Postponed Decisions: Petroleum Exploration on Canada’s Western Continental Shelf
Keywords:offshore exploration, natural resource policy, Canada's West Coast, oil and gas exploration, federal-provincial relations, maritime history, petroleum industry, Shell Canada
Fifty years have passed since Canada first granted permits to explore the western continental shelf for petroleum. In 1972 the government suspended those permits with actions known today as the moratorium. The current debate about Enbridge Inc’s proposal to build oil pipelines between Alberta and the Pacific Coast has overshadowed an earlier debate about the moratorium. Public perceptions then and now have a common root in fears about oil spills, fears that seem muted or absent on Canada’s East Coast, despite the 2010 Louisiana blowout and resulting spill. Whether the Enbridge proposal succeeds or fails, a debate about resuming exploration will recur so long as the permits exist, and the Canadian public accepts the risks of exploration and production on Canada’s eastern and Arctic coasts.