Trudeau outlines $1.5B plan to protect oceans
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced details of the federal government’s $1.5 billion Oceans Protection Plan Monday afternoon in Vancouver.
Trudeau said the government’s new plan will strengthen the Coast Guard, crack down on businesses that cause coastal pollution, and allocate new funding for coastal habitat restoration.
“Canada has the longest coastline in the world … it’s a poorly kept secret that we haven’t done enough to protect it,” he said.
He also announced that new legislation will be introduced to increase vessel owner responsibly and liability for abandoned and wrecked vessels.
The announcement comes after weeks of criticism from the Heiltsuk First Nation which is dealing with the aftermath of a diesel spill when a tug ran aground near Bella Bella.
“The ongoing incident at Bella Bella is unacceptable,” Trudeau said. “It’s time for a change.”
Trudeau said he recognized the need to collaborate with local First Nations.
“We invite indigenous communities to partner with us to effectively co-manage our oceans,” he said.
The Nathan E. Stewart tug had more than 220,000 litres of diesel on board when it ran aground, and less than 105,000 litres has been recovered. On Sunday evening another tug towing a barge loaded with gravel and sand lost its load north of Bella Bella.
Kelly Brown, director of the Heiltsuk integrated resource management department, said her community is eager to see the budget specifics of the plan.
“As always, we hope that the National Oceans Protection Plan becomes law and is implemented as quickly as possible, along with the Trudeau government’s promised tanker ban,” Brown said in a release.
“All the response teams in the world couldn't reasonably hope to contain more than 15 per cent of a major oil spill, and ensuring that these vessels are never given the opportunity to transit Heiltsuk waters is a major focus for our Nation.”
Monday’s marine protection announcement also sets the stage for the potential approval of the $6.8-billion Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
Keith Brooks, program director of environmental action organization Environmental Defence, said the possible connection is concerning.
“We think this is troubling if it’s setting up for an approval of the Kinder Morgan pipeline,” he said.
Premier Christy Clark has said B.C. would only support the pipeline if the federal government could deliver a world-class marine response system.
"I'm really gratified to say that the federal response that we saw today addresses the gaps that we've identified,” Clark said on Monday.
Pipeline protesters held their ground outside Trudeau’s announcement at the HMSC Discovery, voicing their opposition to the planned expansion.
The federal government is expected to announce a decision on the project by Dec. 19.
With files from the Canadian Press