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Opinion: Now is the time for a Canada-British Columbia Coastal Maritime Board

Tankers, B.C., maritime board,
Photo of tanker off Burrard Inlet by Mychaylo Prystupa

British Columbia coastal residents have a pressing need for greater control as to how the federal government decides on approvals for natural resource export.

We have seen in recent years, the loss of public confidence in the environmental assessment process undertaken by both federal and provincial Authorities. 

Our resource extraction and exports are large and important to our economy and that is not likely to change in the near term.

Major projects to export heavy oil from Kitimat and to increase oil exports from Vancouver have been met with large-scale public opposition. 

Residents along the coast, as well as others, have become better informed and more critical of the general approval process. We need to reestablish a creditable review system and regain the public trust. 

The entire West Coast of Canada falls within the province of British Columbia yet we in this province have little or no input at the early stage of these projects about how these resources are exported.

We face continuous need for export facilities for our raw products. Looking ahead oil from Alberta and LNG from British Columbia will still need export facilities from ports on the B.C. coast. 

This Provence needs to set guidelines, regulations and have strong input into any environmental assessments.

For example; 

  • We have two of the Major Ports in Canada on this coast with many additional out- ports along the coast all contributing to the vibrant economy of the coast and Canada. 
  • Conditional approval has been granted to export heavy oil from Kitimat and to increase shipments of oil from Vancouver by the previous federal government. 
  • We read of proposals to establish oil refineries and LNG export facilities on the mainland coast and on Vancouver Island which seem to pop up willy-nilly. 
  • Increasing numbers of large deep-sea vessels seek anchorage while awaiting berths or loading orders. Do we have sufficient support systems to monitor these vessels and potential damage to aquatic sea bed life?
  • Coastal and harbor traffic control is reduced to operating out of just Victoria and Prince Rupert for the entire coast, as is emergency response control. 
  • The shut down of all Ship Registry Offices on the West Coast and services moved to Ottawa was totally unacceptable.

Now to add to this type of Ottawa knows best approach, we face a possible oil tanker ban on the B.C. North Coast. Although many cheer this move, it may be a poor decision as it closes off access via the Dixon Entrance to Prince Rupert, the logical maritime choice for a tanker terminal.

I am not blind to the many issues a Northern Pipeline will face but I also know that Canada can design and engineer a safe new pipeline if we have the highest engineering standards and inspection process in place.

The Navigable Waters Act may fall under the federal government's jurisdiction but the ocean breaks along the hard coastal rock of this Province.

The Provinces of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland Labrador have taken charge of their offshore interests by forming regulatory and review Boards (the CNSOPB and CNLOPB) with the federal government. 

It's high time that British Columbia does the same.

The case for a Canada/British Columbia Coastal Maritime Board could not be timelier.

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