A aerial view of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain marine terminal filling a oil tanker in Burnaby, B.C., is shown on Tuesday, May 29, 2018.THE CANADIAN PRESS Jonathan Hayward

Bill to ban oil tankers on B.C.’s coast defeated in Senate, but not dead yet

The committee’s five Conservative senators voted against it

A federal ban on tanker traffic off British Columbia’s north coast has been defeated in a Senate committee.

On a 6-6 vote, the Senate’s transportation and communications committee rejected Bill C-48 Wednesday night.

The committee’s five Conservative senators voted against it, joined by Alberta independent Paula Simons.

Five other independents and one self-identified Liberal voted in favour.

READ MORE: Senate to hold hearings in northwest BC on controversial oil tanker ban

When the result was clear — a tie vote means whatever is being proposed fails — the bill’s opponents applauded briefly in the Senate committee room.

“The bill is defeated,” declared the committee’s chairman, Saskatchewan Conservative Sen. David Tkachuk.

The House of Commons passed the bill a week ago and its failure in a Senate committee doesn’t mean it’s dead, but the vote is a blow for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberals.

Bill C-48 would put into a law a longstanding voluntary moratorium on coastal tanker traffic between the northern tip of Vancouver Island and the Alaska border, which is meant to protect delicate marine environments from potential spills.

More precisely, the bill would forbid tankers carrying more than 12,500 tonnes of oil from loading or unloading in the exclusion zone, either directly at ports or by using other ships as intermediaries.

Simons said late in the debate that she wasn’t confident that enough homework had been done to justify a permanent ban — that the bill would lock in a temporary measure based on limited research more than 40 years ago.

“I felt it was important as an Albertan, as a member on this committee, to come here with goodwill, to work towards amendments that would somehow strike a compromise where we could both protect one of Canada’s most extraordinary ecosystems while simultaneously not slamming the door in the face of the people of Alberta,” Simons said.

She might have backed a temporary legal restriction on tankers to allow further research, she said, but couldn’t support the bill as it stood.

Along with Bill C-69, which is meant to reform the federal assessment process for national-scale construction projects and is also in the Senate, Bill C-48 has enraged many backers of the Canadian oil industry, including Alberta Premier Jason Kenney.

“This is a victory for common sense & economic growth,” Kenney tweeted after the vote. “Thank-you to Senators for listening to Albertans & respecting fairness in our federation!”

Conservatives in the Senate said voting down the bill is a win for Canada’s energy industry, leaving open the possibility of exporting Canadian oil from northern B.C. ports.

The now-aborted Northern Gateway pipeline project, for instance, would have carried Alberta oil to Kitimat, B.C., in the no-tanker zone.

“This bill would only make the issue of landlocked Canadian oil worse,” said a statement from Sen. Larry Smith, the Conservative leader in the Senate.

The statement pointed out that Bill C-48 would forbid the transfer of oil onto or off ships in northern B.C. but wouldn’t stop tankers from passing through the area, impeding Canadian oil but not outlawing tanker traffic from Alaska.

The bill has divided First Nations. Some, such as the Nisga’a, see economic opportunity in pipelines. Others, including a nine-nation alliance of coastal First Nations, worry about irreversible damage to fisheries and nascent industries based on products such as essential oils from old-growth trees.

READ MORE: Northwest B.C. leaders divided over oil tanker ban

The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A second wave of COVID-19 is probable, if history tells us anything

B.C.’s top doctor says that what health officials have learned this round will guide response in future

Smithers woman awarded $55K in RCMP excessive force suit

Irene Joseph alleged false arrest and assault and battery related to a 2014 incident in Smithers

Flooding highly unlikely this year throughout Skeena watershed

Region’s snowpack among lowest in the province

Why I will relay

Wings of fight

The outside COVID-19 wave

Workers wave hello to being outside

LIVE: Procession to honour Snowbirds Capt. Jennifer Casey comes to Halifax

Snowbirds service member died in a crash in Kamloops one week ago

RCMP facing ‘systemic sustainability challenges’ due to provincial policing role

Provinces, territories and municipalities pay anywhere from 70 to 90 per cent of the cost of the RCMP’s services

One man dead after standoff with Chilliwack RCMP

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the RCMP’s role in the death

B.C. employers worry about safety, cash flow, second wave in COVID-19 restart

A survey found 75 per cent of businesses worry about attracting customers

Introducing the West Coast Traveller: A voyage of the mind

Top armchair travel content for Alaska, Yukon, BC, Alberta, Washington, Oregon and California!

Ex-BC Greens leader Andrew Weaver says province came close to early election

Disagreement centred on the LNG Canada project in northern B.C.

Canada’s NHL teams offer options to season-ticket holders

Canadian teams are offering refunds, but also are pushing a number of incentives to let them keep the money

B.C. premier says lessons to learn from past racism during response to pandemic

B.C. formally apologized in the legislature chamber in 2008 for its role in the Komagata Maru tragedy

Snowbirds to remain at Kamloops Airport indefinitely after fatal crash

small contingent of the Snowbirds team is staying in Kamloops, acting as stewards of the jets

Most Read