Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen.

Cullen questions Liberal tanker ban

MP Nathan Cullen has expressed concerns over how the federal government is approaching a formalized moratorium on oil tankers

Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP and NDP Environment Critic Nathan Cullen has expressed concerns over how the federal government is approaching a formalized moratorium on oil tankers passing through the Northwest coast.

Federal Minister of Transport Marc Garneau visited Prince Rupert on Jan. 14 to consult on the tanker ban issue. Cullen tabled a private member’s bill on the tanker ban in 2014, which was later defeated in Parliament in April 2015, and he expressed concern with how Garneau is approaching the subject.

“I don’t know which direction they’re actually moving in. One thing that’s a slight concern is that Mr. Garneau came into town and met with some local First Nations,” Cullen said, “but not any of the local environment groups, or some of the other people who have been working around this issue for many years.”

Cullen said that the NDP party has already drafted the legislation on the ban and the federal government doesn’t have to do any work on it.

“Our concern is that the Liberals are leaving the door open for everything from a proper and complete ban … all the way to something incredibly mild and unacceptable.”

Some of his concerns stem from suggestions by China to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that it will establish a trade deal with Canada if an oil bitumen pipeline comes to the West Coast and to allow Chinese companies to buy Canadian companies.

“I guess this is their moment of realpolitik. Will the Liberals come down with what they promised or will they cave to the interests of other groups and other countries?” Cullen said.

Cullen also questioned why federal scientists support the LNG terminal on Lelu

In a recent report to the Environmental Assessment Agency,  government scientists with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) agreed with Pacific Northwest that the LNG terminal on Lelu Island poses little risk to the Flora Bank.

“I’m a bit confused and confounded. The federal government chose to side with the industry science over the science that has been compiled by the First Nations,” Cullen said.

“To suggest that the damage can be mitigated or they have such great certainty that it can be offset is concerning to me.”

“The DFO has been completely absent from the debate around Northern Gateway and seems to be playing mostly lip service to industry,” he said.

Under the previous government scientists felt they weren’t allowed to speak and would just “tow industries’ wishes”. He thought the new government would change that pattern, but so far he doesn’t see much of a difference. “We’ll see but I’m a bit distressed by it,” he said.