Libby speaks ups to ban oil tanker traffic off BC’s coast

Today Libby spoke out in the House to support the NDP Oppostion Day Motion on banning oil tanker traffic off BC’s coast.

House of Commons
December 2, 2010

Mr. Nathan Cullen (Skeena-Bulkley Valley) : That, in the opinion of the House, the government should immediately propose legislation to ban bulk oil tanker traffic in 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.

Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP) :
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Burnaby—Douglas.

I was just listening to the Conservative member who said he is not going to take any lessons from the NDP, and that is fine. We sort of expect that. However, at the heart of this debate today is whether or not the Conservative government is going to take any lessons from the people of B.C. and whether or not it is actually going to listen to the people of B.C.

The first thing I would like to do is thank the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley for bringing forward this excellent motion that would ensure there is legislation to ban bulk oil tanker traffic in the Dixon Entrance. This is something that the member, along with other members of our caucus, has worked on diligently and passionately. It has been part of the broad public discourse in our province over this issue. I would like to thank the member and congratulate him for the fine work that he has done.

I would also like to give recognition to Catherine Bell, who was a member of this House for Vancouver Island North and who will again be a member of this House. In 2008, it was Catherine Bell who brought forward Bill C-571 and introduced legislation to ban tanker traffic in this same area. We are very appreciative of the work that Catherine Bell did on this issue. She is still working on this issue. It is of key interest to people in Vancouver Island North, and we know that she will be back here to represent those folks very soon.

To me this motion is very straightforward. When we look at what is at risk here, in terms of one of the most pristine, beautiful parts of our planet, our country and certainly in British Columbia, the thought of these massive super tankers carrying this oil from the Enbridge pipeline and from the tar sands through this very ecologically and historically sensitive, beautiful area is something that nobody in British Columbia can contemplate.
The risks are so high that there is obviously nothing more to be said than that we need to have a legislative ban to make it abundantly clear that this is not acceptable in terms of the risk to our environment and to our local communities.

This motion today does present a very clear choice. When one begins to look at the people who have weighed on this issue, poll after poll has consistently supported a ban on tanker traffic by as much as 80%. We know the proposed pipeline by Enbridge crosses the territory of more than 50 first nations. That is massive.

We know that coastal first nations made a very important declaration on banning tanker traffic on their traditional territory in March 2010. The Union of B.C. Municipalities, representing many communities, large and small, also passed a resolution at their convention in October. That is very recent. The First Nations Summit Chiefs Council passed a resolution, also in October. The list goes on and on.

I do believe that part of this debate today is whether or not the Conservative government is listening to the people of British Columbia. This is the government that got itself elected by saying that it was going to be accountable to British Columbians, that we would not experience western alienation, and that the people of British Columbia counted.

What has the government done, time after time? Let us just think of issues like the HST. I do not remember one Conservative member standing up and saying anything in defence of their constituents and how they felt about the HST. They all ran for cover. They tried to pass it off on the Gordon Campbell Liberals, and we saw what happened to him.

That was one example of where the Conservative members of Parliament from British Columbia refused to listen to their constituents in B.C. Let us look at Insite, in my community. There has been a groundswell of support for lifesaving measures for people who are facing addiction and overdoses. The board of trade, the local police, city council, the premier of B.C., all supported Insite along with the local community, and most importantly the people who use the facility.

What did the government do? It is taking it all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. It is fighting it every step of the way.
We could look at the destaffing of lighthouses in B.C., where small coastal communities that are dependent on this very important service, and the staffing of lighthouses, are now facing another uphill battle in terms of the future of those lighthouses and the staffing that has been there.

We could name issue after issue on which the Conservatives have abandon the people of British Columbia. However, on the issue of supertankers going through this very sensitive area in B.C. is probably the most significant thing that has happened to date. I have to say that Conservative members should be ashamed of themselves for ignoring all of the opinions and strong feelings out there about what this motion means.

The government can go ahead and ignore the NDP, we can deal with that and we will fight tooth and nail in this Parliament, but if the government votes against this motion, then it is a clear indication of how it feels about the people in their local communities.

I was very proud recently to host a public forum with two of my colleagues from Burnaby—Douglas and Burnaby—New Westminster on the issue of tanker traffic. We had a full house with leaders from industry, the Marine Pilots’ Association, environmental activists from the Western Canada Wilderness Committee and a number of excellent speakers. I know all of us heard the concerns from folks in Burnaby and in east Vancouver and how strongly they feel about these issues.

This is more than the supertankers. As we know, this is linked to the growth in the tar sands. I think it is well-known that if this pipeline goes ahead and these tankers are allowed to operate, it will lead to a massive growth of the tar sands by at least 30%. That has been raised in the debate here today. It throws into question the whole future of the tar sands and why it is that we are so hell bent on exporting this raw bitumen to other countries and using this pipeline. At least, as a first priority, we should have a made in Canada energy policy that respects our domestic markets and serves our local markets, instead of shipping out raw resources, notwithstanding the environmental damage that will take place.

I strongly support this motion today. It will be an environmental travesty if we allow these proposals to go ahead. As legislators, we should take a clear stand and position to say that there should be a ban on these supertankers through this area of northern B.C. That is what we are here to do. We are here to represent our constituents. We are here to make decisions that respect the future of our environment. I cannot think of a more important thing that we have to do.

If we are not willing to take this on and recognize that there is a public interest at stake here, then we are abdicating our responsibility. If we only listen to the statements by the captains of industry about what they see as future profits and export markets, then we are not getting the full picture. I believe that the people in our communities, our constituents, are demanding that we, as legislators, bring a balanced and fair view to the decisions we make. The environment is part of that. The social impact is part of that. The impact on first nations is part of that.

Organizations, like the Union of B.C. Municipalities, the First Nations Summit, the labour organizations and many others, have supported this ban. They have come to this conclusion because they are looking at the full picture. They are looking at the impact on the environment. They are looking at the impact on future generations and the image of what a spill would look like in that area of British Columbia, which is something that none of us want to even contemplate.

I urge my colleagues to support this very important motion today. We will be watching very closely to what every member of the Conservative Party for British Columbia does on this motion. We want to know if they have been listening to their constituents to uphold the future of our province, our environment and to ensure we do not go through a scenario of disaster, which will surely result unless we pass this motion.