EDITORIAL: Tanker paranoia doesn’t help us in Greater Victoria

Insurance against risk is fine, but let's not prevent province from seizing opportunities

During election campaigns, any talk of economic development tends to be taken with a grain of salt, often viewed as overly optimistic predictions.

It’s no surprise then, that as the B.C. NDP and B.C. Liberals vie to become our next government, the issues of pipeline projects and the prospect of additional tanker traffic on B.C.’s coast have voters the most fired up.

In Greater Victoria, for example, many people find abhorrent the notion that dozens more oil tankers could one day be sailing past our pristine waterfront areas, if Kinder Morgan is granted permission to twin its Trans Mountain pipeline to Burnaby.

It’s easy to forget, as we stroll, run or bike along the Dallas Road walkway, or pathways in Oak Bay or Cadboro Bay, that the ocean which makes our views so scenic is a commercial waterway. Has been for years.

Asked why having more oil tankers on that marine highway is a bad thing, people inevitably warn of the potential for an environmental disaster, should a ship run aground or spring a leak in its double-hulled steel. They’ll point to the Exxon Valdez as an example of the environmental havoc a marine accident can wreak.

Let’s face it, when it comes to operating anything mechanical, whether it’s heavy equipment, a motor vehicle, a jet airplane or a huge ship, human error is always a possibility. And the consequences can be devastating.

But do we ban flying because planes can crash? Or ban motor vehicles knowing that people die every year in collisions?

Out of the hundreds of large ships that annually traverse the Strait of Juan de Fuca – oil tankers and container ships alike – how many have run aground in anyone’s memory?

No one can predict when or if such a disaster might happen. But limiting such a vital transportation link and economic driver is akin to pulling the sheets over our heads and staying in bed.

That’s not the mindset that will help B.C. grow and prosper, especially at a time when we’re struggling to find our competitive niche in a still-shaky global economy.