03/18/2013 03:55 EDT | Updated 05/18/2013 05:12 EDT

Harper Tanker Safety Plan Changes Nothing in Pipeline Debate


Soon after closing the Vancouver Coast Guard station and the Vancouver Marine Traffic Control centre, Stephen Harper has come out with a new plan for tanker safety. Of course we need the best safeguards available to deal with the increased tanker traffic we are already facing in the time since Kinder Morgan bought the Trans Mountain pipeline but this doesn't replace the Coast Guard stations.

When Kinder Morgan bought the Trans Mountain pipeline in 2005 there were approximately 20 tankers a year in the Vancouver harbour and most of them were carrying oil that would ultimately be consumed in B.C. after being refined in California. Since then annual tanker traffic has increased to approximately 80 tankers per year.

In early 2013, Harper's government closed the both the Kitsilano Coast Guard station and the Vancouver Marine Communication Terminal in the Vancouver harbour, shifting responsibilities to stations in Richmond, B.C. and on Vancouver Island.

This looks to me like Harper is trying to save face after closing the Kitsilano Coast Guard station. It's a shame that it takes the strong opposition to new pipeline proposals to get the Harper government to put in place the kind of safety measure we should have had already, given Kinder Morgan's quiet increases to tanker traffic in the Vancouver harbour. Frankly they should start by re-opening the Coast Guard stations and admitting they made a huge mistake closing them in the first place.

Kinder Morgan's new proposed pipeline would bring over 400 tankers a year to Burrard Inlet. Each one carries 600,000 barrels of tar sands oil, three times as much as was spilled by the Exxon Valdez.

The Enbridge pipeline proposal would bring 225 larger supertankers carrying up to two million barrels of tar sands oil. These vessels are much bigger than what can fit through the shallow narrows of Burrad Inlet in the Vancouver Harbour where the Kinder Morgan terminal is located.

I think our prime minister is missing the point. The people of B.C. are making it clear that we don't want the West Coast to be sacrificed to be a tar sands export zone. This is a question of more tar sands oil tankers or less tar sands oil tankers, more risk or less risk, new pipelines or no new pipelines. It's about trajectories.

Prime Minister Harper can make all the safety announcements he wants but it doesn't change the fact that the people of B.C. are moving in the opposite direction he is. We are saying less tar sands oil not more, thank you very much. The truth is the safest thing we can do is say no to the Enbridge and Kinder Morgan pipelines.

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