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Why is Trudeau Backtracking On B.C.’s Oil Tanker Ban? These 86 Meetings with Enbridge Might Help Explain

Since the Liberals formed government last November, Enbridge and Northern Gateway Pipeline have lobbied Ottawa an astounding 86 times, federal lobbying reports reveal.

Fifty-one of those meetings have taken place since August — which, funnily enough, is around the same time Prime Minister Justin Trudeau started backtracking on his commitment to ban oil tankers on B.C.’s north coast, a policy that would leave Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline proposal dead in the water.

Since October last year, representatives from Enbridge and Northern Gateway Pipeline met with representatives from the Prime Minister’s Office eight times, Transport Canada 10 times, Fisheries and Oceans Canada 10 times, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada 12 times, Natural Resources Canada 31 times, and mostly Liberal Members of Parliament 39 times to name just a few.

During this time Enbridge and Northern Gateway Pipeline lobbyists met with more than 130 top-level chiefs of staff, policy directors, and ministers, records show.

Diesel Spill Off B.C. Coast Creating New Urgency Around Promised Tanker Ban

The issue of oil transport along the B.C. coast has been thrust back into the spotlight in the wake of ongoing diesel spill recovery efforts near Bella Bella.

Coastal residents were in a state of disbelief last night after learning an emergency response vessel, sent to B.C.’s central coast to retrieve the diesel-leaking Nathan E. Stewart, sank beside the sunken tug in windswept waters.

Since October 13, cleanup of the diesel spill in the traditional waters of the Heiltsuk First Nation has been slow and unsuccessful, hampered by a lack of response equipment, relief crews and favourable weather.

This has heightened criticism of the federal government and Trudeau who made a clear commitment to enact an oil tanker ban for the north B.C. coast during his election campaign last year. Trudeau even included formalizing the tanker ban on the list of ‘top priorities’ in Transport Minister Marc Garneau’s mandate letter in early November last year.

When pressed on his promise to ban tanker traffic — a proposal some say is not nearly comprehensive enough to protect the coast from vessels like the Nathan E. Stewart —Trudeau awkwardly dodged the question.

“Over the past year there’s been a lot of underinvestment by the federal government in marine safety and spill response. That’s something we’re absolutely committed to turning around,” Trudeau told Breakfast Television.

“And one of the symbols of that — as someone who knows Vancouver and the Lower Mainland as well as I do — one of the first things we did was reopen the Kits coast guard base because we understand that having responders there if something happens is absolutely essential.”

Jess Housty, tribal councillor for the Heiltsuk, took to Twitter to express her dismay with the Prime Minister’s comments.

“Saw your interview today,” Housty tweeted. “You know Kits is ~650km away from Bella Bella and Seaforth Channel, right?”

Nathan Cullen, MP for the Skeena-Bulkley Valley region in B.C. and environment critic for the NDP, said it is incredibly frustrating for coastal people to have the federal government stall on the tanker ban.

“When we are talking about protecting the coast out here, for the people who live here, that’s life and death,” Cullen told DeSmog Canada.

“The insult is twice because the promise was twofold: one, to bring in a tanker ban. It’s been a year and we’re still waiting. Two, to establish respectful relations with First Nations.”

“This is literally killing two birds with one stone,” Cullen said.

He added Trudeau’s inability to follow through on his promises is indication of a dangerous duplicity.

“We are a year in and one has to wonder if there are two Justin Trudeaus. One that campaigns and does public events and Twitter. The other that meets in the private backrooms in Ottawa with more oil lobbyists — one would imagine by a factor of 10 — than he has with environmental and First Nation leaders.”

Cullen said it isn’t just the diesel spill near Bella Bella that British Columbians have to worry about, but the pending decision on the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline.

“You wonder if the West Coast is being thrown under the bus for nothing other than political calculation.”

John Horgan, leader of the B.C.NDP, said the response to what is unfolding in Bella Bella at both the federal and the provincial level has been “frustrating” and “astounding.”

It does really speak to an Ottawa-based arrogance to believe that reigniting the much-needed Coast Guard base in Vancouver is somehow a benefit to the coast north of Vancouver Island all the way to Prince Rupert,” Horgan told DeSmog Canada.

When asked about Enbridge and Northern Gateway’s recent lobbying spree, Horgan said “the government should spend more time with the people of B.C. when considering these problems and less with those lobbying government offices.”

Lobbying Records Disclose the Bare Minimum: Watchdog

These high volumes of lobbying are troubling, according to Duff Conacher, co-founder of Democracy Watch, a government accountability watchdog.

“Everybody should be worried about the power of large corporations in terms of lobbying governments,” Conacher told DeSmog Canada.

“They not only have economic power in terms of threatening to sue under trade deals or to take their business elsewhere…but they also usually hire people who have connections to the ruling party to do their lobbying so they have undue and unethical political power as well.”

Conacher said Enbridge and Northern Gateway could be doing a lot more lobbying of the federal government without any disclosure due to vast amounts of lobbying loopholes.

The documented lobbying by Enbridge and Northern Gateway is likely just scratching the surface, he said.

“Only oral pre-arranged meetings are required to be documented in those monthly logs. So you shouldn’t think that’s all the lobbying: that’s just the lobbying they disclosed.”

– With files from James Wilt

Enbridge Northern Gateway Lobbying Aug 2015-Oct 2016 – Sheet1 by DeSmog Canada on Scribd

Image: Justin Trudeau via Flickr

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