IN THE HOUSE ~ Opposition Day Motion ~ Reversing cuts to marine safety, oil spill response and environmental clean-up capacity in BC

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Context : Questions and Comments

    Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for New Westminster—Coquitlam for his eloquent speech, but even more importantly I would like to thank him for his strong advocacy for the B.C. coast and for standing up for British Columbians in the House of Commons. He has done a remarkable job in highlighting the problems with what has been a reckless and irresponsible policy by the Conservative government.

    I would like to ask him what are the kinds of comments that have been made by current and former members of the Coast Guard, members like Captain Fred Moxey who was former base commander at Kitsilano, about the government's reckless drive to shut down marine safety on the coast of British Columbia?

Context : Debate

    Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague, the member for New Westminster—Coquitlam, for bringing the motion forward.

    We have just heard stupefying nonsense coming from the Conservative side. What we have had is a reaction right across party lines in British Columbia. The foolishness and the recklessness with which Conservatives have handled this file, shutting down marine safety on the west coast of British Columbia, is simply unbelievable.

    To start off, I think I need to quote a strong colleague of the Conservatives. The premier of British Columbia, who has been a supporter of the Conservatives in the past, said, following this almost catastrophe in English Bay:

Somebody needs to do a better job of protecting this coast and the Coast Guard hasn't done it. It is totally unacceptable that we don't have the skill response that we require here and the federal government needs to step up.

    It is not just the premier, it is all members of the legislative assembly, it is mayors in the area of the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, it is mayors on Vancouver Island, mayors up the coast, city councils, school boards, people throughout British Columbia, speaking up. The only reason British Columbia Conservative MPs have not heard what is a very strong reaction from the British Columbia public is they seem to be willing to listen to the Prime Minister and not listening to British Columbians.

    We believe that, on the official opposition NDP side of the House, as members of Parliament, we actually should be listening to our constituents, and that is what we do each and every day.

    We have heard from former Coast Guard officials very clear indications of what should have happened when that spill started. My colleague mentioned Captain Fred Moxey, who had pointed out that a 47-foot ship named the 701, equipped with oil recovery tanks, skimmers, a boom--everything that could have been used to quickly respond and contain the bunker fuel leaking from the cargo ship--has been up on blocks for the last two years.

    The ship is there. However, under the reckless current Conservative government with its reckless cuts--it always seems to be able to find money for its pet projects but, when it comes to marine safety, it would prefer to have a boat up on blocks rather than have that boat, with all of the equipment that goes with it, actually out there containing the boom.

    What Captain Fred Moxey said on April 12 is, I think, very indicative of how reckless the current government has been:

The crew was trained and the ship was ready around the clock for a first attack. Had the base been open and the crew on duty, they would have been into English Bay in a matter of minutes.�

    That is from somebody in the Coast Guard, Captain Fred Moxey, who has rendered terrific service to the province of British Columbia and to our country.

    However, he is not the only one speaking out. I only have 10 minutes. I could be spending hours, literally, listing former Coast Guard workers, former Coast Guard leaders, who have all spoken out against how the current government has been so reckless.

    We have also heard from a retired Canadian Coast Guard captain, Tony Toxopeus. He maintains that the English Bay spill could have been contained within half an hour if the Kitsilano base was still operating. Toxopeus, who worked out of Kitsilano, said the base was equipped with a purpose-built oil pollution response vessel, 300 metres of self-inflating boom, and other equipment. Crews trained regularly to deal with oil spill response.

As soon as we saw there was bunker (oil) we have hit the alarm button and got moving. We could have backed the boat in, towed the boom there and be alongside the boat in 30 minutes.�

     This comes from not from Conservative MPs speaking up to try to defend what has been a reckless and irresponsible decision by the Prime Minister, this comes from Coast Guard people who were active for decades in the Coast Guard who understand marine safety, who understand how to act in environmental emergencies and yet, the Conservatives seem to say, “Well, what we want to do is just brush over this. We want to paper this over. We're hoping British Columbians don't wake up to how irresponsible we've been.â€�

    They are wrecking coastal safety, but the leader of the official opposition and the NDP caucus are putting forward today a motion that all Conservative MPs for British Columbia should be voting on. We are going to repair the damage that the current government has done to the coast and to emergency environmental safety in British Columbia .

Context : Debate

    If we do not do it with this motion, if the Conservatives actually have the gall to vote against what are commonplace, common-sense policies, British Columbians will have another opportunity on October 19 to decide who would be governed, who would make those decisions on the floor of the House of Commons, and who would bring forward those sensible policies. Therefore, I would say to the Conservative members of Parliament from British Columbia that they have a chance today to fix what they broke but that if they do not British Columbians will have their say on October 19. I hope that they are willing to listen to British Columbians today because the reality is that we have seen an unprecedented outpouring of concern not just from right across British Columbia but particularly from the communities in the lower mainland that I have represented in the House since probably 2004. The communities in my riding of Burnaby—New Westminster are tied to the coast, as are communities such as Port Moody, Coquitlam, Vancouver, up the Sunshine Coast and Vancouver Island. They do not get the line from the Conservatives that somehow because this bill was fortunately not too large, even though we are still dealing with the fallout from this bill. The beaches are still closed and there is still a health advisory. We can point to the leaks coming from the Nestucca barge in 1988. As members know, the Nestucca leaked out bunker oil into Washington waters. There was an initial cleanup. Then, later on, because bunker fuel sinks, that oil started washing up on the shores of Vancouver Island. Therefore, the idea that because much of the surface oil has been cleaned up that somehow we are out of the woods is simply an irresponsible notion. We will not know for weeks, maybe months, whether or not that bunker fuel has sunk and whether it will pollute other coasts in the area further away from English Bay, perhaps out in the Salish Sea or up the coast.

    We do know that there is an enormous economic loss. We are talking about industries worth billions of dollars to the B.C. economy. For the Conservatives to say that it does not matter whether the seafood industry is harmed, the wilderness tourism industry is harmed, or tourism is harmed overall is simply a reckless and foolish notion.

    Who are some of these other voices who have stepped forward. One is the harbourmaster from the relatively small city of Bellingham just south of the 49th parallel. Fortunately, it has not been impacted by the foolish and reckless cuts made by the Conservative government. The harbourmaster of the Port of Bellingham said he would immediately attempt to seal a leak on a vessel like that in response and have a boom in place within the hour. Harbourmaster Kyle Randolph said that though he was surprised that it had taken officials in Vancouver so long to contain it. He also said, “my first obligation is to stop thatâ€�. The response is absolutely key.

    There have been letters in the local newspapers and online journals as well.

    Gerald Morris, a former captain in the Coast Guard, said the following:

   

When the government closed Kitsilano coast guard station two years ago the bogus justification was that money would be saved while maintaining a volunteer service. The views of dozens of professional mariners and recreational boaters were ignored. It's time to examine the true costs of the station's closing and the attempts to replicate its efficiencies with a cadre of well-meaning but inexperienced volunteers. Vancouver taxpayers should know why marine pollution and search and rescue increasingly involve police and fire departments, and my comments are founded in a seafaring career of 50 years, 36 of them with the Canadian Coast Guard.

    Sara Kalis Gilbert also said this with respect to the Kitsilano coast guard:

The buildings remain intact. The public outcry is growing.

    She is requesting that the Prime Minister take into consideration all of these closures for tomorrow's budget.

    That is really the issue. Tomorrow there is a budget. Will the Conservatives fix what they have wrecked? Will they restore what they have closed? Will they assure safety on the coast of British Columbia or continue to have the reckless, irresponsible cuts that have contributed to a growing public outrage in British Columbia?

     We are asking the Conservative MPs from British Columbia to stand up and vote with the official opposition NDP for marine safety in British Columbia. These are common-sense measures. We believe they should stand up for British Columbia and support them.

Context : Questions and Comments

    Mr. Peter Julian: Mr. Speaker, I will clarify that. Yes, we said no to closing the Kitsilano Coast Guard station because we knew it was reckless and irresponsible. We said no to the closing of the Ucluelet Grain Communications and Traffic Service Centre because we knew that was irresponsible. And we are saying no to closing the Vancouver and Comox Grain Communications and Traffic Service Centres because that would be irresponsible, particularly in light of the near disaster two weeks ago. We also have opposed the government's attempt to shut down environmental emergency programs right across the country.

    Yes, we say no to those kinds of reckless and irresponsible policies and that this is a wake-up call to Conservative MPs from British Columbia. Do they represent British Columbia in the House of Commons, or do they represent the Prime Minister's Office to British Columbia? They are going to have to decide and they are going to have to decide pretty quickly because the vote is this evening.

Context : Questions and Comments

    Mr. Peter Julian: Mr. Speaker, the NDP official opposition MPs will be making this case all day about the reckless, foolish and irresponsible cuts by the Conservative government which are putting our coast in British Columbia, a coast that generates billions of dollars in economic activity, in peril. There is no doubt.

    I have a question for the member for Winnipeg North. I recall when I first came into the House in 2004 when the Liberals were in power and at that time we were pressing them to bring in legislation to ban oil tankers off the north coast of British Columbia. The New Democrats brought that forward and the Liberal government at the time said no, it was not going to legislate that ban on oil tankers off the north coast. That is what British Columbians want. Why did the Liberals fail British Columbians when they were in power?

Context : Questions and Comments

    Mr. Peter Julian: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for New Westminster—Coquitlam for his question and for all his activism in protecting the B.C. coast.

    The reality is Captain Fred Moxey is highly regarded, highly respected throughout British Columbia. He says the equipment is sitting there, and the boat is actually up on blocks. That is a boat that could have contained this oil spill. It could have prevented that bunker oil from sinking down and going goodness knows where throughout the coast of British Columbia.

    I believe Captain Fred Moxey every time he speaks. I do not believe the government stands up for British Columbians. I do not believe its explanations and excuses about the near disaster that happened two weeks ago today.