Tanker ban sur­vives Se­nate vote

The Prince George Citizen - - News - Joan BRY­DEN

OT­TAWA — The Se­nate passed up a chance Thurs­day to kill the Trudeau gov­ern­ment’s bill to ban oil tanker traf­fic in the en­vi­ron­men­tally sen­si­tive wa­ters off north­ern British Columbia.

Sen­a­tors voted 53-38 to re­ject a com­mit­tee re­port that rec­om­mended that Bill C-48 be scrapped; one sen­a­tor ab­stained. But that’s not a guar­an­tee the bill will sur­vive.

A num­ber of In­de­pen­dent sen­a­tors are op­posed to C-48 but nev­er­the­less voted against the Con­ser­va­tive-writ­ten re­port of the Se­nate’s trans­porta­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tions com­mit­tee be­cause they felt it was too par­ti­san and in­flam­ma­tory.

They also want a chance to pro­pose amend­ments to the bill.

The re­port as­serted that the bill will di­vide the coun­try, in­flame sep­a­ratist sen­ti­ment in Al­berta and stoke re­sent­ment of Indige­nous Peo­ples.

It also main­tained the bill is “po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated” and ac­cused the Trudeau gov­ern­ment of in­ten­tion­ally set­ting out to de­stroy the econ­omy of Al­berta, where the Lib­er­als have lit­tle hope of win­ning seats in this fall’s fed­eral elec­tion, in or­der to curry po­lit­i­cal favour in B.C. and other re­gions where the gov­ern­ing party is more com­pet­i­tive.

Had sen­a­tors voted to ac­cept the com­mit­tee re­port, the bill would have been killed im­me­di­ately.

By re­ject­ing the re­port, sen­a­tors have en­sured the bill will pro­ceed to third read­ing in the Se­nate, dur­ing which amend­ments can be pro­posed. Some in­de­pen­dent sen­a­tors have sig­nalled their sup­port for changes that would, among other things, al­low for a ship­ping cor­ri­dor through the re­stricted area.

Others would like to change the per­ma­nent na­ture of the ban on oil tankers, al­low­ing it to be lifted af­ter a cer­tain pe­riod of time or un­der cer­tain cir­cum­stances.

Al­berta Premier Ja­son Kenney said his gov­ern­ment is deeply dis­ap­pointed the Se­nate voted to re­ject the com­mit­tee’s re­port.

“The com­mit­tee mem­bers could find no com­pelling ra­tio­nale for this bill, given that it only tar­gets one prod­uct, Al­berta bi­tu­men, and does not re­strict oil tanker ship­ments else­where on Canada’s coast­lines,” Kenney said in a re­lease late Thurs­day. “I urge the Se­nate to re­con­sider the neg­a­tive im­pact this bill will have on na­tional unity at de­bate on third read­ing. Should Bill C-48 be passed into law, Al­berta will launch an im­me­di­ate con­sti­tu­tional chal­lenge.”

There has been a vol­un­tary mora­to­rium on tankers off B.C.’s north­ern coast since 1985.

If the Se­nate ap­proves amend­ments to the bill, it would have to re­turn to the House of Com­mons where the gov­ern­ment would de­cide whether to ac­cept, re­ject or mod­ify the changes. Sen­a­tors would then have to de­cide whether to in­sist upon their changes or de­fer to the will of the elected par­lia­men­tary cham­ber.

Con­ser­va­tive sen­a­tors, who have led the charge against C-48, con­tend there’s no point try­ing to amend the bill be­cause Trans­port Min­is­ter Marc Garneau has al­ready in­di­cated he won’t ac­cept changes. But Sen. Peter Harder, the gov­ern­ment’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive in the up­per house, has pointed out that while Garneau has ruled out al­low­ing a re­stricted ship­ping cor­ri­dor, he has been more open to other po­ten­tial changes.

Other sen­a­tors have noted that Garneau has ac­cepted amend­ments to other trans­port bills, even af­ter ini­tially say­ing he would not.

In a state­ment late Thurs­day, the Con­ser­va­tives vowed to re­peal the bill if they win this fall’s fed­eral elec­tion.

“De­spite stark warnings from work­ers, ex­perts and premiers about the dev­as­tat­ing im­pact this bill will have on the en­tire Cana­dian econ­omy, the Lib­er­als and their al­lies in the Se­nate are forg­ing ahead with this dis­as­trous leg­is­la­tion,” said the state­ment is­sued jointly by Con­ser­va­tive MPs Kelly Block and Shan­non Stubbs, the party’s crit­ics for trans­port and nat­u­ral re­sources.

CP FILE PHOTO

An oil tanker is an­chored in Bur­rard In­let just out­side of Burn­aby on Nov. 25, 2016.

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