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The purpose of the tanker ban is to ensure that Alberta cannot send to Asia product from the oil sands.

Senator Doug Black Report Stage Remarks on Bill C-48 Tanker Ban

Report Stage — Debate Continued

Oil Tanker Moratorium Bill

Seventeenth Report of Transport and Communications Committee

The Senate proceeded to consideration of the seventeenth report of the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications (Bill C-48, An Act respecting the regulation of vessels that transport crude oil or persistent oil to or from ports or marine installations located along British Columbia’s north coast, with a recommendation), presented in the Senate on June 3, 2019.

Hon. Douglas Black: Honourable senators, I will be short because I have not a lot of say in addition to what has been added today and also, as perhaps you can hear, I have my grandson’s cold.

On Bill C-48, I had the privilege, I would say, of attending the committee meetings. I didn’t learn second-, third- or fourth-hand about what happened because I went to the meetings.

I have also informed my point of view because I’ve had the privilege of chairing a committee. I chair a committee currently in this Senate. I understand the challenges of being a chair, whether it’s Senator Tkachuk, Senator Galvez or Senator D. Black. It’s not an easy job to balance all the interests.

But to suggest this particular committee, from my point of view, was dysfunctional or unduly aggressive is just not a fair characterization. Was it spirited? You bet it was spirited. Was it hard fought? You bet it was hard fought. Let me tell you why: because the stakes are so high. We are not talking about parking passes at the University of Calgary. We are talking about the economy of a region in this country.

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

Senator D. Black: That’s why, today the tensions are so high. And that is why in the committee they were so high. We should not be personalizing this or making more of this than it is. This is what we do. We make legislation. The process can at times be very aggressive, unpleasant and isolating. I want to observe that’s what happened there, from my point of view, and I think we should drive on.

I would like to drive on quickly because I only have two points to make.

The first point is we need to recognize that, since 1996, there are only five examples in the history of this chamber where this chamber has overridden or not accepted a report of a committee. That’s five times, and I’m bad at math, so whenever 1996 is, that’s a long time.

Why is that? The reason for that is, as I think Senator Pratte and a number of my esteemed colleagues have indicated, our best work is done in committees. We all know that. That’s what brings and keeps many of us here. That’s where the work is done, and the Transport Committee is no exception. They had 52 meetings. They visited three provinces. They heard from more than 140 witnesses. They saw and they heard not only the factual testimony but the emotion behind that testimony on both sides of the issue.

We have to be very careful as senators when a committee report comes in, just because we don’t like the result or the result was close, to think that we can turn the apple cart over. It’s not a good precedent. That’s why, since 1996, it has only happened five times. That’s the caution, I would say.

Let me just say specifically why emotions are running so high in this legislation. It’s because there is absolutely no doubt that this legislation is a hammer blow to my province. The reason that we hear the stats we’re hearing about the anxiety in Alberta, investment fleeing Alberta, people leaving Alberta and 53 per cent of people in Alberta supporting separation — is because Bill C-48 has become a symbol. I would say to you, without any drama, that I think we need to be cognizant of that. There is a region of this country that is proud of the fact it supports this country and has for over 100 years. We are being put in the position now that we cannot export our main product.

The purpose of the tanker ban is to ensure that we cannot send to Asia through a pipeline product from the oil sands. That’s the purpose. And indeed, it was me who asked Minister Garneau about compromise, because I am a compromiser. I look for solutions. I built my career on looking for solutions and working with other groups. I want a solution. I was very proud of the fact that Senator Miville-Dechêne did so at the committee, because she was the first committee member to raise the prospect of a compromise. I complimented her both publicly and privately because that’s the right place to go if you can go.

I asked Minister Garneau two specific questions on whether he would entertain corridors, and you can read the transcript, and I think it’s in the report: the answer is no. He indicated, as I think Senator Harder pointed out, that he is prepared to consider amendments in the spirit of the bill. But as Senator Neufeld has indicated, the spirit of the bill is to prevent oil tankers from moving on the West Coast of Canada. Ergo, there are no amendments possible here.

We can play it out. We cannot accept this report today and work through a process of days, and, strategically, maybe the best thing, from my point of view, is to eat up another week with a series of amendments and run the clock out.

I don’t think that’s the right thing to do because then the bill will come back from the House of Commons if we are not successful today. There are going to be no significant amendments. Then we are going to have this debate as to whether this legislation is appropriate. In my view, senators, it is not appropriate, I think a number of you share my views and I think we need to put this legislation to an end today.

That’s what I would hope, that’s what my province hopes. I think it will show to Canadians we worry about them saying that the Senate is not doing its job. What I hear, what I see and what people tell me is I think Canadians will say you did your job.