Mr. Speaker, one of my colleagues said they were busy doing advertising. I think that unfortunately may be the answer.
The recreational crab and prawn fishery remains closed in Burrard Inlet, including Jerricho Beach, a very popular spot in Vancouver, until we can do some sampling of marine pollution. That should not take very long, should it? However, a year ago the government completely closed down its only department which had scientists who could do marine pollution samples, laid off the staff, and now it will have to contract that work out to somebody else because it has no capacity to test the results of these spills.
It is not just NDP MPs who are outraged by the spill response. My colleague from Surrey noted that the Canadian Maritime Workers Council, the International Transport Workers Federation, which have endorsed this motion, have gone further to say that one of the other things we need to watch out for is that in the government's mania for free trade agreements, quite often it includes the coastal trade in British Columbia, which right now is reserved to Canadian registered vessels that have far higher safety standards and monitoring. They are not only supporting our motion, they are saying that we should be very careful about letting foreign flag ships into our coastal shipping.
Even the provincial premier has pointed to the failures of the federal government's oil spill response, although once again she shows a lot of nerve, since what the provincial government has done in these areas is also completely inadequate.
Finally, the Association of Vancouver Island Coastal Communities had its annual general meeting just four days after the spill. It passed an emergency resolution calling for an independent audit of the current state of oil spill preparedness in British Columbia. These are mayors and councils from all across Vancouver Island, and they have no confidence in the current government's assessment of its own ability to deal with oil spills.
I represent some of those coastal communities, and my concerns about the threats to our maritime environment became most acute when I was first elected to Esquimalt Council. Esquimalt is a town with kilometres of shorelines, both on the Strait of Georgia and around the Victoria and Esquimalt harbours. In our first month on council, we began to examine our emergency preparedness, a key municipal responsibility. What did we find with regard to the threat of oil spills? We found that we had little or no capacity to cope with existing threats, let alone those that would result from increased tanker traffic and increased size of tankers.
It became clear that in the face of a major oil spill, we would have little more to rely on than our citizen volunteers down on the beach with buckets and mops. It is the same for other communities in my riding. We have heard discussions of improvements to come in oil spill capacity, but municipalities at this point are left on their own to try to respond to these things, if the federal government bothers to notify them.
The Coast Guard's own audit of oil spill preparedness released in July, 2013 found that our system on the west coast was disorganized and outdated, and most of the equipment on site on Vancouver Island was more than 25 years old.
In October, 2013, a B.C. government report estimated we would be likely to recover little more than 3% to 4% of a modest 10,000 tonnes spill on the north coast, and somewhere between 10% and 30% on the south coast where there was actually more equipment.
The 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska was 34,600 tonnes of the 200,000 tonnes it was carrying. Therefore, it is similar to the very large tankers we can expect to see if more pipelines proceed.
Some argue Exxon Valdez examples are irrelevant because it was more than 25 years ago and technology has changed, but I have to remind the House that the Motor Vessel Marathassa is brand new and on its maiden voyage.
In conclusion, we have seen in 2010 two incidents in Malaysia and Texas of accidents involving new double-hull tankers, and both spilled more than 2,500 tonnes of oil. That is more than 2.9 million litres of oil in each case, not 2,700 litres.
We have some very big problems to deal with as tanker traffic increases on the coast, which was why I introduced a motion as a councillor that we have a moratorium on increased tanker traffic until we had better oil response in place.
To protect the future of our existing fishing and marine recreation and tourism industries in the west coast, we have to take the threat posed by oil spills seriously. We cannot simply declare our response world class and turn a blind eye to the lack of capacity that actually exists.
I will be watching very closely to see where B.C. Conservative MPs stand when this vote is called.