Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to speak to Bill C-48, the north coast partial oil tanker ban. That we have this in place is a credit to decades of work by north coast people. I also want to acknowledge the work of my colleague, the member of Parliament for Skeena—Bulkley Valley. His version of this bill in the previous Parliament toured the entire country, and thousands of people came out under the “Defend Our Coast” banner. It was very powerful. It gave the Liberal government the mandate to implement this, so we are glad to see the legislation.
We will be voting in favour of the bill. Our New Democratic colleague from Port Moody—Coquitlam tried quite hard to strengthen it. There is more ministerial discretion than we would like to see. Some of our colleagues have been quoted saying that one could drive an oil tanker through this moratorium. Nevertheless, we are going to vote in favour and we are glad to see some version of it moving forward.
As a member representing the south coast of British Columbia, the Salish Sea and Nanaimo—Ladysmith, I can say that we have very complicated shorelines, very fast-moving currents, very sensitive ecology, and 450 islands between the area I represent on Vancouver Island and the mainland of British Columbia and the U.S. border, with extremely complicated shipping traffic. We have very sensitive ecology and shorelines where we know that if there was an oil spill of any size, it would be extremely difficult to clean up.
Given that the industry standard for oil spill response is a 10% cleanup of oil, let me say again that members representing the southern part of British Columbia are committed to protecting their coastline, the economy, and the jobs that depend on it. They are just as concerned about the impacts of oil tanker traffic, especially when it is an unrefined, raw product that has no value-added jobs in Canada and no energy security benefit for Canada. Certainly, for British Columbians, the shipment of what we view as an increased level of danger by more oil tanker traffic and a thicker, unrefined product is all downside for our coast. There is no upside.
If the government is willing to put in strong measures for the north coast, why not for the south coast? There is still no peer-reviewed science that tells us how bitumen would react in the marine environment, in rough water with sediment in it. Who is going to have an oil spill with no waves? It just boggles the mind that the Liberal government could have approved the Kinder Morgan pipeline in the absence of evidence that bitumen can be recovered from the marine environment and that our response times are adequate to clean it.
What we have is some suspicion or concern based on what has been observed from other times when bitumen has been spilled in the marine environment. The diluent, which allows the raw, unrefined bitumen to flow, may evaporate very quickly. The evaporation itself may pose dangers to first responders, so it might be that first responders have to keep away. Certainly, if there was a bitumen spill in a heavily populated area, such as downtown Vancouver, a million people would be affected by a spill with much more toxic fumes than a refined product would have. We saw that in the Kalamazoo spill, which was in fresh water, but that was a huge occupational exposure.
When first responders have to stay away and cannot get to the spill quickly, this means that the diluent has more time to evaporate and there is an increased risk that the bitumen would sink. I have folders full of science reports from the Polaris Institute, the Royal Society of Canada, and others that talk about the stickiness and impact on marine wildlife such as sea otters and sea birds, let alone what would happen if we end up with bitumen coating the seabed. The damage that would be done trying to clean that up is alarming to contemplate.
We ask again, how is it that although the north coast partial oil tanker ban is being lauded by many of us on the coast and in the environmental movement, we do not have a concomitant level of protection in the south? We do not have confidence that our oil spill response is in a respectable and responsible place.
It turns out I am splitting my time with the member for Courtenay—Alberni. I look forward to his speech. We are full of surprises today.
My understanding is that the response regulations have not been updated or tightened since 1995. The Liberal government has had two and a half years to make that change. It has not. It is my understanding that if there is an oil spill in my region, the corporate entity responsible for the oil spill has 72 hours to get there. It is not in violation of the regulations unless it does not have booms and an oil spill response plan enacted within three days. How could that ever give any of us any confidence?
If the current government, or the previous government, really wanted to have pipelines approved and give coastal people any measure of confidence, then surely it would have upgraded and tightened those response times, as Washington State has done, repeatedly, as has Alaska.
When I was chair of the Islands Trust Council, we heard from our fellow governments at the local, regional, and state level that they were extremely concerned about Canada's, or British Columbia's, poor level of preparedness for an oil spill. Oil does not recognize the international boundary. They are very concerned, given the fast-moving currents. First of all, we are shipping a dangerous product for which there is no adequate response technology, and if we do not have the response times in place, the oil will move quickly to their side of the border. Certainly, their aquaculture industry is extremely concerned about our poor level of preparedness.
I am very glad to continue to see the Washington State governor salute the British Columbia NDP premier, John Horgan, for the very strong stand that he is taking to say, “I believe that the oil spill response plans for B.C.'s south coast are inadequate.”
We are seeing now, in court, the provincial government saying that as soon as the oil hits the shoreline, it is its responsibility and jurisdiction. If the federal government is not going to adequately regulate to protect this resource, then the provincial government will consider implementing regulations itself that would protect coastal ecology and coastal jobs.
To my regret, yesterday the federal Liberal government decided to intervene in that case to oppose my premier's efforts to better protect the coast where the Liberal government has failed to. Our New Democrat leader, Jagmeet Singh, urged the Prime Minister to join the British Columbia premier so they would co-operatively go to the courts together and ask for clarification.
That would have been leadership, and it would have been a real sign of co-operation and trying to get the right answer. Instead, to see the federal government intervening against the British Columbia government, which is simply trying to strengthen and increase the safety net, is extremely discouraging. What a strange way of spending both the government's legal resources and taxpayers' dollars. How on Earth could that be a good expenditure? What we need to be doing is strengthening the ecological safety net, and not fighting against stronger measures in court.
When I was chair of the Islands Trust Council, we heard from our Washington State colleagues about how important it was to have geographic response plans in place for oil spill prevention and preparedness. These are micro-studies of a particular region that would be enacted in the event of an oil spill. The responsible spiller, whoever that was, would know to boom this. The spiller is likely to be a corporate entity, and they do a pretty good job of looking after their own business.
We would love to see geographic response plans in place. I am pleased that the B.C. government is pushing for that.