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Mr. Speaker, in an Earth Day talk I heard on April 17, Chaplain Jason van Veghel-Wood asked the question, “What is the 800 pound gorilla on the basketball court?” The question refers to something that is large and important, something that everyone should know about, but which is somehow ignored as people get distracted by less important things.
The question related to a famous psychology experiment by Chabris and Simons in which students were instructed to watch a video in which they were to count the number of times persons passed a basketball back and forth. The students were good at counting the number of passes, but when questioned, half of them failed to notice that during the game, a man dressed in a gorilla suit actually crossed the basketball court, thumped his chest and spent 10 seconds on the video screen.
As we consider the motion brought by my NDP friend this morning, I ask, Is there a gorilla on the court? Are we missing something more important than this specific question being posed today? Let me come back to that question in a moment.
As a British Columbian, like many others, I am concerned about the fuel leak from the Marathassa in English Bay. However, as a maritime nation, Canada relies on marine transportation for the success of our economy. In fact, I have heard that most Canadians do not realize this, but 92% of Canada’s economy floats on salt water. Think of the grain, the natural resources, the finished materials that we ship overseas or that we receive by sea, and B.C. ports handle almost 40% of Canada’s international marine traffic, more than any other province.
Our government is focused on creating jobs and economic growth. A thriving maritime trade sector continues to be a key pillar of Canada’s economic opportunity, but safe and efficient marine transportation does not happen by itself. The dedicated men and women of the Canadian Coast Guard spend day and night ensuring safe navigation so Canadians from coast to coast to coast can enjoy the quality of life we are so fortunate to have in Canada.
The Coast Guard accomplishes this important mandate by having highly trained men and women in its ranks, specialized equipment at the ready and a fleet of over 115 vessels strategically deployed across the country. In addition, it maintains strong partnerships with other organizations, such as the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue in B.C., which has proud and effective stations and vessels in at least five parts of the riding I represent, West Vancouver Squamish, Gibsons, Pender Harbour and Half Moon Bay.
For friends and neighbours who believe that my riding is the most beautiful place on earth, we look to people like them to keep it that way. In other words, we British Columbians have a personal stake in maintaining the pristine nature of our coastline.
Events of the past two weeks have shown that we do have a world-class system in place. Reasonable people agree that does not mean perfection, but what does it mean? What would we expect to have in place in a world-class response system? We would expect the minimization of oil spills in the first place, a containing of the leak, committed people there to respond, top communications networks in place, good coordination among the various parties, oil out of the water fast and a minimizing of injury to waterfowl, fish, plants and humans, the whole ecosystem.
What did we see in the response to the Marathassa oil spill? We saw newly implemented regulations that govern foreign vessels that require them, within 96 hours of entering our waters, to advise what is their emergency response plan. We saw 2700 litres of bunker fuel spilled into the water. We saw a Coast Guard boat in the water within an hour and coordination among a vessel of convenience, aerial surveillance and the Coast Guard. We saw the Coast Guard working through the night to boom the spill. Eighty per cent of the oil was collected within 36 hours, and over 95% within four days, leaving just 0.3 litres in the water.
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