A well known Victoria, British Columbia radio talk show host once told local Conservative MP (Member of Parliament) Gary Lunn on air that he was such a good skater (as in skating around the issues) that he should be competing in the upcoming 2010 Winter Olympics.
As Canada’s federal Minister of Natural Resources, the pro-nuclear, pro-asbestos, pro-offshore oil drilling Lunn is a throwback to the infamous Reagan-era American Secretary of the Interior James Watt, sans the born-again religiosity. Lunn’s industrial evangelicalism is entirely secular, but appears just as fervent.
In a recent letter to the editor to a Victoria newspaper Lunn once again proved that he can skate with the best of them. Lunn stated that “the federal government steadfastly maintains all existing tanker restrictions, particularly the tanker exclusion zone.” It was fairly obvious that Lunn was carefully parsing his words in an attempt to escape the criticism he has been receiving over his constant hedging on the oil tanker issue. The current debate swirling around oil tankers in B.C. has much to do with various politicians acknowledging or rejecting that a moratorium actually exists.
Lunn went on to essentially obfuscate the matter by conveniently neglecting to define the phrase “existing tanker restrictions.” But the spectre of an Exxon Valdez type catastrophe playing out on the province’s magnificent coast has British Columbians casting a skeptical eye at Lunn’s hazy protestations.
In the June 9, 2007 edition of the Times Colonist, Judith Lavoie reported the following:
There has never been a moratorium on oil tankers in B.C.’s northern inside waters, says Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn.
Despite a widespread belief that tankers are banned from the unpredictable waters of Queen Charlotte Sound, Hecate Strait and Dixon Entrance, and government documents referring to a moratorium, it never really existed, Lunn said in an interview.
“There has never been a moratorium,” he said. “There’s a voluntary exclusion zone for tanker traffic that comes from Alaska down to the Strait of Juan de Fuca.”
Also writing in June 2007, the Tyee’s Richard Warnica stated that “Gary Lunn, the federal minister of natural resources, is trying to push nuclear power, rev up the oil sands, and make way for more pipelines and supertankers on B.C.’s coast. He also happens to represent one of the most environmentally conscious ridings in the country, Saanich-Gulf Islands.”
Blogging on his website “Paying Attention” in July 2007, Paul Willcocks wrote:
…”There actually is no moratorium for traffic coming into the West Coast,” he [Lunn] says…American companies have been willing to stay out of B.C. waters, but there’s nothing to say they couldn’t start sailing through tomorrow, according to Lunn…There hasn’t been any other kind of tanker traffic in the past. B.C. hasn’t imported or exported oil or gas products through its ports. But the Alberta oil sands could change that. There are five pipeline proposals to link Alberta with Prince Rupert or Kitimat. Some would transport crude; some would send condensate, used to produce the heavy oil, to Alberta.
A February 2006 story by Leanne Ritchie in the Prince Rupert Daily News stated that “a Transport Canada spokesperson said the voluntary tanker exclusion zone that prevents U.S. oil tankers from traveling through Hecate Strait won’t apply to Enbridge’s proposal to ship oil from the North Coast.”
Lunn also claims in his April 26 letter to the editor that “with respect to the offshore oil and gas moratorium, it remains unchanged, in effect and supported by our government.” He subsequently makes the assertion that he has consistently made this point numerous times.
That technically may be the case, but when it comes to the 35 year old tanker moratorium, the only thing Lunn seems to be consistent about is that he doesn’t believe such a moratorium exists…or does he?
Writing in the Globe and Mail in April 2007, David Beers declared that “one who is leading the charge [to lift the tanker ban] is Minister of Natural Resources Gary Lunn, MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands…”
In a June 2007 news item in the Goldstream Gazette, Brennan Clarke reported that Lunn “told the Canadian Press there is no moratorium on tanker traffic. Lunn acknowledged there is a moratorium on offshore drilling, but said restrictions on tanker traffic amounts to a voluntary exclusion zone.”
Covering the tanker debate for Pacific Yachting magazine’s October 2007 issue, Hilary Henegar wrote:
The federal government has been accused by environmentalists (among others) of scheming to enable companies to skirt the moratorium. In fact, Minister Lunn, a Conservative leading the charge to bring oil tankers into B.C. waters, has stated in the past that there is no moratorium…
However, at a July 10 press conference in which Prime Minister Stephen Harper participated, Minister Lunn recanted his original position, saying, “In terms of the tanker traffic, there is a voluntary moratorium. That’s the legal state in play which has been an effective prohibition for a period of time, and we don’t see any anticipation of that breaking down.”
The record shows that with regard to the tanker moratorium Lunn’s public statements are evasive and lack clarity. It would be gratifying to be able to commend Lunn for taking a strong stand to protect B.C.’s coast, but how can British Columbians have any confidence in what their federal minister of natural resources says on the subject given his ongoing ambiguity and equivocation?