Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the government’s $1.5-billion ocean protection plan in Vancouver today for responses to tanker and fuel spills in the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic oceans.

Trudeau said the funding over five years will include creating a marine safety system, restoring marine ecosystems and research into oil spill cleanup methods.

He called it “the most significant investment ever made to protect our oceans and coastlines.”

The announcement, made with Transport Minister Marc Garneau, comes after the minister spent Sunday touring a site on B.C.’s Central Coast where a tugboat ran aground and sank more than three weeks ago, releasing thousands of litres of diesel and lubricants into the water.

“The ongoing incident at Bella Bella is unacceptable,” said Trudeau, referring to the spill. “It’s time for a change.”

Bella bella tug

Spill response efforts have failed to contain an estimated 110,000 litres of diesel and other petroleum products from the tugboat Nathan E. Stewart, which ran aground Oct. 13 in the Seaforth Channel near Bella Bella. (Ian McAllister)

The funding includes increased coast guard capacity, new rescue stations, tougher rules for businesses that pollute on the coasts, and Indigenous community response teams, said Trudeau.

B.C. Premier Christy Clark has called the current spill response on the West Coast “totally inadequate” for existing marine traffic, let alone any increases from potential pipeline expansion.

The B.C. government has already laid out a long list of requirements, including a coast guard base in Prince Rupert, monitoring systems to manage vessel traffic, and three new salvage ships that could arrive at a spill site within three hours.


Trudeau tours Vancouver harbour aboard a coast guard vessel in advance of the announcement. (CBC)

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