Senators defeat the Ottawa oil tanker bill in rare moves, putting legislation on life support

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OTTAWA – In a rare legislative move on Wednesday, the Senate transport committee voted to defeat the liberal government moratorium on tankers in northern China, putting the controversial bill on life support after years of political disputes.

A vote against the bill by independent Senator Paula Simons, together with the other five conservative senators of the committee, influenced the final decision in favor of recommending Senate No. C-48, which prevents oil tankers from entering the north of the continent. waters.

The move does not immediately kill the oil tanker moratorium, but a Senate vote to adopt the commission's recommendations would stop the legislation in its tracks. A vote on the report is expected in the coming days.

The decision to overturn the bill would provide considerable relief for oil and gas interest groups, the Alberta government and some First Nations communities, which were strongly opposed to the legislation. Opponents of the bill declared that they had unfairly discriminated against the oil pipelines that aimed to send oil from ports along the northern part of the river. it costs, and even affected the aboriginal communities that wanted to profit from the development of natural resources.

A failure in the oil and gas sector to build major pipelines in recent years has helped fuel a deep anxiety in the oil-rich province of Alberta, sowing distrust in Ottawa's declared plans to introduce policies that support both economy that the environment.

Senator Simons said he decided to vote in favor of the bill after the commission did not accept a series of amendments that would have achieved a more equitable balance between competing environmental and industrial interests.

"I went to the meeting tonight with the hope that we could accept amendments that would make the bill fairer at Nis & # N and the Province of Alberta," he said in an e-mail statement. "When it became clear that those amendments would not pass, I felt that I could not, as a senator of Alberta, vote for the bill."

One of the most important voices against C-48 is Calvin Helin, the managing director of Eagle Spirit Energy Holding, an Aboriginal-led group that has outlined plans to build a pipeline of about $ 18 billion from the north of the Alberta in Prince Rupert, BC

The group pressured the federal government to shelve the Bill C-48 and formed a coalition of First Nations groups that simultaneously contested the legislation during a December tour in Ottawa.

"Is this what the reconciliation is supposed to represent in Canada?", Said Helin at the time, referring to the inability of the communities of the first nations to produce and transport the natural resources they claim.

I went to the meeting tonight with the hope that we could accept amendments that would make the bill fairer

Bill C-48 was introduced as part of a promise made by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau when he approved the Trans Mountain and Keystone XL pipelines, provided that a moratorium on tanker traffic was located in the northern part of the area. Trudeau also rejected the Northern Gateway project, which would have cut the region that the oil tanker ban would have protected.

Some prime coastal nations and environmental groups claim that oil shippers cannot yet guarantee that they can completely clean up a spill in ocean waters, making it too risky to transport crude oil.

The looming vote on the C-48 also comes when the Senate Energy Committee prepares a line-by-line study Thursday morning on Bill C-69, another piece of legislation relating to oil and gas that has attracted the ; wrath of the western provinces.

The senators proposed hundreds of changes to the C-69 law, which would reform the review process for major oil projects such as oil refineries and nuclear power plants. He was strongly opposed by the governments of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland, as well as by industrial groups.

The senators also proposed deep and structural amendments to the Bill C-48, including the designation of a specific shipping channel, or "corridor", to Prince Rupert that would allow the passage of oil tankers – a proposal rejected by environmentalists and some coastal nations, which supported the ban.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau

Adrian Wyld / The Canadian Press

Transport minister Marc Garneau told the members of the commission on Tuesday he was open to amendments to the bill, but rejected any suggestion of an exempted shipping channel.

"The analogy is a cafe where there is no smoke, but a table is allowed to smoke," Garneau said. "You can't guarantee that any spills will remain in that corridor."

Alberta's Premier Jason Kenney also heavily criticized Bill C-48, and threatened to launch a constitutional challenge against Ottawa if he refuses to set aside legislation that he believes will destroy the Canadian natural resources sector.

Some experts who testified at the Bill C-48 hearings said lawmakers could better protect Canadian coasts from oil spills simply by adopting more international safety standards, which impose stricter rules on shippers.

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