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MPs discuss oil spill on the BC coast

April 20, 2015

House of Commons Debates, 41st Parl, 2nd Sess, No 196 (20 April 2015) at 12727.



  • moved:

    That, in the opinion of the House, the recent toxic bunker fuel spill in Vancouver Harbour represents an urgent reminder of the fragility of our coastal waters and, therefore, the government must reverse its cuts to marine safety, oil spill response, and environmental clean-up capacity in Vancouver and elsewhere on the coast of British Columbia by: (a) re-opening the Kitsilano Coast Guard Station; (b) re-opening the recently-closed Ucluelet Marine Communication and Traffic Service Centre; and (c) halting plans to close the Vancouver and Comox Marine Communication and Traffic Service Centres.

    He said: Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Burnaby—New Westminster.

    The toxic bunker fuel spill that occurred in the Vancouver harbour on April 8, 2015 provided a vivid and terrible example of why we need immediate action to restore our Coast Guard services in British Columbia. The federal government must reverse Conservative cuts to marine safety, oil spill response and environmental clean-up capacity in Vancouver and on the west coast.

    That is why today New Democrats are calling on the government to take three immediate steps to protect B.C. coasts from future marine emergencies: number one, reopen the Kitsilano Coast Guard Station; number two, reopen the recently closed Ucluelet Marine Communications and Traffic Services centre; and number three, halt plans to close the Vancouver and Comox MCTS centres.

    The federal government is responsible for keeping Canada’s coasts safe, secure and free of environmental contamination through the implementation of measures to prevent, detect, prepare for and respond to spills from ships in Canada’s marine environment. In 2010, the Auditor General warned that Canada’s oil spill response capacity was inadequate and that we are not prepared to deal with even a moderate-sized spill. However, over the last four years, rather than increase resources needed to respond to marine emergencies on B.C.’s coast, the Conservative government has shut down the Kitsilano Coast Guard base, closed B.C.’s oil spill environmental response centre and is in the process of shutting three of five Marine Communications and Traffic Services centres, all while marine traffic is increasing.

    Experts warned of the negative impact that cutting resources to organizations tasked with responding to environmental incidents on the B.C. coast would have. Now these warnings have become a reality. The closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard station had a direct impact on the Coast Guard’s ability to stage a quick response to last week’s spill. Prior to its closure, the Kitsilano Coast Guard station was one of the most active in the country, servicing Canada’s largest and busiest port. The reckless decision to close the Kitsilano Coast Guard station was an abdication of the federal government’s responsibility to protect Canada’s coastal waters, and is already undermining the Coast Guard’s abilities to respond to spills and maritime emergencies on B.C.’s coast.

    According to the former Kitsilano Coast Guard base commander, Fred Moxey, a single rubber boat was initially deployed on Wednesday night as the Richmond Coast Guard station’s hovercraft is not able to travel on an oil slick. However, the Kitsilano base, if it were still operational, would have been able to respond to the incident in six minutes with the proper equipment to contain a spill from spreading across the water and onto the shoreline. Instead, there was a six-hour delay in placing booms around the leaking tanker to mitigate further dispersal and contamination. The delayed response was unacceptable, and unnecessarily risky for the environmental protection of our coastal waters.

    It comes on the heels of the Conservatives’ refusal to engage with the many stakeholders who warned the government about the strategic importance of the Kitsilano base prior to its closure on February 19, 2013. At that time, Vancouver’s fire chief, John McKearney, stated, “This closure has put the safety of our harbour and waterways at risk.” Shockingly, the government failed to consult with the provincial government, the City of Vancouver, Coastal Health and marine emergency response partners like the Vancouver police and fire departments and Jericho Sailing Centre.

    Since the closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard station, Canada’s New Democrats have repeatedly raised concerns in Parliament about the impact the closure would have on marine emergency response. Until now, the government has stubbornly refused to reverse the closure despite calls from the opposition, environmentalists and first responders who warned the closure would increase response times, leading to increased risk on B.C.’s coast.

    It is also important to highlight that while the closure of the Kitsilano station saves just $700,000 a year, the Conservatives are in the midst of spending $7.5 million advertising tomorrow’s budget before it has even been approved by Parliament.

    This bill also “underscores a major gap in research and preparedness because of federal cuts to science programs”, said an expert with the Vancouver Aquarium. According to Peter Ross, director of the Vancouver Aquarium’s ocean pollution research program, because of Conservative cuts, “there is no cohesive long-term monitoring of British Columbia’s coastal ecosystems. The lack of baseline data makes it difficult for scientists to assess the spill’s impact..”.

    New Democrats are also deeply concerned that the closure of the marine communication and traffic services centres put Vancouver and other areas of B.C.’s coast further at risk. The scheduled closure of the Vancouver MCTS station threatens the ability to prevent shipping accidents and weakens the capacity to provide a rapid response. Currently, the Regional Marine Information Centre in Vancouver, part of the MCTS program which is scheduled for closure, maintains the responsibility for alerting responders and government agencies so that an immediate response can be mobilized. However, because of Conservative cuts, this vital service is also being closed, and no replacement system or training has yet been put in place. This means that if a spill happened in May of this year, there would be no system in place to alert authorities.

    The cuts that will shutter this important notification centre are part of broader cuts to the west coast marine safety network by the Conservative government. When the MCTS centres close next month, the Coast Guard will no longer provide anchorage assistance to ships, including oil tankers. BC Coast Pilots and Port Metro Vancouver have opposed the elimination of anchorage assistance by the Coast Guard. The serious nature of these cuts was explained by Allan Hughes, western director of Unifor Local 2182, who stated:

    When a serious pollution incident happens, quick notification and response is key to limiting the spread of pollutants. The…government is dismantling the west coast’s prevention and emergency response system that has been in place for decades.

    Imagine if the spill had been much worse. Imagine if it had been an oil tanker or an issue at the refinery in the Burrard Inlet. The situation would have been devastating. A crude oil spill in the Lower Mainland would be catastrophic. It would not only affect the coast but the communities and economies that depend on these environments.

    B.C.’s coastal regions are a vital part of the economy, providing employment and a way of life for millions of people. Our coastal waters support a vibrant fishery, tourism, and recreation. They also provide habitat for a variety of wildlife, including numerous species of fish, shellfish, seabirds and mammals, all of which contribute to the economic, social, and environmental well-being of Canadians. Ship-source spills of pollutants, such as oil and other hazardous substances, are one of several sources of marine pollution with the potential to negatively impact commercial and recreational use on our coast. That is why it is important to take a proactive approach to the management of our coastal waters.

    British Columbians deserve to be represented by members of Parliament who are not afraid to stand up for what is right. Conservative MPs across British Columbia have quietly let these disgraceful closures happen, but they now have an opportunity to do the right thing by voting in favour of this motion. The choice is clear. They can either stand up for west coast marine safety or turn their backs and vote against this important motion.

    In conclusion, before British Columbians are forced to respond to another oil spill on our coast, the government must immediately reopen the Kitsilano Coast Guard station, restore operations at B.C.’s marine communication and traffic services centres, and work with the province, municipalities, health authorities, and the network of marine safety responders to quickly put in place a modernized spill response plan for British Columbia. Anything less would jeopardize the long-term prosperity of our west coast.

    Mr. Fin Donnelly

    New Westminster—Coquitlam, NDP

  • Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for New Westminster—Coquitlam for his eloquent speech, but even more importantly I would like to thank him for his strong advocacy for the B.C. coast and for standing up for British Columbians in the House of Commons. He has done a remarkable job in highlighting the problems with what has been a reckless and irresponsible policy by the Conservative government.

    I would like to ask him about the comments that have been made by current and former members of the coast guard, like Captain Fred Moxey, who was a former base commander at Kitsilano, about the government’s reckless drive to shut down marine safety on the coast of British Columbia.

    Mr. Peter Julian

    Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP

  • Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for the question and for the work he has done as well, in speaking out on this issue over the years. His riding of Burnaby—New Westminister is right next to my riding on the Fraser River. We on the west coast know the vital role that our coast guard plays in immediately responding to disasters: oil spills or those of a human nature.

    He asked what the coast guard officials had to say about this oil spill and the response. Fred Moxey, a former commander at the Kitsilano Coast Guard base was there for over 30 years; I believe it was 34 years. He said there was adequate equipment to respond to the spill within six to ten minutes. He feels there could have been a boat dispatched from strategically located Kits Bay. From where the ship was, they could have had a boat there within six minutes. They could have had the equipment to contain the spill much quicker than the six hours it took the private company to finally get the booms around the ship.

    There are many other coast guard officials who are quietly saying that this was an unacceptable response and that we need to do better.

    Mr. Fin Donnelly

    New Westminster—Coquitlam, NDP

  • Mr. Speaker, I would express to my colleague that that is plain nonsense. The Kitsilano station was a search and rescue station, not an environmental response station. It had a small amount of equipment that could be used in search and rescue operations, for example, if a sailboat overturned and its fuel tanks were leaking into the water. It had a small amount of equipment to handle something like that. It certainly was not and never would have been asked to respond to an incident like the one with the grain carrier.

    Mr. Randy Kamp

    Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and for the Asia-Pacific Gateway, CPC

  • Mr. Speaker, this is the typical response we are receiving from the Conservative government. It is not listening to our marine safety experts, who have over years warned that this station is absolutely outfitted for search and rescue response and is also able to play a vital role in quick response to oil spills and spills of toxins and contaminants.

    Fred Moxey pointed that out. Even Commander Girouard admitted that a fast response by the Kitsilano Coast Guard station could have played a role in preventing the further spill of what was carried out over 12 km from the ship.

    It is this kind of response from the government that has marine spill experts and others who care about the ocean and our ecosystem stymied as to why it would disregard the importance of that station and the vital strategic location it could play in a quick response.

    Mr. Fin Donnelly

    New Westminster—Coquitlam, NDP

  • Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague, the member for New Westminster—Coquitlam, for bringing the motion forward.

    We have just heard the stupefying nonsense from the Conservative side. We have had a reaction right across party lines in British Columbia. The foolishness and the recklessness with which Conservatives have handled this file, shutting down marine safety on the west coast of British Columbia, is simply unbelievable.

    To start off I think I need to quote from a strong colleague of the Conservatives. The premier of British Columbia who has been a supporter of the Conservatives in the past, following an almost catastrophe in English Bay, said:

    Somebody needs to do a better job of protecting this coast, and the coast guard hasn’t done it…. It is totally unacceptable that we don’t have the spill response that we require here and the federal government needs to step up.

    It is not just the premier; it is all members of the legislative assembly. It is mayors in the area of the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, on Vancouver Island and up the coast. It is city councils, school boards, people throughout British Columbia, who are speaking up. The only reason that British Columbia Conservative MPs have not heard the very strong reaction from the British Columbia public is that they seem to be willing to listen to the Prime Minister and not to British Columbians.

    On the official opposition NDP side of the House, we believe that as members of Parliament we should be listening to our constituents, and that is what we do each and every day.

    We have heard from former coast guard officials of their very clear indications of what should have happened when that spill started. My colleague mentioned Captain Fred Moxey, who pointed out that a 47-foot ship named the 701, equipped with oil recovery tanks, skimmers, a boom—everything that could have been used to quickly respond and contain the bunker fuel leaking from the cargo ship—has been up on blocks for the last two years.

    The ship is there. However, the reckless Conservative government has made reckless cuts. It always seems to find money for its pet projects, but when it comes to marine safety, it would prefer to have a boat up on blocks rather than have that boat, with all of the equipment that goes with it, out there containing the boom.

    What Captain Fred Moxey said on April 12, I think is very indicative of how reckless the current government has been:

    The crew was trained and the ship was ready around the clock for a first attack…. Had the base been open and the crew on duty, they would have been out into English Bay in a matter of minutes.”

    That is from somebody in the coast guard, Captain Fred Moxey, who has rendered terrific service to the province of British Columbia and to our country.

    However, he is not the only one speaking out. I only have 10 minutes; I could be spending literally hours listing former coast guard workers, former coast guard leaders, who have all spoken out against how the government has been so reckless.

    We have also heard from a retired Canadian Coast Guard captain, Tony Toxopeus. He maintains that the English Bay spill could have been contained within half an hour if the Kitsilano base were still operating. Toxopeus, who worked out of Kitsilano, said that the base was equipped with a purpose-built oil pollution response vessel, 300 metres of self-inflating boom, and other equipment. Crews were trained regularly to deal with oil spill response.

    As soon as we saw there was bunker (oil) we would have hit the alarm button and got moving…. We could have backed the boat in, towed the boom there and be alongside the boat in 30 minutes.”

    This does not come from Conservative MPs speaking up to try to defend a reckless and irresponsible decision by the Prime Minister; this comes from coast guard officials who were active for decades in the coast guard. They understand marine safety. They understand how to act in environmental emergencies. Yet the Conservatives seem to say “Well, we just want to brush over this. We want to paper this over. We’re hoping British Columbians don’t wake up to how irresponsible we’ve been”. They are ruining coastal safety.

    However, the leader of the official opposition and the NDP caucus are putting forward a motion today that all Conservative MPs for British Columbia should be voting on. We are going to repair the damage that the current government has done to the coast and to emergency environmental safety in British Columbia .

    If we do not do it with this motion, if the Conservatives actually have the gall to vote against what are commonplace, common-sense policies, British Columbians will have another opportunity on October 19, 2015 to decide who will govern, who will make those decisions on the floor of the House of Commons, and who will bring forward those sensible policies. I would say to the Conservative members of Parliament from British Columbia that they have a chance today to fix what they broke, but if they do not, British Columbians will have their say on October 19.

    I hope that they are willing to listen to British Columbians today, because the reality is that we have seen an unprecedented outpouring of concern from right across British Columbia and particularly from the communities in the Lower Mainland that I have proudly represented in the House since 2004. The communities in my riding of Burnaby—New Westminster are tied to the coast, as are communities such as Port Moody, Coquitlam, and Vancouver and communities up the Sunshine Coast and on Vancouver Island. They do not get the line from the Conservatives that this spill was fortunately not too large. We are still dealing with the fallout from this bill. The beaches are still closed. The health advisory is still out.

    We can point to the leaks coming from the Nestucca barge in 1988. As members know, the Nestucca leaked bunker oil into Washington waters. There was an initial cleanup. Later on, because bunker fuel sinks, that oil started washing up on the shores of Vancouver Island. The idea that because much of the surface oil has been cleaned up we are somehow out of the woods is simply an irresponsible notion. We will not know for weeks, maybe months, whether that bunker fuel has sunk and whether it will pollute other coasts in the area further away from English Bay, perhaps out in the Salish Sea or up the coast.

    We do know that there is an enormous economic loss. We are talking about industries worth billions of dollars to the B.C. economy. For the Conservatives to be so reckless and to say that it does not matter if the seafood industry is harmed, the wilderness tourism industry is harmed, or tourism is harmed overall is simply a reckless and foolish notion.

    What are some of these other voices that have stepped forward. One is the harbourmaster from the relatively small city of Bellingham, just south of the 49th parallel. Fortunately, it has not been impacted by the foolish and reckless cuts made by the Conservative government. The harbourmaster of the Port of Bellingham said he would immediately attempt to seal a leak on a vessel like that and to have a boom in place within the hour. Harbourmaster Kyle Randolph said that he was surprised that it had taken officials in Vancouver so long to contain it. He said, “my first obligation is to stop that. The response is absolutely key”.

    There have been letters in the local newspapers and online journals as well.

    Gerald Moores, a former captain in the Coast Guard, said the following:

    When the [Conservative] government closed Kitsilano Coast Guard Station two years ago, the bogus justification was that money would be saved while maintaining a volunteer service.

    It is time to examine the true costs of the station’s closing, and the attempts to replicate its efficiencies with a cadre of well-meaning but inexperienced volunteers…. Vancouver taxpayers should know why marine pollution and search and rescue increasingly involve police and fire departments. My comments are founded in a seafaring career of 50 years, 36 of them with the Canadian Coast Guard.

    Sara Kalis Gilbert said this in regard to the Kitsilano coast guard:

    The buildings remain intact, the public outcry is growing.

    She is requesting that the Prime Minister take into consideration all of these closures for tomorrow’s budget.

    That is really the issue. Tomorrow there is a budget. Will the Conservatives fix what they wrecked? Will they restore what they closed? Will they assure safety on the coast of British Columbia, or will they continue to have the reckless, irresponsible cuts that have contributed to growing public outrage in British Columbia?

    We are asking the Conservative MPs from British Columbia to stand up and vote with the official opposition NDP for marine safety in British Columbia. These are common-sense measures. We believe that they should stand up for British Columbia and support them.

    Mr. Peter Julian

    Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP

  • Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech, although he was mostly reading from a newspaper. Is he aware that in the two years since February 2013, when the Kitsilano search and rescue station was closed, there have been 851 search and rescue operations in response to distress incidents in the greater Vancouver area? They were responded to by the station at Sea Island as well as by the inshore rescue boat HMCS Discovery, and all 851 were responded to successfully within 30 minutes.

    Could he clarify why the NDP members, with all their bravado, have consistently voted against all the additions and all the changes we have made to the Coast Guard, with $5.2 billion in fleet improvements and so on?

    Mr. Randy Kamp

    Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and for the Asia-Pacific Gateway, CPC

  • Mr. Speaker, I will clarify. Yes, we said no to closing the Kitsilano Coast Guard station, because we knew that it was reckless and irresponsible. We said no to closing the Ucluelet Marine Communications and Traffic Service Centre, because we knew that it was irresponsible, and we are saying no to closing the Vancouver and Comox Marine Communications and Traffic Service centres, because that would be irresponsible, particularly in light of the near disaster two weeks ago. We also have opposed the government’s attempt to shut down environmental emergency programs right across the country. Yes, we say no to those kinds of reckless and irresponsible policies.

    This is a wake-up call to Conservative MPs from British Columbia. Do they represent British Columbia in the House of Commons, or do they represent the Prime Minister’s Office to British Columbia? They are going to have to decide, and they are going to have to decide pretty quickly, because the vote is this evening.

    Mr. Peter Julian

    Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP

  • Mr. Speaker, I want to pick up on the point that the Prime Minister has not been successful in dealing with what are important issues for Canadians. This is an excellent example of that. I appreciate the motion the New Democrats have brought forward. Whether hearing it from my Atlantic colleagues or from colleagues from British Columbia, we have genuine concerns that the government has dropped the ball in dealing with safety and environmental issues, particularly along our coastlines.

    Could the member elaborate on what he believes is general neglect by the Conservative government in making sure that our coastlines are served adequately enough that we can provide assurances in terms of safety–

    Mr. Kevin Lamoureux

    Winnipeg North, Lib.

  • The hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster.

    The Acting Speaker

    Mr. Bruce Stanton

  • Mr. Speaker, the NDP official opposition MPs will be making the case all day that the reckless, foolish, and irresponsible cuts by the Conservative government are putting our coast in British Columbia, a coast that generates billions of dollars in economic activity, in peril. There is no doubt.

    I have a question for the member for Winnipeg North. I recall that when I first came into the House in 2004, when the Liberals were in power, we were pressing them to bring in legislation to ban oil tankers off the north coast of British Columbia. The New Democrats brought that forward, and the Liberal government at the time said no, it was not going to legislate that ban on oil tankers off the north coast. That is what British Columbians want. Why did the Liberals fail British Columbians when they were in power?

    Mr. Peter Julian

    Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP

  • Mr. Speaker, we just heard from the parliamentary secretary, who said that the Kitsilano Coast Guard station did not have the equipment to respond to the oil spill that happened recently. I am wondering if he is aware that former Kitsilano Coast Guard commander Fred Moxey is willing to write an affidavit to say that the government is not telling the truth about having the equipment or the training the Coast Guard could have provided for that oil spill response. Is he aware of this?

    Mr. Fin Donnelly

    New Westminster—Coquitlam, NDP

  • Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for New Westminster—Coquitlam for his question and for all his activism in protecting the B.C. coast.

    The reality is that retired captain Fred Moxey is highly regarded and highly respected throughout British Columbia. He says that the equipment is sitting there. The boat is actually up on blocks. That is a boat that could have contained this oil spill. It could have prevented that bunker oil from sinking down and going goodness knows where throughout the coast of British Columbia.

    I believe captain Fred Moxey every time he speaks. I do not believe that the government stands up for British Columbians. I do not believe its explanations and excuses about the near disaster that happened two weeks ago today.

    Mr. Peter Julian

    Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP

  • Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I wish to note that I will be sharing my time today with the hon. member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country.

    Our government’s policy is always the safety of Canadians and the protection of the environment. Our government has taken steps to improve our marine safety system through unprecedented investments in the Canadian Coast Guard. As well, we are committed to ensuring that the companies that cause marine pollution incidents pay for any of the clean-up operations that may be required.

    In response to the MV Marathassa fuel leak, the Canadian Coast Guard, Transport Canada, the Province of British Columbia, and their partners have been working together to clean up the pollution and protect the marine environment. Due to their dedicated work, these efforts have been successful. In fact, this past weekend, the City of Vancouver announced that many of the beaches are now re-opened.

    As the Canadian Coast Guard Commissioner has repeatedly said, the response to the MV Marathassa fuel leak was immediate, measured, coordinated, and effective. I would like to acknowledge and express my gratitude to the dedicated service of the men and women of the Canadian Coast Guard, who tirelessly work every day to keep mariners safe across Canada. I hope everyone in this House would join me in congratulating them.

    As a British Columbian, I would like to extend specific thanks to all the Coast Guard personnel involved in the containment and clean-up efforts associated with this unfortunate incident. There has been a lot of speculation from different sources regarding the Coast Guard’s response to this leak. I would like to provide the house with a summary of the events, as reported by the Canadian Coast Guard.

    Although this operation has been publicly discussed by both the commissioner and the assistant commissioner of the Coast Guard, I believe it is important that we take the time to appreciate the hard work that went into those early hours of the operation.

    In the early evening of April 8, at around 5:00 p.m., the Canadian Coast Guard received a report of a potential oil slick around the bulk carrier MV Marathassa. Within minutes of receiving this notification, the information was shared with Port Metro Vancouver. A pollution report was then issued to inform DFO, Environment Canada, Transport Canada, the Joint Rescue Command Centre, Port Metro Vancouver, and the provincial authority, Emergency Management BC. Within 30 minutes of receiving the notification, vessels were sent to investigate the report.

    During the early evening, various sources were reporting a non-recoverable spill. However, as the Canadian Coast Guard and its partners performed additional assessments, they determined that the situation was more serious and took action.

    By 9:25 p.m., Western Canada Marine Response Corporation, the certified organization responsible for cleaning up marine pollution, was on the scene, and a Canadian Coast Guard incident commander had taken charge.

    During the overnight hours, the Canadian Coast Guard and its partners were able to determine which of the many vessels in the harbour was the source of the fuel. The team carried out skimming in the dark and secured the boom to the MV Marathassa to contain the leak. Even before most British Columbians had woken up, the boom was secure and completely surrounded the vessel.

    By 9:00 a.m. the next day, the Coast Guard had established a unified command with its many response partners involved, including the province and the City of Vancouver. As the Coast Guard Commissioner has repeatedly stated, within the first 36 hours, 80% of the pollution had been recovered.

    As we can clearly see, the Coast Guard and its partners took strong and deliberate action to address the spill. They engaged the proper response authority with the capacity and expertise to do the job and ensured that the appropriate containment and clean-up efforts were under way.

    I will now address the specific motion brought forward today. First, I would like to respond to views expressed about the closure of the Kitsilano search and rescue station. The Coast Guard Commissioner has confirmed that this station never provided these types of environmental response operations, and its presence would not have changed how the Coast Guard responded to this incident.

    In fact, the assistant commissioner of the Coast Guard for British Columbia has also clearly stated that the Kitsilano station would not have made an iota of difference to the response. I encourage the opposition to listen to the experts when it comes to managing this kind of marine incident.

    Second, I would also like to take this opportunity to address the point raised by the opposition regarding the modernization of our Marine Communications and Traffic Service Centres. Again, their arguments miss the mark.

    The modernization of these centres will in fact strengthen the effectiveness of the services the Coast Guard provides to mariners and improve work efficiency for the officers at the station. These strategically-located centres will have state-of-the-art technology. As a result, equipment will be more reliable, disruptions will be reduced and service coverage will remain the same.

    The reorganization of these centres has absolutely no bearing on the MV Marathassa response and will only improve marine safety through the addition of improved technology. Suggestions otherwise are simply ill-informed.

    I encourage opposition members to focus their attention instead on our government’s support of the polluter pays principle, which requires the polluter to pay the full cost associated with an oil spill cleanup, including third-party damages. Members could also focus on the fact that the Coast Guard maintains environmental response equipment in more than 80 sites across the country and has over 75 trained and experienced environmental response personnel available to mobilize, monitor, advise and take action in addressing pollution incidents and protecting the marine environment.

    I would also remind hon. members that our government’s economic action plan 2012 provided $5.2 billion for the Canadian Coast Guard’s fleet renewal plan to ensure that the Coast Guard had the tools it needed to get the job done.

    The Coast Guard has clearly stated that it would work with its partners to conduct a complete and thorough review of how the incident was handled and where operations could be improved. Like always, the work that takes place after an incident of this nature will help improve our nation’s already robust incident command system and marine safety in general.

    As a resident of British Columbia, I fully understand and share the concern expressed over the MV Marathassa‘s pollution into English Bay. However, it is simply not correct to state that these unrelated organizational changes to the Canadian Coast Guard are somehow linked to the specific response to this incident. As I have stated, the Canadian Coast Guard leadership has been crystal clear in this regard. I suggest that hon. members of the opposition listen to those who know marine safety best.

    In closing, I would like to take this opportunity to again thank the hard-working men and women of the Canadian Coast Guard and all the marine safety partners for their tireless work to keep Canadians and the marine environment safe.

    Mr. Randy Kamp

    Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and for the Asia-Pacific Gateway, CPC

  • Mr. Speaker, I want to pick up on what the parliamentary secretary said about consulting with experts. Could he specifically mention which marine emergency response partners the government consulted with, not just in the last few weeks or days, but in the last number of years on oil spill response, specifically relating to the closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard station.

    When the Conservatives closed the Kitsilano Coast Guard station, the province of British Columbia, the city of Vancouver, and the Vancouver fire and police stations were opposed. Mariners said that it was an outrageously bad decision, reminiscent of 20 years prior.

    What marine experts did the government consult?

    Mr. Fin Donnelly

    New Westminster—Coquitlam, NDP

  • Mr. Speaker, as I think my colleagues knows, it is the responsibility of the Canadian Coast Guard to make decisions as it consults with partners and those in the field. The Canadian Coast Guard has its own marine search and rescue experts. In fact, considerable work was done to analyze this new arrangement to provide search and rescue services in the greater Vancouver area, with Sea Island being the primary source of services.

    Also, the HMCS Discovery inshore rescue boat station was put in place as well as the services of the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue, which is a volunteer organization. In fact, I think the member will find, as I mentioned earlier in my comments, that the system has worked very well.

    Mr. Randy Kamp

    Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and for the Asia-Pacific Gateway, CPC

  • Mr. Speaker, the government and, in particular, the minister and some of his colleagues need to acknowledge and take responsibility for their poor actions with regard to what has taken place. We need to realize that after the spill, it took over 12 hours to communicate it to the city of Vancouver. Then once the city found out about it, it took an hour to start taking some action.

    Does the minister believe the government did not do its job in alerting or advising the city of Vancouver quickly enough, or does he believe the lapse in time of 12 hours was an adequate or acceptable before the city of Vancouver should have been notified?

    Mr. Kevin Lamoureux

    Winnipeg North, Lib.

  • Mr. Speaker, that is a valid question. We followed the protocol that was in place at the time. We contacted the province. Because there is more than one municipality involved, not just the city of Vancouver but others, the expectation was, according to the protocol, that it would contact the municipalities that needed to be informed. The commissioner has said that is something we need to look at to see if we need to change that protocol so we do the contacting rather than expect the province to do it.

    In fact, the city of Vancouver was contacted before the morning, as has been reported, but we are certainly willing to take a look at that to see if it needs to be improved.

    Mr. Randy Kamp

    Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and for the Asia-Pacific Gateway, CPC

  • Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the parliamentary secretary for providing information to the House about the time frame and how the cleanup happened.

    How important is it that members of Parliament vote in support of funding for programs to ensure we protect our fragile environment? On one hand, members say that we need to protect it, but when there is opportunity to vote for the necessary funds, the NDP is absent in its support of funding. If we do not fund programs, they do not happen. How important is it that the NDP provides some wisdom in funding the programs that need to be funded?

    Mr. Mark Warawa

    Langley, CPC

  • Mr. Speaker, that is an excellent point. We see this time and again when we bring forward improvements and new funding opportunities. As I mentioned in my comments and as stated in economic action plan 2012, there was a comprehensive plan to improve the Canadian Coast Guard fleet, a $5.2 billion plan, and the opposition voted against these things. It makes no sense to me.

    Mr. Randy Kamp

    Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and for the Asia-Pacific Gateway, CPC

  • Mr. Speaker, in an Earth Day talk I heard on April 17, Chaplain Jason van Veghel-Wood asked the question, “What is the 800 pound gorilla on the basketball court?” The question refers to something that is large and important, something that everyone should know about, but which is somehow ignored as people get distracted by less important things.

    The question related to a famous psychology experiment by Chabris and Simons in which students were instructed to watch a video in which they were to count the number of times persons passed a basketball back and forth. The students were good at counting the number of passes, but when questioned, half of them failed to notice that during the game, a man dressed in a gorilla suit actually crossed the basketball court, thumped his chest and spent 10 seconds on the video screen.

    As we consider the motion brought by my NDP friend this morning, I ask, Is there a gorilla on the court? Are we missing something more important than this specific question being posed today? Let me come back to that question in a moment.

    As a British Columbian, like many others, I am concerned about the fuel leak from the Marathassa in English Bay. However, as a maritime nation, Canada relies on marine transportation for the success of our economy. In fact, I have heard that most Canadians do not realize this, but 92% of Canada’s economy floats on salt water. Think of the grain, the natural resources, the finished materials that we ship overseas or that we receive by sea, and B.C. ports handle almost 40% of Canada’s international marine traffic, more than any other province.

    Our government is focused on creating jobs and economic growth. A thriving maritime trade sector continues to be a key pillar of Canada’s economic opportunity, but safe and efficient marine transportation does not happen by itself. The dedicated men and women of the Canadian Coast Guard spend day and night ensuring safe navigation so Canadians from coast to coast to coast can enjoy the quality of life we are so fortunate to have in Canada.

    The Coast Guard accomplishes this important mandate by having highly trained men and women in its ranks, specialized equipment at the ready and a fleet of over 115 vessels strategically deployed across the country. In addition, it maintains strong partnerships with other organizations, such as the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue in B.C., which has proud and effective stations and vessels in at least five parts of the riding I represent, West Vancouver Squamish, Gibsons, Pender Harbour and Half Moon Bay.

    For friends and neighbours who believe that my riding is the most beautiful place on earth, we look to people like them to keep it that way. In other words, we British Columbians have a personal stake in maintaining the pristine nature of our coastline.

    Events of the past two weeks have shown that we do have a world-class system in place. Reasonable people agree that does not mean perfection, but what does it mean? What would we expect to have in place in a world-class response system? We would expect the minimization of oil spills in the first place, a containing of the leak, committed people there to respond, top communications networks in place, good coordination among the various parties, oil out of the water fast and a minimizing of injury to waterfowl, fish, plants and humans, the whole ecosystem.

    What did we see in the response to the Marathassa oil spill? We saw newly implemented regulations that govern foreign vessels that require them, within 96 hours of entering our waters, to advise what is their emergency response plan. We saw 2700 litres of bunker fuel spilled into the water. We saw a Coast Guard boat in the water within an hour and coordination among a vessel of convenience, aerial surveillance and the Coast Guard. We saw the Coast Guard working through the night to boom the spill. Eighty per cent of the oil was collected within 36 hours, and over 95% within four days, leaving just 0.3 litres in the water.

    Yes, there were beaches closed, but there were hard-working trained people who were there to clean those beaches by hand. We saw a wonderful populace in British Columbia, people who take these things seriously for our environment, our tourism and our very identity as British Columbians. Thanks to our Conservative government, we saw polluter pays law that the company and its insurer will pick up the tab, not Canadian taxpayers.

    Contrary to much of the speculative comments made by opposition and others following the Marathassa incident, the Coast Guard has been clear that its response was not affected in any way by the former Kitsilano base. This fact has been repeatedly stated by both the commissioner of the Coast Guard and the assistant commissioner. The Kitsilano station was a search and rescue station, not an environmental response station, and was therefore not equipped to conduct an operation of the magnitude required during this incident.

    Certified environmental response organizations have the capacity and expertise to respond to these types of emergencies and, as per protocol, it was one of these organizations that was contracted by the Coast Guard.

    We saw four pillars of preparation in place, investment by the government in maritime safety that paid off.

    First were the area response plans. In B.C., the Coast Guard maintains marine pollution response equipment in three major centres, namely Prince Rupert, Richmond and Victoria, as well as equipment caches in 12 other communities. These caches contain a variety of response equipment, including booms, skimmers, storage tanks, protective gear vessels and other supporting equipment in order to handle a wide range of situations.

    The environmental response program maintains a duty officer presence 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. These duty officers are the first line of defence to marine pollution incidents, and ensure that all reports of marine pollution are investigated and that an appropriate response is undertaken. When the Coast Guard needs the support of certified environmental response organizations, like the Western Canada Marine Response Corporation as in this incident, it can do so through its emergency contracting authority.

    Second were the navigation aids. Our government has modernized our Marine Communications and Traffic Services centres. This modernization project is replacing the Coast Guard’s current, outdated marine communications technology with a state-of-the-art platform that will improve the safety of those at sea.

    Third, we have seen improved transport regulations, like the polluter pays principle that I have already referred to.

    Fourth, as was discussed by the parliamentary secretary, there has been an expansion of the Coast Guard fleet. Since 2009, the government has delivered 9 mid-shore patrol vessels and 11 smaller vessels, including the pollution response vessels that support the environmental response program in B.C. Going forward, our Conservative government has committed over $5 billion to build more Coast Guard vessels, many at Seaspan, in the riding I represent.

    What are we seeking when we talk about a world-class response system? Remember, excellence is not the same as perfection. While we had a world-class response, it does not mean that we cannot do better.

    What would have prevented the oil spill in the first place? Maybe there were preventive measures that should have been in place. The district of Sechelt, in the riding I represent, has called for an independent investigation. We need to be committed to independent, objective reviews if we are to adhere to world-class standards in what we do.

    Yes, perhaps there are better protocols that could improve the communications systems. The Coast Guard has already committed to an independent review, as discussed by Commissioner Jody Thomas on CBC last week.

    In conclusion, I thank the Coast Guard people who work so hard and efficiently, the clean-up crew and people who worked to clean the beaches, and the concerned public, people like Mr. O’Dea, the boater who alerted the Coast Guard in the first place.

    However, if we ask the wrong question, we will get the wrong answer every time. The NDP in this case is focusing on too narrow a question. It is a question about the installation that was at Kitsilano. What is the 800-pound gorilla on the court? Is it the provisions of one base or another? I say no. We have to take this to 30,000 feet if we are truly committed to an excellent environment and an excellent economy. If the goal is to score cheap political points on an unacceptable incident, then we can look at a policy decision that focuses on specific installations, but the installations are not the resources on which we need to call to attain a best-in-class result for the environment and the economy.

    On Earth Day, a billion people will celebrate the 45th annual event. Yes, we are connected to one another and to our environment. When it comes to our government’s promotion of the economy and jobs, we all know that this may mean an increase in vessel traffic in English Bay, Howe Sound and up and down the coast. Like many British Columbians who care about jobs and the economy, we accept the presence of these vessels in our waters, but only in the event of world-class marine safety.

    In our pursuit of excellence for our country, we must not fall into polarized, mind-numbing, vacuous debate. I ask my friends in the opposition to be open to the true spirit of continuous improvement as we protect our marine safety. I pledge to do that. I know that my colleagues do. We must not say “stop” to our growth as a country. We must say “no” to the stop mentality. I say “yes” to independent, objective, science-based processes that will deliver to get the best guidance in how we keep our economy thriving and our environment the best that it can be.

    Mr. John Weston

    West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, CPC

  • Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his intervention. However, I do not know where to begin on all the claims that he made in his speech. I hope he will start by supporting the motion. The first thing the member from British Columbia can do is listen to the people of British Columbia and support the motion.

    I wonder, if his area of West Vancouver was affected by the spill, if his beaches have reopened. Could he talk about the impact to the fishery, marine mammals and wildlife? I know he has been on the fisheries committee. He talked about the spill being 2,700 litres. We do not even know that. That was from a flyover, and we are not sure how big that spill was.

    He talked about modernizing a state-of-the-art platform. If he were to actually talk to the Coast Guard he would find that there are still problems with the INNAV system that it has not been able to work out in over eight years. They have to actually use Post-it Notes at times when the system crashes.

    The member calls this a world-class response. I wonder if he has spoken to Fred Moxey, the former commander at the Kitsilano Coast Guard station, who will swear an affidavit to say that the government is not telling the truth. The two members that he quoted are not telling the truth about the role the Kitsilano Coast Guard station could play in a strategic response and the training and equipment that it had available at the station.

    Mr. Fin Donnelly

    New Westminster—Coquitlam, NDP

  • Mr. Speaker, it is an unfortunate aspect of our adversarial system that when one is in opposition everything has to be a no or a stop or a wrong. What I would love to see is my NDP colleagues coming together and asking “How can we get together and make sure we have a world-class system? How can we conduct the independent review that the Coast Guard has actually committed to doing?”

    Yes, I have spoken to the Coast Guard. I spoke to the director of operations as the situation was unfolding. It was he who verified with me that the government has invested in improving the transport regulations, in improving a tailor-made kind of area response system rather than a cookie-cutter system that would apply right across the province. The government has invested in navigation response technology. These things will all be reinforced by an expanded Coast Guard, with over $5 billion in Coast Guard vessels.

    We are not talking about perfection. We are not talking about saying “stop” to an economy. What we are talking about is a commitment to world-class excellence. We have seen it, we are going to continue to see it and yes, we can still improve.

    Mr. John Weston

    West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, CPC

  • Mr. Speaker, the House has just heard that we have a world-class response system but we should be working together to create a world-class response system. Either we have one or we do not.

    The reality facing cities in this situation is very similar to the rail accidents we are seeing across the country. Cities are not notified. In particular, in Vancouver, cities were not notified. Public beaches were kept open even though toxic substances were washing up on the soil. School children were playing in it and there was no notification because cities were not included in the process.

    We have also heard, and this is very concerning, that everything happened within an hour, yet there were private yacht owners reporting the spill, and nothing happened for up to five hours. There was an absence of a proactive approach to safety, one the Conservatives seem to embrace when it comes to terrorism but they walk away from when it comes to public safety in every other aspect in the country. Why is the government so resistant to proactive environmental processes that protect Canadians?

    Mr. Adam Vaughan

    Trinity—Spadina, Lib.

  • Mr. Speaker, it is a fallacy to say that world-class processes means that we do not ask questions. In fact, a world-class process means a commitment to reviewing what happens after an incident like this and a commitment to make it better.

    The Coast Guard has already said that the protocols can be improved in terms of the notification. The Coast Guard notified the province and expected the province to notify the city. That did not happen fast enough and it is going to happen faster next time. That is what world class means.

    World class means continuous improvement. It means daring to look at the best practices from around the world to adapt them and make them particularly Canadian. That is what the Coast Guard is committed to doing. That is what our government is committed to doing. We can have an economy that walks and chews gum at the same time. We can have a pristine coastline and we can still export our resources. The opposition would say “no”. It would say “stop”. I say “yes“. We can continue to improve and we will do so. That is what world class is.

    Mr. John Weston

    West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, CPC

  • Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my colleague, the member for Vancouver Quadra.

    I do not know where to start because right across the street from my constituency office is one of the busiest beaches in Vancouver, Greater Vancouver and British Columbia. It is English Bay. Right now it is still closed. This is a beach where children go to play, where people walk along the water in bare feet. This is where paddlers, canoeists and boaters all just go around as pleasure craft. This is now closed.

    It is not as if this is something we have just heard about. I remember standing in this very House in June 2012 when the current government, celebrating the great Canadian Coast Guard, decided to shut down Kitsilano Coast Guard base. In that year, the Conservatives did it without informing the Province of British Columbia, City of Vancouver or the Vancouver city firefighters or police. It was just done. In order to celebrate a wonderful Coast Guard, they cut it.

    For the last seven years, since the Conservatives have been in government, there have been cuts of 34% to marine search and rescue and coastal safety. This is a planned series of cuts.

    I listen to people talking about world class and what defines world class. What bothers me most is that an oil spill occurred and it took 12 hours to let the City of Vancouver first responders know that there was even an oil spill. It took eight hours to get a boom around that spill so they could try to staunch the surface oil. The City of Vancouver then took 45 minutes to get out there and do what it needed to do. That is not world-class response from the government. I call it “Mickey Mouse” to say the least. Everyone warned the Conservatives when they cut Kitsilano Coast Guard, and not only Kitsilano Coast Guard but all of the marine communications centres along the coast. We saw Comox and Tofino cut. We are now down to two communications stations along that coast of British Columbia, which is the longest and arguably the most treacherous coastline in Canada. However, the Conservatives have cut all the communications links, leaving only two.

    They talked about how it was okay to move the Kitsilano Coast Guard base to Lulu Island. They said it would take no time at all for a hovercraft to get there. It takes 35 minutes for the hovercraft to get from Lulu Island. The Vancouver Coast Guard, which was staffed 24/7, would take five minutes to get to a vessel in distress and had the ability to work with the City of Vancouver on oil spills.

    We all know it is not just the City of Vancouver. Today we hear of all of the first nations in that region shutting down their fisheries for shellfish and groundfish. We see people in Vancouver cutting their fisheries and closing down for shellfish and groundfish. I live in a very urban riding, but I have one of the largest fisheries in False Creek in the heart of my riding. All of this is cut. People’s ability to be able to fish and earn a living is going to be hampered now at the best fishing season. This is not without warning.

    They cut communications centres and a major Coast Guard station, when the response time is so long and they fail to let people know that is not just an oil slick. The current government was warned by the City of Vancouver. I will read what the City of Vancouver stated when this all happened. The City of Vancouver, the police and everyone sent letters begging the government to reinstate the Kitsilano Coast Guard station. The B.C. justice minister of the time for the province said that protecting the fabric and safety of society must be a grounding principle for all budget cuts. Everyone said not to do it, that it will be dangerous.

    While everyone loves to say that 80% has been cleaned up, bunker sea fuel is a thick globular tar-filled toxic fuel. The sheen at the top is gasoline, 10% of which evaporates, However, what happens when the big globules sink to the bottom? We know that in bunker sea spills around the world, they are on the beds for decades, where there are groundfish such as smelt, which people in my riding love to fry, dry, and eat a lot. Shellfish, which use their mechanism muscles, et cetera, to sift through the sand and clean whatever is there to get their food, to clean their muscles and themselves, clams, et cetera, will deal with thick globular stuff that has now sunk down to the bed and will be there for decades.

    How will that impact the fisheries? What would happen if this was a small spill? What would happen when we double, as the government plans to do, the number of tankers going through that whole area? What will happen if one of those tankers has an accident and there is a spill? What will happen when it can not even deal with a 2,700 litre spill? This is extraordinary. This is my province and my riding. This is where people earn livings and children play. It is irresponsible and unconscionable when the government has been warned over and over. The Attorney General said that the government needed to improve the communication stations, which it has cut, the resources, which it has cut, and the number of Coast Guard stations. The government needs to do that in order to ensure marine safety. The fifth estate said that Canada had one of the worst search and rescue and marine safety resources in a lot of the industrialized world.

    Under the Conservative government, we seem to be spending so much time racing to the bottom to see if we can be the worst. This is where we are. The problem is we are talking about the health and livelihoods of people. We know that Ucluelet is going to be closed at the end of this month. We know there is consideration that the first group out there, after port metro called it in to deal with this oil spill, will be closed soon.

    What do we hear when we talk about world class? The premier of British Columbia had a press conference that day and said that this was not world class and that the province would take over search and rescue and marine safety because it could not depend on the federal government to do it. The city of Vancouver was out there in 45 minutes. It has first responders that do not have any authority over the ocean or the sea, but they are prepared to go out there and do what they need to do because we have to protect our beaches for our children’s safety, the people who work there, the fisheries and the shellfish.

    This is not a small thing and no one is able to estimate what damage will be caused to the fisheries over the next decades. It is a joke to tell people that because we cannot see the spill anymore, it is gone. Canadians are not stupid. Canadians saw what happened in the Gulf of Mexico. We dealt with the Exxon Valdez. We know there is still tar and oil at the bottom of the ocean, where shellfish live. We know this will harm a valuable resource in British Columbia.

    I have no idea what the government is thinking. It cost $700,000 a year to keep the Kitsilano Coast Guard base open. That is just once piece of marine safety. Yet the government is about to spend $7.5 million to advertise the announcement of a budget. It would cost less than 10% of the money it will spend to announce, in a partisan way, its budget, to keep the Kitsilano Coast Guard station open. Where is it written that a government does not put the safety of its people ahead of any other kind of partisan rhetoric in an election year so it can win and be government again? Why does the Conservative government want to be government when it does not give a fig about the people of our country, their safety or security? What does it want to do? Why does it want to be government?

    This is extraordinary. I speak for all of the people who signed the thousands of petitions I have tabled in the House, people in my riding in which the spill took place and is creating a major problem for the fisheries and beaches there. All I can say is that the government should care about the people of our country if it ever wants to be re-elected.

    Hon. Hedy Fry

    Vancouver Centre, Lib.

  • Mr. Speaker, as the member knows, I spoke in the House when the government was about to close the Kitsilano Coast Guard station. In voicing that opposition, we heard many speaking out. We also heard in 2010 from the Commissioner on Environmental and Sustainable Development who said that procedures for verifying preparedness for the Coast Guard were not in place, that the responses to ship source spills were poorly documented and that there was no national regime for ship source chemical spills.

    The government has asked for input and feedback from experts. People are providing feedback by saying years in advance that we need to make changes, that we need to implement these systems and that we need to include the Kitsilano Coast Guard station. Could the member comment on that?

    Mr. Fin Donnelly

    New Westminster—Coquitlam, NDP

  • Mr. Speaker, I recall being there with the hon. member, people from the Coast Guard and concerned people from my riding when the Kitsilano Coast Guard base was closed. We spoke at the same rally protesting this cut.

    In my speech I noted that the Auditor General said that we needed to spend more money on resources, communications, personnel and Coast Guard stations in our country if we were to maintain any kind of safety. Canada is surrounded by three oceans, yet we are putting very little resources into dealing with those coastlines.

    Earlier my colleague from the north shore said that this was not just about Vancouver. The largest port in our country is in metro Vancouver, right outside my doorstep. Over three million vessels as well as people and various groups come through that port every year. This is not a joke.

    I am pleased to speak to the NDP motion today. We will see what happens when people start to suffer or people die. The government members will have that on their heads. They already have enough on their heads, but they do not seem to care.

    Hon. Hedy Fry

    Vancouver Centre, Lib.

  • Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her passionate defence of the Kitsilano Coast Guard base and the ecology of our port and beaches. Between the member for Vancouver Centre and myself, on 30 different occasions we raised in questions and in other ways in the House of Commons the issue of the closing of the Coast Guard base.

    We also worked on reaching out to have non-partisan support for keeping the base open. We sent letters to all the Conservative members of Parliament as well as NDP members to band together and pressure the government to do the right thing. I would like to invite the member for Vancouver Centre to discuss the response we received from a neutral non-partisan letter to the Conservative members of Parliament on this issue.

    Ms. Joyce Murray

    Vancouver Quadra, Lib.

  • Mr. Speaker, it is a very short answer, none. Conservative members who come from British Columbia and live on a shoreline should be ashamed of themselves. They do not seem to care for their constituents.

    When the oil spill occurred, as soon as we heard about it, my leader immediately put out a press release saying that he would reverse the cuts, spend more money in doing exactly what the Auditor General said, which is to spend money on communications stations to bring back the Kitsilano Coast Guard base and any others that may be necessary and to bring back all of the resources that we need. He was right there on the spot. He comes from British Columbia. He understands it and he knows exactly what the problem is and exactly what to do to fix it.

    Hon. Hedy Fry

    Vancouver Centre, Lib.

  • Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to support the opposition motion brought forward by the NDP to restore the Kitsilano Coast Guard base and other cuts to the marine communication centres, another very important network of safety and service in the Vancouver area.

    What we have heard in the debate today is really exemplified by the member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country. He had many fine words about the measures the government had taken, yet in an Orwellian way, they were simply a smoke screen for the fact that the government’s cuts to services and budgets have reduced the safety of the environment and the people on the coast.

    I am disappointed that the member who should be listening to the concerns of the citizens in his community, with their very important beaches and fisheries, shellfish, crabbing and tourism, is instead defending the undefendable, indefensible actions on the part of the government.

    The government has promoted the idea that the health and safety of Canadians is the government’s number one priority. That is but a myth unfortunately. The reality is that the health and safety of Canadians and the environment are being sacrificed on the altar of the 2015 election tax breaks for the 15% of families, the wealthiest families who need it the least. That is the reality.

    When the member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country said that he wanted to take the discussion to 30,000 feet, what actually happened with this oil spill was that air surveillance came out hours before anything happened on the water. That is where we need to take this discussion, onto the ground, onto the water. We need to look at the cuts the government has applied and the consequences of those cuts.

    There have been cuts and clawbacks to many of the agencies that serve the safety and security of Canadians and British Columbians, cuts to the RCMP operations on streets which keep Canadians safe from organized crime, drug activities and gangs, many of the kinds of activities that have led to missing and murdered indigenous women. Cuts have been made to those very kinds of programs intended to protect the safety of Canadians.

    Defence is a whole other matter in which the government has the myth that it has increased funding to defence when in fact it has cut its funding substantially in order to offer these tax breaks.

    Veteran Affairs has had over $1 billion clawed back, while veterans have been crying out for services, standing in lineups, not being able to speak to a human being, having to call 1-800 numbers when they are in a crisis from a mental injury like PTSD.

    Cuts to the very programs that support the safety and health of Canadians is a hallmark of the government. Marine safety has seen major cuts, from $82 million for the marine safety program in Transport Canada in 2007 to $57.5 million by 2015. That is a 37% drop.

    Meanwhile, the government claims it is protecting the services and safety of Canadians. That is nonsense. It is risking services to and the safety of Canadians. This oil spill in Vancouver harbour is an example of the consequences of that.

    I will talk a little about my riding of Vancouver Quadra, which is proud to be the home of the Kitsilano Yacht Club, the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club, and the Jericho Sailing Centre.

    There are many recreational facilities where Vancouver’s mariners come to bring their crafts of all types and sizes to carry out their recreation and exercise, maybe with their paddle boards, kayaks or sail boards on the waters of Vancouver harbour.

    At the time the announcement of the shut down of the Kitsilano Coast Guard station was made, there was an uproar in Vancouver among my constituents of Vancouver Quadra and right across the region, but the government ignored them. In fact, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans did something similar to what the Conservatives are doing today, in talking about a laundry list of supposed investments to cover the fact that they were cutting funding for these very important safety measures.

    In response to a letter from Mr. Cotter, a key search and rescue volunteer in our city who runs the Jericho Sailing Centre Association, the MP for Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission stated:

    Coast Guard officials have done extensive analysis of Kitsilano’s historical workload…and are confident that the reshaped search and rescue system in place next year, working collectively, will maintain the high level of service currently provided.

    Well, that is absolute balderdash, because we have had incidents already of slow response times where human life was at risk. Now we have the incident of a slow response time that has cost our marine ecosystem and tourism industry and poses a potential health risk to children on our beaches. It is an example of a complete and utter failure on the part of the Coast Guard’s response time.

    The Liberal leader’s response to the Vancouver fuel spill from the Marathassa vessel was to say that we must protect the health and safety of the environment and British Columbians, and therefore, the Liberals would restore the full service Coast Guard base in Vancouver and the other marine safety cuts would be built back. That was the Liberal response. What was the Conservatives’ response? The minister stood up and said things that were absolutely untrue. That is my deepest concern, that the government and its ministers cannot be counted on to tell the truth to Canadians.

    Mr. Cotter brought it upon himself to write and explain exactly how the minister was incorrect. His letter to Minister Moore reads:

    Since the April 8 bunker C fuel spill in English Bay, 3km directly north of the Jericho Sailing Centre, I have heard various reports from Canadian Coast Guard officials—

    —and the minister—

    —stating that the Kitsilano Coast Guard Station was not equipped with pollution response equipment. I know this not to be true, having been familiarized with the Station, and having witnessed their environmental response to several incidents over the 25 years I managed the Jericho Sailing Centre while the Kits Station was open(1988-2013).

    Mr. Cotter enclosed photos of the very pollution response vessel that was based at the station, which the minister and current Coast Guard leadership have claimed would not have been available even if the station were open. These falsehoods are to cover the impact of the Conservatives’ cuts and the resulting ineffectiveness of response.

    I find it hugely concerning that a minister is trying to cover up with inaccurate information what actually happened. At the very least, our constituents deserve an apology from the minister and they deserve the truth about the failure on the part of the Conservative government and the Coast Guard to maintain their health and safety as a key priority.

    Ms. Joyce Murray

    Vancouver Quadra, Lib.

  • Mr. Speaker, I have a question for my friend from Vancouver. In a sense does this not represent a wake-up call for the people in the immediate area, the Lower Mainland and Vancouver? Bunker fuel leaked out of that ship. It is almost impossible to believe how little coordination and urgency there was on behalf of the federal government with respect to this.

    There are plans proposed to double the amount of diluted bitumen going through the port in Vancouver. The Conservatives are rapidly pushing Kinder Morgan, northern gateway, and some of these other more perilous projects. What if a spill of significant size were to occur? If this was the response to this order of magnitude spill, what does it tell the people of British Columbia and Canada more broadly about the Conservative government’s attention to the importance of protecting our marine ecosystem and the economies and the environment that depend upon it?

    Mr. Nathan Cullen

    Skeena—Bulkley Valley, NDP

  • Mr. Speaker, the answer is it tells the people of Canada and British Columbia that the Conservative government cannot be trusted to tell the truth and that the marine response provisions are completely and woefully inadequate to deal with a spill of this or any other size.

    I will note that according to the chronology of what happened here, the containment boom around the ship was not in place until 4:30 in the morning. That is almost 12 hours after the mariners first called in this problem.

    In contrast, had the Coast Guard still been open, according to Mr. Cotter, the pollution response vehicle would have been on the scene and commenced spill containment within an hour of the report. He stated:

    The Osprey and her crew, adept at containing smaller spills, could have commenced clean-up operations immediately. The suggestion by Canadian Coast Guard management—

    —and the minister—

    —that the response of the Kitsilano Coast Guard Station would not have made a difference from the containment 12 hours later, after 2 tidal flow changes, is beyond believable and simply not credible.

    The lack of trust we can have in the Conservative government is a key concern and should be a key concern for all Canadians.

    Ms. Joyce Murray

    Vancouver Quadra, Lib.

  • Mr. Speaker, this is a serious issue. My colleague from Vancouver outlined some of the seriousness related to the oil spill in Vancouver, but this is not a one-off situation. I met with people on the weekend who work for the Coast Guard. They are concerned about cutbacks on the east coast. The Conservative government is failing mariners everywhere with cutbacks relative to the Coast Guard and it is failing communities which could face oil spills and human safety concerns as a result.

    What does my hon. colleague think is the reason for the government making these cutbacks that are affecting public safety and the environment in relation to the ability of the Canadian Coast Guard to do its job? Is it simply so that it can save money in that area and put people at risk so that it can give tax breaks to the most wealthy in the country?

    Hon. Wayne Easter

    Malpeque, Lib.

  • Mr. Speaker, I want to confirm my colleague from Malpeque’s comments about the cuts to marine data and research.

    Peter Ross, the director of Vancouver Aquarium’s ocean pollution research program, said that there is no cohesive long-term monitoring of British Columbia’s coastal ecosystems and that it is a major gap in research and preparedness because of federal cuts to science programs. He said that the lack of baseline data makes it difficult for scientists to assess the spill’s impact. He said, “We think there is a gap in terms of our capacity to understand the ocean, document our impact on the ocean, and consequently that renders very, very difficult our ability to protect the ocean”.

    This is right across the country. What is the reason for these egregious cuts to very important research? As my colleague from Malpeque said, it is to be able to offer tax breaks to the families who need it the least, the 15% of wealthiest families to whom the government shamefully will be providing a tax break.

    Ms. Joyce Murray

    Vancouver Quadra, Lib.

  • Before we resume debate, I would note that there have been a couple of occasions today where other hon. members’ proper names have been mentioned, normally in the context of citations which members were referring to in the course of their remarks. I would just pass along to the House that even in a citation, members should substitute either the title or the riding name of the hon. member in those cases. It is just a note of caution to observe.

    Resuming debate, the hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley.

    The Acting Speaker

    Mr. Bruce Stanton

  • Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time this afternoon. I absolutely take note of your concerns about the use of proper names in the House.

    [Translation]

    It is my pleasure and honour to rise here to speak to this incident. However, this is also difficult for me, since the events of last week affected British Columbia, where I am from, and its citizens.

    The oil spill in the port of Vancouver is very troubling, and last week’s events should raise a red flag. Because of the cuts made by the Conservatives when it comes to protecting our coastal waters, our economy and our environment, the response capacity following a spill in British Columbia is woefully inadequate.

    Furthermore, I am not the only one to say so. In 2010, the Auditor General sent a very clear message about this problem: not only does the Conservative government have no plan to protect our coastal waters, our economy and our marine environment, but it is also putting the oil industry before the people of the west coast.

    For me and my fellow British Columbians, the response, or rather the lack of response, on the part of the Conservative government to this situation is unbelievable.

    [English]

    We want to put some of this into some context. In British Columbia, the seafood industry represents $1.7 billion just to the B.C. economy. Tourism represents $1.5 billion per year and is growing. Just those two industries, which rely heavily on the importance and protection of our coast, employ 45,000 people across British Columbia. Just on economic terms, one would think the government would be at least a little preoccupied with protecting and maintaining services to our environment.

    Let us look at the spill that happened in the port of Vancouver, the busiest and largest port in Canada, on Wednesday, April 8. I am going to walk members through the timeline, because it is important to the context to prove in fact, rather than in spin and hyperbole which we get from the government, the realities on the water and coast in British Columbia, and the results of the cutbacks the Conservatives have made to coastal protection. These include not only the marine safety cuts more broadly, but the shutting down of the oil spill response centre, the marine communications centres and particularly the Kitsilano Coast Guard base. It operates one of the busiest Coast Guard bases in the country and operates so close to where this incident happened.

    When we look at the timeline of events, it is incontrovertible that the Auditor General back in 2010, going back five years now, said:

    Emergency management plans are not all up to date

    The Canadian Coast Guard lacks a national approach to training, testing its plans, and maintaining its equipment

    Procedures for verifying preparedness of the Canadian Coast Guard are not in place

    Responses to ship-source spills are poorly documented

    There is no national regime for ship-source chemical spills.

    That was the wake-up call the Auditor General gave to the government five years ago. In the meantime, what has the government’s response been? It has been to cut more money from the Coast Guard and DFO budgets on the west coast, to shut down bases, and at the same time, tragically, to try to force through a much greater expansion of dangerous goods through those very same coastal waters, namely, the Enbridge northern gateway pipeline and the Kinder Morgan pipeline, which together plan to move in excess of 1.5 million barrels a day of diluted bitumen through B.C.’s waters.

    Let us look at this bunker spill that came off of this one ship, the Marathassa. At five o’clock on Wednesday evening, sailors noticed a sheen across the water in the port in Vancouver. They notified the Coast Guard, which notified Port Metro Vancouver. One would think that when there is an oil spill of some kind in a busy, well-populated place with beaches and tourism and all that goes on, they would be quick to the response.

    At six o’clock, an hour later, the port sent out a boat. Three hours later, Western Canada Marine Response Corporation was notified. Four and a half hours later, crews from the WCMRC arrived on the scene. It is not until the next morning, at 4 a.m., that the Coast Guard was able to identify the source of the spill, even though the people in sailboats and pleasure craft who first noticed it told the coast guard and the port exactly where it was coming from. They were sailing right by the ship and could see the plume coming out of it. Twelve hours later is when the coast guard notified the city. One would think there might have been some interest in notifying the City of Vancouver, which has all of these beaches where people swim, and where dog walkers and folks use the very same coastline. It was more than 12 hours later, at 5:53 a.m., that response crews secured a boom around the ship. It was twelve and a half hours later, to be exact.

    That is what the current government calls a world-class response, world-class oil emergency preparedness. That is what the Conservatives have consistently said through all of the debates on these pipelines on the west coast: “Don’t worry, Canadians. Don’t worry, British Columbians. We have world-class systems”. Well, that was a world-class lie. What we saw in reality with an incident that happened in the immediate vicinity of the city of Vancouver with some millions of people, with all of these ships and supposed equipment ready to handle this kind of thing—that is where the clean-up services are—is that it took them twelve and a half hours to show up and put a boom around it.

    The tragedy with not only this type of spill, but also with the millions of barrels of bitumen that the government would like to move through our waters, is that much of it sinks. The securing of booms is one small and partial measure. However, anyone who wants to note that this is a clean-up operation, in the sense that things are cleaned up after the fact, should dissuade themselves of that idea. A 5% to 10% recovery is typical in a diluted bitumen spill. They would call that cleaned up.

    I have little kids. If I asked them to clean up their room and they cleaned up somewhere between 5% and 10% of their room and said “Dad, we’re done”, I, like I would suggest all parents, would say “Not yet, kids. That’s not cleaned up. Now, let’s get the rest of the 90% done”.

    Now that is a child’s room and we can laugh about it. However, when we are talking about 90% or 95% of the spilled oil in one of the incidents going into our environment, embedding itself on our shores, within the fish, within our ecosystems, the impact is not only on the environment but on our economy. As we saw on the gulf coast, and with the Valdez spill in Alaska, north of where I live, it can be devastating

    We know that this was an accident, but yet an accident almost prescribed in the way that we deal with it, with a government that consistently tears up environmental laws, downgrades and guts the environmental protections within the Fisheries Act, the navigable waters act, and on and on. It then further compounds the problem by not only stealing away our legal protections, but goes further and makes cuts to the very services that we need.

    Tomorrow these guys are going to present this balanced budget and people are going to ask how we got there. This is how we got there. This is how they chose to get there, by cutting the basic protections that Canadians need.

    The former base commander who operated Kitsilano Coast Guard station, Commander Moxey, said that if the Kitsilano station that had a ship that did this exact thing were available and ready, which it would have been if they did not shut the base, he figures we could have been there in six minutes.

    What was the Conservatives’ response? It was twelve and a half hours until the boom showed up. This is what they think is protection.

    One can only wonder. Even with a coming election and everybody starting to position themselves, only a government of complete arrogance and taking people entirely for granted would suggest this to British Columbians, who deeply care about their coast and the protection of that coast, not just for us but for all Canadians. Only a government taking people for granted would take these very measures that the government has taken. This is a wake-up call. This was a spill, and it is an important spill. However, in the global scale and what is projected, the threats posed by the Conservatives and their friends in the oil patch would be minor compared with the spills we would experience from a much larger ship.

    If this does not wake the government, like the Auditor General’s report did not wake it up, like the private members’ bills we move here do not wake it up, like the the polling of the people of British Columbia cannot wake government members up, then there is a date in the near future, the fall of 2015, when people in B.C. and right across this country will not only wake them up, they will toss them out.

    Mr. Nathan Cullen

    Skeena—Bulkley Valley, NDP

  • Mr. Speaker, my colleague is right on the mark. This is a government that cannot be trusted. It is a government that has done things that are to the detriment of the environment and tourism.

    The Conservatives put in place legislation on employment insurance, and then they had to go back and fix it when they did the changes. Tourism is such a big factor with the Algoma Central Railway, and they were willing to throw that to the wolves. It is unbelievable. Millions and millions of dollars would be lost in tourism, and this government has turned a blind eye.

    We can look at Lac-Mégantic when it comes to the environment, and railroad safety as well. This is not just about the environment; it is about economic impact and about safety.

    I am sure my colleague still has lots to say, but maybe he could elaborate on the changes that the government has made which have been negative when it comes to the lives of Canadians and the survival of communities.

    Ms. Carol Hughes

    Algoma–Manitoulin–Kapuskasing, NDP

  • Mr. Speaker, here are the facts of the matter, and the facts are important. The Conservatives may be entitled to all the opinions they want, but they are not entitled to their own facts. The facts are that there has been a 25% reduction in front-line staff on British Columbia’s coast by the Conservatives. That is a choice that they made.

    The Conservatives will herald themselves as great managers and stewards of the economy. We have all of the facts there as well: 400,000 lost manufacturing jobs; anemic, atrocious job growth, according to the Governor of the Bank of Canada. Those are the facts of the matter. Conservatives will seek to deny those facts, but what people saw after the spill of last Wednesday in Vancouver is also a series of facts: a government unwilling, uncaring, and unable to respond to something that matters to us. When there is a spill, there should be a response by the government.

    It is the responsibility of the government to protect its citizens. Why the government cannot fathom that, is incapable or unwilling, it does not matter. The facts on the ground remain. This threatens our environment, our economy, our very way of life on British Columbia’s coast.

    Mr. Nathan Cullen

    Skeena—Bulkley Valley, NDP

  • Mr. Speaker, it is important that we recognize that Canada is an exporting nation. Whether it is Halifax, Churchill, or the main subject of discussion today, Vancouver, the future and the potential of Canada’s growth will in good part be based on exportation.

    Our national government has the leading role to play in dealing with and providing assurances to Canadians from coast to coast to coast that it is on top of the issue that is impacting safety, that we have a sense of protecting our environment, that we are taking the actions that are necessary to protect our environment.

    The cuts we have witnessed over the last couple of years by this Conservative majority government is putting into question issues related to the environment, which does nothing to build confidence going forward as we want to expand the Canadian economy.

    I am wondering if the member might want to emphasize or get something on the record with regard to tomorrow being budget day. The government will be in an excellent position tomorrow to provide assurances to Canadians that it understands the importance of our ports and our environment.

    Mr. Kevin Lamoureux

    Winnipeg North, Lib.

  • Mr. Speaker, governing, and certainly budget making, is all about choices, where a government chooses to place its priorities.

    We have seen from the Conservatives so far that the budget is leaking more than the Titanic did. We pretty much have most, if not all, of the budget details. However, we have seen them making a choice to skew benefits to the wealthier side of Canadians and to cutting back on services, like rail inspectors, marine inspection, food safety, the very basic things that Canadians rely on.

    With respect to my friend’s question on trade, we had a bill that I presented in this House not two weeks ago. It not only asked for the government to increase protection of our rivers, our oceans, things that are also part of our economy, particularly when moving oil through pipelines or supertankers, but also to ask a fundamental question on value added.

    All of the pipelines we are discussing today, the ones that the government is trying to ram through Vancouver, up through the north, the Keystone pipeline, are about raw exports. My people in the northwest of British Columbia look at this quite sensibly and ask about the risks versus the benefits. The government, through its cutbacks, its negligence, constantly increases the risk, and through its policies of raw export of our natural resources constantly diminishes the benefits.

    The people where I live understand this. Canadians more broadly understand this. A government that continues on this approach, both to our economy and our environment, is a government that is not only doomed to fail our economy but is also doomed to fail politically.

    Mr. Nathan Cullen

    Skeena—Bulkley Valley, NDP

  • Mr. Speaker, the word “urgent” is used in the motion before us, and there is no doubt that is the correct word.

    I would like to begin by quoting from Kai Nagata, who wrote in the Dogwood Initiative blog the following:

    One week ago Vancouver residents woke up to the news that a grain freighter at anchor had leaked bunker fuel into English Bay. No reason to panic, right? Conditions were sunny and calm, there was hardly a breeze: a golden opportunity for the federal government to demonstrate its “world-leading” spill response.

    It’s pretty clear now what a meaningless phrase that is. After watching federal officials trip over themselves for the past seven days, one thing is clear: it makes absolutely no sense letting Kinder Morgan run 408 crude oil tankers through Burrard Inlet every year. What spilled from the Marathassa was equivalent to 17 barrels of oil. Aframax tankers carry 800,000 barrels of oil.

    So what do everyday British Columbians do when we’re told to expect more and more oil to keep washing up on our shores? We grab our clipboards and get to work, channeling our frustration into something productive.

    Something productive would be to get rid of a government that has disdain for the coast of British Columbia, whose priority is to save $700,000 in closing down the Kitsilano Coast Guard station but has no trouble spending $7.5 million to tell us about its budget and political triumphs.

    We get it in coastal British Columbia. I live in an island riding. A number of people over the last two weeks have brought to my attention their disdain for the government. Its priorities, as my colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley has said, are skewed. On October 19, or as soon as possible, we have to get rid of a government that cares so little for coastal British Columbia.

    Closing a coast guard station might not sound like a big deal to people in central Canada. It is a big deal. It closed not just the Kitsilano Coast Guard station, but the one in Ucluelet, the Ucluelet marine communications and traffic services centre. It will soon close the Vancouver and Comox marine communications and traffic services centres, cutting 25% of the coast guard staff in British Columbia.

    What does it mean in Ucluelet, not far from where I live in Victoria? It means, in the case of that particular station, an officer in charge, 17 marine communications and traffic services officers, 5 electronic technicians, and 2 administrative support people gone.

    This was a minor spill in the grand scheme of things, and it was a wake-up call for everyone on our coast. Those stations cannot be closed in good conscience. The cost-benefit analysis is simply ridiculous. It is lunacy, and people get that.

    Do not just take our word for it. The commissioner for sustainable development proved it 10 years ago. He said there is no way that we are prepared to deal with even a moderately sized oil spill. With the incredible increase in tanker traffic that is expected, how could we possibly cope if the government continues to close these stations down? Its priorities are skewed.

    The Kitsilano Coast Guard station was the subject of an opposition day motion. I want to commend my colleague, the member for New Westminster—Coquitlam, for his leadership on this. He brought an opposition day motion forward back in June 2012.

    The official opposition has been all over this issue. What has the government done? It has done nothing. In fact, the Conservative member for Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission, in responding to a question from another of my colleagues back then, assured the House that safety would not be affected by the closure. He boasted that the newly acquired hovercraft would “better service this area”. Apparently hovercrafts do not do oil slicks, as we have now discovered. They just do not work. The government found that out, thank goodness with a small spill, relatively speaking, of toxic bunker fuel oil.

    The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans told Parliament that “the level of search and rescue service in Vancouver…will remain the same”. The folly of that particular claim was exposed last week. The spill response did not take the six minutes we were told by the former base commander it would have taken to get the ship out and put the booms on the spill, et cetera. It could have taken 35 minutes from Sea Island station. That did not work either. It took six hours.

    Finally, twelve and a half hours later, they told the people in Vancouver who are responsible for public safety and beach closures that they had a tiny problem. “Houston, we have a problem. Vancouver, we have a problem. Canadians, we have a problem”. This was directly traceable to the choice the government made to close down, for a $700,000 saving, a Coast Guard station.

    I want to commend my colleague for his leadership in bringing this up over and over again, with the current government saying, “No problem. Do not worry, be happy”. Well, we are not happy in coastal British Columbia. We are very concerned. Why? As Professor Tollefson of the UVic Environmental Law Centre has noted, this was an easy one. The vessel could have been much larger, the conditions far worse, and the response time much longer.

    Let me explain. First is the location. Even setting aside the proximity to the shuttered station at Kitsilano, the spill occurred remarkably close to a Coast Guard station at Sea Island. What if it had happened midway between Victoria and Vancouver, at Turn Point? Turn Point was identified at the National Energy Board hearing as the most challenging section of the route from Vancouver to international waters. The tidal conditions and the currents in that area can be devastating.

    Second is conditions. The spill occurred in daylight in calm, protected waters. What if it had happened at night when the currents were running strong? What if it had happened in a storm?

    The Marathassa is a brand new Japanese-built grain carrier. It is large, but many vessels that transit the waters are much larger. What if, instead, this had happened to another vessel in a port that day, the 340-metre long container ship Hyundai Global, a vessel twice as large as the Marathassa in gross tonnage? Of course, there is the catastrophic scenario of a tanker full of bitumen.

    The Marathassa was flagged in Cyprus and owned by a Greek company, which is apparently fully co-operating with Canadian authorities to pay the cleanup costs. However, the prevalence of flags of convenience makes it very difficult to hold owners accountable. Who pays? Do I need to remind this House that the cost of the catastrophic oil spill in the case of the Exxon Valdez was $7 billion? Currently, maximum liability is $1.3 billion, but after that, it is the public that pays these costs. I am not just talking about cleanup costs; there are the ecological costs as well.

    The substance was bunker oil. I grant members that it is a serious toxic substance as well, but diluted bitumen is far worse. It would sink, and it contains chemical dilutants that are highly toxic.

    One of the many failings of the National Energy Board’s rubber-stamped review of the plans to expand the Kinder Morgan pipeline in Vancouver was its refusal to assess just how a number of chronic spills that could happen would increase the risk if there were a problem with tanker collisions.

    There has been a complete breakdown in communication, which we saw in Vancouver. We had the silly response by government officials that the response was excellent, that they were going to get 80% of the English Bay spill. As the former Coast Guard base commander Fred Moxey said, that is simply not true. It is likely false; they are not going to get anything near that amount.

    There is another point that Dr. Ross, of the Vancouver Aquarium, discussed. He was one of the many DFO scientists fired by the federal government as it cut millions of dollars in funding from the DFO in 2012. Dr. Ross said that there is no official clarity as to who is to monitor the effects of a spill. Yes, it is the Coast Guard’s job to respond to the immediate aftermath, but we do not know who is supposed to be monitoring it. He is, on his own, with the Vancouver Aquarium, doing the monitoring. One hopes that the government has woken up and is doing its own monitoring. However, with more than 50 scientists having lost their jobs, including Dr. Ross, whose marine toxicology program was shut down, one wonders whether that is going to be the case.

    Monitoring is a problem. We clearly find that this excellent response was nothing of the sort.

    The motion started with the word “urgent”. I commend to this House this motion. We have to open those coast guard stations and not close the others. We have to move on in British Columbia to protect our sacred coastal environment.

    Mr. Murray Rankin

    Victoria, NDP

  • The hon. member for Victoria will have five minutes remaining for questions and comments when the House next resumes debate on the question, presumably later on today.

    The Acting Speaker

    Mr. Bruce Stanton

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