By Michelle Stirling © 2019

In an April 18, 2019, op-ed in the Globe and Mail, David Anderson invites us to enter his time machine and return to the 1970 and 80s.  Is he still driving a Mercury Cougar? Pontiac Firebird? Chevy Suburban? No?  Curiously his column suggests that tanker traffic is stuck in this era. Regarding the West Coast tanker ban legislation (Bill C-48), the only thing people keep coming up with as a reason to ban tankers is the Exxon Valdez spill of 1989.

Things change.  Thirty years ago, the Exxon Valdez was a single-hulled tanker with an inexperienced, exhausted hand at the wheel, the captain below deck, and a broken collision avoidance radar system. The rest is a tragic and messy history.

But it is history.

Now thirty years later, we have double-hulled tankers, so that if the outside hull is punctured, the inside hull remains intact. Tug boats guide tankers in and out of harbor.  We have GPS and much better mapping of ocean floors and far more accurate weather prediction.

And we have excellent spill response materials, teams, and more in-depth scientific knowledge of how to address ocean oil spills than we had 30 years ago. Globally, oil spills have been reduced to a minimum, as reported by the non-profit International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation Limited (ITOPF). 

Sadly, the facts don’t get the same play as the anti-oil hype in Canada.

Robert Lyman, Ottawa energy policy consultant, former public servant of 27 years and diplomat for 10 years prior to that, has written several useful reports filled with facts.  And you know, Facts Matter!

Here are some relevant excerpts from his work:

  • Oil transported as cargo in Canadian waters annually totals 192 million tonnes (MT) to the Atlantic coast, 67 MT to the Gulf of St. Lawrence, 24 MT to the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway and 6MT to the Pacific coast. So, only 2% of the oil shipped as cargo in Canadian waters goes to the Pacific coast.
  • The largest oil spill off Canada’s coast was in 1970. The M/V Arrow spilled over 10,000 tonnes off the coast of Nova Scotia, before the era when tankers were required to be double-hulled. The west coast’s largest spill was 240 tonnes caused by the sinking of the M/V The Queen of the North in 2006; that was a fuel oil spill. The largest west coast spill was thus 2.4% of the largest east coast spill. Over the last decade, marine oil spills in Canada have been so small that they are measured not in tonnes or in barrels, but in litres.
  • The standard for response capability related to a potential marine oil spill is 10,000 tonnes across Canada. Why 10,000 tonnes? Because that is equivalent to the largest oil spill in Canadian history, which occurred about 50 years ago. No spill in the last 40 years comes anywhere close to that total, and the Canadian and international requirement of double-hulled tankers makes it extremely unlikely that it will ever happen again. Yet, the environmentalists on the west coast whine constantly that the response standard is not high enough.
  • In its submission to the Tanker Safety Expert Panel (TSEP) in 2013, the Western Canada Marine Response Corporation provided information on several topics, including the present capacity of its equipment to deal with west coast spills. It stated that, even though the standard is 10,000 tonnes, it has a present capacity (i.e. in 2013) of about 26,000 tonnes and is continuing to grow! This is an extremely important counterpoint to the claims of the B.C government, only discovered if one trolls the depths of technical detail. So, the present private sector capacity for dealing with an oil spill off the west coast is two and a half times higher than anywhere else in Canada, and that does not even count the resources of the Canadian Coast Guard, which is the main federal government response organization. No one ever raises this in response to the B.C. government’s claims because it is never publicized.

With so much evidence publicly available as outlined in Lyman’s reports, why is Mr. Anderson still promoting a ban? It would seem technology and legislation has made tanker traffic very safe from spills, world-wide.

Friends of Science Society’s report “Manufacturing a Climate Crisis” documents how environmental law charity, West Coast Environmental Law (WCEL), was funded by a foreign partner of the Tar Sands Campaign to push for the tanker ban legislation.

Anderson’s commentary claims that the 2014 drop in investment was solely due to oil price decline. This is untrue. There was a concerted effort by major foreign-funded ENGOs, including Greenpeace, to drive investors out of the Canadian oil sands, as documented in our report.  In 2014, Greenpeace sent an intimidation letter to global  corporate executives of various oil, gas and coal companies, threatening CEOs and board directors with jail for alleged climate crimes. We wrote a rebuttal and sent it to those same corporations and individuals and issued this press release.  

BankTrack, a group of some 40 ENGOs out of The Netherlands, has been harassing banks and investors for about a decade to drive them off investing or financing oil, natural gas or coal projects. They particularly hate the Alberta oil sands.

Contrary to Anderson’s claim that only the oil price drop has driven the exodus of investors from Canadian oil, WCEL reportedly (from their own documents) went to Kinder Morgan’s AGM in Texas and scared the pants off them over Trans Mountain pipeline expansion with threats of law suits.  What exactly they said is not clear, but it certainly created reluctance.

And as Houston energy investment banker noted in its April 2018 “Musings,” just weeks before Kinder Morgan shut down work on Trans Mountain, Canada became seen as a territory that is ‘hostile’ to investment. This is certainly reflected in recent Alberta government statistics.


Contrary to Anderson’s assertions, both Bill C-48 tanker ban, and the hopelessly subjective Bill C-69, are the products of endlessly lobbying by a hoard of ENGO lobbyists in Ottawa.

Robert Lyman explains the problematic issues of NEB reform, the result of which is Bill C-69.

Clearly this tanker ban, the on-going foreign-funded pipeline “Blockadia” and foreign-funded international smear campaign against the Alberta oil sands are not based on facts or logic at all.

Facts matter and so does living in the present. Because it’s 2019.

Canada’s economy and our attractiveness to investment is being destroyed by foreign-funded activists.  Canada is a competitor in the OILympics. We just need market access to win.

Stop Bill C-48 and Bill C-69.

Michelle Stirling is the Communications Manager for Friends of Science Society. She is a member of the Canadian Association of Journalists and the AAAS.

Relevant reports and commentaries by Robert Lyman.

Spilling the Best Kept Secrets on the West Coast:

British Columbia’s Challenge to Rule of Law: (Trans Mountain Expansion)

Moving Oil by Tanker in Canada: