He is a leading expert on the use of chemical dispersants when it comes to cleaning up oil spills. He helped with the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. He co-chaired an International Maritime Organization working group that established guidelines for marine oil spill bioremediation. He received the prestigious Prix d'Excellence from DFO for research on environmental issues associated with offshore oil and gas activities, as well as other awards. This man has so many awards and yet he received a letter stating that his job would be affected as a result of the cost cutting, thanks to the federal government. We had all of this expertise and we lost it. We lost him. Now he works in Australia and we do not have him here in Canada.
New Democrats share the concerns of British Columbians, who are worried about the environmental, social and economic damage the Conservatives have caused in Canada.
Ten years after they took office, the Conservatives still have not done anything about climate change, and nothing will change if the Liberals are elected. The NDP is the only party that has a plan to protect the environment, stimulate the economy and protect the coastline from dangerous spills. We are committed to helping British Columbians fight against ill-advised projects.
The Conservatives are ignoring or attacking those who are most concerned about British Columbia's coastline, such as first nations, fishing organizations, community organizations, environmental organizations and the tourism industry. That is unacceptable.
Instead of isolating first nations, instead of demonizing people who care about the environment, the government should work with Canadians on these issues, but we know that the Conservatives do not care about these issues. It all started in 2012 with that giant omnibus budget, members will remember quite well, when we saw the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act not amended but repealed and replaced with something wholly inadequate. We saw the slashing of the Navigable Waters Protection Act and the Fisheries Act, and of course, cuts across the board at Environment Canada.
The track record of the government speaks volumes. This is a motion we need to support. The government should come on board and actually reverse some of the cuts, especially as they concern the west coast and the Coast Guard station on the west coast, because we know that it cannot handle a response to these oil spills.