B.C. Liberal MLA reopens debate on offshore oil exploration
New Democrats call John Rustad’s comments 'irresponsible'
Despite the debate already raging between B.C. and Alberta over the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, one backbench Liberal MLA wants to start a dialogue about offshore drilling in B.C.
Nechako Lakes Liberal MLA John Rustad recently posted a message on Facebook about the merits of oil exploration.
"With the debate raging around pipelines I'm sure there isn't much appetite for offshore oil and gas," he wrote. "However, if B.C. is ever going to become debt free, one day this is going to have to happen."
Rustad wants to put the idea of oil exploration off B.C.’s coast on the table — despite the political consequences.
"If it can be done environmentally sound, if it's something that can meet our standards, if there's a significant benefit, then we should have that conversation and it should be considered," he told CBC News.
No support from Premier Clark
But the proposition has no support from the premier.
B.C. Premier Christy Clark spoke with Alberta Premier Alison Redford Monday about the five conditions B.C. says need to be met before the province will support Enbridge's bid to build the pipeline, which would run from the Alberta oilsands across B.C. to the port of Kitimat.
Clark is demanding compensation for the environmental risks involved in the pipeline project.
"I think that we've got our hands full with just this Enbridge pipeline," Clark said, adding it’s not an idea she’s entertaining at the moment.
Still, the B.C. New Democrats have jumped on Rustad’s comments.
"Mr. Rustad is being irresponsible by re-opening a deeply divisive debate about bringing further risks to our coastline that would affect the environment, the economy, First Nations, and all British Columbians," NDP environment critic Rob Fleming said in a release.
"While the premier has failed to truly stand up for British Columbia on the Enbridge pipeline, I hope she will at least clarify her government’s position on offshore drilling."
The New Democrats are calling for a continuation of B.C.'s long-term commitment to a moratorium on offshore drilling.
With files from CBC's Stephen Smart