Public hearing on Bill C-48's oil tanker ban set to begin in Edmonton

Bill C-48 would prohibit tankers carrying more than 12,500 metric tonnes of oil from docking along B.C.’s north coast.

15 people will present to Senate committee Tuesday

Bill C-48 — the Oil Tanker Moratorium Act — would prohibit oil tankers carrying more than 12,500 tonnes of certain types of oil from stopping or unloading at ports on B.C.'s North Coast. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

A public hearing on the Trudeau government's tanker ban bill begins Tuesday morning in Edmonton.

Bill C-48 would prohibit tankers carrying more than 12,500 metric tonnes of oil from docking along B.C.'s north coast, an area that stretches from the northern tip of Vancouver Island to the Alaska border.

The bill's passage through the House of Commons was celebrated by environmentalists, who said it will help keep the coast safe from oil spills.

But Bill C-48 has been met with staunch opposition from Alberta's government. Earlier this month, outgoing Premier Rachel Notley called the proposed policy a "stampede of stupid" that unfairly targets Alberta.

Andrew Leach is an associate professor at the University of Alberta's school of business and is one of about 15 people who will present Tuesday to the Senate's Transport and Communications Committee. Incoming Premier Jason Kenney is set to present to the committee Tuesday afternoon

Leach expects to hear a mix of perspectives from experts with a broad range of specializations.

"From my perspective, you know, Senate hearings are often more about 'let's give this bill a proper airing,' ask the difficult questions, and … usually I think a little bit less about partisan point scoring and sound bites," said Leach, whose research interests include environmental and energy economics.

An oil tanker anchors at the terminus to the Trans Mountain pipeline in Burnaby, B.C. TMX's shallow port can’t accommodate modern supertankers. (Chris Corday/CBC)

Part of his testimony will focus on marine protected areas, he said.

"One of the things this legislation doesn't do is … if you're environmentally concerned, it doesn't open up the possibility to say 'You know, this is a new class of marine exclusion that we could apply somewhere else,'" he said.

"If we're going to have a new class of marine protected area or a class of cargo exclusions for marine-protected areas, it seems maybe that we should have a more formalized process for this, as opposed to a specific piece of legislation that focuses on one specific region."

Bill limits options for future projects

Bill C-48 wouldn't affect any proposed pipeline or natural gas projects currently underway, Leach said.

"What it does do … is it takes away that potential future option value," he said.

For example, Leach said it would be near impossible for the National Energy Board to approve a new version of Enbridge's Northern Gateway Pipeline if Bill C-48 becomes law.

Bill C-48 was introduced after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet vetoed Northern Gateway — a project that would have carried crude from Alberta through northern B.C. to a tanker terminal in Kitimat for export to Asia.

Bill C-48 and Bill C-69 are both going in the wrong direction at the wrong time.- Mac Van Wielingen, ARC Financial Corp.

    Mac Van Wielingen, founder and partner of private equity firm ARC Financial Corp., said he plans to use his testimony to provide valuable context about Canada's energy sector, which he said is in a "meltdown."

    "A lot of people, particularly in different parts of Canada, don't really appreciate how significant, how large the oil and gas sector is and how important it is to the Canadian economy," he said.

    Bill C-48 is a moratorium on new ports in northern B.C., which would move Canadian energy products to international markets, Van Wielingen said.

    He wants the bill to be thrown out entirely.

    "This isn't just about tinkering," he said. "Bill C-48 and Bill C-69 are both going in the wrong direction at the wrong time."

    Tuesday's hearing starts at 9 a.m.

    With files from John Paul Tasker


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