The Senate has approved Bill C-48, the “Oil Tanker Moratorium Act,” legislation that will formalize a moratorium on oil tanker traffic of a certain size in waters from the northern tip of Vancouver Island to the province’s border with Alaska.
The bill passed the Senate with 49 votes in favour, 46 against and one abstention.
WATCH: June 6 – Senate votes to allow B.C. tanker ban bill to proceed
The passage of the bill in the Senate means it will now proceed to Royal Assent and become law.
Once in place, the bill keeps oil tankers that can carry more than 12,500 metric tonnes of product from “stopping or unloading crude oil or persistent oil, at ports or marine installations located along British Columbia’s north coast.”
The moratorium would honour the spirit of a 1972 decision by the federal government to bring in a ban on oil tanker traffic coming through Hecate Strait, Dixon Entrance and Queen Charlotte Sound.
There was never any legislation to make the ban formal, but a House of Commons resolution at the time said that the “movement of oil by tanker along the coast of British Columbia from Valdez in Alaska to Cherry Point in Washington is inimical to Canadian interests, especially those of an environmental nature.”
A voluntary “tanker exclusion zone” has existed since 1985 that covers areas such as Haida Gwaii, the Hecate Strait, Queen Charlotte Sound and the northern parts of Vancouver Island.
Here’s what that exclusion zone looks like:
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had made a moratorium on tanker traffic part of the mandate letter he sent to his minister for transportation when the Liberals formed government in 2015.
Transportation Minister Marc Garneau tweeted that the legislation will “help protect one of the most pristine ecosystems in the world, including the adjoining Great Bear Rainforest.”
Meanwhile, the Conservative caucus released a statement saying that the tanker ban would “devastate” the energy sector.
“Bill C-48 will help landlock Canadian energy exports and cost the Canadian economy billions of dollars,” said a statement attributed to Kelly Block, the Opposition critic for transport, and Shannon Stubbs, opposition critic for natural resources.
“It will rob Indigenous communities in Northern B.C. and across the Prairies of potential economic development opportunities.”
WATCH: June 9 – MPs debate the merits of the Liberal government’s hallmark environmental bills
The Conservatives called Bill C-48 an “open and transparent attack on Canada’s oil and gas sector.”
They called the legislation part of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s alleged intent to “phase out” Canadian oil.
In 2017, Trudeau was asked at an event in Peterborough, Ont. how his government could tackle climate change while approving pipelines like the Trans Mountain expansion.
Trudeau responded, in part, “we can’t shut down the oilsands tomorrow. We need to phase them out, we need to manage the transition off of our dependence on fossil fuels.”
He later said he misspoke when he said that.
News of the bill’s passage delighted environmental organization Sierra Club BC.
Earlier in the day, NDP MP Nathan Cullen, who represents much of the area covered by the ban, tweeted on Wednesday that a ban would “guarantee that our coastline, communities and sealife will be safe from a devastating oil spill.”
But on Thursday, he noted the closeness of the Senate’s vote.
One province over, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney tweeted that he was “very disappointed” the bill passed.
He said that Alberta would challenge the bill in court.
Alberta Sen. Paula Simons, whom Trudeau appointed as an independent, voted against the bill alongside five other members from the province.
In a series of tweets, she said it’s “good that we sent a strong message that legislation like this is dangerously divisive.”
She added, however, that the Senate amended the legislation with a “comprehensive review” after five years.