The Liberals’ odd Bill C-48, banning oil tankers making landfall in BC north of Vancouver Island, seems to have foundered in the Senate. As the National Post’s John Ivison observes, former astronaut currently lost in space as transport minister, Marc Garneau, blurted out in Senate hearings that “It follows from an election promise that was made.” According to Ivison “Voters should generally commend governments for fulfilling the promises on which they were elected. But not if they were made in haste and don’t make sense in a shifting geopolitical landscape.” Actually Bill C-48 didn’t make sense regardless of geopolitics. So why did it require the Senate to kill a promise this dumb?
Ivison seems to feel that too much of the 2015 Liberal platform was Hail Mary stuff, the Liberals then being the third party and hoping to fire up the base not devise a governing program. As with Bob Rae in Ontario in 1991, it’s not a very honourable thing to do or a very sensible one because you might get unlucky and win. But since it is widely agreed that our politics sees too much partisan idiocy there’s probably PR as well as policy gain in admitting that something wasn’t sensible. The problem is, Bill C-48 had a purpose and it wasn’t what it seemed to be.
As the bill was going down, there were animated criticisms from the Greens and NDP about an unelected Senate obstructing an elected Parliament. And while there’s far too much special pleading when it comes to political institutions, the fact that both parties favoured the bill really doesn’t come into play here. They’ve disliked the Senate since forever and would probably not applaud even if it were stopping the Commons from doing something they disliked. But even those who take a more friendly view of the Senate than Elizabeth May and dislike C-48 should still find it odd that it had to get stopped in the Senate because Bill C-48 was a silly piece of legislation and a dishonest one.
If the administration really thought oil tankers should not ply ocean waters, it would ban them on the East Coast as well and object to the significant number that go up and down the West Coast without stopping or enter Vancouver harbour. Instead it just forbade them entering ports or marine installations north of Vancouver Island, clearly a back-door way of helping landlock Alberta’s oil even if somebody somehow built a pipeline across BC to Kitimat or Prince Rupert. On top of everything else, if the Trudeau Liberals really cared what aboriginals thought, they would at least admit that numerous First Nations want such pipelines.
So Bill C-48 was such a bad piece of legislation that it deserved to die. Why did it take the Senate to kill it?