VANCOUVER, B.C. - Environmental groups are praising the vote today in the House of Commons in support of a legislated tanker ban for Canada's Pacific North Coast. The motion was put forward by Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen whose riding includes the Great Bear Rainforest and thousands of coastal jobs that depend on a healthy marine environment.
"After years spent working to protect the coast and support sustainable livelihoods, the people of British Columbia do not want the imminent risk of an oil spill to destroy it all," said Nikki Skuce of ForestEthics. "Polls show that 80 per cent of British Columbians support a tanker ban -- this vote showed that most of our politicians are listening."
Last week, a delegation of representatives from First Nations, the fishing and tourism industries, environmental organizations, and Exxon Valdez oil spill expert Dr. Riki Ott went to Parliament Hill to urge MPs to support a legislated oil tanker ban on the North Coast. The majority of Canada's MPs appear to have heard the appeals to protect the livelihoods, cultures and environment of Canada's Pacific North Coast -- the result of the [non-binding] vote was 143/137. The Liberal Party, the NDP and the Bloc Québécois voted for the motion, while the Conservatives voted against.
"There are vibrant fishing, tourism and First Nations economies and cultures that would be threatened by oil tanker traffic and the risk of oil spills," said Jennifer Lash of Living Oceans Society. "The only way to stop an oil spill from causing irreparable harm to our coast is by keeping oil tankers off of it for good."
Support for a legislated tanker ban for Canada's Pacific North Coast is high in British Columbia and crosses party lines. The Coastal First Nations declared a tanker ban using their own laws earlier this year. The Union of B.C. Municipalities passed a resolution in support of a tanker ban in September.
"Today's motion creates clarity for British Columbians," said Eric Swanson of Dogwood Initiative. "There are only two types of politicians in Canada: those who support a ban on all oil tankers through our north coast, and those who don't."
The most imminent threat to the coast is Enbridge's Northern Gateway Pipeline proposal, which would carry tar sands oil to a supertanker port at Kitimat and bring 225 oil tankers per year to B.C.'s North Coast. Enbridge-funded pressure group known as the Northern Gateway Alliance put out ads today urging MPs not to vote for the tanker ban.
"A legislated tanker ban is about protecting jobs, protecting our diverse marine and coastal environments, and recognizes First Nations Rights and Title," said Josh Paterson of West Coast Environmental Law Association. "We have a world-class coast that needs strong, legal protection from the threat of oil spills - whether from Enbridge or any other project. We're going to keep working toward a legislated ban."
Environmental groups, including Dogwood Initiative, Forest Ethics, Living Oceans Society, and West Coast Environmental Law Association have been calling for a permanent, legislated ban on crude oil tankers to protect the coast from oil spills. B.C. MPs from the Liberal Party and NDP set aside their differences and wrote a joint letter to the Prime Minister last week to ask the government to pass a tanker ban.