Bill C-48 comes at a ‘pivotal time for energy and environment’
Bill C-48 delivers on an election promise to formalize a voluntary tanker exclusion zone in place for more than 30 years.
Legislation to formalize a longstanding oil tanker moratorium on Canada’s north Pacific coast will help preserve the rich biodiversity of the region, which includes the Great Bear Rainforest and the islands of Haida Gwaii, Government Representative in the Senate Peter Harder said in a speech.
Bill C-48, the Oil Tanker Moratorium Act, has been before the Senate since May 2018. In December 2018, a delegation of Hereditary Chiefs and political leaders from British Columbia came to Ottawa to voice their support for the legislation.
“I hope that, one day, the people of the coast will tell the story of when their grandparents came to Ottawa to pass Bill C-48. I hope the people of Canada will tell the story of how Canadians worked together to save the environment at this testing time. I hope with all my heart that both stories will have a happy ending,” Sen. Harder said during his third reading speech in the Senate on June 11, 2019.
Read his full speech below.
“In his Governor General’s Award-winning book, The Golden Spruce, John Vaillant describes the temperate rainforest of Canada’s north Pacific Coast, writing:
‘The mild temperatures within the long, damp corridor between the Pacific Slope and the sea have created what is essentially a vast terrarium. It is an environment perfectly designed to support life on a grand scale, including the biggest freestanding creatures on earth. … The Northwest forests support more living tissue, by weight, than any other ecosystem, including the equatorial jungle. …
The range of the coastal temperate rainforest — like that of most wild creatures — has been drastically reduced in a relatively short period of time. Until about a thousand years ago, temperate rainforests could be found on every continent except Africa and Antarctica. Once upon a time, the lush coastal forests of Japan were a trans-Pacific mirror of our own. …
The Highlands of Scotland, a place long associated with barren scapes of moorland and heather, hosted a temperate rainforest as well. So did Ireland, Iceland and the eastern shore of the Black Sea. While the North Sea coast of Norway retains vestigial traces of its original rainforest, Chile, Tasmania and New Zealand’s South Island are the only places left with forests whose flora, feel and character remotely resemble those of the Pacific Northwest, which hosts the largest such rain forests in the world. …
Ocean-fed bears — some of them as white as a bald eagle’s head — swim from island to island where they cruise the high tides, their footprints overlapping with those of deer, otter, marten and wolf.
In here, the patient observer will find that trees are fed by salmon, eagles can swim and killer whales will heave themselves into the gravelled shallows and stare you in the eye.
The Native peoples of the Northwest Coast spent most of their lives within a hundred metres of this heavily traffic threshold between two worlds. Living in such a liminal environment, it is hardly surprising that their artworks, dances and stories focus so heavily on convergence and transformation. Nowhere else on the coast is the profound interdependence between forest, sea and shared inhabits more dramatically represented than on the Queen Charlotte Islands [Haida Gwaii].’
Honourable senators, I rise today to speak at third reading of government Bill C-48, the Oil Tanker Moratorium Act, or An Act respecting the regulation of vessels that transport crude oil or persistent oil to or from ports or marine installations located along British Columbia’s north coast.
As you know, this legislation would formalize the long-standing oil tanker moratorium on Canada’s north Pacific coast.
The major environmental policy implemented by this government is a government election commitment supported federally by four parties: The Government of British Columbia and the regional governments of the City of Prince Rupert, the Village of Queen Charlotte, the District of Kitimat, the City of Terrace, the Town of Smithers and the Skeena Queen Charlotte Regional District.
In addition, Bill C-48 is supported by a large majority of First Nations peoples who hold section 35 constitutional title to the relevant northern and central coastal territories that could be devastated by an oil spill, as well as constitutional rights to the region’s fisheries.
At the outset, I’d like to thank Senator Mobina Jaffer for her excellent and dedicated work as the sponsor of this bill.
When Coastal First Nations’ leadership visited the Senate in December to ask senators for their support, several leaders led a prayer of healing for Senator Mobina Jaffer. We repeat that prayer in our hearts tonight.
Given Bill C-48’s legislative path to this point, in speaking at third reading I would like to outline in detail the democratic process that has led to this government bill, as well as the underlying policy rationale.
Contrary to the words of Senator Baker, I’m very sorry that I will not be brief, as neither was he.
Specifically, I’d like to speak to senators and Canadians today about the Government of Canada’s democratic mandate for Bill C-48; the history of the existing voluntary exclusion zone for oil tankers; the federal constitutional authority over marine shipping ports; risk factors on the north Pacific Coast that affect shipping and potential spills; the ecology of interrelated marine and terrestrial environments, including the Great Bear Rainforest, the sustainable regional economies of central and northern B.C., particularly fisheries and tourism, and the majority support for Bill C-48 from First Nations of the affected coast; the nature of their constitutional rights to the territories and the fisheries; the potential environmental and economic effects of a heavy oil spill; and the Government of Canada’s energy and environment plan writ large.
Overall, the government has a balanced and comprehensive energy and environmental plan designed to grow Canada’s national and regional economies, including with multiple new oil and gas pipelines. However, as these cleaner-burning fossil fuel resources get to market and replace coal in Asia, the government is investing heavily in renewable energy to support the global transition to mitigate climate change.
Critically, in response to this catastrophic threat to the environment and humanity, the government is putting a price on carbon to alter behaviour in a way that is less damaging to the natural world.
Within the bigger picture, Bill C-48 is an important policy compromise within the federation as a challenging and pivotal time for energy and environment in Canada and the world.
In the Senate’s review of Bill C-48, we should consider the democratic history of the policy of preventing heavy oil tanker traffic on the north Pacific Coast. Before and during the 2015 federal election, now Prime Minister Trudeau made a commitment to Canadians and, in particular, to British Columbians to give the oil tanker moratorium the strength of law if they were elected as government.
On June 29, 2015, Mr. Trudeau announced the Liberal environmental platform at a news conference in Vancouver. He publicly made a commitment to Canadians that a Liberal government would attend the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris with premiers, put a price on carbon, expand Marine Protected Areas, balance the environmental assessment processes for new resource projects and formalize the moratorium on crude oil traffic along the northern coast of B.C.
These announcements received national media coverage and spurred public debate as Canadians, including British Columbians, considered and made their choices in the polls just a few weeks later.
On September 20, 2015, in Vancouver and in the midst of the election campaign, Mr. Trudeau again committed, as advertised by the Liberal Party of Canada in writing, to:
‘Formalize the moratorium on crude oil tanker traffic on British Columbia’s North Coast – including the Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait, and Queen Charlotte Sound – and ensure that ecologically sensitive areas and local economies are protected from the devastating impacts of a spill.’
In addition, Mr. Trudeau’s announcement outlined the government’s Oceans Protection Plan, including the policies brought forward in Bill C-55 to reach the international marine protection targets and in Bill C-68 regarding the restoration of protection for fish stocks and habitat.
As senators know, one of those bills is now law. The other passed the Senate with amendments last week.
With regard to Bill C-48, when the Liberal Party of Canada won the federal election and formed the government, the Minister of Transport the Honourable Marc Garneau’s mandate letter reflected the Prime Minister’s commitment to formalize the North Pacific moratorium.
In November 2016, Prime Minister Trudeau announced to Canadians that legislation to formalize the moratorium was forthcoming, and in May 2017 Minister Garneau introduced Bill C-48 in the House of Commons.
Bill C-48 subsequently passed the Commons in May of last year with a vote by elected members of Parliament of 204 to 85. Support for the bill in the other place came from the government Liberal caucus, the New Democratic Party, the Green Party and the Groupe parlementaire québécois. These votes comprised the elected representatives of 67.4 per cent of the popular vote in the last federal election.
Also relevant to the democratic mandate for Bill C-48 in 2015, the NDP and the Greens promised to formalize the tanker ban, meaning that 62.7 per cent of Canadians cast votes for a party promising to implement the policy contained in this legislation.
In Prince Rupert, British Columbia, on June 21 of last year, as the Senate commenced the debate on Bill C-48, Prime Minister Trudeau reiterated his commitment to the First Nations of central and northern coastal B.C. The Prime Minister told leaders and communities that what the government was doing to keep his electoral promise to protect the North Pacific Coast, including progress made on the oil tanker moratorium act.
On that occasion, National Indigenous Peoples Day, the Prime Minister also jointly announced with First Nations leadership a landmark ocean protection agreement with 14 central and North Pacific Coast nations.
The Prime Minister takes nothing more seriously than reconciliation, and he has given his word to protect the Great Bear Rainforest for future generations. As Minister Garneau has indicated several times, and I reiterate today, the government will seriously consider and potentially accept any Senate amendments to Bill C-48 that are consistent with the principle of the bill. However, the government has a responsibility to Canadians to implement its democratic mandate, including this bill.
In considering the oil tanker moratorium act, it is important to remember that Bill C-48 formalizes and complements an existing and long-standing Canadian policy of protecting the North Pacific Coast from major risks of oil spill. It is worth reviewing the history of that policy in some detail.
As Gavin Smith, lawyer for West Coast Environmental Law, outlined at committee, the debate around the shipment of heavy oil through or along the North Pacific Coast began in the late 1960s with the advancement of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System. The potential routes of tankers became an issue of major provincial and national concern.
In 1970, a House of Commons special committee examined the matter. In 1971, the committee recommended that Canada oppose crude oil traffic in the region due to the environmental risks. Also in 1971, the B.C. legislature unanimously passed a motion to oppose crude oil traffic along the north coast.
In 1972, with the Trans-Alaska Pipeline now built, the House of Commons unanimously passed a motion that crude oil tanker traffic would be inimical to the interests of Canada. The House of Commons urged the government to raise the matter with the United States. Canada’s objective was to ensure that tankers would transit the West Coast at a sufficient distance to prevent a major oil spill in the event of a ship becoming adrift, though such a route would require a greater cost of time and fuel.
In 1977, oil tankers began to transit the West Pacific Coast from Valdez, Alaska, to refineries in Washington State. As federal officials have indicated on the record, the routing system at that time was the result of discussions between the United States and Canada and provided for tankers to keep in excess of 150 kilometres west of the islands of Haida Gwaii.
In the late 1970s, a proposed domestic oil port in Kitimat prompted the federal government to launch a commission of inquiry into the question of oil tankers on the northwest coast. The 1978 report stated:
If an oil port is established at Kitimat there will inevitably be oil spills on the adjacent coast of British Columbia.
The commissioner further stated:
‘Despite my familiarity with this history of determined opposition to tanker traffic, I have been surprised to find it so universal.’
Following this report, the federal government rejected the Kitimat proposal, emphasizing the unsuitability of the location. On the U.S. side, the longer routes from Alaska to Washington for oil tankers were unpopular with American shippers due to the added cost and were abandoned by the U.S. Coast Guard in 1982.
However, to keep our coast safe, Canada entered into negotiations with the United States government through the Canadian Coast Guard. Under Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, these talks led to the 1985 Voluntary Tanker Exclusion Zone.
In 1988, the Canada and the U.S. Coast Guards further formalized the agreement under President Ronald Reagan. In 1989, the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska underscored the moratorium’s importance, reminding the world that accidents can always happen, with that disaster covering 2,100 kilometres of coastline and 28,000 square kilometres of ocean with crude oil.
For 34 years, the voluntary exclusion zone has extended about 100 kilometres west of the islands of Haida Gwaii, covering an area from Alaska to the southwestern coast of Vancouver Island. The offshore range of the exclusionary zone was calculated based on the Canadian study of the worst possible drift of a disabled tanker versus the time required for sufficiently powerful tugboats to respond and to prevent a spill on the coast.
The long-standing effect of the exclusion zone has been that tankers servicing the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System between Valdez, Alaska and Puget Sound, Washington, travel west of the exclusion zone.
Senators may be interested in the description of this policy and history from The Globe and Mail from former Liberal member of Parliament, minister of transport and later fisheries and oceans and the environment, the Honourable David Anderson. Mr. Anderson was involved in the development of this policy in the 1970s and in the exclusion zone’s enforcement through the 1990s. Mr. Anderson describes the conditions at the time of the moratorium where he says:
‘These were years of a seemingly endless stream of tanker groundings, collisions and explosions around the world. The Canadian government’s objective was to keep tankers carrying Alaskan crude oil further offshore, thus allowing more response time in the event of an accident and reducing impacts on our West Coast shorelines and fisheries in case of a spill. Canada would have had little credibility in making such a request to the Americans if our own policies were not consistent with our routing request.’
Senators, this last point is very important. If Canadians do not respect the voluntary exclusion zone, Americans are unlikely to either. Were a pipeline such as the now-defunct Northern Gateway Project ever to be built in the north coast, it would create new risk from new tanker traffic. However, the pipeline would also invite even greater risk from existing tanker traffic with American vessels no longer respecting the safe distance from the coast in order, of course, to save time and money.
At the Transport Committee, Mr. Garneau said:
‘Should we ever start shipping crude oil off the coast, it could weaken adherence to the Tanker Exclusion Zone. After all, if we ourselves are shipping crude oil through these waters despite the risks, then why should other countries not do the same? As such, Bill C-48 should be seen as complementary to the Tanker Exclusion Zone and an important step that would provide additional protection for Canada.’
This point is incredibly important because of our debates in the chamber at second reading. You will recall that on November 28 of last year, Senator Wells told this chamber on behalf of his party that he supports an end to the Reagan-Mulroney moratorium. I submit, with the Conservatives now advocating for scrapping the exclusion zone, this is all the more reason for the country to move forward with Bill C-48.
In taking the next step, as Minister Garneau indicated, Bill C-48 complements the exclusion zone for formally banning and estopping loading and unloading of crude or persistent oils from tankers from the northern end of Vancouver Island up to Alaska.
For the purposes of resupply, the bill makes an exception for tankers carrying less than 12,500 metric tonnes of heavy oil. By comparison, the largest tankers calling at ports in Canada have the capacity to carry 20 times this amount.
Again, for comparison, the Exxon Valdez spilled approximately 37,000 metric tonnes of oil into the ocean, seven times less than the amount carried on one of today’s supertankers.
Bill C-48 reinforces this moratorium with penalties of up to $5 million.
In this debate, the government would like to acknowledge the policy contributions on this matter from retiring Member of Parliament for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, Nathan Cullen. In 2016, Mr. Cullen introduced Bill C-328, Protection of the North Coast of British Columbia Act. The policy innovations in that bill helped lead us to Bill C-48. On behalf of the government, I would commend Mr. Cullen for his Senate testimony in support of this bill in Prince Rupert and his efforts here in Ottawa.
With Bill C-48, the law will have the effect of keeping tankers away from the northwest coast by removing any economic purpose for coming close to the shore. In that way, Bill C-48 formalizes and complements the existing Tanker Exclusion Zone in Canada’s statutory law. That is the government’s promise to Canadians and that is the purpose of Bill C-48.
This policy falls clearly within federal jurisdiction. Under international law, Canada has the authority as a sovereign nation to enact legislation on access to our ports. This conclusion was supported by testimony provided to the Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities in May 2018 by Professor Ted McDorman, Professor of Law, Faculty of Law, University of Victoria, where he stated, “As a matter of international law, it would be completely within the jurisdiction of Canada to do, without complaint by any other country.”
Vanessa Rochester, Counsel at the law firm Norton Rose Fulbright, added:
‘Bill C-48 prohibits loading, discharging, mooring at ports and marine installations in the defined areas for tankers carrying over a certain volume of cargo. These are the internal waters of Canada. This differs from the area covered by the … [Voluntary Tanker Exclusion Zone.]’
Further, and contrary to claims made by some in this chamber at second reading, the formalization of the 1985 moratorium will not create the only tanker ban or moratorium in the world. In fact, it’s not the first in Canada. In 1982, the federal government implemented a regulation prohibiting loaded oil tankers in the Head Harbour Passage, New Brunswick, in response to a proposed oil refinery on the United States side.
In the United States, American law has banned oil tankers in the area covering over 5,000 square kilometres in the Florida Keys since 1990. Since 1977, American law has capped crude oil tanker shipping in the Puget Sound region of Washington State.
In Australia, the Queensland Parliament recently passed a law to implement its prohibition of coal tanker shipments over a massive portion of the Great Barrier Reef.
In efforts to protect sensitive marine ecosystems from major spills, Canada is not alone, although Bill C-48 will reinforce Canada’s position as a global leader.
Honourable senators, I will now turn to marine safety risks that would accompany the shipping of heavy oil off the north coast.
In addition to these navigational hazards, the risk of a catastrophe is exacerbated by geographic factors that would make spill prevention and response much more difficult than in Atlantic waters or further south in British Columbia where the TMX project will increase tanker traffic.
The body of water between the north and central coast mainland of Haida Gwaii is called Hecate Strait. This body of water merges with the Dixon Entrance to the north heading up to the open Pacific Ocean. Environment Canada classifies this strait as the fourth most dangerous body of water in the world for shipping. The reason is primarily how quickly the wind and sea state can get up.
As the committee heard, the Hecate Strait and the Dixon Entrance, sustained winds of 100 kilometres per hour are not uncommon, with sea states of between 8 and 10 metres. Because the strait is shallow, this geography produces steep waves that hit at shorter intervals and contain tremendous energy. Violent weather conditions in these waters can strain and damage large vessels, particularly tankers with even double-hull technology.
As the committee heard, the integrity of double-hull tankers depends on thousands of welded joints. These welds suffer strain from the force of the short-interval, steep waves that characterize the Hecate Strait and create greater risk for an accident in these waters.
In addition, accidents around the world have confirmed that double-hull tanker technology still carries the risk of major oil spills. In 2010, the double-hulled tanker Bunga Kelana 3 spilled 2.9 million litres of crude oil in the waters off Singapore following a collision.
The same year, the double-hulled Eagle Otome spilled 1.7 million litres of crude at Port Arthur, Texas. In 1992, the double-hulled tanker Aegean Sea ran aground and spilled 76 million litres of crude off the coast of northern Spain.
The Transportation Committee heard evidence from Dr. Stanley Rice, a retired biologist with the National Oceanography and Atmospheric Administration of the United States. Dr. Rice stated and provided the government with advice on both the Exxon Valdez disaster in Prince William Sound and Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Dr. Rice provided evidence as a scientist and took no position on Bill C-48.
In relation to the Exxon Valdez, Dr. Rice confirmed that a double hull would not have prevented the spill. Dr. Rice also emphasized that the risk of a spill can be mitigated but never negated when shipping oil.
As he said, “Certainly there are risks, and I always make the analogy to a lottery. Lotteries are terrible odds that it will happen … and yet somebody wins a lottery every month or every year or whatever.”
Honourable senators, the risk of human error or mechanical error can never be negated when shipping oil in a marine environment. However, by creating limits for resupply, Bill C-48 does minimize the risk of a catastrophic spill along the north coast by minimizing the amount of heavy oil being transported on the water.
As I said at second reading, risk must not be equated with probability. Risk is probability multiplied by consequence. In the case of a major oil spill, the consequence would be severe, long-lasting and potentially imposing permanent damage to the unique ecological and sustainable economies of First Nation cultures.
As many witnesses on the north coast told the Transport Committee, accidents can always happen, but for these communities the risk is simply too great.
Of interest, the committee heard that there has been an attempt to quantify the probability of a spill in this region. At committee hearings in Terrace, David Shannon, a retired engineer with Douglas Channel Watch, referenced Enbridge’s calculation of the risk of an oil spill.
This calculation was in relation to the tanker traffic that would have been generated by the Northern Gateway proposal. As Mr. Shannon said, the calculation showed an 11 per cent chance of a spill of 5 million litres in the first 40 years of the project.
For people living in the area, an 11 per cent chance is too high when we’re talking about an existential, ecological, economic and cultural event that would essentially destroy the area for the foreseeable future.
Another factor senators may consider is that the coastal region we are discussing is vast, remote and sparsely populated. These conditions exacerbate the difficulty of spill prevention, response and cleanup compared to the comparability of industrialized coastlines in the Atlantic and southern B.C. coast, particularly as the latter is close to Washington State.
In the riding of Skeena—Bulkley Valley, covering most of the areas affected by Bill C-48, the population density is 0.3 people per square mile compared to the 9.5 people per square mile on Vancouver Island or the 354 people per square mile in the city of Vancouver.
In the event of a spill, the lack of response infrastructure in this vast wilderness would make the damage to the environment worse than any other Canadian waterway.
Moreover, the committee heard that most of the effective oil spill recovery technology in the world can currently recover only 10 to 15 per cent of the oil spilled in a marine environment. For this optimal outcome, it is important to note that spill response is most effective in calm waters and completely ineffective in very rough waters.
To be sure, an oil spill is an environmental tragedy anywhere, and important species and ecosystems exist all over Canada’s coast, including the Arctic and Atlantic coasts. However, from a scientific point of view, Canada’s north Pacific coast is a unique and unusually important ecosystem in the global biosphere.
The north Pacific seas are the most biologically productive on our planet. The deep-sea continental shelf and violent storms drive nutrients up from the depths where longer summer days produce kelp forests 50 meters high in annual blooms of marine life that feed migrating species.
As I indicated at second reading, this is science, not opinion. Coastal B.C. has the greatest biodiversity in Canada and is quite unlike anything in North America. About 44 of the 62 vertebrate subspecies and significant populations endemic to B.C.’s coast occur on coastal islands. Two thirds of the mammal species and subspecies found in B.C. can only occur near the coast. All of the bird subspecies that breed only in B.C. do so exclusively on the coast. In addition, these habitats contain over 200 species of coastal birds and more than 5 million seabirds use the B.C. coast for breeding with 1.5 million alone on the islands of Haida Gwaii. Indeed, the Pacific north coast supports 95 per cent of the total breeding seabird population in B.C.
More than 400 species of marine fish and 5 species of sea turtles live off the coast. The region is home to three of five of B.C.’s major herring populations, 88 per cent of spawning rivers for the eulachon in B.C. and 58 per cent of spawning habitat for West Coast salmon.
The Pacific coast provides a crucial habitat for very rare and vulnerable species with 39 of its species listed as threatened, endangered or of special concern by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Over 25 species of marine mammals inhabit the coast including cetaceans, sea otters, seals and sea lions. Of the 22 populations of specific whales, dolphins, porpoises found in the region under the Species At Risk Act, three are listed as endangered, four are threatened and three are of special concern.
In the last several years, Canadians have expressed grave concerns over the plight of the North Atlantic right whales. This species now numbers only 417 individuals and faces probable extinction in the near future. However, it may surprise senators to know that this species is flourishing compared to the North Pacific right whales. Though the population likely numbered over 20,000 before commercial whaling, only a few hundred remain. The eastern population along Alaska and B.C. is thought to be under 40 animals. According to the Vancouver Aquarium, there have been only two sightings of North Pacific right whales in Canadian waters in the last 60 years.
Honourable senators, as you are aware, my remarks are lengthy so I’ll skimp on the facts about terrestrial ecosystems of the north coast. However, I would briefly note that northern B.C. coastal region includes the Great Bear Rainforest, often referred to as Canada’s Amazon. The enormous red cedars, Douglas firs and Sitka spruce rely on salmon rivers for bears, eagles and other predators to disperse nutrients into the forest. The salmon in turn that rely on clean marine waters and freshwater rivers and streams to spawn.
The Great Bear Rainforest is one of the world’s largest remaining intact coastal temperate rainforests representing one quarter of this habitat left in the world which is found in only 11 regions globally.
To conclude my remarks on ecology, I would simply note that Canada has within its stewardship, one of the world’s last great natural ecosystems. Like all ecosystems, the temperate rainforest is coming under strain from human activity, particularly climate change. Bill C-48 will afford one of the world’s last ecological strongholds a better chance of withstanding and surviving the disaster that we know is coming and that we are collectively causing.
We also need to see a healthy environment as having economic value. As we consider national and regional economic interests, we must further consider that the sustainable economies of northern B.C. rely on pristine and flourishing ecosystems and would be destroyed by an oil spill for a long period of time, if not permanently.
First and foremost, there are the commercial and Aboriginal fisheries. Fishing on the north coast is worth $400 million annually. Fishers, communities and processors have invested $2 billion. The north coast fishery is a large, expensive Canadian industry with a lot to lose in the event of an oil spill.
In Prince Rupert, the committee heard from Joy Thorkelson, President of the United Fishermen and Allied Workers Union. As Ms. Thorkelson told the committee, an oil spill would devastate the fish population as happened with herring salmon as a result of the Exxon Valdez disaster. Further, Ms. Thorkelson explained that a single major spill would affect the entire north coast fishery.
The committee heard that virtually every marine area on the coast has valuable fish habitat that sustains the fishery. Ms. Thorkelson conveyed information from the Atlantic branch of the union colleagues that there is anxiety about the spill on the East Coast and further noted that wave action in the Pacific coast poses a greater risk to the shores and rivers than on the Atlantic coast.
In addition to fisheries and aquaculture, an oil spill would do massive damage to B.C.’s tourism sector. In Terrace, the committee heard from Kevin Smith, owner of Maple Leaf Adventures, President of Wilderness Tourism Association of British Columbia and the Vice-President of the Commercial Bear Viewing Association. Mr. Smith told the committee that tourism is an $18 billion industry in B.C., with growth outpacing the general economy in recent years. The wilderness tourism sector has seen 8 per cent growth in the last decade. Mr. Smith said:
‘Depending on whose projections you use, wilderness tourism in B.C. will produce between $600 billion and $5.6 trillion over the next 50 years, half of it on the coast.’
In addition, Mr. Smith told the committee that following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill, southern Mississippi’s charter business crashed by an average of 70 per cent. Fair warning.
As I told this chamber at second reading, with representation from the coastal elected and hereditary leadership in attendance, the large majority of First Nations peoples of the Pacific northwest coast strongly support Bill C-48. The leadership of these nations are, of course, their own best advocates. Here in Ottawa, the committee heard from Chief Marilyn Slett, President of nine allied coast First Nations. Chief Slett told the committee of the devastating effects of the 2016 diesel spill on the Heiltsuk people of Bella Bella. That spill was minor compared to the regional catastrophe that would ensue from the grounding of a supertanker. As Chief Slett said:
‘Heiltsuk has experienced the traumatic impacts caused by a marine oil spill first-hand. In October 2016, the Nathan E. Stewart and its barge ran aground and sank in Heiltsuk territory, spilling over 110,000 litres of pollutants into the ocean … Some of the devastating impacts included impacts to traditional harvesting, Heiltsuk’s commercial clam harvest, Heiltsuk culture, as well as impacts of the response efforts and the strain on the community.’
The Transportation Community also heard from Jason Alsop, President of the Council of Haida Nation. As we consider Bill C-48 in the context of Canadian history, senators may consider Mr. Alsop’s words when he said:
‘I guess to understand where we’re coming from is to understand what this cultural genocide means, to have a population decimated originally by introduced diseases like smallpox and have your population whittled down to a few hundred [from over 100,000]. To start to re-grow and rebuild from that and maintain your culture and persevere, despite the federal policies, is a triumph of our nations and our people.’
I don’t know if you could appreciate what it would mean to us to be able to have that immediate threat of a new oil tanker traffic removed so that we could continue to build our sustainable economies on the coast.’
In Prince Rupert, Guujaaw, the Haida leader, spoke of the decades-long fight for Bill C-48:
‘We began fighting, basically from a time when none of us had no influence, a generation ago, even, had no influence over anything that was happening. It was all collapsing; we were all witnessing this.
We managed to fight back and, over the years, protect a lot of land. We protected a lot of ocean, stopped a lot of overharvesting, with a lot of sacrifice to ourselves. Over the years, we established in Canadian law that Aboriginal title does still exist.’
Senators, I could go on to recall the testimony of others. Matthew Hill comes to mind, but let me go on and acknowledge for the record that, while a strong majority of the people of the area support Bill C-48, the community of Lax Kw’alaams is divided on the bill. In that case, the hereditary leadership supports the bill and the mayor does not.
Mayor John Helin and his brother Calvin serve respectively as vice-president and president of an early-stage pipeline proposal called Eagle Spirit with terminals proposed at Grassy Point, north of Prince Rupert. Lax Kw’alaams will hold an election this fall. I can tell you Bill C-48 has spurred vigorous debate and will undoubtedly be a part of that vote.
I note for the record that if Bill C-48 passes, the Eagle Spirit proposal will not proceed to a further stage, in accordance with a majority view of coastal nations.
Honourable senators, in distinguishing between island interests and providing rights for private enterprise as compared to coastal fishing and constitutional rights, the government does not place one group over another. The government or any court looks at the constitutional rights at stake as objectively as possible and makes a determination according to the law. In this case, that determination favours Bill C-48.
Senators, I’d like to speak a little bit about the Government’s energy and environmental policies. As I mentioned at the outset, the government has a balanced and comprehensive set of energy and environment policies designed to grow Canada’s national and regional economies, including with multiple new oil and natural gas pipelines. Specifically, the government has supported three pipeline projects for Alberta and Saskatchewan energy that will move Canada’s oil resources to foreign markets. The world will need oil for a long time to come, including in Asia, where it can help replace coal. It makes sense to transport Canadian oil by pipeline if it’s safer and more efficient than rail. This is why the government has supported Line 3 and Keystone XL to the United States, and the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion, TMX, to Burnaby. As senators know, the government is ardently pursuing the resumption of construction on TMX. To twin the existing pipeline for greater capacity, the government has even taken the remarkable step of purchasing that infrastructure on behalf of Canadians for $4.5 billion to ensure its completion for the benefit of our economy and particularly for that of Alberta and Saskatchewan.
As I speak, the government is working hard to meet the conditions outlined in the Federal Court of Appeal for construction to resume on the TMX. As senators know, the government intends to make an announcement by June 18.
As we’re thinking about the events that have brought us here today, I would note that if you cross the river here to the Canadian Museum of History, totem poles rise in front of a dug-out cedar canoe that stretches the length of the room, standing before traditional northwest Indigenous architecture. One of the plaques in that building intriguingly reads ‘adventure,’ and the text reads as follows:
‘Peoples of the northwest coast tell stories of adventure. Their narratives are filled with accounts of bravery and suspense, and almost always finish with a happy ending and a moral lesson.’
Honourable senators, I hope that, one day, the people of the coast will tell the story of when their grandparents came to Ottawa to pass Bill C-48. I hope the people of Canada will tell the story of how Canadians worked together to save the environment at this testing time. I hope with all my heart that both stories will have a happy ending. Thank you.”