Mr. Speaker, I worked on this issue as a core project in Vancouver Quadra from early 2009. Therefore, I want to also acknowledge all the constituents of Vancouver Quadra, the environmental groups, the communities, and the indigenous communities on British Columbia's coast that paid attention to the potential risks to our coast and supported the idea of banning crude oil tanker traffic, consistent with a policy moratorium that had been put in place in 1972 by a previous Prime Minister Trudeau.
Therefore, I would like to share with the members a press release I wrote in February 2011, after two years of work on this. It said:
Yesterday, Vancouver Quadra Liberal MP... announced that C-606, her private Members’ bill to ban oil tanker traffic off B.C.’s north coast, has been officially submitted to proceed to debate next month. “We are now one step closer to a legislated oil tanker ban on B.C.’s north coast--the only way to protect our oceans and communities from a catastrophic oil spill... If disaster were to strike in our northern coastal waters, B.C.--and Canada as a whole – would never be the same.
Bill C-606 legislates a crude oil tanker ban in the dangerous inland waters around Haida Gwaii known as Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound. The bill would not affect current deliveries of diesel and other oil products to local communities
The work to protect that area of the coast has been going on for a long time. The press release continued:
We’ve witnessed the Gulf of Mexico and Exxon-Valdez oil spills. It’s just not worth the risk...In perfect conditions, industry considers 15 percent recovery of oil a success, but a recent report by Canada’s Environment and Sustainable Development Commissioner raised serious doubts about the Conservative government’s ability to even respond to a spill.
This initiative is widely supported by British Columbians in all parts of the province. In fact, a press release I issued in March 2011 talks about a two-day campaign being kicked off to meet with Vancouver Island residents and stakeholders about Bill C-606, the bill to legislate a ban on crude oil tankers in B.C.'s dangerous northern waterways. It says that I would also be consulting with the northern communities, the community of Kitimat, where a terminal for an oil pipeline that would be transported through those waters for which it was planned, and that I would visit first nations, community organizations, local businesses, unions, and municipalities to reach out to those communities. Those early consultations made it very clear that “An oil spill would hurt our communities, our environment, our businesses, and our way of life. This is not a risk British Columbians can afford to take”, quoting from that press release.
I am talking about this because I want to acknowledge and thank some of the key environmental organizations that brought this issue forward to the Liberal caucus of the day. The four environmental organizations that were critical to this work, doing the research and encouraging us to move forward on this issue, were Dogwood Initiative, Living Oceans Society, Stand.earth, and West Coast Environmental Law.
This was a real priority. Why was it so important and why is it so important for a government that is committed to protecting the environment, a particularly sensitive environment in this case, while also protecting and developing a strong economy? It is because B.C.'s coastal economy in 2010 was estimated to have 56,000 jobs tied to clean coastal environments, jobs in fisheries, tourism, ecotourism, and recreation, film and television among them. It also was about a way of life for our coastal communities.
Imagine being in Hartley Bay, a remote coastal community, as I had the privilege to be, knowing that community's supermarket really is its freezers. The fishermen go and harvest the shellfish, the abalone, the mussels and clams, the salmon, and the halibut, and the residents eat that seafood throughout the year, as they have for a millennia. It is about a way of life, as well as an economy and an environment.
I came naturally to thinking about how we could protect our coastal environment from a devastating oil spill. I was a tree planter and reforestation contractor working on the north coast in my late teens and early 20s, and I came to know it well.
I also had the chance to travel up and down the coast as a minister of environment. Imagine being at the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary, this amazing and rich estuary, watching the grizzly bears feed with their families, as I had a chance to do. Imagine that being fouled with a crude oil spill, as happened in Alaska's estuaries with the Exxon Valdez oil spill? We could never go back.
Therefore, I and so many British Columbians were committed to ensuring that these dangerous waters would not be the location of a devastating oil spill. We are reminded by the Deepwater Horizon, the Exxon Valdez, and some of the other spills off our coast that human error and equipment failure are something one can never guarantee will not happen.
B.C.'s north coast is home to the Great Bear Rainforest and some of the world's most diverse ecosystems, including 27 species of marine mammals, 120 species of marine birds, and 2,500 individual salmon runs.
One of the big concerns after the Exxon Valdez example was the jobs that would be lost as well as the impact on the environment. I met with a woman who came to one of my meetings wearing the gumboots she wore when she went to clean up the Exxon Valdez spill up in Alaska.
I am so proud of our government and our minister for having done significant consultations throughout the province and for having discussed this with groups from the coast right through the interior.
I want to again thank my constituents for supporting me on this. I would like to thank our minister and our Prime Minister for delivering on this promise to British Columbia and to Canada to protect this very special part of our country.