Oil development in the Gulf of St. Lawrence is a growing concern for environmentalists as well as some business sectors, especially tourism, and in fact the Island East Tourism Group is following the issue closely because an oil spill could have disastrous impact on tourism.
Doug Deacon, chair of the group, says the group has discussed the issue at a recent board meeting and one member has been closely following the file.
"One of the issues for the board of directors is the liability for the tourism industry that an oil spill might represent ... and it is a valid concern to be addressed as an industry.''
He said the board is worried that many operators do not have liability insurance in case of a spill or some other issue associated with offshore drilling.
The Island East Tourism Group manages the Points East Coastal Drive from Stratford to Souris.
A petition is being circulated by Save our Seas and Shores Coalition P.E.I. Chapter opposing offshore oil and gas drilling in the gulf which will be presented to the P.E.I. legislature. It has been in circulation since January and has about 600 signatures.
"Because what they are doing is offshore oil development, but in the gulf which is not really an offshore area and the ecosystem is so sensitive and the tourism industry is so dependent upon the gulf being clean and the contingencies they are putting in place for an oil spill are so inadequate...it is just a case of money and oil pushing through against all other concerns," said Andrew Lush, a member of the coalition.
He said Prince Edward Island will not receive any benefit from the drilling because it is being managed out of Newfoundland.
Lush said that if development is allowed to go ahead the large number of leases in the gulf mean it will be a matter of when, and not if, a spill occurs.
"It (the oil spill) will just swirl around because it takes eight months to flush out the gulf and it will pollute our beaches and estuaries and it (is) just an unacceptable risk."
Having said that, he clarified that his group is not against offshore development.
"It's just that the gulf is not an offshore region and it is so important for tourism, fisheries and for the ecosystem there should not be oil development there."
Save our Seas and Shores is a group consisting of people from New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Quebec. He said opposition is particularly strong in the Iles de la Madeleine which is close to the proposed Old Harry development.
Lush said there has been no environmental assessment carried out, but there has been a strategic environmental review done, which he said was basically a farce.
"It was just a show of what they were doing and they were not taking any serious feedback nor doing any presentations so we are extremely concerned this is going to go ahead. As you know the federal government is weakening the environmental assessment process so unfortunately they have put money and oil above the health of the environment."