Canada’s Senate has voted not to accept a report from its transportation and communications committee that was sharply critical of Bill C-48, legislation to formalize a moratorium on oil tanker traffic in northern B.C. waters.
The vote means that the bill will now proceed to third reading at the Senate’s next sitting.
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The report was rejected by a vote of 53 to 38, with a single abstentions.
Conservatives and a handful of independent senators were among those who voted in its favour, while the bulk independents and Liberal senators voted against it.
The report, which was written by Conservative senators, argued that Bill C-48 should be defeated because it would lead to divisions across Canada and trigger resentment among Indigenous communities.
However, senators were taken aback at what they saw as a partisan tone to the report.
Independent senators who are opposed to Bill C-48 had urged fellow members of the red chamber to reject the report.
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Had senators voted to accept the report, they would have killed Bill C-48 right then and there.
The report came after the transportation and communications committee passed a motion recommending that the Senate not go ahead with that bill last month.
It was meant to explain why senators came to that decision.
If passed, Bill C-48 would enact the Oil Tanker Moratorium Act, which would keep oil tankers that can carry over 12,500 metric tonnes of crude oil or persistent oil from “stopping or unloading crude oil or persistent oil, at ports or marine installations located along British Columbia’s north coast from the northern tip of Vancouver Island to the Alaska border.”
WATCH: May 16, 2019 — Tanker ban Bill C-48 rejected by Senate committee
“The Act prohibits loading if it would result in the oil tanker carrying more than 12,500 metric tons of those oils as cargo,” according to the bill’s text.
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The bill would also establish an “administration and enforcement regime that includes requirements to provide information and to follow directions and that provides for penalties of up to a maximum of $5 million.”
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Transport Minister Marc Garneau, who has sponsored the bill, said the federal government is “committed to demonstrating a clean environment and a strong economy can go hand in hand” when it was first introduced.
The bill has, however, met with opposition from people such as Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, who has said he will push for the Senate to reject it altogether.
Opponents of Bill C-48 have said the legislation would make it difficult to approve energy megaprojects.
Kenney said he was disappointed in the Senate’s decision in a statement released Thursday.
He said the transportation and communications committee had “decided to delete the bill, in part because it constitutes an obvious discriminatory attack on the Province of Alberta and our job-creating energy industry.”
“I urge the Senate to reconsider the negative impact this bill will have on national unity at debate on third reading,” He said.
“Should Bill C-48 be passed into law, Alberta will launch an immediate constitutional challenge.”
Bill C-48 can be amended at third reading.
Conservative senators have argued that Garneau already told the committee the federal government won’t take changes to the bill.
Though Sen. Peter Harder, the government’s representative in the red chamber, has said Garneau would listen to amendments that were within the bill’s spirit.
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The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) said it was disappointed by the Senate’s decision to disregard the report, “despite a lack of rationale or clear evidence in support of a tanker ban,” in a statement by spokesperson Stacey Hatcher.
“Bill C-48 has the potential to permanently block Canada from exporting its responsibly produced natural resources to growing international markets, preventing us from helping to displace global greenhouse gas emissions, and lift other nations out of energy poverty,” the statement said.
Gavin Smith of West Coast Environmental Law said a policy of keeping tankers off of B.C.’s North Coast has existed since the 1970s — back then, Pierre Trudeau’s government “informally” committed to a tanker ban in the area, though it wasn’t made official through legislation.
“Obviously it’s part of a broader debate about environmental issues in Canada but I would hopefully see the Senate not use Bill C-48 as a sacrifice in part of that larger debate because it does have a very long history.”
- With files from The Canadian Press