Watch Now

British Columbia tanker ban stays afloat in Canada’s Senate

Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves

A proposed ban of oil tankers off British Columbia’s northern coast appears headed for approval in Canada’s Senate after legislators quashed a push to scrap the bill.

Senators voted 53-38 on June 7 to reject the Transportation Committee’s recommendation to kill C-48. The move is highly unusual in the legislative body, but it reflects the highly polarized debate surrounding the bill.

The bill would ban large oil tankers from loading and offloading north of Vancouver. It will return to the Senate for a full reading. In light of the recent vote, it will likely pass before being returned to the House of Commons.

The bill’s supporters, most notably the Liberal Government of Justin Trudeau, say the bill is necessary to protect British Columbia’s coast, home to a number of indigenous communities, from the threat of oil spills.

But critics, particularly those in Western Canada, have called it as an ineffective measure that would harm an already beleaguered oil industry by limiting potential exports.

Fears of ‘landlocking prairie oil’

The chair of the Transportation Committee, Conservative Sen. David Tkachuk of Saskatchewan, earlier in the week said that in absence of an expansion of the Transmountain Pipeline, “Bill C-48 tells Albertans in particular that they may never be able to get their largest export to Pacific markets.”

“By landlocking prairie oil, both symbolically and practically, Bill C-48 tells these provinces that they have a lesser place in the Confederation, that it is not an equal partner within Canada,” he added.

Sen. Julie Miville-Dechêne, the only independent on the transport committee who supported C-48, said the recommendation showed “cruel insensitivity” to indigenous people who live on British Columbia’s coast, and would be impacted by a potential spill.

She noted that the bill had unfairly become “the symbol of everything that’s going badly in the industry and everything Albertans are going through.”

Separately, the full Senate approved C-69, a bill to overhaul how Canada assesses energy projects.

Oil industry executives have criticized the bill, saying it would restrict new projects. The version passed by the Senate would take away power from the minister of the environment to intervene during assessments.

Nate Tabak

Nate Tabak is a Toronto-based journalist and producer who covers cybersecurity and cross-border trucking and logistics for FreightWaves. He spent seven years reporting stories in the Balkans and Eastern Europe as a reporter, producer and editor based in Kosovo. He previously worked at newspapers in the San Francisco Bay Area, including the San Jose Mercury News. He graduated from UC Berkeley, where he studied the history of American policing. Contact Nate at [email protected]