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Critics unimpressed with Canada's oil spill review 0

Jeremy Nuttall

By Jeremy Nuttall, 24 hours Vancouver



A review of Canada’s ability to respond to oil spills was quickly panned Tuesday — with critics speaking out as soon as a Vancouver media conference ended.

The report said the federal government intends to place the liability of oil spill response onto industry, designing a “series of measures” to prevent and mitigate damage on Canada’s coasts.

Minister of Transport Lisa Raitt and Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver said that, among other initiatives, the government is reviewing tug escort requirements and navigation aides, such as buoys.

“We’re also conducting scientific research on diluted bitumen to better understand its behaviour in the marine environment and to strengthen our spill response,” said Raitt.

The report outlined 45 recommendations to government to improve the safety regime.

But Art Sterritt, executive director of the Coastal First Nations, said the whole endeavour is a farce.

“Really what I heard today was an attempt to butter everybody up to make us think that somehow there were a bunch of things that could happen out there just to give us some kind of comfort,” he said. “I really didn’t hear anything that gave me any comfort there.”

Sterritt pointed out ministers Raitt and Oliver used the term “world class” 25 times during the media conference to refer to the country’s oil spill safety system.

“There’s no technology that this industry has put out there that can clean up a spill on the coast of British Columbia,” Sterritt said. “Whether you call it world class or you have an expert panel, or if you have a world-class expert panel it doesn’t matter … these people have not come up with anything that gives First Nations any comfort.”

The review said it’s not mandatory for ship owners to have insurance, but such operations generally carry liability insurance. Sterritt said he’s concerned about foreign-owned ships fleeing to avoid paying for any spills they may have caused.

Raitt said foreign-owned ships would be subject to inspection before coming into Canadian waters, insisting Transport Canada has the gumption to turn away ships ready to load millions in oil if they don’t pass. 

“I have no fear that Transport Canada officials and inspectors will do the appropriate thing and make people abide by the rules and regulations of this country,” Raitt said.




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