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.

Latest Posts

Feds need to hit reset button

By John Bennett

A few weeks ago, the US Ambassador to Canada hinted that Canada would need to clean up its environmental act if it wanted to see the Keystone XL Pipeline approved. The ambassador was then followed by newly appointed Secretary of State John Kerry, who left a similar impression at a news conference. Of course, all this came on the heels of very strong statements on climate change by President Obama in his recent State of the Union address.

Greenwash Action Plan... Read more »

Great Lakes organizations alarmed with IJC's 'advice'

MEDIA RELEASE, February 4, 2013

Great Lakes organizations alarmed with the International Joint Commission’s “Adaptive Management” advice instead of dealing with a significant cause of the record-setting low water levels on Lakes Michigan/Huron/Georgian Bay

TORONTO, ON – February 4, 2013 - As water levels in Lakes Michigan, Huron and Georgian Bay set new monthly record lows, the International Joint Commission (IJC) has recently sent signals that it will ignore the public’s concern and request for a viable solution, announcing instead a ‘Great Lakes Regional Adaptive Management Plan’.

... Read more »

CD or not CD, that is the question...

By John Bennett

It’s been hot in the driver seat since I talked to the Vancouver Sun about Sierra Club USA’s decision to lift its 120-year old ban on civil disobedience for the upcoming (Feb. 17th) rally against the Keystone Pipeline in Washington, DC. “Will Sierra Club Canada take similar action?”, I was asked by a reporter almost immediately after the news broke.

Although this has been a major topic of discussion for some time (on both sides of the border), the Great White North was caught off guard by the controversial announcement in San Francisco. Since its inception in 1892, Sierra Club has campaigned for the preservation of our natural environment using lawful means only. It’s a big deal!... Read more »

Astroturf ‘Ethical Oil’ files CRA complaint against Sierra Club Canada Foundation

By John Bennett

This time last year I told you about a storm gathering here in Ottawa that threatened to blow Sierra Club and other environmental groups out of existence. At the time I asked you to consider making a donation as it may be the last time you could do so and receive a tax receipt. I would have forgiven you for thinking I was overstating the seriousness of the situation at the time. Unfortunately, much of what I predicted came to pass in 2012.... Read more »

Orwell would be impressed...

The climate change issue reached new heights in Canadian public dialogue this week. It wasn’t because of the unprecedented melting of Arctic sea ice this summer, the phony-baloney announcement about Canada’s ‘progress’ toward meeting its greenhouse gas targets, or government’s caving on real regulations for coal plants. Nope, it wasn’t because of any of these worrisome situations.... Read more »


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