Fin in the House: Loopholes in C-48 large enough to drive an oil tanker through

Mr. Fin Donnelly (Port Moody—Coquitlam, NDP): Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise to support Bill C-48, the north coast tanker ban. It has been a legislative priority of Canada's NDP for over a decade, and we welcome the Liberals' finally taking action on this pressing issue. The NDP is pleased that the Liberal government is finally taking action to protect the north coast from crude-oil tanker traffic. We are, however, concerned that Bill C-48 would give the minister too much arbitrary power to exempt vessels from the ban and define what fuels are covered under the act. We hope the government will implement constructive amendments to limit ministerial power and increase spill response resources. We were also very concerned about the lack of consultation with first nations.

    I want to give a little background about the moratorium. It is part of the government's oceans protection plan that was announced in November 2016. I already brought up some of my concerns with the OPP. For example the technology to clean up dilbit had not been identified and does not exist, yet we are still pursuing projects that would carry dilbit to our coast which, if spilled in our ocean, would have very devastating consequences. Bill C-48 proposes an oil tanker moratorium that extends from the Canada–U.S. border in the north down to the point of B.C.'s mainland adjacent to the northern tip of Vancouver Island, including Haida Gwaii.

    Oil tankers carrying more than 12,500 tonnes of crude oil or persistent oil as cargo would be prohibited from mooring, anchoring, or loading or unloading any of the oil at a port or marine installation in the moratorium area. The bill would also prohibit vessels and persons from transporting crude oil or persistent oil from an oil tanker to a port or marine installation within the moratorium area to circumvent the prohibition. In order to allow for community and industry supply, Bill C-48 would permit the shipment of amounts below 12,500 tonnes. This is still a huge amount of oil that could be transported on that coast. However, the bill would prevent large oil tanker ships from traversing the waters. The bill includes in its own administration enforcement regime reporting requirements, marine inspection powers, and penalties up to $5 million. That is still a very insignificant amount, but a penalty nonetheless. Multiple private member's bills have been proposed in the past to protect the north coast, including mine. Back in 2011, there was Bill C-211.

    Here are some facts about other impacts that the coast has had. Obviously, the most known is the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill on the coast, which was a catastrophic spill. The spill cleanup and coastal recovery cost $9.5 billion, of which Exxon paid only $3.5 billion. Twenty years after the spill, fish habitat and stock still have not fully recovered, and an oil spill of this sort would be devastating to wild salmon, marine mammals, birds, and coastal forest including the Great Bear Rainforest. It would devastate coastal economies by jeopardizing tourism, commercial fishing, and first nations fishing.

    We also know about the recent sinking of the Nathan E. Stewart fuel barge, which shows that navigation in these waters can be extremely hazardous and dangerous, and what damage can be caused by even a minor spill. The Nathan E. Stewart ran aground in the early hours of October 13, 2016 near Bella Bella in the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest. The vessel eventually sank, spilling as much as 110,000 litres of diesel into the marine environment. Cleanup efforts were repeatedly hampered by bad weather, and the vessel was not recovered until a month after it sank. We were lucky that the vessel was not full to its maximum capacity, which likely prevented more extensive damage.

    A north coast tanker ban is popular in British Columbia. Polls show that 79% of people in the province support a ban on oil tanker traffic in B.C.'s inside coastal waters. That was way back in 2011 but, if anything, it has gained strength since then.

    The ban prevents the creation of disastrous pipelines like the Enbridge northern gateway, which would have run 1,177 kilometres across, from Alberta to Kitimat, B.C. and through the Douglas Channel. The westbound pipeline was to carry up to 525,000 barrels of diluted bitumen per day, which would be up 220 oil tankers a year that would have to navigate the waters of the Great Bear Rainforest to export the diluted bitumen to foreign markets.

    The waters off the B.C. north coast is a significant salmon migration route. Millions of salmon come from the more than 650 streams and rivers along the coast. The impact of a simple oil spill would be catastrophic. The commercial fishery on the north coast catches over $100 million worth of fish per year. More than 2,500 residents along B.C.'s north coast work in the commercial fishery. The fish processing industry employs thousands more.

    The beauty of this region and the abundance of the salmon, whales, and other marine mammals have made it a world-renowned destination for ecotourism. The tourism industry has played a major role for employment, economic growth, and opportunity in B.C.'s coastal communities. Business in this region has worked hard to promote its location as a major tourist destination.

    The west coast wilderness tourism industry is now estimated to be worth over $782 million annually, employing 26,000 people full-time, and roughly 40,000 in total. B.C.'s north shoreline is dotted with sport-fishing lodges as fishing enthusiasts take part in the world-famous fishery. People are amazed after spending even a day kayaking, bear watching, or enjoying a guided tour on B.C.'s northwest coast.

    We know the importance of the coastline to the north coast. I want to turn now to the south coast, and how the people in the south of British Columbia, as in Canada's west coast, find the amazing ocean economy and potential of the marine ecosystem just as important as the north coast. They are concerned about a similar project, the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain expansion.

    To give a little background information, this expansion project would include building a new pipeline, constructing 12 new pump stations, 19 new storage tanks, and three new marine berths at the Westridge Marine Terminal in Burrard Inlet, which is near my riding of Port Moody—Coquitlam, Anmore, and Belcarra. Most of the pipeline oil would be destined for the Westridge Marine Terminal in Burnaby where it would be loaded onto oil tankers that would navigate past Vancouver, the Gulf islands, and through the Juan de Fuca Strait before reaching open ocean. The expansion would mean a sevenfold increase in oil tanker traffic from the Westridge terminal, which is from around 60 oil tankers to more than 400 per year.

    I will give a quick update on that proposal, because it is very much a concern to many in British Columbia and in Canada.

    Kinder Morgan has met less than half of the 157 required National Energy Board conditions. One-third of the final route has not been approved. Now the company is begging for relief on many conditions and wants to delay detailed route hearings. What this tells us in Parliament is that it is very concerned about what is happening on our coast.

     Our coastal economy, community, and marine environment is very important. Salmon and whales are critical to our way of life, to west coast Canada, and to British Columbia. People are speaking out. They are very concerned. Yes, they want to find an economy that works in tune with keeping our salmon, whales, and marine environment as intact as possible. Projects such as the northern gateway proposal and the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain proposal would have a direct impact on that economy, and on those features which make us British Columbia and keeps us Canadian.

    In conclusion, we welcome the Liberal government finally taking action to defend the north coast from oil tanker traffic. However, we are concerned that the loopholes in the legislation might be enough to drive an oil tanker through. Therefore, the government must adopt the amendments. The bill does nothing to protect the coast from refined oil spills and it needs to work on that.