Environment featured

Open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau re public inquiry on offshore drilling

The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau

Office of the Prime Minister

80 Wellington Street

Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2



Catherine McKenna, Federal Minister of the Environment and Climate Change

Jim Carr, Federal Minister of Natural Resources

Dominic LeBlanc, Federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Derek Mombourquette, NS Minister of Energy and Mining

Margaret Miller, NS Minister of Environment

Stephen McNeil, Premier of NS


July 17th, 2018



Prime Minister Trudeau,

We are writing to you on behalf of the Offshore Alliance* to urgently call on the Federal Government, in concert with the Government of Nova Scotia, to undertake a public inquiry into the environmental, socio-economic, and other impacts of offshore oil and gas exploration in Nova Scotia’s Offshore.

The inadequacies of the current regulatory and impact assessment regime, the failure to consider the latest science (on risk assessment, dispersants, impacts of seismic, added risks of deepwater drilling, ocean acidification, and recovery of the fishery, to name a few), the poor state of public awareness and involvement and the magnitude of the risk to the marine biosphere and to the present and future economic base of Nova Scotia’s coastal communities all demand an up-to-date, thorough public re-examination. We anticipate an inquiry of this nature could take up to two years. In the meantime, there should be a moratorium on all new oil and gas activity offshore respecting the established precautionary principle.

During the federal election of 2015, your environmental platform stated “Governments grant permits but only communities grant permission.” To date public involvement in decisions regarding offshore drilling has been woefully inadequate to non-existent. Recent incidents, such as BP spilling 136,000L of Synthetic Drilling Mud (SDM), and in 2016, Shell dropping its massive riser only metres away from the well head (which remains on the ocean floor to this day), have increased public concern about the risks of offshore drilling at the depth and with the weather and typical conditions in the North Atlantic.

A public inquiry would, in an unbiased fashion, identify and examine current knowledge about the impact of oil industry activity in a marine environment such as that off the coast of Nova Scotia. That examination would provide the basis for recommendations concerning the advisability and management of oil and gas exploration and development in the offshore.

We have attached the terms of reference we propose for the inquiry. Our recommendations draw on two precedents: the Georges Bank Review Panel and the more recent NS Independent Review Panel on Hydraulic Fracturing (also known as the Wheeler review).

The Offshore Alliance is urging your government along with the Nova Scotia government to take immediate steps to establish this public inquiry into offshore oil exploration and establish a moratorium on oil and gas until such a time as the report is completed and decision-makers can benefit from its recommendations to make more informed decisions in future based on all the science.

Thank you in advance for your timely action.



Peter Puxley, Campaign to Protect Offshore Nova Scotia

Gretchen Fitzgerald, Sierra Club Canada Foundation

Mark Butler, Ecology Action Centre

John Davis, Clean Ocean Action Committee

Geoff LeBoutillier, St Margaret’s Bay Stewardship Association

Angela Giles, Council of Canadians


*The Nova Scotia Offshore Alliance is a growing coalition of concerned fisher, social justice and environmental organizations, communities, and individuals determined to change the industry-captive regulatory regime which currently governs our offshore oil and gas industry. To accomplish this, we demand an immediate moratorium on all exploration and production drilling off our coasts and a full public inquiry.

See also: Open letter to the Premier.



  1. I am an Ontarian who just returned from a vacation in Nova Scotia. The natural beauty and mesmerizing vistas of that province are unforgettable and may bring me back to retire there in a few years. One could take a year to walk the coastline so rich it is in habitat and terrain. It is unconscionable that the province’s political leader and his supporters would put Nova Scotians at risk of offshore drilling “eventualities” in the form of spills and other inevitable disasters. The sea is everything in Nova Scotia permeating its earliest European settlements to the work of today’s visual artists. Nova Scotians rely on tourism and the sustainability of their coastline communities as fragile as they are. Offshore drilling is simply not worth it, economically or otherwise. Please think of the long-term impacts of this development. We are Canadians. We can do better than follow international diehard industry leaders for whom the profits of resource extraction drive out considerations of its consequences for people, marine life, food supplies, agriculture, jobs, foreign investment, and virtually everything to which the natural environment is connected. No one wants a contaminated Nova Scotia. Not even its political leaders. And certainly no Canadian lucky enough to have seen the wonders of Nova Scotia. Please protect it.

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