Will the Minister agree that shipping solid bitumen by train is without risk?

Elizabeth May

Mr. Speaker, I have been participating, as a listener, in the debate since it began at noon, and this is my first opportunity to take the floor. I hope that as well as posing a question to the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities I will be permitted to say that I will be voting against this motion.

In the course of this debate, I have heard more assertions without evidence than is typical in a normal day here in this place, and that is saying something. A number of the assertions without evidence came from the Minister of Natural Resources. One was that pipelines are so much safer than trains, because we would not want what happened in Lac-Mégantic to happen along the route between Alberta and Burnaby.

I want to ask the hon. Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, and he is aware of the basic science, if he would agree with me that shipping bitumen as a solid by train is completely without risk. If there were a derailment or a containment break in the tank car, it would lie there like a lump. It could not blow up. If someone were to take a blow torch to it and attempt to get solid bitumen to catch fire, it would fail.

I find it egregious that, in this place, the Minister of Natural Resources would attempt to mislead people by throwing in the spectre of Lac-Mégantic. That train was loaded with Bakken shale, a crude-like product with characteristics completely unlike solid bitumen, which is already being placed in rail cars. Bitumen is heated up, put in rail cars, and warmed up at the other end, with no spill risk and no risk of explosion.

Amarjeet Sohi – Minister of Infrastructure and Communities

Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member would know, the approval of the Trans Mountain expansion comes with 157 conditions that will ensure that every safety aspect is considered to make sure that the pipeline is built to the highest safety standards.

There is a very effective spill response if there is a spill. Experts in the industry and others have often stressed the point that one of the safest ways to transport bitumen, oil, and gas is through a pipeline.

Aside from that, I think we all need to recognize that Alberta has struggled for the last number of years because of the downturn in this sector. Alberta deserves our support. Alberta families deserve our support. Alberta has contributed so much to the prosperity of our country. At a time of need, we stand with Albertans. Our government has done that by approving this project, and we will make sure that it is built and is done in a way that is responsible.