VICTORIA — Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff is calling for a ban on oil tankers along B.C.’s north coast.
During a speech in Victoria Monday, Ignatieff said his party doesn’t believe there should be tanker traffic in what he calls a crucial area of the province. He said the ban should apply to Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait and the Queen Charlotte Sound.
“We just think it’s not safe,” he said.
Ignatieff’s call comes as the BP oil spill disaster continues to unfold in the Gulf of Mexico and as Enbridge (TSX:ENB.PR.A) seeks approval for a pipeline to carry oil from Alberta’s tar sands to a tanker port in Kitimat, on B.C.’s north coast.
Environmental groups praised Ignatieff’s stance Monday.
“Michael Ignatieff’s announcement to formalize the ban on oil tankers is precisely the kind of leadership we need on this issue,” Jennifer Lash, executive director of Living Oceans Society, said in a written statement.
“We thank him for making the commitment to ensure that the marine life, people, and economy of coastal B.C. is protected from catastrophic oil spills.”
Lash’s message was seconded by Nikki Skuce, a spokeswoman for fellow non-profit ForestEthics.
“The images of oil drenching the shorelines from the BP spill have reminded British Columbians how fortunate we are to have an oil-free coast,” she said.
“With today’s announcement by the Liberal Party of Canada, we are one step closer to giving the people of B.C. what they have wanted for a long time: a legislated ban on oil tankers.”
A poll conducted last month said 80 per cent of B.C. residents support an oil tanker ban.
But while Ignatieff’s announcement was applauded by conservationists, Enbridge spokesman Alan Roth said it was “not appropriate” since the company’s Northern Gateway project application is currently before a review panel.
“The proposed Northern Gateway project will be constructed and operated to the highest environmental and safety standards in the world,” he said in a written statement.
“It will provide a net benefit to Canada, open a secondary market for Canada’s oil export trade with emerging Asian markets, and strengthen the nation’s position as a global energy producer.”
Roth said oil tankers have safely entered ports in Vancouver and Kitimat for decades.
In fact, he said in 2009 Canada exported approximately 25 million barrels of oil by tanker from Vancouver.
He said a moratorium on tanker traffic near Kitimat would severely limit new jobs and investment that are badly needed in B.C.’s northern communities.