Oil Sands Truth: Shut Down the Tar Sands

Premier Clark says B.C.'s coast belongs to Alberta, not just B.C.

Premier Clark says B.C.'s coast belongs to Alberta (and all of Canada), not just B.C.

BC Premier Christy Clark said the west coast "doesn't just belong to British Columbia", but some British Columbians disagree.
Alexis Stoymenoff
Posted: Dec 19th, 2011

"British Columbia's coast does not just belong to British Columbia,” BC Premier Christy Clark said last week. The statement has sparked both environmental and economic discussions about responsibilities and rights to British Columbia’s coast.

“It belongs to Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec, Ontario and the Atlantic provinces and it's essential that our ports and our infrastructure all across the west are functioning as well as they possibly can, because that's what allows trade to flow outside our country and that's what puts people to work," Clark said.

She made the controversial comment during a discussion with other provincial leaders from Alberta and Saskatchewan over energy strategy and the Northern Gateway pipeline.

Clark has consistently avoided taking a position on the Northern Gateway project, saying she is waiting for the results of environmental assessments and the upcoming Joint Review Panel hearings to formulate her position.

Other organizations with high stakes in the fight against Northern Gateway, such as the Dogwood Initiative, questioned the notion that other provinces should have a say in risks taken on British Columbians’ territory.

“Our supporters responded strongly to the insinuation that BC's coast belongs just as much to Alberta or Ontario as it does to BC. It's clear that British Columbians don't want their premier to pass the buck — they want her to stand up for their province,” said Dogwood Initiative spokesperson Emma Gilchrist.

“The real question here is who stands to be most affected by an oil spill?” she said.

“If an oil spill happens, it will be British Columbians heading down to their local beaches with shovels and buckets. Yes, this is Canada's coast too, but B.C. stands to lose the most, so the final decision should be made here.”

After Clark's comment appeared in a Vancouver Sun story, the Dogwood Initiative encouraged supporters to “strike back” and vocalize their opinions about Clark’s comment, asking people to write in to the paper in response.

One Victoria-based reader, Rob Delaney, wrote a letter that was published in the Victoria Times Colonist.

“I would like to correct our premier,” he said in his response. “British Columbia's coast belongs to British Columbia and British Columbians. It is not hers to give away.”

Other comments from users on Facebook pages and blogs have also shown passionate reactions to Clark’s remarks.

One blogger from Powell River said, “I don’t believe the BIG OIL Tar Sand lobby should dictate what happens on our coast, I don’t believe Ontario, Quebec or Atlantic Canada should dictate what risk we should take.”

Additional comments made note of the assumption that if BC’s coast belongs to all of Canada, the same should be said of Alberta’s tar sands.

Matt Horne, director of BC energy solutions for the Pembina Institute, agrees with Clark's position that the coasts of BC belong to all of Canada, however. “I would tend to totally agree with the sentiment. I think BC has a responsibility to protect its coast for the rest of Canadians, along with British Columbians," he said.

“I think it’s also important that the same point holds on the environmental values the BC coast represents, and that those are important for all Canadians in the same way that the Atlantic Coast or the Arctic Coast are important to British Columbians even though we don’t live there,” he said.


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