06/08/2014 03:35 EDT | Updated 06/16/2017 01:06 EDT

World Oceans Day Is Time To Reflect As Pipeline Decision Looms

Pete Atkinson via Getty Images

With the federal government decision on the Northern Gateway pipeline looming, this year's World Oceans Day takes on even greater meaning for British Columbians.

Anyone who has lived on our coast knows how important our oceans and our beaches are to our lifestyle, our economy and our identity as British Columbians.

World Oceans Day offers us the opportunity to pause and reflect on the question: What do our oceans mean for us?

As you do, consider this:

Any day now, the federal government will rule on the fate of the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline. If approved, the pipeline would transport more than 500,000 barrels of oil to our coast each day.

As we grapple with that possibility, we are also bogged down in the National Energy Board's hearing process on Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline. While the Northern Gateway pipeline would travel through northern British Columbia, the Kinder Morgan pipeline would travel straight to Vancouver harbour, bringing with it nearly one million barrels of oil each day.

Together, these pipelines would mean more than 600 heavy oil tankers and hundreds of millions of barrels of oil could be travelling along our coast each year. The impact of even one oil spill would be catastrophic.

So let's take a moment, on World Oceans Day, to consider what this means for our communities.

Oceans are critical to our economy and the trade of virtually every commodity in B.C. The Salish Sea has one of the busiest shipping routes in the world, and despite Kinder Morgan's ability to rationalize the economic value of an oil spill, such a spill would be disastrous to local, provincial, national and continental economies.

We have seen the economic consequences of a temporary labour dispute at Port Metro Vancouver. It was estimated that the recent strike impacted $100 million worth of goods each day. Imagine what the impact would be if we had to shut down Port Metro Vancouver for weeks or even months to clean up an oil spill?

While trying to justify the economic benefits of an oil spill, Kinder Morgan has also been touring the south coast, pitching to First Nations communities the "incredible" opportunities and potential jobs that would be created in oil spill preparedness, response and management.

The Straits Salish people are deeply connected to the lucrative and productive economy that already exists on the south coast. For countless generations, they managed the most important renewable resource in the area, the Pacific sockeye.

It is offensive that Kinder Morgan would consider an oil spill an economic opportunity. And the insanity does not stop there. They have insulted all British Columbians and Canadians by justifying their project with "evidence" from studies that are not worth the paper they are written on.

The B.C. Green Party has called for an end to transporting diluted bitumen from ports in British Columbia, and we support First Nations such as Tsawout who are working to re-establish traditional reef nets sites throughout the Salish Sea.

In addition, Andrew Weaver and I are interveners in the National Energy Board hearings for the Trans Mountain project. Andrew is the only MLA in the province to have intervener status in these hearings. Many constituents in his riding have significant concerns about these pipelines and he believes, as I do, that he has a duty as an MLA to offer his constituents a voice in the hearing process. I only wish more MLAs had applied to participate.

Marine-related issues have been front page recently. Whether it is the island of garbage in the pacific Gyre, the shellfish industry struggling against acidification or the fear of Fukushima backwash, World Oceans Day 2014 reminds us of the tremendous challenges we have ahead.

Let us celebrate World Oceans Day 2014 together. And as we do, let us reflect on these challenges, the challenges that the proposed pipelines would present us, and the work that each and every one of us must do to protect our oceans for generations to come.