OTTAWA – A Senate committee says the Trudeau government’s bill to ban oil tanker traffic off British Columbia’s northern coast will divide the country, inflame separatist sentiment in Alberta and stoke resentment of Indigenous Peoples.
Worse, the Senate’s transportation and communications committee says the bill is a cynical, intentional bid to cripple the economy of Prairie provinces, particularly Alberta, and curry political favour elsewhere in the country.
And the committee says it’s driven by the calculation that the ruling Liberals have few seats to lose in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
Those conclusions are contained in the committee’s report on Bill C-48, which formalizes the moratorium on tanker traffic in the ecologically sensitive waters off northern B.C.
The committee last month passed a motion to kill the bill, supported by Conservative members and Independent Sen. Paula Simons, who represents Alberta.
The report, written by committee chair and Conservative Sen. David Tkachuk, explains why the committee believes the government should not proceed with the bill; it was approved late Monday on division — that is, without a recorded vote, but noting some opposition.
The Senate as a whole must now decide whether to accept or reject the report and its recommendation to kill the bill.
The report has a sharp, partisan flavour, including an assertion that the bill is “not as advertised” — the same tag line Conservatives use in a series of ads attacking Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Combined with other Trudeau government measures like rejecting the Northern Gateway pipeline proposal and proposing more stringent environmental assessment rules for energy projects, the report argues the Liberals are “land-locking Prairie oil” and telling Alberta and Saskatchewan “that they have a lesser place in Confederation.”
“This is not just a matter of dampening the economic interests of specific provinces. It is a nationally corrosive and divisive policy which pits one region against another, inflaming separatist sentiment and stoking a misplaced resentment of Indigenous Canadians,” the report says.
The ban on tankers carrying diluted bitumen from Alberta’s oil sands appears to be “intentionally designed to damage the economy of western Canada,” rendering the bill “both divisive and discriminatory,” the report adds, going on to say that “targeting one region of Canada for economic punishment is unconstitutional and destructive to the fabric of Canadian federalism.”
The report also maintains that the bill is “motivated above all else by partisan political considerations” — the Liberals have only three seats in Alberta and one in Saskatchewan, compared to 17 in B.C. — and says it’s “deeply inappropriate for a ruling political party to consider only the regions of Canada where it is electorally competitive when crafting legislation.”