Open Letter to Government Regarding Roberts Bank Terminal 2

 In News

Dear Prime Minister and Cabinet,

Congratulations on hosting the successful COP15 and tremendous achievement in aligning on goals and targets to “halt and reverse biodiversity loss by the end of the decade, restore ecosystems and protect indigenous rights” as part of a landmark Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF).

Last year’s work by Minister Guilbeault on setting the 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan, and expected work by Minister Wilkinson this year on the Just Transition Bill are all to be applauded as strong and concrete efforts in guiding Canada to a more sustainable future. 

However, in the midst of all this progress, you and your Cabinet colleagues are deliberating the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority’s controversial Roberts Bank Terminal 2 (RBT2) new island mega-project proposal that in many ways flies in the face of these landmark achievements and goals.

As you are aware, RBT2 calls for a massive, new artificial island to be constructed in the ecologically sensitive Salish Sea. In February 2018, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) characterized the environmental impacts of RBT2 as permanent, irreversible, and, continuous.” Very recently, in late October 2022, ECCC reiterated that, despite the Port’s attempts at mitigation, “the changes predicted as a result of the Project would likely constitute an unmitigable species-level risk to Western Sandpipers, and shorebirds more generally,” adding to the numerous reasons this project has created grave concerns among environmental groups and deep unease among Indigenous communities in British Columbia and beyond.

Ultimately, you and your Cabinet will determine whether RBT2 is in the public interest of Canadians.  As ILWU Canada, we suggest that it is not, by any measure. 

The environmental concerns outlined above should by themselves be disqualifying and are incongruent with goals to “reduce to near zero the loss of area of high biodiversity importance and high ecological integrity,” as would occur with the species level risk to Western Sandpipers. There are further environmental issues too — impacts on juvenile Chinook salmon, the Southern Resident Killer Whale, Indigenous crabbing grounds — all of which are well documented.

There are other significant concerns as well:

  • the project’s sliding timelines and ballooning costs (now estimated at $3.5B) are a major risk to all port tenants, operators, and labour in an uncertain time;
  • the proposed level of automation and subsequent job losses would cause disruption on a significant scale that will be felt by the provincial economy and will have an acute effect in some local communities, particularly those that rely on this industry for good jobs and the economic benefits they bring locally;
  • RBT2’s current financial model which would require the borrowing of huge amounts of capital by the port authority – borrowing amount which it is currently not permitted to do;
  • a flawed business case that has resulted in the port not being able to identify even one interested terminal operator.

All of these create risk to the resiliency and competitiveness of the Gateway, which in turn affects the competitiveness of Canada’s trade and the broader economy. 

The Port Authority has been single-minded in seeking to advance its own project, spending enormous amounts of what is essentially public money on advertising and advocacy designed to convince Ottawa decision-makers of the urgent need for RBT2 while it ignores other market-driven solutions in both Vancouver and Prince Rupert. This cannot be described as consistent with the public interest either.

While it is true that Canada’s West Coast will eventually need additional marine container terminal capacity, there are excellent private sector answers to that with the GCT Global Container Terminals Deltaport Berth 4 (DP4) project in Delta and Dubai Ports World new Terminal 2 proposed expansion with the Port Authority in Prince Rupert.

RBT2 should be rejected. It is not only inconsistent with your government’s environmental priorities, but it is inconsistent with the core tenets of the recently tabled Bill C-33, the accompanying Policy Statement on Port Investment, the National Supply Chain Task Force’s recent reports and associated recommendations, as well as with the recently released intentions for a BC Coastal Marine Strategy. 

We call on you and your colleagues to consider the totality of the above during your critical deliberations. Canada’s interests would be much better served by considering projects, which work with labour and support good paying middle class jobs, crowd in private investment from domestic institutional investors, and projects of which the country can be proud, that deliver significant benefits while minimizing disruption to the environment and to key communities and stakeholders.



Rob Ashton                                                                                           Pat Bolen

President                                                                                               Vice President

ILWU Canada                                                                                        ILWU Canada




Rino Voci, President, Local 500

Rick Hurtubise, President, Local 502

Jimmy Andreff, President, Local 505

Mark Braithwaite, President, Local 508

Slade Ramsay, President, Local 519

Frank Morena, President, Local 514

Doug Lee-Smith, President, Local 333

Jason Woods, President, Local 400

Rachael MacDougall, President, Local 520


cc:          Honourable Omar Alghabra, Minister of Transport

                Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change

                Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

                Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Infrastructure & Communities

                Members, Government Pacific Caucus

                Members, Conservative B.C. Caucus

                Members, B.C. NDP Caucus

                Mr. Robin Silvester, President & CEO, Vancouver Fraser Port Authority

                Members, Board of Directors, Vancouver Fraser Port Authority

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