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Crude tanker bill will stifle First Nations energy project: Senator Eaton
November 9, 2018
image Nicole Eaton
Nicole Eaton
C - (Ontario)

Canadians heard repeatedly during the 2015 election campaign that a Trudeau government would be committed to “evidence-based policy.”

Ministerial mandate letters repeat this call for decisions to be based on “science, facts and evidence.”

But a bill currently before the Senate, Bill C-48, the Oil Tanker Moratorium Act, fails the prime minister’s test.

This bill prohibits oil tankers from using all ports and offshore installations in northern British Columbia — from the northern tip of Vancouver Island to the Alaskan border.

This was a Liberal promise in the 2015 campaign and the directive to implement the ban was in the Minister of Transport’s mandate letter — although it doesn’t appear he was asked to consider “science, facts and evidence” before drafting the legislation.

We’ve seen no sign of cost-benefit analyses or risk assessments, or consideration of Canada’s stringent tanker safety and environmental standards.

And it is quite obvious the consultation that was conducted was a sham, done with the result already in mind.

Bill C-48 is not based on evidence, it is based on politics. It is based on an election promise made to squeeze the NDP in vote-rich British Columbia.

Ultimately, it is about land-locking Fort McMurray’s petroleum reserves.

First Nations are the biggest losers if Bill C-48 becomes law, in particular the 35 First Nations between Grassy Point, B.C., and Fort McMurray, who are partners in the Eagle Spirit Energy Corridor. This $14-billion Indigenous-led project has been in the works for six years.

In a recent letter to senators, the Chiefs’ Council of the Eagle Spirit project says the project “represents the only opportunity for our communities to generate sustainable own-source revenues which would allow us to solve our own problems.”

And they talk about “the complete lack of consultation from the federal government in introducing Bill C-48 and the incredibly harmful impact that this will have on our communities.”

If Bill C-48 becomes law, Eagle Spirit is dead.

The chiefs ask the same question I have asked. What makes the waters of northern B.C. different from other regions of Canada?

Are the dangers greater in northern B.C. than along Newfoundland’s Iceberg Alley? Is the orca more important than the right whale?

Of course not.

We can ship oil safely by tanker, because more than 4,000 tankers come down the East Coast every year without incident (compared to fewer than 300 along the West Coast).

What is the consequence of bad legislation such as Bill C-48?

That the United States is the only viable market for Alberta crude. That’s one of the reasons the discount on Western Canadian Select topped $50 per barrel earlier this month.

That price differential means the loss of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in revenue. According to the Fraser Institute, the price differential on Canadian crude cost Canadian oil producers $20.7 billion between 2013 and 2017.

That loss of revenue hits governments too, with less money for schools and hospitals.

The recent NAFTA renegotiations proved that Canada is too dependent on the United States for its economic prosperity. It is incomprehensible to me why the federal government is taking deliberate action to ensure the U.S. remains the only accessible market for one of our major exports.

But that is the exact impact of Bill C-48.


The Honourable Nicole Eaton is a former senator. For more information, please refer to the Library of Parliament Archives.

This article appeared in the October 27, 2018 edition of The Toronto Sun.