Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-48 on an oil tanker ban on British Columbia's north coast. Canada's New Democrats are pleased that the Liberal government is finally taking action to protect the north coast of British Columbia from crude oil tanker traffic. However, we are concerned that Bill C-48 would give the minister too much arbitrary power to exempt vessels from the ban or to define what fuels would be covered under the act. We hope the government will implement constructive amendments to limit ministerial power and increase spill response resources. We are certainly concerned about the lack of consultation with first nation and other coastal communities.
I want to talk about my colleague, the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, and the work he did in his riding on the northwest coast with regard to this oil tanker ban. He consulted with many people in communities and first nations. He worked with them and listened to their concerns. What they told him, over many years, was that one oil spill could ruin their way of life. That way of life depends on the ocean: on salmon, on halibut, on shellfish, on a healthy, clean ocean. What he heard was that the risks were too great. They were just not worth it.
Patrick Kelly, chair of the board of Coastal First Nations Great Bear Initiative, wrote an opinion piece called “Opinion: Coastal First Nations affirm support for oil tanker ban on north coast”, which was published February 11, 2018. It reads:
The ocean is an integral part of our coastal First Nations cultures, societies and economy. An oil spill in our territorial waters, which includes all of the North and Central coast and Haida Gwaii, would be catastrophic.
We understand that large-vessel shipping is essential for our modern economy. Fossil fuel use is a reality we must deal with as we transition to a clean energy future. But we already know that the question is no longer “if” there’s going to be an oil spill, it has already happened. There is no “world class” oil spill clean-up system that will work on the coast. It simply does not exist.
The Heiltsuk Nation still has not recovered from the Nathan E. Stewart diesel spill. It may be years before their waters, clam beds and other marine resources are healthy again. The Haida also experienced a near disaster in October 2014 when a 135-metre bulk carrier, the Simushir, lost power in storm-force winds in their territories. The Gitga’at have been impacted by two spills, the MV Zalinski which was carrying Bunker C [fuel] when it sank and the B.C. Ferry, Queen of the North, which sank in 2006. Despite government promises of clean-up, both wreckages still leak fuel.
Our identities and culture will cease to exist if the fish, animals, plants, medicines, creatures and birds are compromised. Our way of living and livelihoods has already been severely impacted because of past industrial and commercial unsustainable practices. One example is the decline of fish and fisheries on the coast.
Historically, our leaders managed our territories and resources to meet our community needs. Wealth and surpluses were generated when times were good, and this enabled trade and inter-tribal commerce. Governing also meant enforcement of Indigenous laws and protection of lands, seas and resources. We are guided by our potlatched hereditary leaders and elders who have taught us how to balance the economic needs of our people and the need to respect our lands, cultures and environment. They have told us that oil tankers are too risky to our existence and therefore must be kept out of our territories. Consultation has been provided through the clear leadership of the CFN communities.
As chiefs and leaders we have a responsibility to leave future generations with a healthy environment and a sustainable economy. This is why we are working with the federal government to develop a fisheries industry that will benefit our communities. It is why we are working with the B.C. government to develop new clean energy strategies which includes First Nations from the outset.
CFN, through its Carbon Credit Corp., is now the largest carbon credit seller in Canada and revenues generated from sales are re-invested by each nation to further protect their lands and resources. Collectively, our nations have trained and now employ over 100 stewardship staff and guardians.
Our people and communities need jobs and revenue, and we know that the traditional resource sectors alone will not meet growth demands of our nations so we are open to new developments. But new resource or industrial developments must never compromise our natural environment. There is no place for oil tankers on our coast. As Indigenous people who have lived in our territories for more than 14,000 years, as British Columbians, and as Canadians, we have a collective responsibility to protect our lands, waters and resources.
The tanker moratorium is good and necessary public policy.
That is a powerful letter, and a powerful statement, and I am glad to have read that into the record.
I got into politics to defend our west coast way of life; the incredible biodiversity we enjoy in the province of British Columbia; the rivers, the lakes, the forests, the mountains, the oceans, the wildlife; and the communities and economies that have developed as a result of that abundance. However, the way we are living now is impacting that abundance and biodiversity. We have species at risk, threatened and endangered, whether it is salmon, steelhead, sturgeon, caribou, or many other species that are SARA listed.
These are real issues, and they are not easy problems to fix, but there needs to be political will to address these problems and to do things differently. We must find ways to live within our means and move to a low-carbon economy, and we need to do that in a just way. We need a just transition to a sustainable way of living.
This is what motivated me to swim the 1,400 kilometre length of the Fraser River, one of the greatest salmon rivers on the planet. The northern gateway Enbridge pipeline project would have crossed hundreds of rivers and streams, going through salmon and fish-bearing rivers and creeks and crossing very steep slopes and mountainous valleys right through the northern part of the Fraser River basin. I was so passionate about bringing my message of sustainability, I swam for three weeks in icy cold water from Mount Robson, in the Fraser's headwaters, to Prince George, down through the Fraser canyon, past Hope, and west past my home community of Coquitlam to the river's mouth, Musqueam territory, in Vancouver, near the Salish Sea.
This was the hardest thing I had ever done in my life, swimming for three weeks in that cold water, but it taught me one thing. It taught me to be resolute, and I committed that I would do everything in my power to encourage people to transition to a sustainable way of living, which includes transitioning in a just and fair way to a low-carbon economy, shifting away from oil and gas and toward renewable forms of energy.
The reasons are clear. The science is overwhelming. The world is burning so much carbon from oil, coal, and gas that we are changing the climate. We have now passed 400 parts per million, a historic high. We are well on our way to an average warming of 2o C, which global scientists warn us will have a dramatic impact on human civilization, our economies, our communities, and all others we share this planet with. That is not just in the future. That is happening now, and we are seeing it in the form of floods, fires, and impacts on our planet.
This means that sometimes we have to say no. We need to say no to things that we know will harm us. This is one of those times. Banning oil tanker traffic off B.C.'s north coast is the right thing to do.
Another one of those times is the Kinder Morgan pipeline project which, if built, is planned to bring a 700% increase in oil tanker traffic to the Vancouver port in Burrard Inlet. For the past two years, my colleague, the member for Burnaby South, has been working hard to raise awareness about the detrimental impacts of that Kinder Morgan project, how the risks far outweigh the benefits of this proposal. He knows, like I do, it is times like these that we must take a strong and principled stand on projects that will not bring prosperity to the country that we love and that we know is full of promise. Worse, it will have a detrimental impact on the existing way of life and on future generations.
I am very disappointed the government is sticking to its decision to move ahead with the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline. This pipeline would triple the amount of tar sands oil being moved to the coast of British Columbia where it will be loaded onto oil tankers and headed out to sea and directly through critical habitat of the endangered southern resident orca, and other marine life. Not only does this significantly increase human caused noise and ship strikes, but it also increases the risk of catastrophic oil spills in southern resident orca habitat, which would be devastating for this endangered iconic species and the entire ecosystem of the Salish Sea.
The government tells us not to worry, that it has everything covered with its so-called oceans protection plan. The problem is the government has no marine mammal response plan for an oil spill. As I and others have said many times in the House, the tankers would be carrying diluted bitumen and there is no technology in place today to clean it up. It simply does not exist. On top of that, the rugged B.C. coastline and often challenging weather conditions can make response efforts extremely difficult.
The government's record and its ability to respond to emergency incidents have been causing many on the B.C. coast concern. Response to the 2015 Marathassa spill in Vancouver's English Bay and the 2016 Nathan B. Stewart spill near Bella Bella proved that Canada's response plan is completely lacking. The government keeps making funding announcements for the oceans protection plan, but all the money in the world will not change the fact that the impact of an oil spill on B.C.'s rugged coast would be devastating.
I want to conclude my remarks by referring to DeSmog's summary of what it wants Canadians to know about Bill C-48.
One, DeSmog indicates that a tanker ban will not ban supertankers of refined oil from the coast. While the proposed legislation does prevent supertankers of crude oil and similar hydrocarbon products from moving in and out of northern ports in large quantities, it does not prevent refined oil products from doing the same. This leaves the door open for future major oil refinery projects on B.C.'s north coast. There are two proposed refineries, one in Kitimat called Kitimat Clean, which would refine 400,000 barrels of oil per day, and the Pacific Future Energy refinery project, which would refine 200,000 barrels per day. Those are the projected refinery amounts.
Two, DeSmog is very concerned that tankers carrying 12,500 tonnes or less of oil are excluded from this ban. This is a huge amount of oil. Once passed, the bill would only prevent vessels carrying more than 12,500 tonnes of crude oil from stopping at coastal ports. This is a big concern to its readers.
Three, DeSmog indicates that the tanker ban would not prevent another Nathan E. Stewart incident from happening. The tanker ban was first announced by the federal government after the Minister of Transport travelled to the Heiltsuk territory to witness a diesel spill from the Nathan E. Stewart, a sunken fuel barge. This spill had a devastating impact on the local fishery and shellfish fishery.
Jess Housty, a tribal councillor from the Heiltsuk First Nation said that the tanker ban “changes nothing”. She is adamantly concerned about tanker traffic and the types of products that will be transported off the north coast of where she calls home.
Fourth, DeSmog indicates that the south coast of B.C. near Vancouver and Victoria is still not protected. DeSmog is concerned that this tanker ban would not impact tanker traffic off B.C.'s south coast near the terminus of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline in the Burnaby-Vancouver port.
The fifth concern that DeSmog would like to bring to the attention of all Canadians is that the details of the banned fuels are subject to change. I talked about ministerial discretion. There is a concern that the tanker ban will prevent the movement of large amounts of crude oil from traversing coastal waters in B.C. and the ban will also cover heavy hydrocarbons known as persistent oils in the schedule. DeSmog is concerned that there are many other types of deleterious substances that will be transported which could have an impact on the coastal way of life.
This is a huge concern to many coastal communities, first nations, and others on Canada's west coast. It is a growing concern to many throughout this great country.
This is a good first step to ban oil tanker traffic off the north coast, but we still have a way to go to deal with the impacts of a changing climate, the impact of losing species at an alarming rate, and transitioning in a just and fair way toward a sustainable way of life.