Oliver’s spin fails to cover a negligent record on tanker safety

“Joe Oliver’s ‘world class’ statement on tanker safety yesterday fits neatly within a clear pattern of spin-before-substance,” said Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, MP Saanich-Gulf Islands.  “Since the emergence of President Obama’s newfound ambition on climate change, and pending decision on the Keystone XL pipeline, the Harper Conservatives are continuing to tie themselves in knots, trying to highlight an environmental record that is worse than non-existent.”

Spin: Joe Oliver will step up inspections to ensure that no single-hulled tankers sneak into Canadian waters.

Reality: Only about 50 large single-hulled tankers still exist in the world, and are already banned in North American waters.  Despite a 1993 international agreement mandating that all new tankers be double-hulled, and the International Maritime Organization’s global ban on all single-hulled tankers taking effect in 2015, the Harper Conservatives laughably claim to be “leaders” with our domestic, single-hulled ban for 2014.  Not a moment too soon, Mr. Oliver.

Spin: The Exxon Valdez was single-hulled.  Subtext: double-hulled tankers are inherently safe.

Reality: There are MANY instances of oil being spilled from double-hulled tankers.  A few: May, 2010, the Bunga Kelana spilled 2.9 million litres in the waters off Singapore; January, 2009, the Eagle Otome spilled 1.7 million litres at Port Arthur, Texas; in December, 1992, the Aegean Sea spilled 76 million litres off Northern Spain.

Spin: “The government will conduct scientific research on non-conventional petroleum products, such as diluted bitumen, to enhance understanding of these substances and how they behave when spilled in the marine environment.”

Reality: One would hope that well before we actually begin sending bitumen offshore, we would have some idea of how to clean it up in the event of a spill.  Wrong.  Current plans are to begin loading and shipping bitumen on supertankers before ANY spill response technology or strategies exist.

Spin: What is the big deal adding a few more tanker trips each year when, according to the Current situation backgrounder issued with Mr. Oliver’s announcement, “In 2009-2010, there were about 1,500 tanker movements on the West Coast, among 475,000 vessel movements in the area.”

Reality: According to Transport Canada’s own website, a tanker is defined as any “cargo ship fitted with tanks for carrying liquid in bulk,” and there are NO supertankers currently plying the BC coast.  Further, the same site explains that, “’movements’ refer to every time a ship (or vessel) commences and ceases to be underway.”  Every single time a tanker, any tanker, stops or starts, a “movement” is logged.  Of the 1,500 “tanker movements”, how many were empty? Probably half?  According to Budget 2012, only 82 oil tankers actually arrived in Port Metro Vancouver in 2011.

Spin: Yesterday, Ministers Oliver and Lebel tabled Bill C-57, the Safeguarding Canada’s Seas and Skies Act, touting it as yet another indication of the Harper Conservatives’ supposed commitment to all things environmental.

Reality: 100% of the Bill’s title is spin, and 99% of its content is simply departmental housekeeping, with little-to-no genuine impact on the safety of anything, never mind our seas and skies.