Mr. Bill Siksay (Burnaby—Douglas, NDP)
Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to participate in this debate on an NDP motion today, which says that:
...the government should immediately propose legislation to ban bulk oil tanker traffic in the Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound as a way to protect the West Coast's unique and diverse ocean ecosystem, to preserve the marine resources which sustain the community and regional economies of British Columbia, and to honour the extensive First Nations rights and title in the area.
This is a very important and timely motion. Many people in British Columbia have recently become mobilized. People have been mobilized on this issue for decades, but recently the Enbridge proposal to put a pipeline through northern British Columbia, from the Alberta tar sands to the north coast of British Columbia, to allow supertanker traffic out of the north coast of British Columbia has mobilized people to call into question the judgment that would see this kind of proposal go forward.
People are hot to trot on this issue, to put it mildly. It is something that is incredibly concerning and there is huge support for ensuring a ban on tanker traffic on the north coast of British Columbia. Polls have shown that over 80% of British Columbians support a ban on tanker traffic on the north coast of British Columbia.
We know that there are very significant features of the north coast that are significant in terms of the ecology of this planet. The Great Bear Rainforest is the largest intact coastal, temperate rainforest in the world, and the government and others have worked to preserve that area. Unfortunately, all it would take is one tanker accident to undo that work and to damage, perhaps irreparably, that rainforest. This is one area that a legislative tanker ban would continue to protect.
We also know that the ecotourism industry is growing in British Columbia and certainly in the north coast. We know that it is a $2.6 billion industry at this point and there is lots of potential for expansion of that industry.
We know too that the kind of support that has been exhibited in British Columbia is extensive. The Union of B.C. Municipalities in October, without dissent, passed a motion calling for a ban on tanker traffic on the north coast.
We also know that B.C. first nations have been very involved in this, that their territories are directly impacted by this proposal and would be directly impacted by any kind of tanker accident on the north coast. They have been incredibly outspoken and united in their opposition to tanker traffic on the north coast. The Coastal First Nations made a statement in March 2010. The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs and the First Nations Summit have spoken out clearly on this issue. Just minutes ago, the Fraser First Nations, who represent 61 indigenous communities along the Fraser River, signed on to their Fraser declaration opposing the Enbridge pipeline and the tanker traffic on the north coast. There is absolute unanimity among first nations in British Columbia on this issue, and it is growing daily, as we have seen today.
There are many concerns about what an accident on the north coast would mean. We have seen that on the west coast of North America before. The Exxon Valdez is a terrible example of what could happen, with 11 million gallons of crude oil spilling in Alaskan waters. We know that it killed 2,800 sea otters, 250,000 birds, 22 orcas, 300 harbour seals, 250 bald eagles, 1.9 million salmon and 12.9 billion herring, so it was a significant accident and it caused incredible long range damage to the west coast.
We keep hearing that there is an Alaskan tanker exclusion zone, that tankers cannot come within 150 miles of the coast of Haida Gwaii, and yes, there are in place north-south restrictions, but what we are talking about now is opening the door to east-west transport in and out of ports on the north coast of British Columbia. This is a completely different proposition, so responding to questions about a north coast tanker ban by saying that there is this exclusion zone really completely misses the point and does not deal with the need for a legislative ban on tanker traffic on the north coast of British Columbia.
Why is it necessary? Environment Canada tells us that it predicts, every year, 100 small oil spills, 10 moderate oil spills and 1 major oil spill, based on current levels of tanker traffic in Canada.
Given the unique difficulties of navigating the north coast of British Columbia, the unique difficulties of cleaning up a spill that happened in those waters, this has to be a concern.
In my own constituency, people are concerned as well. I think the issues on the south coast are somewhat different because there already is existing tanker traffic on the south coast, and a lot of that is based in my constituency of Burnaby—Douglas.
Because of the concerns that folks on the south coast and in Burnaby have about this, I hosted, with my colleagues from Burnaby—New Westminster and Vancouver East, a forum on oil and water transportation issues back on November 10. We invited a range of people to speak to this issue.
Kinder Morgan, which represents the existing pipeline from Alberta to the coast, which has its terminus in my riding, did not participate in our panel. However, it did send representatives to attend the meeting. Port Metro Vancouver, as well, sent representatives to attend the meeting and be available should there be questions.
The panel included folks from Dogwood Initiative, Andrea MacDonald was the representative of Dogwood Initiative. We had Ben West from the Wilderness Committee and Terry Engler from the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, Local 400. We had the Pacific Pilotage Authority. Captain Kevin Obermeyer, its president and CEO, was its representative. Captain Stephen Roy Brown, the president of the Chamber of Shipping, was also on our panel.
Those folks all presented about the key issues that are related to the transportation of oil on the south coast and out of Port Metro Vancouver, out of Burnaby—Douglas, in fact.
Burrard Inlet forms the northern boundary of Burnaby—Douglas, of my riding. It is, as I said, the terminus of the existing pipeline from Alberta's oil fields to the west coast. Kinder Morgan owns and operates that, and that facility is located in the riding.
Burnaby—Douglas is also home to the Chevron refinery, the only refinery on Canada's west coast.
Burnaby—Douglas used to be the home of a Shell refinery and Gulf refinery, as well. Those have since wound down. However, Shell and Petro-Canada still have distribution facilities in Burnaby—Douglas.
The oil and gas industry is a significant industry in my constituency. It would be wrong for me to ignore the fact that people are concerned about their jobs in this industry, in my riding. They do recognize that this industry does provide good, family-supporting union jobs, and that they produce and distribute products that we all still use. That raises the question of the job impact. It also raises the question of how we change our lifestyle and our dependence on fossil fuels.
We know, too, that products that are produced in Burnaby and that are piped to Burnaby are also shipped up the coast of British Columbia to coastal communities, to power vehicles, to actually power electricity production in some communities, so that this is still a necessary requirement for those communities and something that has to be maintained.
We also need to consider, though, how we change the fuel consumption habits in those communities, how we can help those communities change their dependence on fossil fuels and shift to alternative energy sources.
We also know that some of the products that come through the pipeline to Burnaby are shipped to the northwest United States for both further refining and distribution. Recently, products are being shipped to Asia, more oil and crude oil is being shipped to China, in particular, and the potential for raw bitumen exports to Asia also continues to come up.
There is concern about oil spills in my community. We have seen a major pipeline accident in July 2007, where oil spewed over a neighbourhood for almost half an hour while it could not be shut down after an excavator broke the Kinder Morgan pipeline. That has people in my constituency very concerned about the safety of pipelines, given that they go through residential neighbourhoods, given that they go through wilderness areas, as well, in British Columbia.
People in the riding have concerns about the navigation of supertankers and large oil tankers into Port Metro Vancouver and under the Iron Workers Memorial Second Narrows Bridge.
There is concern about pilots. There is concern about what happens if a ship loses power. There is concern about the clearance from the bottom of the harbour and what it would mean if a tanker ran aground. There is also concern about spill response capacity. We know that Burrard Clean Operations, the organization that has major responsibility in Port Metro Vancouver, has a 10,000 tonne cleanup capacity, but we also know that many of the tankers that come in and out of the harbour carry 110,000 tonnes of oil products. We also have heard recently that the Coast Guard's capacity to respond to an oil spill is also in question after a recent audit.
There are lots of questions that arise for people on the south coast as well, questions about risk management, questions about how we want to tie into the further development of the tar sands, and these are all issues that need to be addressed both on the north coast and--
Topic: Government Orders
Subtopic: Business of Supply