Canadian Senate rejects BC tanker ban bill report

Canada’s Senate has voted to not to accept a report from its transportation and communications committee critical of Bill C-48, which is legislation to formalize a moratorium on oil tanker traffic off northern British Columbia’s coast. The bill will now proceed to third reading at the Senate’s next sitting.

Last month, the transportation and communications committee passed a motion recommending that the Senate not go ahead with that bill, leading to the report. 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.

Conservatives and a few Independent Senators voted in its favour, while most Independents and Liberal senators voted against it. Independent Senators who are opposed to Bill C-48 had urged fellow members to reject the report. Had they voted to accept the report, they would have killed Bill C-48 right then and there. Opponents of Bill C-48 have said the legislation would make it difficult to approve energy megaprojects. Bill C-48 will now move to third reading, where Senators can talk about amending the legislation.

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.

According to the bill’s text, “The Act prohibits loading if it would result in the oil tanker carrying more than 12,500 metric tons of those oils as cargo.” 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.

Alberta’s Premier Jason Kenney criticised the vote, arguing that Bill C-48 unfairly targets exports of oil sands bitumen from Alberta, and said if the bill is passed into law the province will launch a constitutional challenge.