Ms. Joyce Murray (Vancouver Quadra, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, I have the privilege of speaking in support of the opposition day motion.
It has been a long-term Liberal stance to listen to British Columbians and to stand up for the protection of the Pacific north coast from supertankers, and that continues today. I have been outlining the Liberal Party leader's announcement in June on oceans, the Pacific, the Arctic and our east coast oceans, including a commitment to formalize the ban on supertanker traffic around the Queen Charlotte Islands.
What I want to touch on now is the business rationale. We have heard a lot from across the aisle about business issues and the importance for business of a pipeline into the middle of the north coast to bring crude oil that would fill several hundred supertankers a year.
I want to actually take a look at that piece by piece. What we really have here is not a choice between business and the environment, but between sustainable and unsustainable economic development. Sustainable economic development is something that the Liberal Party is strongly in favour of.
What are the job implications of a ban on supertanker traffic? A year and a half ago, the gateway pipeline proposal by Enbridge, with its accompanying oil tankers, claimed that 200 permanent jobs would be created by that pipeline. That was later raised to 1,100 permanent jobs, of which 650 would be in British Columbia.
Are jobs a rationale to open up our north coast to supertanker traffic? In fact, 56,000 people count on jobs in that area of our coast. These are jobs in tourism, whale watching and the fisheries, and even aquaculture jobs, that are at risk. So an oil tanker spill could have an impact on 56,000 jobs in the area.
That is why we actually have dozens and dozens of businesses that support this ban, because the expansion of the sustainable economic development on the coast that is so important for our first nations, for community members and for business investment is being threatened. That expansion is threatened with the uncertainty of having a flow of tanker traffic through those waters and the risks.
Those risks are not just to the 27 species of marine mammals, the 120 species of marine birds, the 2,500 individual salmon runs and the iconic species such as the spirit bear, the sea otters, humpback whales, and so many others that would be at risk from a spill.
We need to recall that the Exxon Valdez crude oil spill was 11 million gallons. The supertankers that would be going through our very dangerous rocky, and in some cases, shallow inlets and thousands of islands on the north coast are far larger. So we could be risking tens of millions of gallons of crude oil being spilled, and risking 56,000 jobs, for a possible 650 jobs.
Another argument that has been made is that this pipeline and the tanker traffic that would be required to carry that oil is needed to increase oil exports. In fact, the latest research from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers shows that the major pipelines that are carrying Alberta oil sands oil to the United States have been at 80% capacity. Clearly, there is a major amount of expansion that could happen with the existing pipelines.
In addition, a new pipeline is being proposed. That is the Keystone XL pipeline, which would increase capacity yet another 18%. Of course, another debate is whether the oil sands volume should be increased. My personal view is that we need to slow down that expansion until we can demonstrate that it is an environmentally appropriate industry, and there have been many questions to that effect.
There is pipeline capacity. It is cheaper and easier to sell this oil to the United States. The U.S. buyers will buy all the oil that can be produced, so this ban is not a constraint to the increase of oil exports. The pipelines already can handle that.
Another business argument is that the pipeline and the tankers are needed to diversify our markets. There are already six to 10 tankers a year taking Alberta oil sands oil to China, which is not very much. There is supply to fill far more than that, but there really is not market demand for it. It is far more expensive for China to buy oil that has not only come across Canada in a pipeline, but then has to be handled, put into a tanker, cross an enormous distance, be unloaded, and so on. Those are extra costs and crude oil has a commodity price set by world markets. Clearly it is easier and cheaper for this to be sold into the United States. There is not very much demand from Asia and there are other routes that could supply that demand should it surface.
The members opposite will use a lot of terms such as “double hull”, “extra pilots”, “extra regulations”, “safety” and “economic”. In fact, the big issue is whether it is worth taking the risk of a massive crude oil spill on the coast of British Columbia. That iconic wilderness area is internationally recognized as a precious asset and will only become more precious over time. Is it worth risking that for economic arguments?
Clearly the economic arguments are very weak and the risk is not worth taking, because if something goes wrong, and we can almost guarantee that at some point something will go wrong, we could never undo it. We could never bring our coast back to the way it is today. It is simply not worth the risk.
The Liberals have taken a leadership role on this since 1972. We continue to do that with our commitment expressed by the Liberal Party leader.
I will take a moment to point out that the Conservative government's instincts on economic issues have been very poor. Its instinct is to support big oil over the environment with respect to our coastal inland waters. Its instincts on the economy have led to trade deficits, the scale of which we have not seen in decades in Canada, and record high deficit and debt. Unemployment is still up 2%, higher than it was pre-recession. Full-time jobs have not been recovered. Truckloads of borrowed stimulus money, which our parliamentary budget officer has analyzed, created far fewer jobs than one would expect from that amount of spending and creating that amount of debt.
The government's record and its instincts on the economy and business are actually very dubious and have had very poor results. It does not support the business community for the government to see itself as a cheerleader of business, over the environment and over the will of British Columbians and Canadians. Business is not asking for that.
The oil industry wants clarity from the government. It wants certainty from the government with respect to greenhouse gases and the regulation of the oil sands and the oil sector, in relation to the impact on water, air and climate, and it is simply not getting that because the government sees its job as being a cheerleader and picking big oil over other interests. In fact, it has been lobbying in the United States, in California, and Europe to have those countries weaken their own structures and regulations to reduce greenhouse gases, and that is shameful.
When the environment minister was at the climate conference in Bali, the government's primary public international event, instead of being the person on the podium, it was representatives of big oil on behalf of Canada's big announcement. Where was the minister? I was there so I am speaking from personal experience. The minister was skulking in the back of the room in a t-shirt and shorts during Canada's primary announcement. That is the same minister who perhaps plans to go to Cancun.
I would tell the minister to stay home. It would be better for Canada, better for the rest of the world and better for the environment if the minister were to stay home. The record is showing--
Ms. Linda Duncan (Edmonton—Strathcona, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased today to rise to speak to this motion. I will be splitting my time with my neighbour, the member for Nickel Belt.
I thank the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley. He has been a great defender of the environment and his constituents in the House. Even before I was elected, I admired him from a distance. He has carried on the tradition of my old friend Jimmy Fulton, who I know is watching from above and cheering on the man who has taken over his portfolio of protecting this beautiful area of our country.
It is important to remind the House that the motion brought forward by my colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley is necessary because of the failure to act on an earlier motion tabled by our party, by myself, which was voted unanimously on by the House. That motion called for a review of current federal law and policy to deal with the safety environmental aspects of unconventional oil and gas development.
Clearly this is an unconventional oil and gas activity. We have not yet seen the piping of raw bitumen across the pristine area of northern British Columbia, through rocky, mountainous, river-laden terrain, through first nation territory. Nor have we witnessed, yet, the travails of large tanker traffic through rough seas.
In the interim, I would also like to compliment my colleague for referring to the natural resources committee the beginning process of moving on with this long-awaited review of whether the federal government was delivering on its responsibility to regulate and provide sound policy for the safe and environmentally sound development of unconventional resources in our country.
The motion deals with the specific aspect of unconventional oil and gas development. It deals with three parts. It deals with the front end, which is the fast pace that intensifies development of the oil sands for the shipment of bitumen to eastern countries, including China. It deals with the development of a pipeline through an extremely risky area, where many communities and first nations have raised strong objections. It then deals with the end result, which would be the movement of that bitumen into tankers and those tankers going through difficult waters.
The reason we tabled our earlier motion in May was we thought the country had signed on to the cautionary principle. Our country also believes in sound, economic development that does not put communities at greater risk. The whole idea was to allow Canada to benefit from the wake-up call of the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
What better opportunity than to put in place a proper protective regulatory regime in advance, with a sound plan for how we develop our resources in a way that will reduce, not increase, risks to Canadian communities and to our very valued environment.
Yet what we are doing is continuing with this fast paced, unregulated sector. We had three reviews on unconventional oil and gas, more specifically, on the development of the oil sands. One was a two-year review in which the Government of Canada participated. It was initiated by the Government of Alberta. A good number of recommendations were made with regard to improving the regulation of that sector.
The parliamentary committee on natural resources then led a review starting, I believe, in 2007, which made similar recommendations for action before we proceeded unchecked with the development of this resource.
Then the committee in which I have the fortune to participate, the parliamentary committee on environment and sustainable development, spent two years reviewing the development of this resource and a number of the members of the committee submitted lengthy reports documenting the recommendations made.
This is the time to be acting on the many recommendations that have been made from a broad array of experts in Canada, from first nation governments to leading scientists and technologists at universities in Canada to the Governments of the Northwest Territories and Alberta to federal agencies.
Instead we are leaving ourselves open to an unplanned development of our resources. We are simply sitting back, as legislative officers, waiting for someone to propose something. We can do more. As elected members, we can show leadership and provide that regime for which Canadians have asked.
We have heard concerns today relayed to us through their elected members. People across British Columbia are very concerned about the proposal for the tanker traffic. They are also very concerned about the development of the pipeline that would lead to this tanker traffic.
The questions I would like to put before the House is this. What are the risks posed by the pipeline? What is the risk to Alberta? What is the risk to British Columbia? Are adequate laws in place to regulate tanker traffic through this risky body of water, putting at risk significant areas, including west coast fisheries?
My colleague, the member for New Westminster—Coquitlam, has very thoughtfully tabled in the House a bill recommending improvements to the Canada Shipping Act to give expanded powers to the government to do exactly that, to better regulate and assert its powers and responsibilities to protect our oceans and the resources in those oceans on behalf of the people of Canada.
What are the capacities to respond to a spill or explosion? We have heard from a number of members of the House and we certainly have heard reference to the audit of coast guard capabilities. I can speak very personally to the capabilities of the federal government to respond to a significant spill.
I hope all the members have taken the time, because we have the Railway Safety Act coming before us as well, to take a look at the review of the Cheakamus spill and the Wabamun spill. Prosecutions arose out of that. Those reports by the rail safety board, by the respective provincial governments and the matters that came out of the government clearly said that the federal government had dropped the ball in respecting to these significant spills. Yet the Wabamun spill was less than a few miles from a main highway, only 40 miles from a major city, in the oil capital of Canada and it completely failed to contain a major spill of bunker sea, half of which remains on the bottom of Lake Wabamun.
Where is the action on developing a framework for emergency response and spill response plans? Yes we know that we can stop the ships and the Coast Guard can demand to see the spiller response plan of the tanker. What good is this at that point? The tanker is already within our waters. Surely we should be standing back and conducting an overall review of whether that is adequate. Do we need stronger measures to prevent the kinds of incidents that have occurred along the Alaska coast.
People on the east coast have raised concerns about the lack of access to emergency response plans, that even in those cases where a company is required to develop an emergency and environmental response plan, they are not disclosed to the public.
Surely we need to be reviewing the system for the development and approval of these kinds of risky developments in Canada.
What about capabilities of foreign tankers? How will the government control what kind of emergency spill response equipment is contained on those tankers, or will the people of Canada be required to pay the cost of storage of the spill response equipment on shore? Can that even be adequate? Surely we should be standing back and taking a close look at whether it is even possible to respond and if so, who should pay and where should the liability be imposed.
Given the hints in cutbacks by the government and the fact that it turned down a sincere request by the city of Edmonton for support for an expo on activities to celebrate clean energy development in Canada, how can we expect the Coast Guard, which has already been cut back, to do the job? Will the government commit to major resources to beef up the ability of the Coast Guard not only on the west coast, but also in the high Arctic and on the east coast.
I can share with the House the statistics from Alberta on incidents on pipelines. In a 15 year period there were 8,000 releases. That is not very reassuring.
The members of our party have been repeatedly been calling for an open and transparent dialogue on a clean and sustainable energy strategy for Canada. I am pleased to say that the Alberta minister of energy just today advised me that he is supportive of our proposal and he called it a national energy strategy.
Mr. Claude Gravelle (Nickel Belt, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Edmonton—Strathcona not only for sharing her time with me, but also for sharing her space with me here.
I am pleased to participate in the debate on today's opposition day motion moved by my colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley.
I wanted to join this debate because I have a few comments to make from a slightly different perspective than those offered today by my New Democratic colleagues. We have heard their forceful and informative presentations on the severe environmental consequences of hundreds of oil supertankers sailing through sensitive marine ecosystems, threatening the livelihood and way of life our beautiful western coastal communities and first nations.
We have also heard that a moratorium is not good enough. We need legislation and we need it now. Let me explain why a moratorium is not good enough any more. The Conservative government's recent reinterpretation of the moratorium has meant that Methanex and Encana have been allowed to import condensate in tankers to the port of Kitimat.
Since 2006, over 30 tankers carrying condensate have been allowed to travel through the inside passage to Kitimat, B.C. For those who do not know, condensate is a highly flammable hydrocarbon used to thin the tar-like oil extracted from the tar sands. It is classified as a dangerous good by the federal government and is so toxic that it kills marine life on contact.
Allowing oil supertankers into the Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound would jeopardize the $1.7 billion Pacific coast fishery, the 13,000 commercial fisheries jobs, the approximate 10,000 jobs in the cruise ship and recreational tourism industry, and entire coastal cultures from the threat of oil spills.
For the record, Enbridge Inc. says its pipeline project, the northern gateway project, which will send 400,000 barrels of oil per day from Edmonton to Kitimat to be exported to Asia and the U.S. coast by tanker, will create approximately 200 long-term jobs across the entire route. To threaten tens of thousands of jobs for just 200 jobs, I do not know about my Conservative business-minded colleagues here in the House, but this makes absolutely no sense. As I have said, we need legislation to ban those tankers now.
As we have seen throughout this Parliament, New Democrats have even written the legislation and offered it up to the government to make it its own. I say to the government, if it is really interested in efficiencies, it should not reinvent the wheel, but turn Bill C-502 by my colleague from New Westminster—Coquitlam into a government bill. New Democrats would help the government pass it right away.
Canadians have repeatedly told us that as legislators we have a responsibility to future generations of Canadians to conserve our non-renewable energy resources now while developing sustainable renewable energy sources for the future.
We know the Conservative members have absolutely no commitment whatsoever to our environment, no matter what they say. Their actions, such as getting their unelected, unrepresented, undemocratic senators to kill, without debate, Bill C-311, the NDP's landmark environmental legislation, is all the proof we need of their dangerous backward thinking.
I will offer a different reason as to why the proposed northern gateway project which is dependent on a reversal of the moratorium on oil tankers is a bad idea.
Currently we produce more oil than we consume, exporting over 65% of it to the U.S., mostly as crude, unprocessed bitumen. The proposed Enbridge northern gateway pipeline would carry 525,000 barrels of crude oil daily from Alberta's tar sands to the port of Kitimat for shipment to Asia, via as many as 220 tankers each year. It would allow unprecedented tar sands expansion, some say by as much as 30%.
The pipeline would cross more than a thousand rivers and streams that make up some of the world's most productive wild salmon habitat, including the great Skeena and Fraser rivers, upon which many communities and first nations depend. The pipeline would also cross the territory of more than 50 first nations.
Here is an important fact. Current pipelines are already operating under capacity.
Instead of going west, we need a pipeline entirely located in Canada that brings oil from western Canada to the east. Instead of securing our energy supply and creating good-paying jobs in Canada, we currently have 36 pipeline projects under way or awaiting approval, none of which would send oil across Canada for Canadian consumption. In fact, for many Atlantic Canadians, Ontarians and Quebecers, Canadian-sourced oil comes to them after travelling through thousands of miles of pipelines in the United States.
This makes the need for the Enbridge northern gateway pipelines project and its associated tanker traffic highly questionable.
Further, there is already an existing pipeline and terminal in Burnaby, B.C. shipping tar sands oil to Asian markets.
Here is some food for thought. In allowing more north-south or western pipelines, we are allowing, on a daily basis, millions of barrels of crude oil to be shipped out of Canada for processing in the U.S. Now Enbridge wants to ship another half a million barrels a day of unprocessed oil to Asia for processing. Allowing tanker traffic in the Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound would essentially expand the number of foreign companies which now control and profit from the processing of crude Canadian oil. It begs the question, why is the government not creating the value-added jobs in Canada? Why are we creating these jobs overseas? Canada needs its own capacity to process oil and create value-added jobs in Canada before exporting it.
Is the government aware that Canada is virtually alone among oil-producing countries in not having the means to supply our own needs? Ontario and Quebec in particular are completely landlocked from oil supplies. The government likes to talk about how Canada is open for business and how we need to attract foreign investment in Canada, when in fact, the effect of all these pipelines is to guarantee long-term investment in foreign countries, not in Canada. The processing facilities are in the U.S.A. and Asia, not in Canada. The processing jobs are in the U.S.A. and Asia, not in Canada. I would love answers on how this foreign investment is good for Canadians. Should we not be securing these jobs for Canadians? After all, is this not Canadian oil?
Canada needs a comprehensive energy policy, one that places emphasis on securing renewable sources of energy, one that supports the creation of homegrown green technology, which could bring thousands of high-paying jobs for Canadians and one that ensures that all future energy projects are consistent with our national interests. This is where the government's priority should lie. Instead, the Conservative government continues to rely on dirty oil while supporting foreign efforts to ship processing jobs out of Canada.
We in the New Democratic Party say no to more pipelines that ship unprocessed bitumen out of Canada, no to super oil tankers plying through sensitive marine ecosystems, no to increased reliance on oil, and yes to focusing on securing our country's energy needs through investments in clean, renewable energy. We owe it to those who elected us. We owe it to our kids and our grandkids.
I urge all members to support this motion.
Mr. James Bezan (Selkirk—Interlake, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I always welcome an opportunity to speak to environmental protection and conservation. I am particularly proud to be able to speak today concerning Canada's magnificent west coast.
I do not need to be convinced of the priority to protect its ocean ecosystem, preserve its marine resources, which sustain the economies of coastal communities, and honour first nations rights and titles in the process.
Conservation is the foundation of a strong environment, and Canada has a very proud record on conservation. We have taken action to protect nearly 100 million hectares of land, nearly 10% of Canada's land mass, and 4.6 million hectares of ocean.
We have the best national park system in the world and have grown it by 30% in just four years. We have established the Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area Reserve and Haida Heritage Site in respectful collaboration with the Haida Nation.
This is a remarkable achievement, one this House envisioned some 23 years ago when it passed a unanimous resolution supporting the protection of the lands and waters around Gwaii Haanas. It is a protected area that extends from the alpine tundra of the mountaintops to the deep ocean beyond the continental shelf. This is a first in the world. It is a living legacy of lands and waters that will endure for generations to come. It is an example of the international leadership Canada is taking when it comes to conservation efforts.
This new national marine conservation area, it should be noted, will now be protected forever from oil and gas exploration and development, in part because of the foresight of the petroleum industry. The need to conserve the marine waters of Gwaii Haanas and the nearly 3,500 marine species found within this archipelago was recognized first by the petroleum industry. The four major oil companies who possessed third-party petroleum rights to much of the seabed in the Hecate Strait relinquished all of them in 1997 by working with the Nature Conservancy of Canada. It was a significant action on their part, which cleared the way for the establishment of this national marine conservation area.
We are taking significant steps to conserve lands and wildlife across Canada. We are doing that through funding programs and strong enforcement with new tools and fines, and we are doing it by reviewing our legislation to make protection for species at risk stronger.
Protecting our lands and wildlife is everyone's responsibility. Many governments, organizations and individuals are involved and all of us are making important contributions. Together we are protecting, conserving and restoring our lands and wildlife.
With a well-articulated approach to national conservation, one with clear goals, ambitions and targets, we can do even better and together make Canada a world leader in conservation. Over the coming months we will be engaging all of our partners to establish a common approach for the development and implementation of a national conservation plan.
Protection of our environment is also essential. Canadians expect us to protect our environment, and Canada has a proud record on protection.
The Scott Islands is a group of five small islands off the northern tip of Vancouver Island, which supports more than two million breeding sea birds between March and September, the highest concentration of breeding sea birds in the eastern north Pacific. About 40% of the sea birds that breed in British Columbia nest there. The area also attracts between five million and ten million sea birds, which may travel thousands of miles across the Pacific to feed in the rich waters around the Scott Islands. The black-footed albatross is one of these long-distance travellers. It is listed as an endangered species, at risk of extinction.
Environment Canada is now working to establish the Scott Islands marine national wildlife area. We are doing this together with the Government of British Columbia, other federal government departments, first nations, regional governments and representatives from the marine transportation, energy, commercial fishing, marine conservation, sport fishing and tourism sectors. We are all working together to plan for this national wildlife marine area.
Environment Canada is actively contributing to an important initiative under the lead of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, which is the Pacific north coast integrated management area. This is an area situated in British Columbia's central and north coast areas, encompassing 88,000 square kilometres.
Environment Canada officials are at the table with their counterparts from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Parks Canada, Transport Canada, the Province of British Columbia and representatives of the Coastal First Nations, North Coast Skeena First Nations Stewardship Society and Nanwakolas Council to find ways together to ensure a healthy, safe and prosperous ocean area by developing an integrated management plan for the area.
This groundbreaking collaborative process will provide opportunities to address concerns being raised in the House today with respect to safety and to safeguarding a unique ocean ecosystem while resolving tensions among potentially conflicting activity when it comes to protecting and conserving our environment, honouring first nation rights and title, and preserving the resources that have sustained communities along British Columbia's central and north coasts.
The Great Bear Rainforest is located just south of Kitimat, along the north coast of British Columbia. It is the largest tract of intact coastal temperate rainforest left protected. It comprises more than 30,000 square miles and is home to three kinds of bear, grizzly, black and the rare spirit bear, six million migratory birds, 3,000 genetically distinct salmon stocks and many species of plants unique to the region.
This government has contributed $30 million to a not-for-profit fund for sustainable and community-based first nations economic development in the Great Bear Rainforest, as did the B.C. government. Known as the economic development fund, the total of $60 million is being used to support conservation, sustainable job creation and business development initiatives for coastal first nations. This is an example of the Government of Canada's investment in sustainable development in the region.
Environment Canada's birds oiled at sea program covers the entire Pacific coast, including the Queen Charlotte Basin, Dixon Entrance and Hecate Strait areas, with similar program coverage in other parts of Canada.
In partnership with Transport Canada's national aerial surveillance program, we are engaged in compliance monitoring and enforcement with respect to chronic small-scale oil events associated with marine vessels.
The primary goal of this program is to assess the extent of and predict in space and time the risk of marine birds encountering oil pollution off the Pacific coast.
As well, this program models other impacts on marine ecosystems resulting from maritime activities, such as shipping and commercial fishing, and forms of pollution other than oil, such as plastic and other forms of anthropogenic marine debris.
Members of the opposition have introduced a motion asking the government to propose legislation to ban bulk oil tanker traffic in the Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound as a way to protect the west coast's ocean ecosystem, to preserve the marine resources that sustain communities and regional economies of that area.
The Pacific coast is one of the most highly regulated jurisdictions in the world for tanker traffic. These laws and regulations promote the safe and secure use of Canada's waters and govern the safe transport of petroleum products to protect the marine and coastal environment.
With respect to coastal drilling, there has been a federal moratorium on oil and gas exploration activities off the coast of British Columbia since 1972. This moratorium, however, does not apply to tanker traffic.
Under federal law and in accordance with international conventions, crude oil and oil product tankers and barges are permitted to navigate in Canadian waters and to enter designated ports, including Kitimat, Prince Rupert, Vancouver and several minor ports.
Currently, southbound oil tankers carrying Alaskan crude oil to refineries on the U.S. west coast travel in shipping lanes off the coast of B.C. beyond what is known as the tanker exclusion zone. This zone is a voluntary measure agreed to by the U.S. and Canadian coast guards to enhance the safety of shipping along Canada's west coast. It prevents oil tankers from entering the inside passage or travelling close to the western coastlines of Haida Gwaii or Vancouver Island.
Petroleum shipments currently transiting the inner coast of British Columbia consist mainly of barges carrying oil products, such as gasoline, lubrication oil and diesel fuel to British Columbian ports and to Alaskan destinations.
Enbridge's proposal to construct and operate a new twin pipeline system and marine terminal on the north coast of B.C., at Kitimat, has been subject to considerable public debate, including concerns expressed by aboriginal communities.
Our government is well aware of the concerns with a possible increase in tanker traffic through a number of areas that the environment department and others have identified as having a very high importance to migratory birds, whale pods, Pacific salmon and coastal rainforests.
We are aware, too, of concerns of any harmful impacts on critical sectors of British Columbia's northern and coastal regional economies.
I want to assure the House that the proposed Enbridge northern gateway project is being assessed by the independent joint review panel mandated by the Minister of the Environment and the National Energy Board.
The panel will assess the environmental effects of the proposed project, and Environment Canada is fully engaged in this process.
The department is also participating in an assessment of vessel movements and safety relating to the proposed project under the technical review process of marine terminal systems and transshipment sites.
Environment Canada is fully aware of its responsibilities to ensure the honour of the Crown is met and its constitutional obligations fulfilled when we engage with first nations.
Regarding aboriginal consultation for the joint review panel process, the federal Crown's duty to consult with aboriginal people is being co-ordinated by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency. We are relying on the joint review panel process and the applicant's own consultation efforts to the extent possible to meet the Crown's duty to consult with aboriginal peoples.
Currently oil tankers and barges ply virtually all of British Columbia's coasts and rivers, including all major ports and the Fraser River. Fortunately, accidents involving vessels carrying petroleum products are extremely rare. Despite a global increase in the shipment of oil, both the number of incidents and the quantity of spilled oil has decreased steadily since the 1970s. Rest assured, the Government of Canada has a dedicated and funded regime in place for the prevention of, preparedness for, response to and recovery from marine oil spills.
The Canadian Coast Guard, together with other government departments such as Transport Canada and Environment Canada, form Canada's marine pollution preparedness and response system, a multi-agency approach that sees a network of federal, provincial, territorial, industry and international partners working collaboratively to prepare for and respond to marine pollution events.
Before concluding, I want to point out as well that Environment Canada has an important preventive role to play in producing reliable weather forecasts for all Canadians, particularly in areas where their livelihoods and safety are highly dependent on the weather. Environment Canada closely monitors weather conditions on British Columbia's north coast by observing and reporting on the weather directly from a number of locations in the area.
With support from the Canadian Coast Guard, Environment Canada maintains a network of moored weather buoys that report observations of real-time wind and wave conditions in Hecate Strait, Douglas Channel, Queen Charlotte Sound, Dixon Entrance and offshore right out to the Bowie Seamount. These stations regularly report some of the highest winds and waves in Canada.
A network of weather autostations in remote locations reports the weather every hour throughout coastal British Columbia. On Haida Gwaii and the north and central coasts, these stations can be relied on to provide valuable information for mariners and for marine forecasters. As well, many ships are equipped with weather equipment and can send weather reports directly from those ships.
The public, marine and aviation interests up and down British Columbia's north coast rely on Environment Canada's weather website, Weatheradio, and automated telephone service to receive daily forecasts and timely warning bulletins. The emergency management community along the north coast and Haida Gwaii has direct access to Environment Canada's warning preparedness meteorologists in the event of an emergency.
Prevention is critical to avoiding the kinds of incidents that lead to catastrophic consequences for our environment.
I hope I have put to rest any concerns that the opposition might have about this government's commitment to protecting Canada's natural environment, its biodiversity and the well-being and prosperity of Canadians, particularly those living and working in communities along Canada's west coast. I believe our record speaks for itself.
When we consider the extent to which British Columbia relies on oil and oil products for its economy, supplying heating oil and diesel for generators to remote communities, providing airports with fuel for air travel and servicing an important economic sector in the import and export of petroleum products, we realize to what extent the transportation of oil is a necessary component of livelihoods and economy in British Columbia.
We must continue to proceed, as we are, to balance conservation and protection of the environment with attention to our regional economies, and we do so in partnership with those who are most affected by the decisions we take.
Mr. Dennis Bevington (Western Arctic, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the debate on a subject that I believe needs much more debate than what we were able to accomplish here today. Judging by many of the comments that were made by my colleagues from the Conservative Party, they should be taking a good primary course on the development of the tar sands to understand how these tar sands actually are constituted and what these tar sands mean as they are developed.
Mr. Speaker, having said that, I will be sharing my time with the member for New Westminster—Coquitlam. He is an excellent new member of Parliament who understands completely the ecological system of the west coast, and I trust he will carry that message forward here today.
In 2007, in response to her constituents, environmental groups such as the Dogwood Initiative and the Western Canada Wilderness Committee, the member for Victoria, who unfortunately cannot make a speech here today, tabled a motion to ban tanker traffic in the Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound. I remember her telling me how shocked she had been when paddling in Prince William Sound, years after the Exxon Valdez disaster, she saw there were still remnants of crude oil gummed onto the rocks.
When introducing her motion in 2007, she said that it was time to end the ambiguity, that there was a simple fix to make certain this would never happen again, and that was to formalize the moratoria.
That is what were are here for today.
My purpose here today is to talk about an area of concern that I have. I live downstream from the development of the Athabasca tar sands. I have lived there most of my life. I share with many other community members the concerns that we have over the rampant expansion of these tar sands. Having said that, I recognize the importance of this resource to Canada. I recognize that this resource will be there and producing bitumen for 100 years. That is what is going to happen. That is the nature of the Athabasca tar sands.
We have to face up to that and try to make those tar sands the very best for Canada that we can. That is our purpose as well, when we stand in this Parliament as the New Democratic Party. We have had the opportunity on many occasions to tell the House that. Our opposition to bad management of the tar sands is just that. Let us get on to good management of the tar sands and we will solve some of the issues that we have with that, and we will protect my constituents living downstream from those same tar sands.
Right now the tar sands are at about 1.4 million barrels a day. They are expecting that this will rise by the middle of the next decade to almost three million barrels a day. Those barrels of bitumen need upgrading. Every single one of those barrels needs a very complex process, requiring expensive installations in the order of billions of dollars to make that happen.
In this world right now, we are considering exporting that bitumen from Canada with the net value per barrel, confirmed to me today by the CAPP, Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, representative in our meeting, in the neighbourhood of $20 to $30 a barrel. That is the value to the Canadian economy for every single barrel that is upgraded in this country.
When we talk about shipping a million barrels a day of bitumen out of this country, we are talking about a net loss to the Canadian economy every year of $10 billion. If the Conservative government cannot understand the nature of that impact on our economy, then I do not know where it thinks it has some kind of hold on the economy. It does not, if it does not understand that this is not the proper thing to do for Canada, to export bitumen out of this country.
Why is the government exporting the bitumen? Why does it want to export it down to the Gulf of Mexico? It is because the U.S. right now is in a political battle with Venezuela, and the heavy oil that was brought from Venezuela to the Gulf of Mexico is no longer something that the U.S. desires. It is not something Venezuelans want to do for the U.S. if we have a problem there.
These large upgraders in the Gulf of Mexico region are now a cheap alternative for the multinational companies to bring our bitumen from the tar sands down to the Gulf of Mexico and upgrade it there. That is what is driving that move, not value for the Canadian economy.
When we think of exporting bitumen to China, what will happen in China? China will set up upgraders there at a cost of billions of dollars. We will establish a supply link that delivers raw bitumen with huge investments at the other end and huge pressure on us to continue to make that the staple of that industry, moving raw bitumen.
This is not something we can just pick up and give up. What are we going to do for the years we are going to establish another? Will China stand around while we build another upgrader so that in the future the bitumen is not available for its upgrader? No. Once we build a pipeline to the west coast and start shipping bitumen, Canadians will be struck with that for 100 years. That is the future we will see for our children, which is not appropriate.
What we need to think about is what we use our bitumen for? Right now in Canada conventional oil is declining in production. According to Natural Resources Canada, 1.5 million barrels a day was the total in 2006. It is predicting it down to about 750,000 barrels by 2020. Canada will have a less secure oil supply. Transferring bitumen out of the country will not help Canada's energy security.
Right now we are importing one million barrels of oil a day from the Middle East. The oil is put in a tanker in the Middle East and it is sent over to Canada. We put the raw bitumen in the tanker and we send it over to China. Is there some consistency to what we do as Canadians? Is there any sense in what we are proposing for ourselves? For five years I have been standing in Parliament asking and pleading with the government to develop a national energy strategy that can deliver for Canadians. Instead, we get action like this.
The government is continuing to allow multinational oil companies to set the tune for the direction and future of Canadians. What a disgrace. Why does the government not get onboard with most of the industry in this country, most of the Canadian companies, the chief executives who have come out for a national energy strategy and do the work for Canadians and produce a national energy strategy? If it were to do that, it would realize very quickly that a good Canadian company like Enbridge, in the absence of any direction from the federal government, is moving ahead with a project that is not in Canada's interests. When will that happen? When will the government wake up, smell the roses and get on with a national energy strategy so all of these issues can be properly debated and properly put in context for Canadians?
It would deliver jobs and energy security for Canadians. Those are real things that Canadians want but the government is not delivering on them. It is blindly going along with every whimsical project that will change the nature of our country without doing its homework. It is a disgrace. This sort of debate, which we had to plead for and had to use up our opposition day for, should be an intelligent, careful debate with industry and stakeholders across the country so we can come to some conclusions about the nature of our energy supply.
If the government does not do that, it should be thrown out at the next election because it is really doing nothing for Canadians.
Mr. Fin Donnelly (New Westminster—Coquitlam, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak in support of the motion to ban the transportation of oil by supertankers off British Columbia's north coast.
We must take action now to protect British Columbia's magnificent coastline and coastal waters, its diversity of fish species, abundance of mammals and the coastal communities that depend on a healthy fishing industry and profitable ecotourism sector.
On March 26 of this year, I introduced Bill C-502, a private member's bill that would amend the Canada Shipping Act to prohibit the transportation of oil in supertankers in the Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound.
It would also allow the governor in council, on the recommendation of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, to designate other areas of the sea in which transportation of oil by oil tankers is prohibited. British Columbians have been very clear on this issue: 80% want to see a permanent oil tanker ban on B.C.'s north coast.
I would like to acknowledge some of my colleagues who have done quite a bit of work on this topic: the member for Vancouver Kingsway, the member for Victoria and the member for Winnipeg Centre, just to name a few.
My colleague from Vancouver Kingsway drafted and introduced similar legislation to what I have proposed. My colleague fromVictoria has also introduced legislation, as has my hon. colleague from Winnipeg Centre. Both have worked hard in the past to protect this incredible area of the B.C. coast.
I would like to acknowledge the work of my hon. colleague from the north coast whose riding this falls within, the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley. We know of his tireless efforts working toward a progressive change in this area. He knows better than any in this House how devastating an oil spill in this area would be to these coastal communities.
In October of this year, the Union of British Columbia Municipalities voted in favour of a resolution to petition the federal government to enshrine in legislation a permanent ban on oil tanker traffic in Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound. In its resolution it states:
||...a crude oil spill will have devastating and long lasting effects on the Pacific North Coast area that is recognized for its unique and diverse ocean ecosystems, which provide critical marine habitat and marine resources that sustain the social, cultural, environmental and economic health of coastal communities, including First Nations communities.
B.C.'s first nations have been vocal in their opposition to this proposed oil tanker traffic through their traditional territories. In March of this year, the Coastal First Nations, an alliance of first nations on the north coast and central coast, including Haida Gwaii, declared a ban on oil tanker traffic using their traditional laws.
In fact, today there was an historic announcement, which brought together 61 indigenous nations that have come together in an alliance to protect the Fraser River watershed and to declare their opposition to the proposed Enbridge northern gateway pipeline.
Signed in Williams Lake last week and published in a full-page ad in The Globe and Mail today, the Save the Fraser Gathering of Nations declaration is based on indigenous law and authority. It states:
|| ...[we] will not allow the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines, or similar tar sands projects, to cross our lands, territories and watersheds, or the ocean migration routes of the Fraser River salmon.
The declaration is the second major first nations declaration banning tar sands pipelines from B.C. this year. It makes it clear that the nations see the federal review process for one project as a violation of their laws and rights under international law, including the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which Canada just recently signed.
First nations in this area have long advocated for sustainable employment opportunities for their members, along with proper environmental stewardship. They live in B.C.'s coastal temperate rainforest and are working hard to create a conservation-based economy, with emphasis on sustainable fisheries, forestry and ecotourism. Allowing more than 200 supertankers a year to enter these waters does not fit with their objectives.
I believe we need to be forward thinking. A ban on tanker traffic in this area makes economic sense. Our coastal communities have been hard hit over the years with a global recession, a downturn in commodity prices, a collapse of industrial forestry and a struggling fishery that, aside from this year, has faced some of the lowest annual returns in the past decade.
With that in mind, there is still renewed hope in coastal communities. Our wild salmon fishery experienced a record sockeye return this year. In British Columbia, our wild salmon are considered an icon species and an integral part of our identity and what it means to be west coast. As well, salmon are integral to the environment, our culture and our economy.
The waters off B.C.'s north coast are a significant salmon migration route, with millions of salmon that come from the more than 650 streams and rivers along the coast in this area. The impacts of an oil spill would be devastating. The commercial fishery on the north coast catches over $100 million worth of fish annually. Over 2,500 residents along B.C.'s north coast work in the commercial fishery. The fish processing industry employs over 3,900 people.
The north coast fishery is a major economic driver in the region and for the province of British Columbia. Our coastal communities and fisheries simply cannot afford the risk of an oil spill. We all witnessed what happened with the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989 and the devastation that caused, including the complete collapse of pink salmon. We all witnessed the destruction of the shrimp and fishing grounds after the BP spill in the Gulf Coast.
We cannot allow even the possibility of a similar occurrence to the north coast fishery. Thousands of people's livelihoods rely upon us making the right decision to protect our fishery, and one way to do that is to legislate a ban on oil supertanker traffic.
The wild and rugged north coast is one of the most beautiful places on the planet. It is a place where the legendary kermode bear, more popularly known as the spirit bear, resides and is an intrinsic character in first nation mythology and culture. This elusive white bear can be spotted roaming around the dense forests gathering salmon and was even the mascot for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.
The magnificent beauty of this region has led it to become a world-renowned destination for ecotourism. The burgeoning tourism industry has been a major catalyst for employment, economic growth and opportunity in British Columbia. People from all over the world come to the north coast to witness the annual migration of the more than 20,000 grey whales that traverse the waters from Mexico to the Bering Sea.
B.C.'s north coast shoreline is dotted with sports fishing lodges as fishing enthusiasts flock to experience the natural environment, the world-famous fishing grounds and the wild ocean. People are often left awestruck after spending even a day kayaking, bear watching, or enjoying a guided trip that showcases the marine habitat. They come to photograph sea otters and bald eagles and to experience, in some cases, the untouched natural environment of the Pacific coast.
I suggest, if members have not done so already, that they take the opportunity to visit this incredible area one day soon. I am sure that they will come away with a much better understanding of the sheer beauty and raw nature of this area.
Eco and recreational tourism in this area has been a growth industry for some years now. Businesses in this region have worked hard to promote their location as a major tourist destination. As other resource-based jobs have taken a hit, tourism has provided a much needed economic boost, both in direct and indirect jobs.
According to the Living Oceans Society, there are approximately 10,000 jobs in the cruise ship and recreational tourism industry. This industry has provided jobs and economic spinoffs in a region that a decade ago faced significant unemployment and job loss.
The right thing to do for our economy is to protect and grow existing jobs on the north coast and legislate a ban on oil tanker traffic in this area immediately.
Mr. Randy Kamp (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to participate in this debate about oil tanker traffic in coastal British Columbia, my home province.
This debate is important because it is about both economic development in B.C. and the protection of our beautiful coastal environment that we have been blessed with.
I would like to use my brief time to share with you some of the important work that our government has done to protect our oceans and the unique and biologically diverse marine ecosystems found on our Pacific coast.
Over the last few years we have put in place a number of mitigation, regulatory and protection measures that cover the treasured and spectacular ecosystems of our Pacific coast. Anyone who has been there can attest to this.
In the few minutes available to me, I want to explain how these actions demonstrate that our government continues to take action to protect the marine environment, while at the same time providing the opportunities needed to sustain our regional communities and their economies.
I will describe to the House how the measures already in place and the efforts under way make it unnecessary to bring about a legislated ban at this time on oil tanker traffic in this region as proposed by my colleagues from the NDP.
I want to assure this House that the Government of Canada is serious about the long-term protection of our oceans. We recognize that they have critical importance to all Canadians. They are a source of food, a means to mitigate the impacts of climate change and to improve our air quality, and are important for trade, commerce, adventure and discovery.
The ocean has shaped our customs, traditions and fisheries culture. They are an invaluable driver of the economy in coastal communities of British Columbia.
That is why in 2007 we announced a $61.5 million investment over five years toward the health of the oceans initiative. The intent of this initiative is to enhance the protection of fragile marine environments and to counter pollution. It does this by strengthening pollution prevention at source. It will also increase our capacity to lessen the effects of pollution when and where it occurs.
We all know how important science is for decision-making. Therefore, under the health of the oceans initiative, we are also investing in science to better understand the oceans.
It is important to this government to ensure that we also work with our international partners.
This initiative enhances our ability to work with our partners in order to promote co-operation. Such co-operation will work towards the ultimate goal of ensuring healthy and prosperous oceans for the benefit of current and future generations of Canadians.
Central to this initiative is the development of a national network of marine protected areas in Canada and the establishment of new Oceans Act marine protected areas in our three oceans. This initiative complements the already substantial efforts in place in British Columbia to protect our bountiful oceans.
The figures speak for themselves. The total number of marine protected areas in place in British Columbia is 183, including 10 federal areas and 173 areas established by the Province of B.C. In fact, almost 2.8% of the marine area in the Pacific region is under some level of enhanced protection.
Oceans Act marine protected areas in British Columbia established by the Government of Canada include the Endeavour hydrothermal vents southwest of Vancouver Island and the Bowie seamount, located west of the Queen Charlotte Islands.
Hydrothermal venting systems such as those found at the Endeavour MPA host one of the highest levels of microbial diversity and animal abundance on earth. In fact, Endeavour is home to 12 species that do not exist anywhere else in the world.
The Bowie seamount marine protected area, a complex of three offshore submarine volcanoes located about 180 kilometres off the shores of Haida Gwaii, is also an area of unprecedented biological diversity and uniqueness.
The seamount at Bowie rise from a depth of 3,000 metres to within 24 metres of the surface, making it the shallowest seamount in Canada. To the Haida Nation, the indigenous people who played a key role in establishing the protected area, this area is called Sgaan Kinghlas, which means in their language, “supernatural being looking outward”.
Preserving important marine resources that sustain communities and regional economies is a priority for this government. That is why, on June 7 of this year, my former colleague Jim Prentice tabled an amendment to the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act to formally establish the Gwaii Haanas national marine conservation area reserve and Haida heritage site.
This area has lovingly been referred to as the Galapagos of the north and its protection was indeed a great moment in our history. In total, the combined existing park reserve and new national marine conservation area in Gwaii Haanas protects over 5,000 square kilometres of spectacular wilderness from alpine mountain tops to the deep sea beyond the continental shelf, a first for Canada, North America and even for the world.
This great milestone was as a result of a historic and outstanding collaborative partnership between the Government of Canada and the Haida Nation. Parks Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Haida Nation will continue to share in the planning, operations and management of the area to ensure the future health of our oceans as well as sustainable fishing opportunities.
It is worth commenting briefly on the amount of time and energy devoted to an undertaking as historic as the Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area, both by the dedicated public servants and the committed leadership of the Haida Nation and specifically to the devotion of my former colleague, Jim Prentice.
As minister of the environment, Mr. Prentice made this project a priority and provided the leadership needed to bring it to fruition.
Guujaaw, the president of the Haida Nation, called the event “a true changing of the tides” and indeed it was.
In fact, if members have the opportunity to go to Haida Gwaii and meet with Guujaaw, they will find him to be a very interesting and impressive leader. He played a very key role in the development of this marine protected area and this national marine conservation area as well.
Additionally, other groups, such as the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society and the World Wildlife Federation of Canada, were involved in this and they applauded the move, which they said was reached after two decades of discussion.
In fact, Darcy Dobell, vice-president of the Pacific conservation with World Wildlife Federation Canada said of the announcement, “We're definitely excited about the designation. It's definitely a landmark for oceans management”, and we believe it is.
It was an international landmark in oceans management and it was achieved under our Conservative government. As the environmental organizations said at the time, for decades there were discussions about protecting this area of our coast. However, it took the leadership of this government, of the Prime Minister and of our former colleague, Jim Prentice, to take those discussions and make them a reality. In so doing, they positioned Canada as true global leader in oceans management.
However, we are not stopping here.
On Oceans Day 2010, my colleague the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans announced a new area of interest for potential designation as a marine protected area under the Oceans Act, the Hecate Strait sponge reefs.
Sponge reefs of this size, over 1,000 square kilometres, have not been found elsewhere in the world. Made out of silica or glass, as most of us would call it, these reefs are extremely fragile and warrant the long-term protection a marine protected area designation would provide.
We are continuing to ensure protection of other ecologically important areas of the ocean by moving forward in implementing our health of the oceans initiative.
The Government of Canada is also working with provincial and territorial colleagues to establish a national network of marine protected areas, as I mentioned already. This is done through the developing of a national framework for Canada's network of marine protected areas, a process through which we can work together to plan and then implement these MPAs.
A network of marine protected areas strategically built and located has real and tangible benefits for our country. These MPAs can help restore and maintain a healthy marine environment and build in resilience or insurance against current or future stressors such as marine traffic, climate change, even habitat destruction and pollution.
Essentially what these marine protected areas provide are healthy oceans and good health helps us fight off malady.
Marine protected areas can improve the economy of coastal communities. They do so by providing conservation and tourism-related employment opportunities. Also, since the creation of marine protected areas can result in the size and abundance of fish, they can create spill over benefits to adjacent fishing grounds. This can translate into fisheries benefits over time, including higher catches, increased catch rates and reductions in fishing effort.
Marine protected areas can also contribute to the economic and socio-cultural well-being of coastal communities, including supporting subsistence and traditional harvesting of marine resources carried out by aboriginal peoples.
They can also contribute to climate change mitigation by protecting certain marine habitats that are especially good at absorbing carbon dioxide. Coastal habitats such as salt marshes, sea grasses and mangroves account for less than half of 1% of the world's seabed, but studies have shown that they can store up to 71% of the total amount of carbon found in ocean sediments.
Marine protected areas can also facilitate adaptation to climate change impacts through the protection of ecologically significant habitats as well as through protection of multiple sites of similar habitat types.
It is important to note that in addition to our emerging network of marine protected areas in British Columbia, there are also hundreds of other conservation measures in our toolbox, including fishery closures, marine mammal management areas, protected critical habitat for species at risk, first nations community conserved areas and coastal lands owned or managed by non-government organizations that contribute to the health of oceans. We cannot do it alone. We are in many partnerships that contribute to the health of our oceans.
The Government of Canada's efforts to protect our amazing and abundant oceans do not stop at the establishment of marine protected areas. Through the Pacific north coast integrated ocean management area planning initiative, which we call PNCIMA, covering British Columbia's central and north coast, we are engaging regulators, first nations, the marine shipping industry and a diversity of other interests to help understand and mitigate any potential environmental risks associated with shipping in British Columbia.
PNCIMA is one of five large ocean management areas in Canada. It is a collaborative partnership among the Government of Canada, coastal first nations and the province of B.C. The goal is to ensure a healthy, safe and prosperous ocean. Through this planning process, all interested parties will be engaged in an effort to develop an integrated oceans management plan by 2012. The entire area identified for the proposed ban is within PNCIMA.
Through the PNCIMA planning process, a balance will be struck between the conservation and protection of Canada's oceans and the sustainable development of its resources. This will generate economic prosperity for all Canadians, while ensuring a healthy and sustainable ocean.
We are committed to having an open and transparent process to discuss a range of issues within the PNCIMA process. It is at this forum where all views can be voiced and input provided to federal and provincial regulators.
This planning process will increase our ability to forecast and address future developments and needs, improve certainty and stability for industry, reduce conflict between user groups and improve the integration of multiple uses and coordination of new and existing processes.
The Government of Canada recognizes that healthy and resilient ecosystems are of fundamental importance if our oceans are to be capable of providing diverse economic opportunities and the generation of wealth for Canadians and coastal communities in particular.
Additionally, our government continues to provide our scientists with the resources they need to better manage our oceans. Under Canada's economic action plan, our government invested over $30 million to upgrade DFO laboratories across the country. This included $5.3 million to upgrades at the Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo and $2.9 million in improvements to the Institute for Oceans Sciences in Vancouver.
We are also partnering with others to better understand our oceans, for example, the venus and neptune programs through Ocean Networks Canada. These world-class projects, that established cabled ocean observatories, combine the expertise of government scientists with leading academics and non-governmental organizations and provide real time data on the health of our oceans. They are very interesting projects.
Therefore, I hope members would agree that our government is demonstrating through actions, not just words, that we are committed to the health of our oceans. In fact, with historic success like the Gwaii Haanas national marine conservation area reserve and Haida heritage site, we are leading the way around the world.
It is clear that with the multitude of mitigation, regulatory and protection measures, voluntary and otherwise, which are already in place and efforts under way, we do not need a legislated ban on oil tanker traffic in this region.
I know some of my opposition colleagues may say that an oil spill does not recognize the boundaries of a marine protected area. Marine protected areas are special places that have been designed to improve the resiliency of our oceans. They work in combination with a suite of other management measures and planning processes to provide an overall approach to managing our marine environment.
There is no one magic bullet, but we are working across government, with partners and Canadians, to ensure the protection of our marine resources in British Columbia and throughout this great land for today and the future.