17 June Update
The Liberal government agreed to a review of Bill C-48 five years but rejected the requirement for regional impact assessment that would have involved Indigenous communities and oil-producing provinces.
Canada already had in place a moratorium on Canadian oil tanker traffic in the waters from the north end of Vancouver Island to Alaska. Bill C-48 could make the moratorium permanent. It will ban tankers carrying over 12,500 metric tonnes of crude oil products from the coast of British Columbia through the waters north of Vancouver Island. In other words, Bill C-48 could block yet another potential export route for oil from landlocked Alberta.
The Economic Case Against Bill C-48
The ban could have a devastating impact on Alberta’s ability to export oil, particularly if TMX is not approved.
It is worth recalling some basic facts about Canadian oil production (figures and data from Natural Resources Canada).
Canadian Oil Production
Canada produces 4.2 million barrels of oil per day. One industry group predicts Canada will produce 5.86 million barrels of oil per day by 2035. That increased production could come from Alberta’s oil sands. That means economic growth and jobs, including jobs for our building trades members.
Canadian Oil Exports
Canada exports 3.3 million barrels per day, with 99% of oil exports going to the U.S. Some of that oil is refined in Canada.Very little of that oil is exported by tanker. A terminal along the northern B.C. coast could expand exports to markets outside of the U.S. Access to such markets is crucial to Alberta’s economy.
Bill C-48 Compromise Proposed
The Nisga’a First Nation has opposed Bill C-48. The Nisga’a First Nation argues that the federal government ignored its constitutional right to develop infrastructure and to consider the environmental impact of a tanker terminal on its treaty land.
The Nisga’a First Nation is not saying it approves of a terminal. It is asserting its constitutional rights.
This bill offends the spirit of our treaty with Canada and B.C., which commits all parties to work towards greater economic independence for the Nisg̱a’a people…
We believe that a deeper dialogue with the federal government on this proposed moratorium would allow us to achieve the balance between building a strong economy and protecting sensitive ecosystems while moving towards true and lasting reconciliation.
President Eva Clayton, Nisga’a Lisims Government
The idea of a Nisga’a-approved terminal has attracted wider support for a number of reasons:
- Such a terminal could be linked by pipeline to Alberta oil.
- Tankers could then transport oil from the Nisga’s terminal to overseas markets.
- The Nisga’a land borders Alaska. Transporting oil through a northern corridor originating at a Nisga’a terminal would minimize the potential environmental damages in waters further south in the event of a tanker spill.
An amendment based on the Nisga’a postion was presented to the Senate. Alberta Senator Paula Simon spoke in support of such a compromise.
Unfortunately, the proposed Nisga’s exemption amendment to Bill C-48 was defeated in the Senate.
Instead, the Senate passed Bill C-48 with one amendment. It provided for
- a regional impact assessment of the ban on oil-producing provinces like Alberta and on local Indigenous communities
- a review of the ban after 5 years by a parliamentary committee.
The amendment holds out some slim hope for a terminal on Nisga’a treaty land or in a similar location. Bill C-48 has now returned to the House of Commons. A decision is expected early this week.
What Does It Mean?
Neither the current moratorium nor Bill C-48 will stop tanker traffic originating outside Canada in the waters north of Vancouver Island. Those vessels are often older and much less safe than the tankers that would carry Alberta oil. What Bill C-48 will do is block yet another export route for Alberta oil. The opportunities for Energy East and Northern Gateway appear to have passed for the foreseeable future. The fate of TMX may be known this week. Unless further amended, Bill C-48 blocks yet another potential export route for Alberta oil. The economic toll on Alberta and BTA members is mounting.