Local officials divided on tanker ban issue

At a municipalities convention late September, local elected officials voted on both sides of an oil tanker traffic debate.

  • Wed Oct 10th, 2012 7:00am
  • News

Two locally elected officials disagree that projects leading to expanded oil tanker traffic should be opposed by B.C. municipalities.

They also don’t think the Union of British Columbia Municipalities  (UBCM) should urge B.C. premier Christy Clark to use whatever powers the provincial government has to stop the expansion of oil tanker traffic through B..C’s coastal waters.

Terrace city councillor Brian Downie and Thornhill regional district director Ted Ramsey voted to oppose a resolution in September at  UBCM’s convention in Victoria that called for both. While the resolution did pass, Ramsey and Downie were among 49 per cent of municipal elected officials that disagreed.

“Actually, I voted to oppose it and it was just the way it was worded. I opposed it simply because it needs to be thought out better,” said Ramsey.

The motion, submitted by the District of Saanich on Vancouver Island reads,

“Therefore be it resolved that UBCM oppose projects that would lead to the expansion of oil tanker traffic through BC’s coastal waters;

“and be it further resolved that UBCM urge the Premier of British Columbia, the Leader of the Official Opposition and members of the Legislative Assembly to use whatever legislative and administrative means that are available to stop the expansion of oil tanker traffic through B.C.’s coastal waters.”

Ramsey said the resolution only talked about moving oil by tankers and not necessarily oil products.

“…and I thought, well, I’m not opposed to a refinery either,” he said.

The issue isn’t going away tomorrow and there’s time for dialogue, he said.

Ramsey said he also voted knowing that the joint review panel process was ongoing and he wanted to wait to see the results of it.

“I lean [toward] the pipeline. I simply do. I’m not afraid of new and modern things. I love our part of the coast, I’ve been here 40 years but we cannot keep saying no,” said Ramsey.

“There’s too much money involved. We have a commodity we have to sell to keep everything going.”

Councillor Downie also voted against the motion.

“When you look at shipping access, I think the emphasis should be on finding solutions to actually minimize the risk,” said Downie, adding that simply opposing something negates the ability for conversations about how to improve the way things are now.

“The other part of this is … the oil flow from Alberta to the coast, if it’s not through B.C. then it could be through Washington State or through Alaska,” he said.  “This does not prevent oil tanker traffic on the coast.”

Downie made note that the resolution did not talk about the Northern Gateway project specifically, but the expansion of further tanker traffic off B.C.’s entire coast.

“There’s already oil tanker traffic coming down the coast from Alaska, there’s already traffic from Vancouver and Washington,” he said.

The rest of Terrace’s council present voted in favour of the motion, including mayor Dave Pernarowski and councillors Marylin Davies, James Cordeiro, Stacey Tyers and Bruce Bidgood.

“I consider it to be consistent with (council’s stance),” said Bidgood after the vote.

Nass Valley regional district director Harry Nyce wasn’t present as he had to return home for work but he said he would have voted in favour of the resolution.

“I would have voted no tankers,” he said by email.

“I commercial fished around Wright Sound, Squally Channel, and I could not see large ships [navigating] that part of our coast.”

Similar resolutions have been passed at UBCM before. In 2010, one was passed that opposed the expansion of tanker traffic and further asked for a legislative ban on bulk crude oil tanker traffic through the Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound.

Another 2010 motion said that UBCM express opposition to tar sands oil being shipped in pipelines across northern B.C. for loading onto crude oil tankers.

Both resolutions formed the base for Terrace city council’s motion to oppose Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline project — changing council’s stance from neutral to opposed earlier this year.