A major oil spill in Burrard Inlet could cost Vancouver’s economy $1.2 billion. This is one of the findings from a report released last Friday by UBC’s Fisheries Economics Research Unit. In the aftermath of last month’s fuel spill in English Bay, this report is alarming—we’ve seen that spills happen, and now we know that their impacts go beyond the clean-up costs or even the environmental impacts.
The report assesses the economic losses of a spill in Burrard Inlet in May, and found that impacts to key industries like commercial fishing, port activities, and tourism would eliminate most of the (unverified) benefits the Trans Mountain expansion claims to bring. Losses of 45 percent of output value, 138 percent of employment, and 40 percent of the contribution to GDP could be wiped out due to that one spill.
The opposition to increased tanker traffic in our coastal waters is mounting, and it’s coming from more than just environmentalists and outdoor enthusiasts. The City of Vancouver and the City of Burnaby have opposed Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline and tanker project, and now other municipal leaders have joined in. On March 31, the mayors of New Westminster, North Vancouver, Vancouver, Victoria, Squamish, and Bowen Island all signed a declaration calling on the federal government to put Kinder Morgan’s proposal on hold until the National Energy Board (NEB) addresses the significant deficiencies in its public hearing and review process. Meanwhile, high profile NEB intervenors like Robyn Allen have pulled out of the process altogether, and more are likely to be on the way.
Now’s the time for Premier Christy Clark to join this growing chorus of voices and formally oppose oil tanker expansion in our waters. One of the B.C. government’s conditions to support the proposed Kinder Morgan and Enbridge oil pipelines is a “world-class” spill response regime. In response to the Marathassa fuel spill, Premier Christy Clark has herself stated that “we don’t have a world class spill response to look after the ships and the risks that are there now”, let alone under a five-fold expansion of tanker traffic.
At the end of the day toxic spills are detrimental to our environment and also to our quality of life. Not only this, but they are detrimental to people’s perception of affected communities and areas: if people think that Vancouver’s beaches are polluted with oil, our waterfront economy will pay the price. We support Premier Clark acting to protect Metro Vancouver’s vital tourism sector—which employs more than 127,000 people. She needs to protect the thousands more jobs that are dependent on a healthy marine environment. That means putting B.C.’s businesses first and calling a halt to oil tanker expansion. Thousands of long-term jobs are not worth risking for hundreds of temporary ones.
By opposing any increase in tanker traffic until we can demonstrate world class spill response, Premier Clark would be standing up for B.C.’s thriving economic sectors—including tourism, fishing, the booming tech sector, film and TV, agriculture, wineries and orchards, restaurants, and real estate. This is B.C.’s real economy—flourishing, diverse and creating thousands of new jobs every year—and it won’t benefit from expanded pipelines and tanker traffic. It’s become clear that moving forward on major pipeline projects will put B.C.’s businesses at risk. It’s just not worth it.