03/13/2015 02:57 EDT | Updated 05/13/2015 05:59 EDT

Bill to block B.C. oil tankers misguided says think-tank

A B.C. MP’s bill to block oil tanker traffic in a key fishing zone along the West Coast will open an unnecessary dispute with the U.S., according to a new report from an Ottawa think-tank.

NDP MP Fin Donnelly’s bill C-211 would block oil tanker traffic in the Dixon entrance, Hecate Straight and Queen Charlotte Sound, arguing these are all Canadian waters and Canada needs to protect fishing in these areas.

But Robert Hage, who co-wrote a report from the Macdonald-Laurier Institute about the proposal, argues it is a thinly disguised bid to block the Northern Gateway pipeline which would ship oil from the West Coast.

The U.S. already uses those waters to send oil tankers to Alaska, Hage said and would vigorously dispute any such law, should it ever be passed.

Five similar bills geared toward protecting environmentally sensitive areas by blocking tanker traffic have been introduced in the House of Commons in the last four years, Hage said.

The report says that Canadians should be able to expect responsible, environmentally benign development of their natural resources.

But it argues that marine tankers abiding by Canadian safety standards are in fact cost-effective and safe.

The report said Canada should be actively improving its environmental and safety laws for marine areas. That would be a more effective solution than banning tanker traffic, Hage said.

“We can  embrace measures that will reduce environmental risk in coastal areas, measures that make far more sense than Bill C-211, which forbids activity in a transportation mode with an enviable record for safety and sustainability,” the report said.