Posted on February 13, 2023
On January 23, Canada’s minister of environment and climate change Steven Guilbeault informed the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority (VFPA) that information it had provided satisfied a request for details regarding potential effects of the proposed Roberts Bank Terminal 2 project on fish and fish habitat, salinity and Indigenous people. The VFPA said in a press release that the project would now be able to move to the final stage of the federal environmental assessment process.
The International Longshore & Warehouse Union Canada (ILWU), which represents Port of Vancouver dockworkers, has responded to the announcement with an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The union argues that “RBT2 [Roberts Bank Terminal 2] should be rejected.”
In the letter, ILWU offers congratulations to the government for hosting “the successful COP15” and for other recent achievements, but notes that the government is, at the same time, “deliberating the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority’s controversial Roberts Bank Terminal 2 new island mega-project proposal that in many ways flies in the face of these landmark achievements and goals.”
RBT2 plans involve construction of an artificial island in what the ILWU refers to as the “ecologically sensitive” Salish Sea. The union letter notes that, in 2018, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) “characterized the environmental impacts of RBT2 as permanent, irreversible and continuous.” The letter says that ECCC reiterated in October 2022 that attempts at mitigation had not reduced risks to shorebirds, Chinook salmon, Southern Resident killer whales and Indigenous crabbing grounds.
The ILWU’s “other significant concerns” related to the project include “sliding timelines and ballooning costs,” the proposed level of automation and “subsequent job losses” and “the borrowing of huge amounts of capital by the port authority … which it is currently not permitted to do.”
The union acknowledges that “Canada’s West Coast will eventually need additional marine container terminal capacity,” and recommends private-sector terminal development, citing the proposed GCT Global Container Terminals Deltaport Berth 4 project as an alternative.