Oil Tanker Moratorium Bill

Motion in Amendment--Vote Deferred

June 12, 2019

Hon. Murray Sinclair [ + ]

Therefore, honourable senators, in amendment, I move:

That Bill C-48 be not now read a third time, but that it be amended,

(a)on page 2, by adding the following after line 18:

“Rights of Indigenous Peoples of Canada

3.1 For greater certainty, nothing in this Act is to be construed as abrogating or derogating from the protection provided for the rights of the Indigenous peoples of Canada by the recognition and affirmation of those rights in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

Duty of Minister

3.2 When making a decision under this Act, the Minister must consider any adverse effects that the decision may have on the rights of the Indigenous peoples of Canada recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.”; and

(b)on page 16, by adding the following after line 16:

“Review and Report

32 (1) At the start of the fifth year after the day on which this section comes into force, a comprehensive review of the provisions of this Act must be undertaken by the committee of the Senate, of the House of Commons or of both Houses of Parliament that may be designated or established for that purpose.

(2) The review undertaken under this section must take into account any report of a regional assessment conducted under section 33.

(3) The committee referred to in subsection (1) must, within one year after the review is undertaken under that subsection, submit a report to the House or Houses of Parliament of which it is a committee.

Regional Assessment

33 (1) Subsections (2) to (7) apply if Bill C-69, introduced in the 1st session of the 42nd Parliament and entitled An Act to enact the Impact Assessment Act and the Canadian Energy Regulator Act, to amend the Navigation Protection Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, receives royal assent.

(2) The Minister of the Environment must, no later than 180 days after the day on which both this section and section 93 of the Impact Assessment Act are in force, establish a committee to conduct a regional assessment in relation to activities to which this Act relates.

(3) Before establishing the committee, the Minister of the Environment must offer to the governments of British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan and to any Indigenous governing body within the meaning of section 2 of the Impact Assessment Act that acts on behalf of an Indigenous group, community or people that owns or occupies lands that are located on the part of the coast of British Columbia that is referred to in subsection 4(1) of this Act to enter into an agreement or arrangement respecting the joint establishment of a committee to conduct the assessment and the manner in which the assessment is to be conducted.

(4) If an agreement or arrangement referred to in subsection (3) is entered into, the Minister of the Environment must establish — or approve — the committee’s terms of reference and appoint as a member of the committee one or more persons, or approve their appointment.

(5) The committee must submit to the Minister of the Environment a report of the assessment no later than four years after the day on which this section comes into force.

(6) The Minister of the Environment must have the report referred to in subsection (5) laid before each House of Parliament on any of the first 30 days on which that House is sitting after the Minister of the Environment receives it.

(7) The Impact Assessment Act applies to the regional assessment conducted by the committee established under subsection (2) as if that committee were established under section 93 of that Act, with any modifications that may be necessary in the circumstances.”.

In the spirit of the “One Dish, One Spoon” treaty and after careful consideration, this provision is a new section that is necessary to protect the rights of Indigenous peoples of Canada.

This section provides as follows: For greater certainty, nothing in this act is to be construed as abrogating or derogating from the protection provided for the rights of Indigenous peoples of Canada, et cetera, a standard non-derogation clause we find in many other pieces of legislation. Further, this section requires the Minister of the Environment, when making a decision under the act, to consider any adverse effects the decision may have on the rights of Indigenous peoples of Canada, recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. The second amending provision is also a new section intended to ensure certainty of engagement with stakeholders, including Indigenous peoples of coastal B.C. and the governments of British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan.

This amendment will require the Minister of the Environment to establish a committee to conduct a regional assessment of activities under the oil tanker moratorium act as provided for by the impact assessment act.

Before establishing this committee, the minister must offer to the governments of British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Alberta, and to any Indigenous governing body that acts on behalf of any Indigenous group, community or people that own or occupies land that is located on the part of the coast of British Columbia, which is referred to in subsection 4(1) of the oil tanker moratorium act to enter into an agreement or arrangement respecting the joint establishment of a committee to conduct the assessment in the manner in which the assessment is to be conducted.

The amendment will also require a parliamentary review of the provisions of this act after five years by a committee of both the Senate and the House of Commons which must take into account any report of that regional assessment.

I urge you, honourable senators, to consider these amendments and to vote in favour of them which, after careful study, I believe offer the best compromise to protect the West Coast of Canada, the economic interests of the country and the rights of the Indigenous peoples of that region.

The Hon. the Speaker [ + ]

Senator Sinclair, will you take a question?

Senator Sinclair [ + ]


Hon. Frances Lankin [ + ]

Honourable senators, I am intrigued and optimistic by what I see here. I clearly understand the non-derogation clause. I understand the place at the table for the provinces that have been the most concerned about the impact assessment act. I want to ask about the regional assessment. From my recollection of discussions, people have been either for or against Bill C-69 and impact assessment, as it has been set out in that bill, the regional assessment has been a very strong and popular provision that has been put in.

This would be a regional assessment with respect to the tanker moratorium. It also, if there were a potential project that was to start to be developed in ideas — and we know how long that takes — it would also provide for a lot of the base work on regional assessment that could provide information to that process and perhaps help speed up, for those provinces and those proponents, to move through the impact assessment act.

Am I reading it correctly? Could it have that effect?

Senator Sinclair [ + ]

Thank you for the question, honourable senator. You are essentially right in your observation. Let me point out that some of the comments received by the committee during its community hearings, as well as in the course of the hearings that were held with respect to the impact assessment act was that, when it came to resource development projects and the transportation of oil by a pipeline across the country, there was very little science that was being shared with the communities about what the potential impact would have, what the costs of any spillage would be, what the risks were that the communities were facing and how those risks would be handled.

In addition to that, it was about how the economies of the territories that were being traversed would be impacted by the projects. The regional assessment was intended to put together scientific and economic information for the benefit of the communities and the areas that were being affected by a particular project.

The regional assessment that is being called for by this particular amendment is not just a regional assessment about the moratorium ban — that would be part of it — but it will also be part of any project that is intended to be benefited by either the lifting of or a relaxing of the ban itself.

Hon. André Pratte [ + ]

Honourable senators, I rise to speak in favour of the amendment of Senator Sinclair. As you know, Canada sits on some of the largest oil reserves in the world. As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said a couple of years ago, no country would find 173 billion barrels of oil in the ground and leave them there. Canada possesses 3.4 times more oil than the United States and 6.5 times more oil than China. At today’s production rate, our known reserves could produce oil for at least 30 years.

Extracting this oil and accessing markets in a viable and sustainable manner is one of our principal economic, environmental and democratic challenges in the coming years. Some might say that these oil reserves should be kept underground. Such a stance would be, in my view, as irresponsible as one that would promote the uninhibited exploitation of these resources without environmental consideration.

For the foreseeable future, oil will remain a major global source of energy. According to the International Energy Agency, by 2040, even if countries adopt all the necessary measures to keep climate change under control, world oil demand will reach 106 million barrels per day, 11 million barrels a day more than the current consumption.

At present, as you know, the United States is our only foreign market for oil. This needs to change, not only because the monopoly situation pushes prices down, but also because the U.S. produces increasing quantities of oil while their demand is projected to stagnate or even decrease.

Our neighbours have begun exporting oil. From sole customer, they are now becoming competitors. Consequently, we need to find new markets. We know where these new markets are — in Asia.

On these facts, the experts agree, senator Harder agrees, the current government agrees, and I’m pretty sure the opposition also agrees.

Senator Pratte [ + ]

Our crude oil output is forecasted to increase by 1.5 million barrels a day by 2035. If Enbridge’s Line 3, TransCanada’s Keystone XL and the government’s own Trans Mountain all go ahead, we might not need additional pipeline capacity. Admittedly, this is a very optimistic scenario. Besides, three quarters of the new capacity would flow toward the United States, which may not need all this heavy oil in the future. It would be imprudent and short-sighted to refuse to even consider future capacity enhancement. Yet this is precisely what Bill C-48, if it becomes law under its current form, will prevent us from doing, which is to plan for the future.

It would preclude any and every pipeline project, whatever the project, the evolution of the Canadian and international energy markets, the evolution of transportation technologies, and the will of the First Nations concerned. The tanker ban would be permanent and, politically, extremely difficult to repeal.

This is why I opposed Bill C-48 in principle at second reading. After closely following the work of the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications, after speaking with biologists and ship pilots, after discussing the issue with many of you, after listening to Senator Harder’s powerful speech last night, I have not changed my mind. However, in my view, simply defeating Bill C-48 is not a solution. It is not a solution because, first, this would run counter to the government’s election commitments. Second, and more importantly, defeating Bill C-48 would ignore the will of the elected chamber of Parliament and the wishes of the majority of British Columbians and coastal First Nations. Third, defeating the bill would pit the Senate against the House of Commons.

Inevitably, if the Senate plays its legitimate constitutional role, these confrontations will happen. However, before initiating such a clash, we must be convinced that the interests of Canadians will be served by a tug-of-war between Parliament’s two houses.

We should also be confident that the Senate, as an institution, will not come out of this confrontation seriously impaired. I am convinced that these conditions are not met in this instance. This is a situation in which one region of Canada is pitted against another and, understandably, emotions run high. In such a case, I believe that the Senate, the house of regions, the chamber of sober second thought has the duty to attempt to find a compromise that will accommodate, as best as possible, the needs of all provinces concerned with an eye on the national interest, which comprises the reduction of tensions between regions.

In my view, the most promising avenue resides in Senator Sinclair’s amendment. That is, the introduction in Bill C-48, of a joint federal-provincial-Indigenous regional impact assessment for the northern coast of British Columbia, pursuant to the new impact assessment act, Bill C-69, to be followed by a comprehensive parliamentary review.

This approach is worthwhile for a number of reasons. During the Transport Committee meetings, as Senator Sinclair just said, several witnesses regretted the lack of scientific evidence supporting the government’s decision to impose a moratorium on tanker traffic to or from ports located along British Columbia’s north coast. The reality is that Canada is suffering from a serious lack of information on this topic. A regional impact assessment would help with that.

A regional impact assessment, as proposed by Bill C-69, is a large-scale environmental assessment. At the end of that process, Canadians would have complete and reliable data on the rich environment of that region of British Columbia, on the best ways to protect that environment and on the risks and benefits of tanker traffic along that coast. The contemporary energy and economic context would be taken into account, as well as the evolution of species and technologies. The regional impact assessment followed by a more thorough parliamentary review of the legislation would provide hope to oil-producing provinces and companies and workers in this sector that the moratorium will be lifted in the future if the necessary conditions are met.

The regional impact assessment would be jointly conducted by the Government of Canada; the governments of British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan; and the First Nations affected, which would give the process more credibility. I am under no illusions here, but this measure could help ease tensions a bit and open a dialogue so that we can work together to find alternative solutions to protect the environment and ensure the survival of the Canadian oil industry. This could involve, for example, implementing what are known internationally as large-scale marine protected areas. One such example is the Great Barrier Reef area in Australia.

I must point out that witnesses who testified at the Standing Committee on Transport and Communications spoke in favour of reviewing the act after a certain period of time. The Shipping Federation of Canada said the following:

We . . . highly [recommend] that the bill provide for a periodic review of the need for the moratorium itself . . . . [This] review mechanism would provide the government with an important tool for ensuring that the moratorium is based on an appropriate assessment of risks in response to evolving circumstances.

The amendment proposed by Senator Sinclair paves the way to a solution that I believe would be acceptable to a majority of Canadians.

Within six months after the implementation of the moratorium, the Minister of the Environment would be required to launch a federal/provincial/Indigenous regional impact assessment pursuant to section 93 of the new impact assessment act, Bill C-69.

The governments of B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and the representatives of the Coastal First Nations would be invited to participate in the setting up of this regional assessment.

The terms of reference and the composition of the committee charged with conducting the regional assessment would be negotiated by Ottawa with the three provinces and First Nations of the northern coast.

The regional impact assessment would have to be completed before the beginning of the parliamentary review, which would be required to take it into account.

Importantly, the amendment would also enshrine a non-derogation clause within Bill C-48, protecting Indigenous rights as recognized and affirmed in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

Honourable senators, Canada was built on compromise. Often in our history, agreements achieved have left stakeholders on both sides of an issue dissatisfied and frustrated, but with time Canadians have come to realize that accommodation was the only solution and the only way to make our country work.

Compromise is a give and take between two parties confronted by conflict due to their diverging but legitimate interests. By its very nature, no one is entirely satisfied with a compromise, but a compromise ensures that we move forward collectively.

As many of you have said, Bill C-48 has become a national unity issue. We all know what the solutions to national unity issues are: dialogue, open-mindedness and, yes, compromise.

I’m convinced that amending Bill C-48 to include a joint regional impact assessment followed by a comprehensive parliamentary review is exactly the kind of compromise that will enable our country to move forward. These measures will protect British Columbia’s northern coastal environment and enhance our knowledge of the region’s biological diversity and our understanding of the environmental and economic pros and cons of crude oil transportation along the coast while taking into account rapid developments in markets and technology.

Consequently, future decisions about the moratorium will be based on sound scientific evidence, and future opportunities won’t be shut down forever as they would be if we were to adopt Bill C-48 as it currently stands.

Honourable senators, Canada is both an oil producing country and an environmentally mindful nation. This evidently requires give and take from all parties. Finding a sustainable manner of exploiting and trading our natural resources is essential and in the national interest. In its current form, Bill C-48 ignores this by precluding the enhancement of our export capacities to world oil markets. A better balance must be found.

The Senate is in a unique position to propose such a balanced solution. I believe that a regional assessment mechanism conducted jointly by Canada, oil-producing provinces, impacted provinces and Coastal First Nations does the trick. It protects British Columbia’s northern coast. It provides for future opportunities for oil-producing provinces. It will provide decision makers, and all of us, in fact, with a wealth of information on the biology of the coast, the different alternatives to protect it, the environmental and economic pros and cons of tanker crude oil transportation — considering the present and future state of the oil market — modern shipbuilding techniques and the treacherous navigation conditions in the area.

The motion before us attempts to accommodate the needs and demands of all concerned stakeholders. It is not perfect. It will not make everyone happy, but the amendment is proposed in good faith. It offers a reasonable and pragmatic solution where no solution appeared possible. It offers a compromise: a good compromise and a Canadian compromise.

Thank you.

Hon. Larry W. Smith (Leader of the Opposition) [ + ]

I have a question, Your Honour. Would Senator Pratte accept a question?

Senator Pratte [ + ]

Of course.

Senator Smith [ + ]

Thank you very much, senator, for your speech. The first question that came to mind after hearing you and Justice Sinclair is: Have you had a chance to go through the process from start to finish? In that evaluation, how does that compare to Bill C-69 in its present state after whatever amendments the government will accept? What people are after is some form of certainty and real understanding of timing and the process.

I’m not sure whether you were able to get into the process. Have you had a chance, between the two of you gentlemen, to do an assessment from start to finish? When could we expect it if everything worked and the Indigenous population was happy, the provinces were happy and the federal government was happy? The chance is, in a case like this, you have a league of nations where a lot of people have good intentions but nothing ever gets done.

Did you look at this thing and extrapolate through the process what the end game is? What is the timing? What does it look like compared to the possibility of going through just Bill C-69 versus this particular option?

The Hon. the Speaker [ + ]

I’m sorry, Senator Pratte, but your time has expired. Are you asking for five minutes to answer some questions?

Senator Pratte [ + ]

To answer this question, yes, please.

The Hon. the Speaker [ + ]

Is leave granted, honourable senators?

Senator Pratte [ + ]

In fact, in working on this amendment, we were very cognizant of the fact that the issue of timing is extremely important. We have heard that time and again in the debate on Bill C-69. What is provided for in the amendment is that the launch of the negotiations for the establishment of this assessment committee would be 180 days, or about six months after the entry into force of the act, and at the maximum, the report will have to be tabled at the end of the fourth year.

There is a deadline. Then you have a parliamentary committee. The parliamentary committee has one year to do its study. The timelines are in the amendment and, of course, if the amendment is adopted, it will be part of the act.

Senator Smith [ + ]

May I ask a question? I’m a neophyte, so I’m asking a simple question.

How much time does that take and where does that put the potential project at?

Senator Pratte [ + ]

Well, the beauty —

Senator Smith [ + ]

— or whatever project it is. We’re going through a process. Sorry, go ahead.

Senator Pratte [ + ]

The beauty of this amendment, if I may say so, is that we all know that no pipeline will be arriving on the northern coast of British Columbia in the next five years. We know that.

We also know that there is a lot of information that we don’t have. This was evident in both committees that studied Bill C-69 and, especially, Bill C-48. There are a lot of things we don’t know on both sides of the issue. Many people have argued that the government does not have enough information to impose a tanker ban. Others have said that the biology of the region is so extraordinary and pristine, as we’ve heard so many times. But why is it so pristine and important? We have some data but not all the data. How relevant are the new navigation safety techniques and technologies that exist today?

There is a lot of information we don’t have. If we do this regional assessment, we’ll have all this information gathered, which will help advance projects because this information will have been collected in advance by the regional assessment. We won’t have to do it again if ever there is a project, a pipeline or oil transportation on the northern coast of B.C.

Senator Smith [ + ]

Thank you very much for that response. I’m just sitting here as a businessman asking: If you want people to invest back into the country, because we realize a big chunk of the investment in terms of the oil and gas industry has left for the United States and other areas, what hope can you give to business people who are bottom line-oriented who will need to have some clearer definition of where this can take them with respect to any potential project? What’s the hope?

Senator Pratte [ + ]

You have asked me what hope there is. We have a choice. That’s why there is a compromise on the table. The choice is the tanker ban passes, you have a permanent tanker ban and nothing else happens. With this amendment, you have a tanker ban for five years and maybe more, but you have a lot of things that happen that involve the oil-producing provinces, the federal government and the First Nations of the area. Stuff will be happening for these five years. If the industry does a good job in presenting its case in the next five years, then maybe they will have an opportunity to see this ban lifted.

Hon. David Tkachuk [ + ]

I have had a look at this amendment. First of all, I think this makes the bill worse, because, number one, this proves that all these things should have been done before Bill C-48 was brought into the House of Commons and that we not be faced with having to do a regional assessment starting after five years. But I’m looking at a regional assessment on the second page, brought to my attention by my seatmate here. After reading it twice, I have no idea what it means. Perhaps you could tell me what paragraph 3 means after “regional assessment” and explain that to the Senate.

Senator Pratte [ + ]

I’m sorry, would you just repeat the exact —

Senator Tkachuk [ + ]

Proposed subsection 33(3), “Before establishing the committee, the Minister of the Environment must offer . . .” What does that mean?

Senator Pratte [ + ]

The minister is required to offer to the governments and the First Nations the negotiation of the terms of the regional assessment. That’s what it means. It’s pretty clear to me. To enter into agreement or arrangement respecting the joint establishment of a committee to conduct the assessment and the manner in which the assessment is to be conducted.

What is complicated here is the definition of the involved Indigenous group because it refers to another act, but if you take a little bit of time, you will understand that the First Nations’ concerns are the First Nations that reside or own territory on the northern coast of B.C.

The Hon. the Speaker [ + ]

Sorry, Senator Pratte, but your time has expired. On debate on the amendment, Senator McCallum.

Hon. Mary Jane McCallum [ + ]

Honourable senators, I rise today to join the debate on Senator Sinclair’s amendment to third reading of Bill C-48, the Oil Tanker Moratorium Act.

As a member of the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources, I have grown quite concerned about the serious and irreversible impacts that can potentially result from energy projects and their related operations. We have seen time and again how, despite the best efforts to mitigate these risks, they seem to be an inevitable and unavoidable result of the operations being undertaken.

It seems to me, colleagues, that at times we run the risk of taking a cavalier approach and playing roulette with the well-being of our environment as well as the collective health of those individuals who live in these impacted regions.

I understand well the need to balance the needs of the environment with the needs of the economy. There is a fine line to walk in that regard, but I believe the onus is on us to make sure both remain healthy and vibrant. I think Senator Sinclair’s thoughtful amendment accomplishes this by implementing a review of this tanker ban five years after its implementation.

Industry is a well-oiled machine — no pun intended — which has the capacity to make compelling arguments as to why we should exercise trust and understanding when it comes to the carrying out of their projects and initiatives. However, there are certain instances where we need to ensure that we step up and advocate for the environment as well.

We hear more and more troubling reports every week it seems about the dire situation our delicate ecosystems are in. There comes a time when we need to be risk averse for the sake of environmental preservation so as to avoid some of these potential perils. This is what we are accomplishing through this bill.

Honourable senators, I could speak at length about the importance of Bill C-48 and what it means for the region and the peoples who depend on it. However, I would like to take this opportunity to allow the voice of those individuals in this region to be heard. I would like to read into the record a letter I have received from Chief Marilyn Slett, President, Coastal First Nations:

Dear senators . . . By now, we’ve all heard the arguments for and against Bill C-48, the Oil Tanker Moratorium Act, which would protect B.C.’s ecologically unique and fragile north coast from risk of catastrophic spills by banning large tankers carrying more than 12,500 tonnes of crude or persistent oil from docking, loading or unloading in these areas.

Every argument against this bill is driven by short-term and unsustainable economic interests that are based far away from the coast and, therefore, from any consequences if a spill were to occur in these coastal waters.

Every argument in support of the bill comes from those that would have to live with the consequences — the coastal fishing communities and First Nations with thousands of years of culture and history in a region that not only provides their livelihoods but defines who they are. Their calls to ban large oil tankers in these waters can be traced back almost 50 years, from unanimous motions passed in the B.C. legislature in 1971 and the House of Commons in 1972 opposing oil tanker traffic on B.C.’s coast, to what eventually evolved into the voluntary Tanker Exclusion Zone, 1985, that is still in place today.

On the other hand, arguments against this bill and against a half century of measured reasoning from across the political spectrum are relatively new. They have intensified drastically since the global price of oil dropped, making energy companies and their proponents more anxious than ever to get raw oil products to market from inland. And that’s only natural, since opposition to Bill C-48 is almost exclusively driven by a thirst for those short-term oil profits.

But this is not a typical economy versus environment debate, and supporters of Bill C-48 are not only focused on protecting the fragile ecosystems that line the north coast and the abundant wildlife that depend on them. Economic development is vital for coastal communities, just as it is for every other region across Canada. Indeed, there is nothing that drives that home more than having your livelihood under constant threat from a devastating environmental disaster beyond your control.

Just ask the Heiltsuk Nation, which is still feeling the negative economic effects of the Nathan E. Stewart tugboat grounding in 2016 that spilled more than 100,000 litres of diesel and other fuels into nearby fishing grounds. What if that tugboat was a massive tanker, loaded with toxic diluted bitumen? Nathan E. Stewart was catastrophic, but an oil spill would have been exponentially worse. That’s almost too frightening to comprehend.

The arguments in favour of a ban on large tankers have been scrutinized for decades now, and they still stand the test of time. The arguments against a ban derived from political expediency and short-term economic thinking from special interests vying for profit.

What we’re asking you to do is simple. We assume you’ve already given some careful, reasoned thought to Bill C-48, as currently written, but we ask now that you provide some sober second thought on the unprecedented and, frankly, reckless calls within this Senate to reject the bill entirely.

We ask that you step back and take the long view. A perspective that recognizes the long history of efforts to ban tankers in this region and the many reasons for doing so and that also takes into account the promises made, over and over again, to the coastal First Nations in the spirit of reconciliation.

As coastal First Nations people, we hold a deep interconnection of mutual respect with the ocean. Reflecting on the words of Heiltsuk elders who also provided testimony at the 1977 West Coast Oil Ports Inquiry “an oil spill would finish us.” We hold no intentions of leaving our home in search of other opportunities if our territory was to be destroyed by an oil spill, which is a high possibility if this bill is not passed. There is much work to be done, and the Oil Tanker Moratorium Act is a significant step towards improving the marine oil spill response regime.

Further, the passing of Bill C-48 honours Canada’s calls for reconciliation allowing First Nations people of the coast to continue to live in relationship with their ancestral territories. The teachings of coastal First Nations communities are rooted in our relationship to the natural world and harvesting cycles. We have survived attempted assimilation and attempted cultural genocide. We are pleading to the senators of Canada to allow us to continue to live our way of life connected to a healthy intact ocean.

We also ask you to take the long view when it comes to the economic effects of this bill. As oil executives and Alberta politicians offer exasperated calls for ’national unity’ and for clawing away at regulations that stand in the way of their short-term profit, we ask that you consider economic interests of not just current generations, but future generations as well.

Along the North Pacific Coast, the coastal First Nations have been establishing such a sustainable economy for many years. Protecting resources here is a matter of survival; the ocean is our breadbasket, and the source of our food and income.

In other words, we ask you to consider the economy right here along the coast that would be threatened by oil spills — the more than 7,500 permanent jobs in traditional territories, and almost 400 million dollars in revenue generated every year — not just the economy hundreds of kilometres inland.

Signed yours truly,

Chief Marilyn Slett

President, Coastal First Nations

Honourable senators, sometimes a letter of this nature, which conveys such a reasoned and passionate perspective, needs to stand on its own.

It is a well-established boom-and-bust cycle that exists inland, removed from the impacts of a potential catastrophe. The highs and lows of this cycle can be difficult to predict. However, as Chief Slett has indicated, the economy of the coastal region, on the contrary, is stable, constant and much less volatile. The coastal economy and livelihood of its inhabitants, which generates hundreds of millions of dollars each year, would be faced with a potentially irreversible risk of destruction should Bill C-48 not pass.

After the five-year mark of the implementation of Senator Sinclair’s amendment, the Coastal First Nations will have their voice heard alongside the provinces to determine important aspects of the regional assessment process. I think this is a balanced and inclusive approach on how to examine this issue in the near future.

Honourable senators, I ask that you stand with me in heeding the advice of Chief Slett. Let us support Senator Sinclair’s amendment as well as Bill C-48. In doing so, let us take the long view in recognizing the economic effects of this bill. Thank you.

Hon. Patti LaBoucane-Benson

Honourable senators, I rise today to speak in favour of this amendment to Bill C-48. The reason I’m in favour of this amendment is twofold.

First, the introduction of regional assessments is important. Within months of Royal Assent, a regional assessment will be launched. This is good for Alberta because the Province of Alberta will be invited to the table to create the framework for the assessment. Alberta’s voice and interests will be protected in the process.

This is likely over and above any provision that would be required in the regional assessments in Bill C-69. The regional assessments will commence before any project is proposed. It will collect data that is very important in an impact assessment.

It is important to remember that there are no projects planned in this area at this time. If a project is proposed in the future, a great deal of scientific information that will be required will have already been collected. This would speed up the process for proponents and ultimately make the impact assessment process faster. Honourable senators, the speed of the impact assessment is very important to Alberta and this clause matters.

Second, it affirms Indigenous and treaty rights. First and foremost, this clause is important to the Nisga’a people. It recognizes the modern treaty and right of the Nisga’a people to pursue economic development. It was a mistake in the development of this bill not to properly consult and accommodate the Nisga’a in the bill. This amendment corrects this error.

In fact, President Eva Clayton of the Nisga’a wrote all of us a letter. I want to read parts of that letter into the record.

The Nisga’a Nation does not support the imposition of a moratorium that would apply to areas under our Treaty. We believe that Bill C-48 flies in the face of the principles of self-determination and environmental management that lie at the heart of the Nisga’a Treaty.

. . . the Nisga’a Treaty was the first modern Treaty in British Columbia. It was also the first Treaty in Canada, and perhaps in the world, to fully set out and constitutionally protect our right to self-government and our authority to make laws over our land and for our people.

Under the Nisga’a Treaty, we have substantial rights over the Nass Area, which encompasses over 26,000 square kilometers in northwestern British Columbia. We also own and have legislative jurisdiction over approximately 2,000 square kilometers of land in the Nass River Valley, known as Nisga’a Lands.

— since year 2000 —

. . . our Nation had the recognized legal and constitutional authority to conduct our own affairs.

She goes on to say:

This legislation was introduced without any discussion about the significant implications it would have on the Nisga’a Nation and the Nisga’a Treaty.

Finally she says: “For the Nisga’a Nation, this is entirely about our constitutionally protected right to have a meaningful say in what happens in our own territories. This includes a process in the treaty which ensures that decisions are based on robust environmental assessment processes where scientific evidence plays a central role and all appropriate considerations can be appropriately identified and analyzed. This ensures that the necessary balance between a strong economy and protecting our environment is achieved.”

The Nisga’a Nation has never and will never support a project that could result in devastation to our land, our food, and our way of life.

“At the same time, we cannot stand idly by as arbitrary and unsubstantiated restrictions are placed on our treaty area and not others.”

We regret that on this issue, which has such an immense implication to the Nisga’a Nation and all Canadians, the government has proceeded without any meaningful accommodation for those with different views of Indigenous peoples who have the most to lose.

Honourable senators, this clause is also good for Alberta. It affirms the Nisga’a have the right to economic development which could be a port as well as Indigenous nations who probably want to pursue a pipeline with non-Indigenous investors. While there are no projects proposed at this time, this leaves the door open for potential projects.

In addition, this clause is good for Canada. It changes the common narrative that Indigenous people are opposed to development. This is an example of a First Nation who is interested in excellent environmental standards as well as the development of good, safe resource projects. I would venture to say that this is what most Canadians want: projects that create jobs and stimulate the economy while protecting the environment for our grandchildren’s grandchildren.

Finally, the clause connects with the announcement of the Province of Alberta to create a billion dollar fund for Indigenous resource development. The Province of Alberta is already trying to change that narrative about Indigenous people in its important work. I can foresee a future where Indigenous peoples are pursuing both pipelines and ports that will benefit the entire country while maintaining their traditional ways of life because it doesn’t have to be one or the other. We can do both.

Finally, honourable senators, I argue that a vote for this very thoughtful, compromise-seeking amendment in many ways is a vote for Alberta and Indigenous people. Thank you.

Hon. Scott Tannas [ + ]

Would the honourable senator take a question?

Senator LaBoucane-Benson

I will.

Senator Tannas [ + ]

Honourable senator, thank you for your contribution. A couple of questions.

The Eagle Spirit group is a long way along in the development of a vision and proposal. Would they or do they support Senator Sinclair’s amendment and this particular approach? Similarly, do the Nisga’a people support this approach? Would this allow those parties to move ahead now, or would they have to wait until the meetings and the five years are up before they could launch something?

Senator LaBoucane-Benson

I thank you for that question. I have met with many different Indigenous groups who have interests in pipelines, and certainly Eagle Spirit is one of them. I think the National Coalition of Chiefs is another group that would be interested in that area. I can’t imagine why they wouldn’t be interested in leaving the door open to possible development. While I have not spoken to them directly, I would hazard a guess that they are interested.

After careful study of Bill C-69 over the past eight months, I would say the introduction of the regional assessment and the preplanning is where the magic lies in Bill C-69. There are problems with it, which we have worked to fix, but the magic lies in that regional assessment because it provides good scientific evidence upon which we can base a proponent’s proposal, and the preplanning becomes much faster. It becomes clear what has to be studied and what has to be done in the impact assessment process.

I think having a regional assessment in place right away, while projects get under way and while Eagle Spirit finds its financial legs, for example, will move those projects much further. I think this will be supported by proponents and investors.

Hon. Yuen Pau Woo [ + ]

Honourable senators, Bill C-48, it would seem, puts us between a rock and a hard place. The rock, some would say, is the environmental catastrophe of an oil spill on the north coast of B.C., which would forever damage the livelihoods and traditions of those who live on or near the water. The hard place, others assert, is the economic catastrophe of stranded oil assets in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

A narrative has emerged in this chamber and beyond that our choice is a binary one. We have been led to believe that we need to choose between crashing into the rock and running aground on the hard place.

But do we? In our zeal to simplify, have we made the rock bigger and the hard place harder than they are? Have we allowed overzealous and, dare I say, alarmist arguments on both sides to corral us into the dead end of a decision that will, either way, result in a shipwreck?

What if the rock and the hard place are not as close to our vessel as we have been told? What if the situation on either side of the debate is not as immediate, not as dire and not as permanent as we have led ourselves to believe? And what if there is, in fact, a pathway between the rock and the hard place? Are we willing to find it?

I believe the amendment before us is that pathway. I am talking about a way to navigate safely and consciously between the two extremes that have been laid before us as the only options.

There is no risk currently of a major oil tanker spill because there are no large oil tankers within 126 kilometres of B.C.’s north coast. And there is no risk of stranding oil assets in Alberta and Saskatchewan at this time because there is no pipeline from the Prairies to B.C.’s north coast, nor is there a concrete project proposed for such. If the TMX project gets the go-ahead next week and it comes to fruition, the risk of stranded assets is further reduced.

To pass Bill C-48 in its current form, resulting in a permanent ban on oil tanker traffic on B.C.’s north coast, could lead to a situation in the future where the transport of oil from Alberta and Saskatchewan to British Columbia is limited. Conversely, to reject Bill C-48 could undermine the voluntary Tanker Exclusion Zone off northern B.C., increasing the risk of an oil spill — which is why we should avoid either scenario.

Honourable senators, sober second thought cannot predict the future. We do not know if residents of B.C.’s north coast, especially the First Nations who have inhabited those lands for millennia, may change their minds about having an indefinite embargo on oil tankers carrying more than 12,500 metric tonnes of crude or persistent oil. Likewise, we do not know if there is, in fact, a business case for a pipeline from Alberta to northern British Columbia, and if there are corporations with the know-how, financing and access to markets to bring such a project to fruition. By presenting the choice on Bill C-48 as binary, we are both exaggerating the risk on either side and pretending to have more information than is currently at our disposal.

I support the proposed amendment in part because it admits to our knowledge limitations. Tidewater access is indeed crucial for landlocked resources to find their way to markets in Asia, but we cannot be sure that Asian markets will support a second pipeline to the West Coast, given the rapidly changing nature of energy markets.

Similarly, if there is a solid business case for a pipeline to Canada’s northwest coast, I think it would be reckless of us to assume that all the residents of the coast would choose to permanently disallow the development of facilities that could provide for tankers to safely and sustainably export Canadian oil and gas to markets in Asia. Should we not allow them the right to change their minds if new information is available on the potential benefits and risks of oil tanker traffic off the north coast of B.C.?

The point, after all, is not whether a pipeline to the north coast should be stopped in its tracks through a ban on oil tanker traffic since there is, at this point in time, no pipeline to be stopped. It is, rather, that the First Nations most directly affected by an oil tanker ban should have the right to choose whether or not they consider the risk to be acceptable — if there were a genuine business case for such a project.

What the amendment says, honourable senators, in effect, is that we are not ready to answer the question of whether a permanent ban is warranted. We don’t know if coastal First Nations will change their minds about a ban. We don’t know if a northern pipeline is needed and who would build one. We don’t know if market demand in Asia will support the decades of oil exports from Canada that would be needed to justify the building of a pipeline and terminal. We can only guess at the geopolitics of trans-Pacific trade, especially on a strategic resource such as oil. And we do not know what breakthrough innovations that may be in the offing — from crude oil transportation methods, to oil tanker safety, to more affordable and accessible renewable energy.

The proposed regional assessment that forms an essential part of the amendment will answer some of these questions. In fact, Bill C-48 already contains a provision for the possibility of a regulatory review to assess, A, the latest science and evidence on how oil products act when spilled; B, innovations and technological developments in the transportation of oil; C, the state of cleanup technology. This amendment will make that regulatory review mandatory and expand on it through the regional assessment process that is contemplated in Bill C-69.

One point that both advocates and opponents of Bill C-48 agree on is the limitations of Canada’s oil spill preparedness and response regime on B.C.’s north coast, and the lack of coastal protection in general. Coastal nations rely on the health of the ocean for their subsistence and economic development. A regional assessment à la Bill C-69 would shed light on the risks to this unique ecosystem and could pave the way for a coastal protection plan so that if the ban is lifted, all residents of the coast can be reassured that environmental safeguards are in place.

A mandatory review by Parliament, built on the findings of a regional assessment as prescribed in Bill C-69, including meaningful consultation with First Nations, is an example of how the Senate can exercise prudence and wisdom.

Honourable senators, in Bill C-48, the other place has sent us the following question: Should there be a permanent ban on oil tankers off the coast of Northern B.C.?

Our answer should be that this question is not ready to be answered. It is unfortunate that the government has put to us a question that is not ready to be answered. But the oil tanker ban was a campaign promise of the then-leader of the Liberal Party, now Prime Minister. We should consider Bill C-48 in that light.

If you accept the Salisbury Convention, you should not vote against the bill. I recognize that some senators do not agree with the Salisbury Convention. If you fall in that camp, you should still ask if the Bill C-48 meets the high test of the Senate voting against the government bill — an act of defiance so rare that it has taken place only four times since the Second World War.

Senator Woo [ + ]

Even if you feel that the high test has been met, there remains yet a reason to pause so as to consider if a reasonable amendment can be found in order to send the bill back to the other place for reconsideration. I believe that amendment has been found.

Honourable senators, I cannot be sure the government will accept this amendment. I have high confidence this it will be seriously considered. For one thing, First Nations on the B.C. North Coast who are for the tanker ban, as well as First Nations groups in the same region who are against the ban, have expressed support for a mandatory review of Bill C-48 and proper consultation with affected provinces and relevant Indigenous jurisdictions.

This amendment, after all, underscores the principle of self-determination for First Nations in a way that Bill C-48, in its original form, did not. To use the colourful metaphor that Senator Sinclair offered us just a little while ago: One dish, one spoon.

Of course, there will be those who will huff and puff about how this amendment sells out the environment or landlocked provinces. We are not selling out in any way. There is no dishonour in a B.C. senator telling the residents of the North Coast that the country is not ready for a permanent ban on tanker traffic off that coast. Just as there is no dishonour in an Albertan senator telling Albertans that the lifting of an oil tanker ban is not a panacea for the deeper challenges facing the oil and gas industry in Canada. There is dishonour, however, if we use Bill C-48 as an opportunity to stoke division and inflame interprovincial discontent.

As senators in the federal Parliament, part of our job is to defend the federation. Yes, we represent our regions, but we do our regions a disservice if we knowingly encourage false claims and exaggerated fears.

Honourable senators, we are not between a rock and a hard place. We do not have to throw ourselves in either direction in the belief that we have to choose one or the other. The amendment before us responds to the situation in B.C.’s North Coast as it is, rather than the situation that we fear it might be.

I choose neither the imaginary rock nor the hypothetical hard place, but opt instead for the proposed amendment that I believe will take us to safe harbour. I hope you will join me.

Senator Tannas [ + ]

Would the honourable senator take a question?

Senator Woo [ + ]


Senator Tannas [ + ]

Thank you, Senator Woo. A couple of things. First, on your assertion that there is no pipeline and that we don’t know if there is any market, you have forgotten that Enbridge committed billions of dollars to the Northern Gateway Project. It was smothered by the Liberal government. That, in fact, was the evidence that was needed, if you want to look at it. That was not government subsidized or anything else. That was billions of dollars that have since gone to the United States in pursuit of other projects and employment there. That is some evidence that we could hang our hats on with respect to demand.

I want to ask a question around the platform. We all know that a tanker ban was not in the platform. I’ve gone and looked — I cannot find it in the manifesto. We know that it was mentioned in one speech, maybe two, somewhere in the heat of the campaign, but it was not. In the careful reading of the Salisbury Convention, it would not apply at all.

Senator Tannas [ + ]

However, we know that there is, in the coming election a party that has in their platform the repeal of Bill C-48.

Senator Batters [ + ]


Senator Tannas [ + ]

It will apply under the Salisbury Convention that we will need to consider. What I want to know is what your thoughts are on this particular amendment becoming some kind of an excuse or a sword to thwart the will of the next elected government when they go to repeal Bill C-48?

Senator Batters [ + ]

Hear, hear.

Senator Woo [ + ]

Thank you, Senator Tannas. On the question of the election platform, I think it is quite clear that then-candidate Justin Trudeau made very public statements, both in Northern B.C. with the Coastal First Nations as well as in Vancouver. He made it very public. It was widely reported and I think a fair reading of whether or not voters considered that to be a promise would conclude that it was part of the platform. We could have differing views, but there is sufficient evidence to suggest that it was a campaign promise.

Even if you don’t accept the Salisbury Convention, I have already made the case that there are two other tests that you need to satisfy if you vote against this bill. First, there is a very high standard for voting against a government bill, setting aside the Salisbury Convention. We all have to ask ourselves if that test has been met. Defeating a government bill has only happened four times since the Second World War. I think it would be extraordinary if we added Bill C-48 as the fifth occurrence.

I’ve given yet another test for us to consider, if we want to contemplate voting against this bill, which is have we tried our best? Have we made every effort to find the pathway, solution, the compromise that would not put us in a position, not put the Senate in a position, as unelected Parliamentarians, voting against a government bill, and all of the ramifications that would have for our institution.

This is not a question just for the ISG or the Conservatives, it is for all of us, particularly for those of us who might be here for many years to come.

Now on the other question concerning the platform of the Conservative party, what I would like to think is that the Conservative party places value on evidence, scientific research, on consultation, if this is the belief of the party and a regional assessment is under way that does all of these things, collect information on the risk of an oil tanker spill, the sensitivity of the ecosystem, the impacts both near-shore and inshore, the economic ramifications if there was an oil spill. I would like to think any government would want to pause and look at that information before deciding to repeal the moratorium or extend the moratorium.

This amendment gives us the opportunity to do exactly what I heard everybody complain about, which is that we don’t have sufficient information to make a decision. If that is true today, it will be true on October 22 when a new government is elected. They will still not have sufficient information.

I would hope that any government would want to wait for the information before making an irrevocable decision.

The Hon. the Speaker [ + ]

Senator Eaton, a question?

Hon. Nicole Eaton [ + ]

Senator Woo, no one has managed to explain to me why there are 2,000 tankers full of diesel oil that go up the East Coast every day to the Arctic, through Iceberg Alley. I’m sure you’ve been to Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, parts of Newfoundland. There are beautiful coastlines and we don’t talk about oil spills or tanker moratoriums. Why is the West Coast more precious or more sensitive than the East Coast? No one has managed to explain that to me.

Senator Woo [ + ]

It is a very good point, and this is precisely why this amendment does not permanently rule out the possibility of tanker traffic off the West Coast.

As I indicated in my speech, the fear of a major oil tanker spill off the north coast of B.C. is hypothetical because there are no oil tankers currently within 126 kilometres off that coast. So to collect the information on the safety of oil tanker traffic, to collect information on the sensitivity of the ecosystem — an ecosystem, I should say, that has been described as particularly sensitive. I am not a biologist, but we heard speeches from Senator Jaffer, delivered by me, and Senator Harder that attest to the special character of that rainforest. We need the information to ascertain if, in fact, this ecosystem has a special status that requires protection in perpetuity.

But we don’t have that information yet. Therefore, I think that this amendment will help us get the information we need to make a decision in prudence and looking at the long-term interests of Canadians.

The Hon. the Speaker [ + ]

Are honourable senators ready for the question?

The Hon. the Speaker [ + ]

In amendment, it was moved by the Honourable Senator Sinclair, seconded by Senator Campbell, that Bill C-48 not be read the third time but — shall I dispense?

The Hon. the Speaker [ + ]

Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

The Hon. the Speaker [ + ]

All those in favour of the motion will please say “yea.”

The Hon. the Speaker [ + ]

All those opposed to the motion will please say “nay.”

The Hon. the Speaker [ + ]

In my opinion, the “yeas” have it.

The Hon. the Speaker [ + ]

Do we have agreement on the bell?

Hon. Donald Neil Plett [ + ]

We will defer the vote to the next sitting of the Senate.

The Hon. the Speaker [ + ]

The vote is deferred to 5:30 p.m. at the next sitting of the Senate.

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