With the passage of Bill C-48, the longstanding moratorium on oil tanker traffic along British Columbia’s north coast will be written into Canadian law.
Formalizing this moratorium has been an important promise from our Liberal government since the 2015 election. Recognizing this, Prime Minister Trudeau named it a top priority in my mandate letter when I was appointed as Minister of Transport and it was included in the Speech from the Throne.
Yesterday, our government delivered on that promise.
The moratorium will provide an unprecedented level of environmental protection for one of the most pristine ecosystems in the world. The Great Bear Rainforest on British Columbia’s northern coast represents approximately one quarter of the world’s remaining reserve of temperate rain forests. These extraordinary forests are often described as the “lungs of the Earth” due to their high production of oxygen. Because the marine, coastal and terrestrial environments interact seamlessly in this part of Canada, it is vital not only to the waters, but also to the forest that it be protected from the damage that would be caused by a major oil spill.
The health of the coast is also vitally important to maintain the sustainable and growing fisheries, aquaculture, and eco-tourism industries already generating employment and economic benefits to local people. Lastly, it is essential to protect the coastline in order to preserve the cultural and spiritual way of life of Coastal First Nations. As such, C-48 is part of the Government of Canada’s larger commitment to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.
This achievement was made possible by the sustained work of many Canadians who came together to ensure that Bill C-48 was passed. Indigenous groups from across British Columbia, notably the Coastal First Nations, fought for this moratorium for close to 50 years. We are humbled by and grateful for their dedicated efforts. Future generations will thank them.
Parliamentarians also worked tirelessly to pass Bill C-48, as MPs and Senators from all across the political spectrum came together to make it happen. I thank all of them for their support in making this promise into reality. Only the Conservatives resisted this policy, and I truly hope that in time they will come to understand the wisdom of implementing a moratorium in this part of the country.
Lastly, it is imperative to understand that C-48 should be viewed within our government’s larger commitment to balance the energy and environment. It is why we are implementing measures such as the 1.5 billion dollar Oceans Protection Plan to establish a world-leading marine response capacity, while concurrently working with provincial, Indigenous, and industry partners to move forward on the $40 billion LNG Canada liquefied natural gas project in Northern B.C.
I recognize that the debate over C-48 has been an emotional one. I know that reasonable people can agree to disagree about the merits of the policy. I also know that not all Canadians agree with our approach and some are angered by it. I sincerely wish that the debate had not been so contentious. However, as Prime Minister Trudeau has often remarked, the environment and the economy go hand in hand and must be handled in a balanced way. Doing so will be to the benefit of the country as a whole, and both current and future generations of Canadians.