Monday, March 30, 2015
Tale of two coasts—BC rejects oil industry, NL embraces it. My speech in the Commons
I gave the following 10-minute speech Monday in the House of Commons on a private member’s bill to ban supertankers from British Columbia’s North Coast. Mr. Speaker, I stand in support of Bill C-628, an Act to amend the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 and the National Energy Board Act. My party, the New Democratic Party of Canada, has stood with First Nations and communities across British Columbia in their opposition to the Enbridge Northern Gateway since day 1. This Bill would enshrine a crude oil tanker ban on British Columbia’s North Coast into law, it would set it in stone. Mr. Speaker, I’ve never been to B.C. North Coast. In fact, I’ve only been to British Columbia once — to the City of Vancouver two or three years ago. As you know, Mr. Speaker, I represent St. John’s South-Mount Pearl in Newfoundland and Labrador. As a representative of Canada’s most easterly province, I’m on my feet here today speaking about a bill impacting Canada’s most westerly province. We share a lot in common, Mr. Speaker. I hear about how beautiful, how unique, how pristine British Columbia is. But I certainly can’t imagine — couldn’t even conceive it, Mr. Speaker — B.C. being any more beautiful, any more unique or pristine than Newfoundland and Labrador. There are similarities, Mr. Speaker, but there are differences, too. I know the differences well. British Columbia has had a moratorium on oil and gas drilling off its coast since 1959 — that’s 56 years. Oil and gas companies have been drilling off Newfoundland and Labrador for a dog’s age, Mr. Speaker, for decades. There’s a moratorium off B.C., and just the opposite off Newfoundland and Labrador, where oil companies have been filling their boots for years, Mr. Speaker. While there’s no offshore oil and gas industry off B.C., Mr. Speaker, we’ve had one on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland since the 1990s. In fact, the first offshore oil project — Hibernia, and the construction of the project’s Gravity Based Structure in the 1990s — saved Newfoundland and Labrador’s economy. Because at the same time as the Hibernia project was getting off the ground our northern cod stocks were in complete collapse. The northern cod moratorium of 1992 was the biggest layoff in Canadian history to that point, Mr. Speaker, it may still well the biggest layoff in our history. Thirty thousand plus people were thrown out of work immediately, Mr. Speaker, and those were direct jobs. Mr. Speaker, Newfoundland and Labrador has done well by the oil industry. Very well, Mr. Speaker. We’ve been a have province since November 2008, Mr. Speaker, contributing more to the country than we get back. Between 1949, when Canada joined our province, and 2008 we were a have-not province. And that hurt not just our economy, Mr. Speaker, but our psyche as well. But there are people, Mr. Speaker, who say that the oil industry has hurt Newfoundland and Labrador in certain ways. In that there’s too much emphasis on the non-renewable oil and gas industry and not enough attention to our greatest renewable industry – the fishery. Economic diversification also hasn’t happened, Mr. Speaker. The Newfoundland and Labrador government is facing a $916-million deficit this year alone because oil revenues are down so severely. And there’s nothing to pick up the slack. The Government of Canada has also turned away from the fishery, Mr. Speaker, with constant cuts to fisheries science and research. Yes, Mr. Speaker, there are some lessons B.C. can learn from Newfoundland and Labrador. This bill would stop the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline in its tracks. Enbridge proposes that super tankers the length of the Empire State Building thread their way through the needle that is the sensitive and difficult waters of the Douglas Channel and BC’s North Coast. Over the project’s 50-year lifespan, Mr. Speaker, you’re talking an estimated 11,000 tanker trips. What are the odds of a devastating accident or catastrophe? Most British Columbians and First Nations don’t want to take that chance, Mr. Speaker. There’s constant oil tanker traffic in and out of Placentia Bay, Newfoundland, Mr. Speaker, and Placentia Bay is seen as the area in Canada with possibly the highest risk of an oil spill. It was only recently, Mr. Speaker, that the Atlantic Pilotage Authority wanted to move the pilot station — where pilots board tankers to help guide them through the tricky waters — deeper into Placentia Bay. But they backed off, Mr. Speaker, when Opposition rang out — including right here in this House — because it made no sense. Because it increased risk, Mr. Speaker. As it stands, Mr. Speaker, Transport Canada’s oil spill response equipment for Placentia Bay is located hundreds of kilometres away in a warehouse in the City of Mount Pearl. One of the first papers I read in preparing to speak on this bill, Mr. Speaker, was a report carried out for B.C.’s First Nations, a report entitled Assessing Offshore Oil and Gas Development on British Columbia’s coast. The report said that risk of oil spills is declining with new management practices and technology. Fair enough, Mr. Speaker, and I suppose it is. Here’s the interesting part, Mr. Speaker, “However, oil spills are a relatively common occurrence in oil and gas development. Newfoundland has recorded 138 small oil spills from 1997 to 2002." In the 13 years since, Mr. Speaker, you can bet there have been dozens — hundreds even — more spills. Returning to British Columbia, Mr. Speaker. There are two concerns with the Enbridge Northern Gateway — the impact on the environment and the impact on the economy. The Enbridge Northern Gateway project would move 525,000 barrels of diluted bitumen per day from Bruderheim, Alberta to Kitimat, B.C. The 1,177-kilometre pipeline would cross the Rocky Mountains — which, I hear, Mr. Speaker, are almost as beautiful, as rugged as Newfoundland and Labrador’s mountain ranges. So the pipeline would cross the Rocky Mountains and hundreds of rivers and streams. And from Kitimat, Mr. Speaker, the bitumen would be loaded onto super tankers and shipped down the Douglas Channel and along B.C. North Coast to Asia or California. B.C. North Coast is known for great biological diversity and extreme weather. Sounds like home, Mr. Speaker. The North Coast is home to 120 species of birds; 27 species of marine mammals; orcas, grey and humpback whales — not to mention salmon, halibut and other fisheries. Again, Mr. Speaker, sounds just like home. An oil spill would be devastating. Super tankers don’t stop on a dime, Mr. Speaker, they have a minimum stopping distance of 3 kilometres. Mr. Speaker, the economic cost of a spill would be equally as devastating. B.C. seafood sector generates close to $1.7 billion a year; wilderness tourism is worth another $1.55 billion. That’s well over $3 billion a year. Imagine the dent an oil spill would take out of those numbers, Mr. Speaker. But there’s another economic impact, Mr. Speaker — not just to B.C., but to all of Canada. The Alberta Federation of Labour estimates that 26,000 jobs could be created in Alberta if those 525,000 barrels of diluted bitumen were upgraded and refined right here in Canada. Why, Mr. Speaker, would we ship out unrefined bitumen? Why, Mr. Speaker, would we throw away 26,000 jobs? How does that make sense, Mr. Speaker? How is that smart? Mr. Speaker, Newfoundland and Labrador hasn’t just benefited from our own oil and gas industry. Alberta’s oil sands have pumped hundreds of millions of dollars — dare I say billions of dollars, Mr. Speaker — into our economy through the hundreds and thousands of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who migrate west every day, every week, every year. I speak with them on the planes, Mr. Speaker, I see them at the airports. They travel to places like Fort Mac —Newfoundland and Labrador’s second biggest city as the joke goes. Why, Mr. Speaker, would Canada support a pipeline that threatens so much of our environment and exports jobs to other countries? There are three coasts in Canada, Mr. Speaker, each are equally as important. In B.C., Mr. Speaker, as with Newfoundland and Labrador, we live and die by the sea. If we jeopardize our oceans and coasts, Mr. Speaker, our culture, our heritage, our economy is lost. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.