An environmentalist who once ran for the leadership of the Green Party of B.C. says that “Vancouver is what stands between the tar sands and the end of the world.”
Ben West, the Wilderness Committee’s healthy communities campaigner, said his organization is cosponsoring an event with local group No Tanks this Sunday (October 17) to push for a legislated ban on all oil tanker traffic along Canada’s west coast, including in Burrard Inlet. West believes two tankers per week travel under the Second Narrows Bridge, the Lions Gate Bridge, and out into the Georgia and Juan de Fuca straits. West claims this will eventually increase to 10 tankers per week.
“There is a lot of responsibility [on Vancouver],” West told the Straight in an interview at a West Side coffee shop. “I think there is good reason why people should be looking to us for leadership, if not some responsibility. Here we are in this province that claims to be a leader in addressing climate change.”¦Meanwhile we’re bending over backwards to facilitate the export of the very things that cause climate change to the biggest emitters in the world—both the United States and China.”
In his July 5 speech at Vancouver city council’s special meeting on tanker traffic, Port Metro Vancouver chief operating officer Chris Badger said the port handled a total of 8.3 million tonnes of “petroleum products” in 2009, around eight percent of the total cargo last year. Badger confirmed that the port also handles raw bitumen from the Alberta tar sands, which he said is exported by tanker mainly to California, due to the fact that there is no pipeline between B.C. and the state.
“Port Metro Vancouver’s mandate is to support and grow Canadian trade,” Badger said at the time. “If Canada decides it will trade a specific commodity, including oil, it is the port’s responsibility to facilitate the transport of that cargo in the safest, most efficient, and environmentally responsible manner possible.”
However, both West and local activist Rex Weyler, a member of No Tanks, believe there are huge risks associated with large tankers, which they claim carry up to 700,000 barrels of oil each. This is almost three times the estimated 250,000 barrels spilled by the Exxon Valdez in 1989.
West said “large-scale change” is needed from the grassroots, which is why he is urging those concerned to come to Second Beach in Stanley Park for the weekend event, which begins at 2 p.m.