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Oil Tanker Moratorium Bill C-48

Honourable senators, I rise to speak at the second reading of Bill C-48, the oil tanker moratorium act. As Senator Pratte noted previously, this bill bears an inaccurate short title because what it proposes is not a moratorium but rather a permanent ban on tanker traffic.

The affected area extends from the northern tip of Vancouver Island all the way to the Alaskan border. It prohibits tankers carrying more than 12,500 metric tonnes of crude or heavy oil from using all ports and offshore installations in northern British Columbia. It also prevents ship-to-ship transfers. The only exceptions are to allow supplies to be brought in to serve local communities. Violating the ban can result in a $5 million fine.

Honourable senators, you will recall that we heard repeatedly from the Prime Minister, both during the 2015 election campaign and since, that the Trudeau government would be committed to evidence-based policy.

Ministerial mandate letters repeat this call for decisions to be based on science, facts and evidence. Yet this bill seems to be based entirely on an election promise with no indication that it is backed up by solid evidence.

The directive to implement this ban was in the Minister of Transport’s mandate letter, despite the fact that there had been no time to consider science, facts or evidence.

There is no indication that any studies were done on the safety records of modern tankers, that any risk assessments were undertaken or that any cost-benefit analysis was conducted. No consideration was given to the fact that Canada has tanker safety and environmental standards that are second to none.

It is obvious that any consultations that were conducted were done with the ultimate result already in mind. In other words, the consultation was a sham.

Honourable senators, fewer than 300 oil tankers a year traverse Canada’s West Coast. Meanwhile, nearly 4,000 tankers come down the East Coast every year, according to Transport Canada. Are the dangers greater in northern B.C. than in the Gulf of St. Lawrence or along Newfoundland’s Iceberg Alley? Is the orca more important than the right whale? Is the East Coast less deserving of protection than the West Coast? Of course not, but this bill is not based on logic. It is based on politics. It is about squeezing the NDP in vote-rich British Columbia. Ultimately, Bill C-48 is about further land-locking the substantial petroleum reserves in the Fort McMurray area.

This legislation is in keeping with the politically motivated decision to kill the Northern Gateway pipeline, which would have taken crude oil from Bruderheim, Alberta, to Kitimat, British Columbia. That project would have provided $2 billion in benefits to First Nation partners along the route. Make no mistake, if Bill C-48 becomes law, the big losers will be the 35 First Nations between Grassy Point, B.C., and Fort McMurray, Alberta, who are partners in the Eagle Spirit Energy Corridor project.

This $14 billion project is the largest First Nations project in history. They have been working on it for six years. They have received preliminary financial commitments from a major global energy firm. They have reached agreements with Canada’s four pipeline unions, and they promise that Eagle Spirit will be the greenest project on the planet, through Indigenous environmental stewardship.

The chiefs council of the Eagle Spirit project, in a letter that I believe all senators received, says that the energy corridor “. . . represents the only opportunity for our communities to generate sustainable own-sourced revenues which would allow us to solve our own problems.”

In that same letter, the chiefs expressed their concerns about “. . . the complete lack of consultation from the federal government in introducing Bill C-48 and the incredibly harmful impact that this will have on our communities.”

Honourable senators, I have met with senior representatives of the Lax Kw’alaams band located in northern B.C. near Prince Rupert, and they were deeply disappointed by this arbitrary and unjustified legislation. If Bill C-48 goes ahead, the Eagle Spirit Energy Corridor is as good as dead. The chiefs asked the same questions I have asked: Crude oil can be shipped anywhere in Canada. What makes the waters of northern B.C. any different?

There are markets eager for Canadian oil. This government, through legislation such as Bill C-38 and Bill C-69, seems determined to deny them access. Those countries will buy their oil elsewhere, from producers like Venezuela or Nigeria, who lack Canada’s commitment to environmental stewardship and human rights.

So where does that leave us? With the United States as the only viable market for Alberta crude, even as the Americans are ramping up their own production to become self-sufficient.

On October 11, the price of Western Canadian Select was a record $52 per barrel below that of West Texas Intermediate oil. Think about that, honourable senators. Texas oil selling for more than $70 a barrel. Alberta oil for only $20. A shortage of pipeline capacity was cited as one of the major factors. That price differential means a loss of thousands of potential jobs and billions of dollars in revenue.

According to the Fraser Institute, the price differential cost Canadian oil producers $20.7 billion between 2013 and 2017. That loss of revenue has an impact on governments. It means less money for schools, hospitals, mental health treatment, research and innovation, and for our military.

Honourable senators, as the recent NAFTA renegotiations proved, Canada is far too dependent on the United States for our economic prosperity. We are at the mercy of President Trump. It is incomprehensible to me why the federal government should take deliberate action to ensure the United States remains the only accessible market for one of our major exports.

But that is exactly the impact of Bill C-48. It is a bad bill. It is not based on evidence, and that offers no benefits to Canadians. Thank you

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