Save Canada's Environment Laws
The Conservative government is committed to gutting the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA). This is possibly Canada’s most important environmental legislation because it often requires environmental impact studies to be prepared and considered in public hearings before projects such as tar sands mines, oil and gas pipelines and nuclear power plants are built. The law has been steadily improving over the last 20 years through court rulings and government changes to regulations. It is a major part of protecting the environment and a tool we rely on to prevent ecological disaster.
Industry, of course, doesn’t like to make the investment of money and time to carefully consider the implication of its plans. It complains of delays and costs even though those delays and costs are often the fault of companies trying to cut corners or avoid scrutiny.
Dating back to the 1990s, federal and provincial governments have signed agreements to harmonize laws and work together on environmental assessments making it easier, quicker and cheaper for industry. This has not been enough for companies like Exxon (the world’s largest oil company). The public strongly supports environmental protection despite the economic times, so the government has devised a strategy of hiding changes to environmental protection by burying its policy in the budget. Protecting the environment then becomes and election issue. Opposition parties would have to force an election to stop the government from making these changes.
Last year the budget implementation legislation amended CEAA as well as the Navigable Waters Protection Act, eliminating thousands of environmental assessments. Last month, Bill C-9 (An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget) was introduced. Buried in the bill are hundreds of unrelated items and measures that further reduce the scope of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.
The government is proposing to introduce another bill this spring that would give the Minister of Environment discretion to decide on whether any environmental assessment is conducted for any project that is subject to some federal decision.
Collectively these changes fundamentally undermine the progress made on environmental assessment over the last three decades.
Sierra Club Canada along with Ecojustice is asking Canada’s federal opposition parties to make a public commitment to restoring the environmental assessment law changes set out in Bill C-9 at the earliest opportunity.