As I travelled to Ottawa this weekend to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, I was thinking of the Heiltsuk First Nation.
I visited their territory after the grounding of the Nathan E Stewart tugboat, which spilled more than 100,000 litres of diesel fuel into coastal waters near Bella Bella. It was an experience I’ll never forget.
The diesel slick was everywhere you looked, and the smell from the fumes was overwhelming. From our small boat, we watched the waves push diesel over clam beds that had been harvested by the Heiltsuk for centuries.
The community had been working for days alongside emergency responders to try and contain the spill and protect the clam beds. People were exhausted, and beside themselves with grief.
The devastation I saw that day is considered by some to be a small spill, yet the Heiltsuk will live with the consequences for many years to come.
I travelled to Ottawa this past weekend to stand up for British Columbia.
I’ll be fighting for our coast, the tens of thousands of BC jobs that depend on oil-free coastal and inland waters, and the millions in economic activity generated by industries like tourism, film and fisheries.
I’ll be representing people who are worried about a seven-fold increase in tanker traffic and the impact a heavy oil spill would have on our economy and environment.
Anyone who has walked Long Beach in Tofino, gone berry picking in Haida Gwaii, or fished for salmon in the Skeena and Fraser rivers understands what we could lose.
Anyone who lives near the proposed pipeline in Burnaby, spends summer days in English Bay, or takes a ferry through the Salish Sea understands what we could lose.
Whether a community was built on forestry or mining, agriculture or small business, an oil spill will hurt all British Columbians, cost us tens of thousands of good-paying jobs, and make it harder for people to get ahead.
The national interest is not being served if we force the risk of catastrophe on unwilling communities. Nor does it advance true and meaningful reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.
Defending our coast means defending our people, communities, and our way of life.
BC is squarely within its rights to do so.
We won’t just sit back and watch things happen, giving way to interests that are not our own.
We’re taking responsibility and fighting for BC’s interests.
That’s what our government was elected to do. That’s what we’ve been doing. And we’re going to keep doing it, as best we can, for all of BC.
We believe that people should have a say in the things that happen here. That’s why we want to consult British Columbians about the transport of diluted bitumen over our rivers and streams by rail car, tanker or pipeline.
Others disagree and they have that right. So we’re preparing a court reference to confirm our rights within our provincial jurisdiction.
Some people take issue with BC acting in its own jurisdiction. The best way to resolve those concerns is not to bully, threaten, or pit the people of one province against another.
The way to resolve this is through the courts — clearly, fairly and decisively.
No matter how much is at stake in this dispute, you can’t put a price on who you are.
The interests of British Columbians — and all Canadians — should come before those in Texas boardrooms.
I’m proud to be a British Columbian, to stand up for the people of this province, and defend our economy and our coast — now, and for future generations.