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Trudeau announces $1.5 billion ocean protection plan

Following the diesel fuel spill near Bella Bella the federal government announced a $1.5 billion Oceans Protection Plan. - Contributed: Marilyn Slett/The Northern View
Following the diesel fuel spill near Bella Bella the federal government announced a $1.5 billion Oceans Protection Plan.
— image credit: Contributed: Marilyn Slett/The Northern View

The province’s request for upgrades for Prince Rupert’s Coast Guard station remains wanting despite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announcing a $1.5 billion marine safety plan.

The B.C. government had asked Ottawa for better capability to respond to vessels in distress on the West Coast following the diesel fuel spill near Bella Bella.  On Monday, Trudeau and Minister of Transport Marc Garneau were in Vancouver to announce their Ocean Protection Plan.

“These measures are progressive and proactive and will ensure the health of our oceans for generations to come,” Trudeau said. “The $1.5 billion Oceans Protection Plan unveiled today will make Canada a world-leader in marine safety and takes a powerful step toward co-management of our coasts with indigenous and coastal communities, together making sure they remain healthy, clean and safe for generations to come.”

Garneau, who toured Bella Bella and the cleanup operation on Sunday, Nov. 6, addressed that this was part of his mandate to improve transportation. The other part of his mandate — formalizing a moratorium on crude oil tanker traffic on B.C.’s North Coast — was not part of this announcement.

During the press conference when Trudeau was asked about the tanker ban he evaded the subject.

“This is about the protection of our three coasts. Coastlines that Canadians cherish so much have gone too long without adequate protection and response,” Trudeau said adding that the government plans to work with First Nations partners in the future to protect the coast.

The West Coast Environmental Law Association welcomed the government's announcement but wants more details on a future tanker ban.

"The best way to truly prevent oil spills from tankers on the North Coast is by formalizing a comprehensive, permanent oil tanker ban, and we are eager to learn the details about this vital step in the coming weeks," the law association stated in a press release.

The Prime Minister was also equally evasive when asked directly about the needs of the marine coast guard base in Prince Rupert, which is currently preparing for more vessel traffic due to the expansion of the Port of Prince Rupert.

The main areas the Oceans Protection Plan will address includes improvements on shipping with better prevention and response measures. Using new tools and research to protect the marine ecosystems and habitats. Introduce new legislation to increase liability for abandoned vessels and wrecks. Collecting and sharing information on marine tanker and vessel traffic.

The federal government will also invite First Nations communities to co-manage the coast and to work together in building a local emergency response capacity. Another major priority is investing in oil spill cleanup research and methods to enable evidence based decision making during emergencies.

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