Speech on West Coast Oil Supertanker Ban
December 2nd, 2010 - 3:00pm
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak in support of the motion to ban the transportation of oil by supertankers off British Columbia's north coast. We must take action now to protect British Columbia's magnificent coastline and coastal waters, its diversity of fish species, abundance of mammals and the coastal communities that depend on a healthy fishing industry and profitable ecotourism sector. On March 26 of this year, I introduced Bill C-502, a private member's bill that would amend the Canada Shipping Act to prohibit the transportation of oil in supertankers in the Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound.
It would also allow the governor in council, on the recommendation of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, to designate other areas of the sea in which transportation of oil by oil tankers is prohibited. British Columbians have been very clear on this issue: 80% want to see a permanent oil tanker ban on B.C.'s north coast. I would like to acknowledge some of my colleagues who have done quite a bit of work on this topic: the member for Vancouver Kingsway, the member for Victoria and the member for Winnipeg Centre, just to name a few. My colleague from Vancouver Kingsway drafted and introduced similar legislation to what I have proposed. My colleague fromVictoria has also introduced legislation, as has my hon. colleague from Winnipeg Centre. Both have worked hard in the past to protect this incredible area of the B.C. coast. I would like to acknowledge the work of my hon. colleague from the north coast whose riding this falls within, the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley. We know of his tireless efforts working toward a progressive change in this area. He knows better than any in this House how devastating an oil spill in this area would be to these coastal communities. In October of this year, the Union of British Columbia Municipalities voted in favour of a resolution to petition the federal government to enshrine in legislation a permanent ban on oil tanker traffic in Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound. In its resolution it states: ...a crude oil spill will have devastating and long lasting effects on the Pacific North Coast area that is recognized for its unique and diverse ocean ecosystems, which provide critical marine habitat and marine resources that sustain the social, cultural, environmental and economic health of coastal communities, including First Nations communities. B.C.'s first nations have been vocal in their opposition to this proposed oil tanker traffic through their traditional territories. In March of this year, the Coastal First Nations, an alliance of first nations on the north coast and central coast, including Haida Gwaii, declared a ban on oil tanker traffic using their traditional laws. In fact, today there was an historic announcement, which brought together 61 indigenous nations that have come together in an alliance to protect the Fraser River watershed and to declare their opposition to the proposed Enbridge northern gateway pipeline. Signed in Williams Lake last week and published in a full-page ad in The Globe and Mail today, the Save the Fraser Gathering of Nations declaration is based on indigenous law and authority. It states: ...[we] will not allow the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines, or similar tar sands projects, to cross our lands, territories and watersheds, or the ocean migration routes of the Fraser River salmon. The declaration is the second major first nations declaration banning tar sands pipelines from B.C. this year. It makes it clear that the nations see the federal review process for one project as a violation of their laws and rights under international law, including the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which Canada just recently signed. First nations in this area have long advocated for sustainable employment opportunities for their members, along with proper environmental stewardship. They live in B.C.'s coastal temperate rainforest and are working hard to create a conservation-based economy, with emphasis on sustainable fisheries, forestry and ecotourism. Allowing more than 200 supertankers a year to enter these waters does not fit with their objectives. I believe we need to be forward thinking. A ban on tanker traffic in this area makes economic sense. Our coastal communities have been hard hit over the years with a global recession, a downturn in commodity prices, a collapse of industrial forestry and a struggling fishery that, aside from this year, has faced some of the lowest annual returns in the past decade. With that in mind, there is still renewed hope in coastal communities. Our wild salmon fishery experienced a record sockeye return this year. In British Columbia, our wild salmon are considered an icon species and an integral part of our identity and what it means to be west coast. As well, salmon are integral to the environment, our culture and our economy. The waters off B.C.'s north coast are a significant salmon migration route, with millions of salmon that come from the more than 650 streams and rivers along the coast in this area. The impacts of an oil spill would be devastating. The commercial fishery on the north coast catches over $100 million worth of fish annually. Over 2,500 residents along B.C.'s north coast work in the commercial fishery. The fish processing industry employs over 3,900 people. The north coast fishery is a major economic driver in the region and for the province of British Columbia. Our coastal communities and fisheries simply cannot afford the risk of an oil spill. We all witnessed what happened with the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989 and the devastation that caused, including the complete collapse of pink salmon. We all witnessed the destruction of the shrimp and fishing grounds after the BP spill in the Gulf Coast. We cannot allow even the possibility of a similar occurrence to the north coast fishery. Thousands of people's livelihoods rely upon us making the right decision to protect our fishery, and one way to do that is to legislate a ban on oil supertanker traffic. The wild and rugged north coast is one of the most beautiful places on the planet. It is a place where the legendary kermode bear, more popularly known as the spirit bear, resides and is an intrinsic character in first nation mythology and culture. This elusive white bear can be spotted roaming around the dense forests gathering salmon and was even the mascot for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. The magnificent beauty of this region has led it to become a world-renowned destination for ecotourism. The burgeoning tourism industry has been a major catalyst for employment, economic growth and opportunity in British Columbia. People from all over the world come to the north coast to witness the annual migration of the more than 20,000 grey whales that traverse the waters from Mexico to the Bering Sea. B.C.'s north coast shoreline is dotted with sports fishing lodges as fishing enthusiasts flock to experience the natural environment, the world-famous fishing grounds and the wild ocean. People are often left awestruck after spending even a day kayaking, bear watching, or enjoying a guided trip that showcases the marine habitat. They come to photograph sea otters and bald eagles and to experience, in some cases, the untouched natural environment of the Pacific coast. I suggest, if members have not done so already, that they take the opportunity to visit this incredible area one day soon. I am sure that they will come away with a much better understanding of the sheer beauty and raw nature of this area. Eco and recreational tourism in this area has been a growth industry for some years now. Businesses in this region have worked hard to promote their location as a major tourist destination. As other resource-based jobs have taken a hit, tourism has provided a much needed economic boost, both in direct and indirect jobs. According to the Living Oceans Society, there are approximately 10,000 jobs in the cruise ship and recreational tourism industry. This industry has provided jobs and economic spinoffs in a region that a decade ago faced significant unemployment and job loss. The right thing to do for our economy is to protect and grow existing jobs on the north coast and legislate a ban on oil tanker traffic in this area immediately.