VANCOUVER – British Columbia Premier Christy Clark says a diesel spill in the waters off the Great Bear Rainforest is a prime example of the federal government’s inadequate commitment to disaster cleanup on Canada’s West Coast.
Clark made the statement Friday as clean-up efforts continue along the central coast after a tug pushing a fuel barge ran aground and sank Thursday.
“I have argued for five years now since I became premier that the spill response that we had on our coast is totally inadequate, not just for what some people argue should come if pipelines come from Alberta,” she said in Vancouver. “It’s not adequate for what we have now going up and down our coast.”
The barge was empty but the tug began leaking fuel, raising concerns among the nearby Heiltsuk First Nation that the diesel could contaminate area clam beds and fishing grounds that are of cultural, economic and spiritual significance.
The premier said B.C. needs an increased coast guard presence on the West Coast, which has been relegated to second place for decades by federal governments who have been upgrading spill response equipment on the East Coast.
The premier said its time for spill response to change on the West Coast.
“We need an increased coast guard presence and British Columbia has been cheated by the federal government for decades now when they’ve been spending money on the East Coast in terms of coast guard but not spending it on the West Coast,.” Clark said.
The coast guard says the 30-metre Nathan E. Stewart, which is registered in the United States, and the fuel barge it was pushing ran around early Thursday morning in Seaforth Channel on the central coast.