Layton challenges Harper to ensure oil exploration is safe

OTTAWANew Democrat Leader Jack Layton is calling on Prime Minister Harper not to break his promise for a full and complete review into the safety of Canada’s unconventional oil and gas sector. As oil reserves become more remote and difficult to bring to market, much of the technology and techniques used are unproven and experimental.

Last month, all government and opposition MPs voted for a review of all relevant federal laws, regulations and policies regarding the development of unconventional sources of oil and gas, including oil sands, shale gas and arctic and deep sea drilling. Unfortunately the Harper government has so far only committed to a limited and inadequate review by the National Energy Board.

“The BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico has served as a wake-up call to make sure that we reexamine all regulations and practices to ensure that they are the most sophisticated and up to date in the world. We have to protect workers, the environment and affected communities. That is what Parliament called for, and that is what should happen,” said Layton.

“The BP blow-out still gushes, a comprehensive review hasn’t even begun. Isn’t this the wrong moment for the government to charge ahead and issue new exploration licenses in the Beaufort Sea?” asked Layton. “We believe that next week’s scheduled auction of new exploration rights in the Beaufort should be delayed until all relevant questions are answered.”

In order to meet the request of the motion adopted unanimously by the House of Commons, Jack Layton and the New Democrats are calling on the government to:

- expand the review to cover all unconventional activities in Canada;

- include all stages of the unconventional oil and gas extraction process,from the nomination process, through leasing, and up to spill response capability and the tanker shipment of crude oil;

- broaden the membership in the NEB for the purposes of its Arctic offshore review, to include representatives from all relevant federal and provincial bodies, the scientific community, First Nations, Inuit, Métis, industry,and environmental non-governmental organizations;

- involve affected communities in its examination of spill preparedness, spill clean-up options, and accident response in the event of an oil spill and broaden that examination to include environment, health and economic impacts;

- expand the review to include the goal of making Canadian laws and regulations on offshore environmental protection and safety the strongest in the world by examining best practices elsewhere around the globe.