Environmental concerns cannot be ignored

Last week’s explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon, a British Petroleum-leased oil rig, has already become one of the largest environmental disasters in human history. 750,000 litres of oil are being dumped into the Gulf of Mexico daily, which is causing catastrophic harm to marine life throughout the Atlantic Ocean. So much oil is being spilled that wetlands in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida are being threatened.

While other parties have been playing “gotcha” politics this week with issues such as a former MPs questionable lobbying practices, or a current senator’s use of inappropriate language, New Democrats have been calling for a review of the Canadian regulations for offshore oil drilling to ensure that a disaster this monumental never happens on Canadian shores. We are introducing a motion that will call for immediate hearings to examine the regulations behind offshore oil drilling in Canada.

Several oil companies, including BP, are currently applying for leases to drill in the Beaufort Sea, which is located north of the Yukon and Northwest Territories. Canada's National Energy Board is considering requests from the petroleum companies to be exempt from the Canadian requirement to have to drill relief wells. Relief wells allow problems with the oil wells, such as leaking pipes, to be fixed in short order. Many have argued that the lack of a relief well is what caused the spill at the Deepwater Horizon platform to spur out of control. To allow these companies an exemption from a Canadian regulatory practice that safeguards against oil spills could potentially devastate the Canadian Arctic.

Although many argue that current regulations are stringent enough, the same type of arguments had been made for the Deepwater Horizon and other oil platforms like it prior to the catastrophe. Companies like BP, Shell, and Exxon would have you believe that their companies operate as safely as possible. Why, then, would these companies make any attempt to lobby the National Energy Board to allow them to be exempt from regulations that would further ensure that this type of disaster doesn’t happen on our shores? After the Deepwater Horizon situation, we would hope that the National Energy Board acts in the best interests of the Canadian people and refuse any request that would weaken safety and regulatory practices.

New Democrats have been fighting the good fight consistently when it comes to protecting Canada’s pristine environment. This week, the NDPs Climate Change Accountability Act, Bill C-311, passed through the House of Commons with full support from all opposition parties, and without a single vote from the Conservatives. This is a landmark bill that will see greenhouse gas emissions reduced by 25 per cent of 1990 levels by 2020, and by 80 per cent by 2050.

We all have a responsibility to ensure that our environment is clean and sustainable for generations to come. If we fall into the trap of continuously letting big polluters off the hook, what kind of world will be left for our children and grandchildren?