Prime Minister Harper appeared on a Calgary radio show Thursday claiming the safety of offshore oil tanker traffic on the BC coast, comparing it to Newfoundland. MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands, Elizabeth May pointed out that perhaps the Prime Minister needs a crash course in BC coastal tide and geo-physical dynamics. “If he doesn’t understand the problem, it’s because he has kept himself in ignorance of the issue,” said May. “As always, ignorance is never an excuse.”
The coastal waters of Newfoundland and British Columbia are decidedly different. An oil spill off the coast of Newfoundland would be largely moved eastward to the open ocean. In the case of a spill off the BC coast, the oil would be caught in the turbulent waters between the coast and Haida Gwaii, causing damage up and down both shores, threatening prime fishery and tourist industries.
“The BC coastline is extremely sensitive to oil spills because of its physical features. That is why there has been a moratorium on oil tankers off the BC coast for over 30 years. It is tremendously disappointing that the Prime Minister does not understand this,” said May.
The moratorium on oil tankers off BC’s North Coast has been in place since 1972 through a provincial-federal agreement. The Green Party of Canada has called for the ban to be legislated, especially given the threat of intensifying oil tanker traffic servicing the Alberta Tar Sands.
The waters of the Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Basin are known to be exceptionally stormy, with some of the largest waves on Earth, making the risk of an oil spill a near certainty.