The so-called tanker ban bill – officially called Bill C-48 or the Oil Tanker Moratorium Act – is one step closer to becoming law after the Senate rejected a recommendation to dismiss the bill.
Here are the basics of the bill:
What is the tanker ban bill?
Bill C-48 aims to ban ships that hold over 12,500 metric tons of oil from waters off the north of B.C.’s coast.
The ban would start at north of 50°53′00′′ north latitude and west of 126°38′36′′ west longitude — from the northernmost point of Vancouver Island to the Alaskan border.
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.”
Transport Minister Marc Garneau, who sponsored the bill, said the reason the tankers would be banned from the specific region is that that “coastline abuts one of the last temperate rain forests left in the world.”
It aims to protect the region from potential oil spills.
Garneau also cited the “navigational hazards” of the region, which would make responding to an oil spill more challenging.
WATCH: Senator Doug Black reflects on Bill C-48
What was voted on this week and what’s next?
But the Senate transport committee voted in May 2019 to recommend the bill not move forward and presented a report to the Senate as a whole that asked them to endorse the recommendation that the bill be defeated.
The full Senate faced a choice: either accept the report, which would have immediately killed the bill, or reject the report and allow the bill to move forward to face talk of potential amendments.
WATCH: Senate committee defeats Ottawa’s tanker ban bill on May 16
Defeating the bill on the recommendation of a committee is an extremely rare move.
Throughout debate ahead of the vote, senators again and again raised concerns that defeating a campaign pledge of an elected government in this way would jeopardize fragile public trust in the Senate following years of scandal.
Some senators also said they were taken aback by the partisan tone of the report, written largely by five Conservative senators and passed with the support of one Independent.
At the same time, the report argued the bill would be economically devastating for Alberta and Saskatchewan.
Ultimately, several Independent Alberta senators did vote to kill the bill but senators overall rejected the recommendation by 53 votes to 38.
The Bill will now go for third reading in the Senate.
The Senate can make amendments to the bill, which would require the House to vote again on it.
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.
But Conservatives senators have argued Garneau is not open to changing it because he has indicated he will not consider amendments that would fundamentally alter the bill
Who is for banning tankers?
The bill was sponsored by Transportation Minister Marc Garneau. It passed first reading in Oct. 2017 in the House of Commons and moved to the Senate in 2018.
It’s supported by environmentalists and First Nations in the country.
“Tankers transporting crude oil or persistent oil to U.S. and overseas markets frequently navigate the turbulent waters and rocky, narrow channels of the coast,” Coastal First Nations, an alliance of nine First Nations in B.C., wrote on their website.
“Diesel and oil spills have already happened. But a major oil spill would be catastrophic.“
Both Liberal and the bulk of Independent senators have voted for it.
WATCH: Trudeau says rainforest no place for crude oil tankers
Who’s against it?
Conservatives and a handful of independent senators have voted against the bill.
It has also met with opposition from people such as Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, which said the bill was a “discriminatory attack on the Province of Alberta.”
Alberta’s government opposes C-48 because it shuts down the possibility of shipping crude by pipeline from Alberta to a northern British Columbia port for export to overseas markets.
The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers has also disproved of the bill, saying it will “permanently block” Canadian oil from reaching international markets.
“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.
WATCH: April 9 — Rachel Notley testifies before Senate committee on oil tanker Bill C-48