Better air surveillance welcome news, but where’s the oil spill response?

Elizabeth May, Green Party of Canada Leader and MP for Saanich–Gulf Islands, welcomed Wednesday’s announcement made by Transport Minister Lisa Raitt regarding the increase of funding for marine pollution surveillance, but questioned how it would help deal with oil spills.

“We may now be able to spot oil spills from the air, but we have no capacity to respond. The six regional offices of the Environment Canada Environmental Emergencies Programme, once located on our coasts, was shut down in 2012 and replaced with a 1-800 number ringing in Quebec. We have no capacity to clean up a spill, especially not a spill of diluted bitumen, for which there is little research to understand its behaviour in a marine environment. We learned from the Kalamazoo, Michigan spill that diluted bitumen is far more difficult to clean up than conventional crude.”

May noted that the final report of outgoing Commissioner for the Environment and Sustainable Development in the Office of the Auditor General, Scott Vaughn, pointed out just last year that Canada was completely unprepared to handle a major oil spill.

“The Harper administration’s approach to oil spill preparedness is a series of press releases and repetition of the absurd claim that our laws are being strengthened,” said Ms. May. “The reality is the opposite.”