“I am so pleased and proud to be part of today’s debate on Bill C-48, and to discuss implementing an oil tanker moratorium on British Columbia’s northern coast. It is important to remember that with this bill the Government of Canada is honouring its promise to Canadians. By formalizing this moratorium and including marine safety, the government is delivering on its promise set out in the mandate letter from the Prime Minister to the Minister of Transport.
I want to start by thanking our Prime Minister for his commitment to this oil tanker moratorium on the Pacific north coast, and thanking the Minister of Transport for taking the thoughtful approach that he has taken in consulting widely on this bill and delivering on this commitment. This is one of those times when it is very satisfying to be a Member of Parliament.
Mr. Speaker, this is an issue that I worked on as a core project in Vancouver Quadra from early 2009. Therefore, I want to also acknowledge all of the constituents of Vancouver Quadra, the environmental groups, the communities, and the indigenous communities on British Columbia’s coast who 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 that I wrote in February 2011 after two years of work on this:
“Yesterday, Vancouver Quadra Liberal MP, Joyce Murray announced that her Bill C-606, a private member’s bill to ban oil tanker traffic off of 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, our communities, and our coastal economy from a catastrophic oil spill, stated the MP. If disaster were to strike 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 in-land 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.”
Members can see that this work to protect that area of the coast has been going on for a long time. The press release continued to say:
We have witnessed the Gulf of Mexico and the Exxon Valdez oil spills. “It’s just not worth the risks,” stated the MP for Vancouver Quadra. “In perfect conditions, industry considers 15% recovery of oil a success, but a recent report by Canada’s Environment and Sustainable Development Commissioner raises serious doubts about the government’s ability to even respond to a spill.”
Mr. Speaker, I wanted to lay out that this is an initiative that is widely supported by British Columbians in all parts of the province. In fact, a press release that 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 to legislate a ban on crude oil tankers in B.C.’s dangerous northern waterways. It goes on to say 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 was planned, and that I would be visiting a first nations, community organizations, local businesses, unions, and municipalities in order to reach out to those communities. I want to say that 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 who brought this issue forward to the Liberal caucus of the day. The four environmental organizations who were critical to this work, doing the research and encouraging us to move forward on this, were Dogwood Initiative, Living Oceans Society, Stand.earth, and West Coast Environmental Law.
This was a real priority. However, 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 that were tied to clean coastal environments, jobs in fisheries, tourism, eco-tourism, 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 have the privilege to be, and knowing that community’s supermarket really is its freezers. The fishermen go and harvest the shellfish, the abalone, the mussels and clams, the salmon, the halibut, and the residents eat that seafood throughout the year, as they have for millennia. Therefore, it is about a way of life, as well as an economy and an environment.
I came naturally to thinking about how we can protect our coastal environment from a devastating oil spill because 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, and 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 because 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 that 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 example of the Exxon Valdez 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 that she had worn 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, having discussed this with groups from the coast right through to 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.
For the full video of my speech, please visit my YouTube channel.