Improve grain export efficiency to remove freighters from the Salish Sea

Speaker: Ms. May
Time: 08/12/2022 19:48:16
Context: Question

Ms. Elizabeth May (Saanich—Gulf Islands, GP): Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to rise virtually in the House this evening. I am in the wonderful city of Montreal for the 15th meeting of the the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity.

However, I am turning my attention this evening to a question I asked in question period on November 24. The question had a response from the hon. Minister of Transport. This is a complex issue. It is one that does not come up very often in the House, so forgive me if I step back and set some context before I dive into this.

It is the question of the use of the waters of the Salish Sea as far up from the tip of Vancouver to areas near Parksville, Nanaimo, Ladysmith and certainly in and around all the five Gulf Islands that are within Saanich—Gulf Islands. Our waters are being used as free parking lots to handle bulk carriers and freighters that cannot be efficiently unloaded at the Port of Vancouver. This costs everyone money. The grain farmers who want their products shipped in a timely way, the grain sellers who want to have the product delivered, and those who are buying the product line up at the Port of Vancouver where their freighters find that their holds cannot be filled. They are sent away and they cool their jets and sit in the waters of the Salish Sea in places Transport Canada has dubbed as anchorages. Under common law, the vessels at sea must be given refuge and safe anchorages at times of storms. This is not storms. This is routine. It is daily and multiplying.

What does this mean? As I pointed out in my question on November 24, it is a loss of quality of life. The constituents of Saanich—Gulf Islands and throughout the region do not feel consulted. Right now, there is a consultation process taking place, where it just disclosed a public consultation hosted by the Port of Vancouver. Constituents do not feel consulted. They feel ignored once again and their concerns dismissed as the Port of Vancouver officials informed people of the public that the use of the Salish Sea for free parking was going to continue and that it was an essential part of the Port of Vancouver’s operations. Of course nobody pays for it, except, again, the grain farmers, the people buying the grain, the people selling the grain and the residents of Saanich—Gulf Islands, Cowichan—Malahat—Langford and other regions through our marine coastal zones.

The indigenous nations of this area were never consulted either, and they are angry at the idea that their treaty rights under the Douglas Treaties mean so little that the Port of Vancouver and the federal government have never engaged with them about this use of our waters.
What else does it mean? It means damage to the southern resident killer whales from the noise of these massive vessels moving and parking in our waters. It means damage to the benthic organisms on the ocean floor, of course, because, these being anchorages and not ports, the anchor drops and drags.

This was the point I really wanted to raise in late show tonight: Days after my question in late November, there was yet another incident in Plumper Sound, where a large bulk carrier dragged its anchor and drifted right into a spot where, had there been another freighter parked, they would have collided. We have had 102 incidents in the period from 2015 to 2020. There were 102 times that these large vessels have drifted on their anchors and sometimes collided or nearly collided. In other words, it is large accident waiting to happen.

The residents of Saanich—Gulf Islands and the people of this area are absolutely fed up to our teeth with this ignoring of our rights and abuse of our ecosystem.

Ms. Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. parliamentary secretary. I could have asked for a better opportunity for dialogue, because believe it or not, in some ways this is supply-chain hell, and it links our ridings. There are very few issues that will link directly, and it is the rail lines that link us from Winnipeg to Saanich—Gulf Islands, and it is the inefficiency of the delivery of grain primarily.

So, here are two solutions.

One, the Liberals promised to ban the export of coal to other countries. We are getting coal shipped up from the United States, because U.S. coal ports no longer ship it due to climate concerns. So, let us ban coal exports. That will help, and the Liberals already promised to do it.

We also want to improve the facilitation of grain exports. The hon. member will remember when we had the Wheat Board, and the export of grain and the shipment was better coordinated. This is driving the unions. The longshoremen do not like this. CN and CP are behind inefficiencies along with the Port of Vancouver. We need to fix this system for shipping grain, and then we will not have anchorages.