Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen’s bill to ban oil tankers from B.C.’s north coast was defeated Wednesday.
The proposed amendments to the Canada Shipping Act and National Energy Board Act also called for more consultation with provincial, municipal and First Nation governments affected by any future pipeline construction, and to take into consideration the refining capacity in Canada.
Cullen said the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline, routed south of the Bulkley Valley and crossing the Morice River on its way from Alberta to Kitimat, was an example of why he believed his bill was needed.
Cullen’s Take Back Our Coast tour had the NDP MP holding 40 town halls across B.C. to discuss his bill.
“This response about protecting the Northwest, about putting value added into the equation when we’re talking oil, improving our democracy when we consult about any of these big projects; the support that we got from all corners of British Columbia – from right across Canada – is just humbling,” said Cullen shortly after the bill’s defeat in the House of Commons.
The vote was 141-120, with Conservatives, one Bloc and one independent MP voting against the bill. Cullen said he had hoped public pressure would get some Conservative members from B.C. to agree with the measures.
He now hopes to have the issue to be a ballot question in the scheduled fall federal election.
“On one side you’ll have the Conservatives who believe that public consultation shouldn’t mean anything, and that rip and ship is the best strategy, and that these dangerous pipelines are the way to go. On the other side you’ll have New Democrats and progressive British Columbians thinking otherwise,” said Cullen.
Those B.C. Conservative MPs tried to avoid the conversation according to Cullen.
“They would often try to keep it light, try to make a joke or two about it. I’d say this is something you have to grapple with, and I’m talking to your voters and they want you to do something on this. Mostly they just wanted to avoid the conversation, frankly,” said Cullen.
“It was a political choice that they didn’t want to take any risks by upsetting the Prime Minister.”
Cullen did add that he does not think his bill should be dismissive of any oil infrastructure in northern B.C.
“There are several proposals in the very early stages to do something like this. They have to go through the exact same conversation that any big project has to go through, which is describe the risks and offer the benefits. Enbridge failed categorically in that offer and therefore doesn’t have the support of the people in the region.
“Somebody comes in with a very different proposal… They can come in and make their offer, make their pitch, and if people feel like the risk is worth it, if there’s another few thousand jobs on board, it’ll be a different conversation with people in the region.”