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CONTRIBUTION · 4th May 2012
MLA's Coons and Austin
UPDATE - Homemade video by the Gitga'at showing what they are finding now -Click Here

We need action and support for the Gitgaat...we need to seriously consider the impacts of tankers and reject the Enbridge proposal MLA Gary Coons.

For those interested in watching Question period, here is a link to live video.
Click Here
MLA Robin Austin


Transcript from the BC Legislature regarding the Oil Spill.

R. Fleming: Two days ago the Gitga'at First Nations reported finding a bunker fuel slick over a wide area inside Grenville Channel near Hartley Bay. The slick emerged from the long-identified sunken wreck of the Zalinski, which has been leaking oil for over ten years. This isn't the only shipwreck leaking oil near the community of Hartley Bay. The sunken B.C. Ferries vessel Queen of the North continues to leak fuel, leaving the local community at risk of having their shellfish beds contaminated.

Ten years ago the federal government promised to clean up the Zalinski, just like the Liberal government has promised to clean up the Queen of the North, and neither has delivered on these promises.

My question is to the Minister of Environment. Does he understand why the people of Hartley Bay reject the idea of oil supertankers from the Enbridge northern gateway plying these very same waters when it's clear they can't even depend on their government or the federal government to properly respond to existing oil spills?


Hon. T. Lake: Once again, the member opposite bases all of his conclusions on speculation rather than information. This is a vessel that went down in 1946. A plane flying over the area detected a sheen. The Canadian Coast Guard did a flyover and estimated that the amount of fuel on the surface of the water, despite the fact that it was very wide, was also very thin. A bit like the NDP fiscal policy, by the way.

The estimated total of that fuel is under one litre. No one knows at this point if it is coming from that sunken vessel or was a small spill by a passing vessel. We are following up with the Canadian Coast Guard. We will base our response on information, not speculation.

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker: Members.
The member has a supplemental.

R. Fleming: I do. Once again, the Minister of Environment is caught off guard, unaware when the federal government….

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker: Members.

R. Fleming: When the federal government cancels the oil spill response centre on the Pacific coast, he doesn't even know about it. When the Coast Guard sends divers to the site today and issues a warning risk that the amount of fuel leaking right now is increasing, he has no idea that that's happening either.

Referring to the Enbridge project, Arnold Clifton, who is the Gitga'at's chief councillor, says: "They have got to clean up this mess before anyone thinks of sending anything else through our traditional territory." The federal government and the Coast Guard, the entire oil spill preparedness and response program has been independently audited and found to be in complete disarray, under-resourced and lacking capacity and coordination. Recent federal budget cuts are making the situation worse.

When is the Minister of the Environment and this government going to stop cheerleading the Enbridge northern gateway project and start cleaning up existing oil spills like the ones that are affecting Hartley Bay?

Hon. T. Lake: I will again remind the member opposite that we base our positions based on evidence. We have not taken a position on the Enbridge gateway pipeline simply because the process is in the very early stages. But what we have said is that we will protect the interests of British Columbia. We will ensure that any proposal that comes to our shores comes with the world-class protection of our marine environment that people in British Columbia expect.

While I'm standing up, I would like to point out that the member yesterday misquoted the Premier when he was talking about support for the Northern gateway pipeline. The member has yet to stand up and correct the record — that the Premier was talking about the northern gateway transportation strategy. But again, let's not let the facts get in the way of an NDP story. That's the way that they make their decisions — based on speculation, not information.

GOVERNMENT POSITION ON ENBRIDGE OIL PIPELINE PROPOSAL

R. Austin: Sport fishing is a huge economic driver in the northwest. People come from all over the world to fish the Skeena and its tributaries. Jeremy Crosby, chairman of the Skeena Angling Guides Association and owner of Pioneer Fishing Lodge said this about the Enbridge northern gateway: "The northern gateway project involves huge environmental risks with minimal economic benefit."

Mr. Crosby's business depends on a clean environment and living fish. He knows that even a single spill would devastate his industry.

Will the Liberals listen to concerned northwest businesses, drop their support of the Enbridge northern gateway pipeline and join with the official opposition in standing up for the interests of British Columbians?

Hon. T. Lake: The question is: will we listen to the fishermen, the sport fishers in the northwest? Absolutely. We intend to listen to all British Columbians. We intend to follow and participate in this process in a thorough, knowledgable and robust fashion.
But that's not the way that the members opposite would like to do things. The Leader of the Opposition in Kamloops today, when commenting on a mine application said: "I think the problem is, you know, they applied about two years ago, and the government hasn't taken a position on this." So, in other words, the government is supposed to go out and take a position on every application before it goes through a robust, comprehensive, top-quality environmental assessment process. On the other side, they just decide ahead of time what should go forward and what should not go forward.

Over here, we base our decisions on evidence, and that's the way that we will continue to do it on this side of the House.

Mr. Speaker: Member has a supplemental.

R. Austin: I represent a region which has long played host to industrial development. As Kitsumkalem Chief Councillor Don Roberts told the joint review panel assessing the Enbridge northern gateway: "We are not saying no to industry, we are saying no to Enbridge crude oil."

We all know that B.C. will be carrying most of the risk on the Enbridge northern gateway with thousands of jobs in the sport fishing, commercial fishing and tourism industries being put on the line. Why are the B.C. Liberals supporting the Enbridge northern gateway when B.C. businesses, First Nations and communities are asking them to speak out to protect their interests?

Hon. T. Lake: I'd like to quote the Leader of the Opposition in Kamloops again today when he said: "I think people expect you to look at the evidence."

Now, I know that on the other side of the House represented by the NDP, or the No Development Party, they make up their minds about any kind of proposal ahead of time.
Well, on this side of the House we look at the evidence. We wait for the process to be finished. We take part in the process in an informed thorough way, and then, we come to a position that will represent the true interests of all British Columbians. We'll continue to do that.

R. Fleming: Yesterday the Premier stood in this House and claimed she has no position on the Enbridge project. What a difference a year makes. Last year the newly installed Premier said: "The northern gateway has to be at the very top of my priority list. Developing the northern gateway — it's got to be absolutely job one."

Developing the northern gateway has got to be job one. No prejudging the process there, Mr. Speaker. So to the Premier, can she come clean with British Columbians and admit that she really is all for the northern gateway project and that it's been her job one since day one?

Hon. C. Clark: I mean, you know, talk about coming clean. We have an opposition over there that has prepared a budget for British Columbia. They know how much they're going to be taxing people. They know how much they're going to drive up the deficit. They know where they're going to be spending money…

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker: Members.

Hon. C. Clark: …and yet they still hide it from the province.

Mr. Speaker: Premier, just take your seat for a second.
Members.

how much they're going to be taxing people. They know how much they're going to drive up the deficit. They know where they're going to be spending money…

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker: Members.

Hon. C. Clark: …and yet they still hide it from the province.

Mr. Speaker: Premier, just take your seat for a second.
Continue, Premier.

Hon. C. Clark: The opposition needs to come clean with British Columbians about where they stand. They need to come clean where they stand on issues of the budget. They need to show British Columbians the budget that they produced but continue to hide. They need to come clean on their positions with respect to bargaining with public sector workers. They've refused to do that as well.

With respect to northern gateway, let me say this. Our government is pro-pipeline. We are pro–LNG pipeline. In fact, in our jobs plan we have laid out very specific goals for three pipelines that would go from the northeast to the northwest to add value to natural gas — one of the most abundant and valuable resources in British Columbia. Those pipelines will mean a tremendous growth in GDP in British Columbia, and a tremendous growth in revenues to government.

We are very much in favour of those pipelines, so when it comes to coming clean, I would ask the opposition to tell us exactly where they stand on LNG. They don't support the methods that would be required in order to power LNG, but they won't come clean and tell the public that.

Maybe when the member gets up and asks his supplemental, he can come clean on some of the issues where they've been hiding from British Columbians.

Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.

R. Fleming: The opposition has been extremely clear about its position on natural gas, and that member, who was in the House in the 1990s when she voted against Fair Share agreements and opening up the gas fields in the northeast of the province, knows better than most in this place.

But if I may, let's get back to Enbridge and the environmental risks of oil spills in supertankers, because that is what we're asking the Premier about today. The Premier's views have changed in other ways over the last year. She has found, apparently, a new-found respect and faith in the federal environmental review process. She said: "The process matters a lot."

Yet, last year, this respect for process was nowhere to be seen. When the federal Environmental Assessment Agency rejected the Prosperity mine because of the unsupportive environmental destruction it would cause, she attacked it as "a dumb decision."

It is becoming increasingly clear that the only consistent element in the Premier's approach to the Enbridge pipeline is the presence in her office of political staff from the Prime Minister's Office and Enbridge itself.

To the Premier: When will she stop hiding? When will she begin standing up for the interests of British Columbians instead of the interests and agenda of Conservatives in Ottawa?

Hon. C. Clark: Well, there is a vast gulf between these two sides of the House. On this side of the House we believe in economic development. On this side of the House we believe in the creation and protection of jobs for British Columbians.

On this side of the House we believe in regulation that works to attract investment and protects British Columbians' social and environmental interests. We want to be sure that that happens in this process, and we want to make sure that that happens in other processes.

Just once, I would like to see members on that side of the House stand up and say that they support all the job-creation opportunities that are out there. Just once, just one project. Would that member stand up and say that, yes, he supports LNG…
Interjections.

Mr. Speaker: Members.

Hon. C. Clark: …yes, he supports the methods that would be required in order to power it up, which means…?
You can't say you support LNG on one hand and you don't support Site C and independent power projects on the other. The member knows that.

He knows that when he says that, he isn't coming clean with British Columbians.

He needs to stand up, just for once, and say that he is in favour of economic development in this province, because I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, on this side of the House we are in favour of jobs. We are in favour of economic development. We're in favour of building and opening up this province, because this next decade could be great for British Columbia.

G. Coons: B.C. communities directly affected by the Enbridge pipeline have long recognized that the risks of the project far outweigh the benefits. As a result, they are overwhelmingly taking a stand against the pipeline. In 2010 the Union of B.C. Municipalities resoundingly voted to oppose northern gateway and the crude oil tanker traffic it would bring to our coast.

Since then Prince Rupert, Terrace and Smithers have joined with the villages of Queen Charlotte, Masset and Port Clements in formally declaring their opposition. Locally elected officials in communities directly put at risk by oil spills along the pipeline route and from supertankers on the coast are speaking up for the communities they represent.
Why is the Premier refusing to represent the interests of northwest B.C. communities and B.C. as a whole before the joint review panel?

Hon. T. Lake: We pointed out yesterday that the process, to this side of the House, is important, that we make decisions for all British Columbians. We look after the interests of all British Columbians, based on information. We are still getting that information. The process is not finished. We haven't prejudged the outcome.

We are protecting the interests of all British Columbians as an intervener, as suggested by the member for Stikine last year. It gives us the ability to have a flexible and more comprehensive participation in the process. We are going to base our position on information, not speculation.

Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.

G. Coons: All the risk and no benefit. The Central Coast Regional District as well as the Skeena–Queen Charlotte Regional District both oppose Enbridge. The Premier needs to quit hiding behind the process and represent British Columbians.

Let me quote from a few local officials. The mayor of Smithers, Taylor Bachrach, says: "We support resource industries, but we are not willing to bear the risk of pipelines. Oil pipelines do not fit with our economic vision for our community."

Queen Charlotte Mayor Carol Kulesha says: "It is simply too much to risk, the consequences too high." The mayor of Terrace stated he would be arm in arm with the citizens of Terrace to oppose Enbridge.

These locally elected officials are taking a stand on behalf of the people they represent. We, as the official opposition, are taking a stand. When is this Liberal government going to take a stand on behalf of British Columbia as a whole and say no to Enbridge pipeline?

Hon. T. Lake: I'll tell the member when we will take a stand: when it is responsible to take a stand. That's when the process has got to the point where there's enough information upon which to make a decision. The opposition is nothing if not consistent. They were opposed to the Olympics. They were opposed to the Sea to Sky Highway. They were opposed to the Canada Line.

If the opposition's vision, or lack of vision, existed in this province, we wouldn't have a Bennett dam. We would not have a Coquilhalla Highway. We would have no development in this province. We respect the environmental assessment process. We will take part in that process. We will protect the interests of British Columbians, because that's the right thing to do.
Current oil spill?
Comment by carlosroberto on 4th May 2012
A very convenient event from a vessel sunk many years ago.

DOF and environment officials should be analyzing the oil to determine it's age and where it actually came from.