Ministerial Question Period: Shipping of Oil and Gas

By: The Hon. Patricia Bovey

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Hon. Patricia Bovey: Welcome, minister.

You are aware of my concern for oceans and their fragility from our work together on Bill C-55. With that in mind, my question relates to the many suggestions that have been made to ship oil and natural gas out of Churchill through Hudson Bay and the Arctic Ocean. As Minister of Natural Resources and former Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, do you support these ideas? If so, what is your concern about the potential for environmental harm?

Hon. Jonathan Wilkinson, P.C., M.P., Minister of Natural Resources: First of all, I haven’t seen any specific proposals to date of people trying to advance something that’s moved through a lot of thinking. I would say that this is exactly why we have an environmental assessment process. To be honest, it’s why we put better rules into place for environmental assessments — so that we can really look in a thoughtful way and engage with Indigenous communities. We would look in a thoughtful way at the risks associated with any of those types of projects.

From my perspective, I think the biggest challenge would be thinking about how you would do that kind of shipping in a manner that is safe in the Arctic. There’s a reason there is a moratorium on Arctic drilling. It’s a very sensitive ecosystem. We don’t have the ability to actually clean things up up there. We don’t have much of a Coast Guard presence. We don’t have the ability, as we do in the Port of Vancouver, for example, to very quickly get to a spill and contain it.

So any project that would be proposed would have to address those issues straight on if it were going to move forward. However, as I say, I have not heard any detailed project proposals coming forward with respect to that idea.

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