‘A stampede of stupid’: Rachel Notley urges Senate to block oil tanker ban bill

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley took her crusade against the Trudeau government’s tanker ban bill to the Senate today, telling senators the legislation unfairly targets her province by banning oil tankers from docking along B.C.’s north coast at time when the oilpatch is already on the ropes.

Speaking to members of the Senate’s transport committee Tuesday, Notley said Ottawa is playing a dangerous game by banning oil tankers from the region and described the bill as more of an “Alberta ban.”

“After all, Bill C-48 still lets massive LNG tankers travel those same waters. It’s not really a tanker ban at all. It’s a ban on energy resources produced in Alberta, by Canadians, from getting overseas,” Notley said.

Ottawa has championed the $40-billion LNG Canada project that will see the natural gas product shipped from a massive terminal near Kitimat, B.C. to Asia.

“It is a policy that is very divisive,” said Notley. “It’s the kind of policy that represents little more than a stampede of stupid. Ultimately, what you’re going to do is hurt our country and that sense of unity — those are the stakes.”

The bill in question would ban tankers capable of carrying more than 12,500 metric tons of oil from an area that stretches from the northern tip of Vancouver Island to the Alaska border.

The legislation formalizes a similar, voluntary ban that has been in place in the region for the last 20 years.

B.C. Indigenous peoples are split on the bill, with coastal First Nations more supportive than those in the interior who stand to gain economically from any sort of pipeline running through their lands.

Coastal First Nations have said a spill would threaten the viability of a diverse fishing industry that sustains well over 1,000 jobs in the area.

With Bill C-48, the Liberal government has sought to block projects like the now-defunct Northern Gateway project — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet killed that project on the day they first approved the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline. The Enbridge-backed Northern Gateway was a proposed $8 billion project meant to carry diluted bitumen produced in Alberta’s oilsands to an export terminal in Kitimat, B.C.

The federal Liberals are pushing for passage of C-48 just as Alberta is grappling with a series of problems plaguing its energy industry — a decline in investment, historically low commodity prices and constrained pipeline capacity. As Premier Notley reminded senators today, the legislation has stirred up considerable anger in the province.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has defended his tanker ban in part by pointing to the unspoiled nature of B.C.’s Great Bear rainforest. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

“I am a little worried that much of what we value as Canadians is at risk. Albertans are not actually the biggest fans of Ottawa these days. That’s the G-rated way to put it,” she said. “If you want to know why, one of the things we could do is look no further than C-48.

“Don’t block us. Back us. Toss C-48 in the garbage where it belongs.”

The Senate Conservatives have steadfastly opposed the legislation at every turn, but the Independent Senators Group (ISG), a caucus composed largely of Trudeau appointees which now constitutes a majority in the upper house, are divided.

An oil tanker anchors at the terminus to the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline in Burnaby, B.C. (Chris Corday/CBC)

Trudeau has defended the legislation by saying that B.C.’s Great Bear rainforest is simply too pristine for a crude oil pipeline like Northern Gateway or the Indigenous-backed Eagle Spirit, a $16 billion pipeline project proposal that would carry heavy crude from Fort McMurray to the Grassy Point port near Prince Rupert, B.C.

Notley said Tuesday there is no crude tanker ban on Canada’s east coast, which has areas of its own that are pristine and known for their natural beauty. The Hibernia operation in Newfoundland and Labrador, for example, produces tens of thousands of barrels of oil each year. Tankers carrying foreign oil travel the St. Lawrence Seaway every day to deliver product to refineries in Quebec.

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