Zeni Maartman wants James Lunney to support legislation to ban oil tanker traffic on the B.C. coast.
However, the Nanaimo-Alberni MP says that’s just not going to happen.
Maartman, the NDP’s nominee to run in the next federal election in the riding, issued a challenge to Lunney to back the ban, despite his vote against it in Parliament.
“Mr. Lunney needs to tell us why he is not respecting the wishes of his constituents,” Maartman said. “A moratorium is not sufficient in any way, as the government of the day can lift it any time it wants to.”
On Dec. 7, the House of Commons voted in favour of an NDP motion to legislate a ban on west coast tanker traffic, but Lunney voted against the measure.
There are a couple of reasons why, said Lunney.
“That was not a realistic motion,” he said. “It failed to recognize we already have tanker traffic coming out of Vancouver — millions of tons of product, for years.”
As well, he noted more than 1,000 tankers set sail to and from Kitimat every year.
“There is an exclusion zone for tankers coming from Alaska,” Lunney said. “They have to stay 25 to 80 kilometres offshore.”
The real issue, he said, involves access to the Asian markets for Canadian resources.
“There’s a big demand for Canadian products and resources in Asia,” he said. “Currently, the only outlet for resources from Alberta beyond Canada is the United States.”
Although he said the environment is important, he has to look at economic realities as well and strike a balance.
“If there is going to be an increase in tanker traffic, we have to make sure we take appropriate measures,” he said. “For instance, this is another argument for not de-staffing lighthouses in remote areas. If there is an untoward event, we have the materials in place that can be airlifted very quickly.”