NDP MP Nathan Cullen speaks to supporters at the Terrace Sportsplex Oct. 16.

MP plugs tanker ban bill

New Democrat MP Nathan Cullen held an information session at the Terrace Sportsplex last week

New Democrat MP Nathan Cullen says he has no big objections about oil products being exported from North America with the one exception that nothing should be transported through his Skeena – Bulkley Valley riding.

It means that not even a plan to ship refined oil by tanker, which some studies have shown to be less harmful than bitumen crude in the case of a spill, would be permitted from the north coast if a private member’s bill being promoted by Cullen is ever turned into law.

Cullen provided a rundown of his “An Act to Defend the Pacific Northwest” bill at a public session held at the Sportsplex Oct. 16.

He does not go so far as to include pipelines in his ban bid but his bill does call for the National Energy Board to review such proposals to determine their value-added economic and job-creating potential.

Nor does the proposed ban apply to LNG tankers or any tankers that might be heading north and south up the coast, as the bill is directed at banning tanker traffic bound for ports across the Pacific Ocean in particular.

Cullen said his bill would not apply to areas outside the boundaries of his constituency, arguing that other areas have to make their own decisions about oil exports. And against the charge that his bill is a “not in my back yard” measure, Cullen said there are particular aspects to the coastal environment that make it highly unfavourable for oil export.

This was his response to those like Ann Kantakis, who said she is strongly opposed to Northern Gateway, when they asked Cullen how his proposed law would protect the coast from other oil shipping projects, for instance if an alternative line was built to Alaska.

“It depends on what your backyard is,” Cullen said afterwards. “Some places we recognize, as a country, that shouldn’t be threatened. We do it all the time. It isn’t a question of resource development or not, it’s what kind and under what condition.”

Cullen started the discussion with a description of the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project,  the blocking of which is the main goal of his legislation.

Enbridge is working on fulfilling the 209 conditions imposed on it by the National Energy Board if it wishes the pipeline to be built.

Northern Gateway would mean 250 tankers a year coming to and from a Kitimat  export terminal carrying diluted bitumen pumped through a 1,177km pipeline from Alberta.

Cullen described the Enbridge project as being financially backed by Chinese investment, an arrangement that ultimately serves foreign energy needs more than Canada’s need for local economies and local autonomy.

“It’s a perverse subsidy,” Cullen said of Canadian government subsidies to the oil industry in general.

Local resident Davis Lindsay asked what Cullen would do to offset the loss of jobs that banning projects like Northern Gateway would mean.

Cullen responded that renewable energy sector jobs could be achieved through redirecting money currently given in subsidies to oil companies. He added that publicly-financed child care programs could boost productivity by freeing up more parents to work.

And in replying to a question from Bruce Hill about the chances of his bill ever being passed, Cullen acknowledged it was a long shot. “I want to give my colleagues across the aisle the excuse to do the right thing,” said Cullen.

The MP also spoke  elsewhere in the area.